• Will Yankees Lack Of Defense Hurt Them This Season?

    Posted by on March 27th, 2008 · Comments (4)

    There were a couple of plays in the Yankees exhibition game yesterday against the Phillies where Worm Killer Wang could have been helped out by his fielders – but, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano muffed the plays and it turned out to cost Wang some runs.

    Thinking about this led me to consider the Yankees defense this season, as a whole, and question whether or not they will be able to help a starting rotation filled guys who, for the most part, pitch to contact (as opposed to being high strikeout pitchers).

    The Yankees infield, this season, defensively, does bring some cause for concern.

    Jorge Posada has never been a great pitch-blocker. And, sometimes his mitt turns to stone and balls that should be caught go “Clang!” But, he’s not the worst of this infield unit. Alex Rodriguez, at third, has never been good with pop-ups, balls hit down the third base line, or on charging bunts/slow-rollers. Yet, the big concern for me, this year, on A-Rod is that he has shown signs (during spring training) of having his throwing woes (from 2006) return. If this happens, it will not be good news for Yankees pitchers. We all know about Derek Jeter at short – and his lack of range. Everyone, including Joe Girardi, agrees about Derek’s lack of range going to his left. The funny thing is that few realize that he has issues going to his right as well. Many see that Jeter “jump-pass” throw from the hole as a sign of skill. Actually, all it means is that he’s not able to get into the hole, field the ball, and plant his feet for a throw like most big league shortstops. Second base, and Robinson Cano, is vexing for me. Cano has a great arm and the quickest hands possible in the field. Robinson’s biggest problem in the field is when he falls into these lapses (for lack of a better word) where he just allows his glove-work slip. And, do we even need to discuss Jason Giambi, at first base, with the mitt?

    The Yankees outfield, this season, defensively, is not as concerning as their infield – but, it does have its warts.

    I’m assuming that Johnny Damon will get most of the time in left field – since Giambi playing first will allow Matsui to DH. Damon has great range for a left fielder. That’s a plus. And, in left, his wet-noodle arm is not as much of a liability as it was in center. Melky Cabrera is a tough call in center. Many have stats that say he’s not great in terms of range. And, yes, he does take some awkward routes on balls. Yet, while I think Melky is better suited for right field – where he would be a Gold Glover – I don’t think Cabrera will kill the Yankees in centerfield this year. Plus, Melky’s arm out of center is a true weapon. The real weak spot in the Yankees outfield is Bobby Abreu in right field. I laugh whenever I hear someone refer to him as being average to above-average out there. On August 27, 2007, I wrote: “Bobby Abreu plays the outfield like a pregnant camel trying to walk across a frozen lake.” And, I still stand by that – as it is true.

    In summary, I can see Abreu, Jeter, and Giambi being defensive liabilities this season – because of them not reaching balls that other fielders would turn into outs. And, I could see a few situations this year where A-Rod, Cano and Posada have misplays that cost the Yankees pitchers some runs.

    Of course, the trick with all of this is: Will it matter – as the bats of Abreu, Jeter, A-Rod, Cano, Posada and (possibly) Giambi will make up for whatever runs their fielding allows? During most games, in the regular season, this is probably the case. But, in games where the Yankees face good pitching, it might not always be the case.

    Comments on Will Yankees Lack Of Defense Hurt Them This Season?

    1. singledd
      March 27th, 2008 | 10:25 am

      Everything you say Steve is true. However, will our D be much worse then last year? Will Jeter’s ‘healthy’ knees and off-season work out have him at least ‘as good’ as last year? A full year of JD in LF and a slightly more experience Melky in CF should be at least the same, or slightly better then last year. Will ARod, Cano, Posada and/or Bobby be worse?

      The Yankees ave chosen to go with offense as opposed to defense. Our entire pitching staff, especially Wang, would look much better on most other teams. This is simply the Yankee reality. Our bats will have to carry our pitching and overcome our poor defense.

      That said, most if not all teams would take (a healthy) Giambi, Jeter, ARod and Abreu and live with their defense.

      M.Cabrera, Manny, Hafner, Papi, Sheff, Magglio and many other ‘stud’ players are all hit, nothing else.

      Hopefully, as we look to our farm, guys like Gardner and AJax will upgrade us defensively. I don’t know how Tabata rates on D. Miranda and Montero are both in the same mold of Big Bat/No Glove.

    2. Bradley
      March 27th, 2008 | 10:37 am

      Yankees had the 3rd least errors and 3rd best fielding % in the A.L last year.

      I dont see how that will change in 2008.

      Stop worrying.

    3. E-ROC
      March 27th, 2008 | 10:50 am

      I don’t think Jeter’s range is bad. I think his reflexes are. He doesn’t react well to balls hit to his left or right. Reacting to balls would go a long way in help Jeter’s range. With his improve quickness and explosiveness, Jeter should be fine. Don’t hate on the jump pass, Steve. That always makes ESPN’s Top Ten on a given night, lol.

      I think the Yanks defense will be fine.

    4. j
      March 27th, 2008 | 5:30 pm

      Steve,

      You should take a look at some of the different defensive metrics out there. It’s a fairly classic explanation as to why, but I’ll reiterate it for you:

      1) Our eyes deceive us when watching a baseball player. We tend to remember the bad and forget the good (or routine, when it comes to fielding.)

      2) By most accounts, here is what the Yankees will be running out there in terms of defensively:

      Giambi – Awful, makes him more injury prone
      Cano – Above average and getting better each year
      Jeter – Awful range, strong arm, good on pop-ups (whatever that means)
      ARod – Average to slightly below.. every year is hit or miss
      Posada – Average to below average, which matters little when you consider he’s on of the top 2 or 3 hitting catchers in baseball (VMart, Martin).

      Damon – Above average range for a LFer, horrible arm
      Melky – Average/above average range, cannon for an arm
      Abreu – Average to slightly below (similar to ARod at 3B), afraid of the wall.

      Now, a couple of things to remember:
      - Damon didn’t play much LF last year. It’s reasonable to expect he’ll get better out there as
      he gets more familiar.
      - It’s reasonable to expect Cano and Melky will get better. Early-20-somethings get better, early-30-somethings get worse.
      - With regards to Jeter, at least Girardi has acknowledged that Jeter has range issues. If this results in better positioning, we may see a little bit of a boost from him. Also, don’t forget that Jeter had knee issues last year, so he’s not as bad as he was last year.

      You’re right, defense is supremely important – it’s often overlooked. But I don’t things are as bad as you think they are.

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