Teams are more interested in run prevention and defense now? Via ESPN.com -
The Tampa Bay Rays went from 66-96 in 2007 to 97-65 in 2008. The Seattle Mariners went from 61-101 in 2008 to 85-77 in 2009. The one thing those two teams share, of course, was a focus on defense and run prevention. And while the Boston Red Sox might not have that sort of hole out of which to climb heading into 2010, it seems clear the team has transitioned from the on-base-percentage and power-heavy lineups of their recent title years to a roster focused on run prevention and defense.
Over the past decade, teams have apparently acquired a newfound appreciation for defense. Defense, more so than offense, has always been difficult to quantify. However, as teams get a better handle on measuring defense, some are using that facet of the game to radically improve. Following in the footsteps of the Rays and Mariners, the Red Sox appear to have made the decision that the most efficient and effective way to construct a club at this juncture is to emphasize defense. Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz no longer make up the feared heart-of-the-order that existed during the 2004 and 2007 World Series teams. Instead, teams will learn to fear the Red Sox’s defense.
Rather than pay Jason Bay the $60 million or $70 million he is reportedly seeking, the Red Sox decided that paying Mike Cameron under $20 million was a better investment.
While a casual observer might look at Cameron’s 2009 line of .250/.342/.452 with 24 HR and wonder how in the world that compares to Bay’s .267/.384/.537 with 36 HR line, there’s far more to the story than that. While Bay is an offensive force, he is a defensive liability.
In a sense, you can add the 2009 Yankees to this group of teams more “focused on run prevention and defense” because they added Teixeira at first (which was a huge defensive upgrade on Jason Giambi), subtracted Bobby Abreu (who added no defensive value whatsoever), added strikeout pitchers in Sabathia and Burnett (who take “defense” into their own hands by keeping balls out of play), and got improved defensive efforts from Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano (this season). Also, the Yankees had a number of pitchers in their bullpen this year – like Robertson and Hughes – who were strikeout pitchers in that role. Lastly, Jose Molina caught more games, when he was available, than expected (due to the whole Posada/Burnett issue).
It will be interesting to see if the 2010 Yankees continue with this effort.
Teixeira and Sabathia should repeat what they did last year. But, which Cano will show up in 2010? Can Jeter post another solid year with the glove? Will Burnett stay off the D.L.? Will the guys in the pen perform as they did last season? Will Curtis Granderson hurt or help on defense? And, who knows about what defense the Yankees will get out of catcher this coming season? Lotsa questions…I just hope all the answers turn out to be good.