Despite playing in a small ballpark in the AL East and being known as the “Bronx Bombers”, the Yankees seem to be changing from a run creation team to a run prevention team. This is evidenced by the types of players they have acquired, the large amounts of shifts they employ, and the huge value they put on catcher pitch framing skills. Despite this emphasis on defense, the Yankees registered just a -3 team DRS and 3.7 UZR last year according to Fangraphs.com.
They were right around league average. However, they project to be even better this year with Didi Gregorious (and some Brendan Ryan) over Derek Jeter at shortstop, a full season of Chase Headley over Yangervis Solarte and Kelly Johnson at third base, and a more acclimated Stephen Drew at his new position of second base.
Even a full season of Mark Teixeira (if healthy) is a defensive upgrade over out-of-position Johnson, Brian McCann, and Ryan. Finally, Chris Young and Garrett Jones can spell Carlos Beltran in right field at times. In fact, August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs projects the Yankees to have among the best team defenses in the MLB for 2015.
Fagerstrom uses UZR and DRS projections as well as Fangraphs’ depth charts to forecast each team’s defense for 2015. The top projected defense belongs to the Kansas City Royals while the lowest is the San Diego Padres. Coming in third is the New York Yankees as Fagerstrom notes how massive the defensive upgrade at shortstop will be, as well as the outfield that catches everything when Young is in right.
In addition to projecting team defense, Fagerstrom calculates which teams will upgrade or downgrade the most from 2014 using standard deviations away from the mean. In this calculation the Yankees rank as the team with the highest projected year over year improvement.
Fagerstrom’s table of numbers shows that the Yankees have at least a league average defender at each position. The projection for McCann doesn’t even include his great pitch framing abilities. The aggregate number of projected runs saved for the Yankees is 32 according to Fagerstrom’s calculations. This is worth about three wins which can be a huge swing in the standings.
The Yankees will try to ride an elite bullpen and defenders who turn balls in play into outs to a playoff berth amid health risk in the rotation and a less potent offense.
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