The 2015 New York Yankees are inconsistent and streaky. Wins and losses seem to come in bunches. But one of the most consistent thing about this team has been that when the losing streaks come, they are ugly, and a lot of that ugly play comes on defense.
It is the middle of June, and there are still about 100 games left in this long baseball season, but the Yankees already have 45 errors. In comparison, it took them three more weeks last season to get to 45. The defensive woes are troubling, but they are also mystifying. The expectations for the Yankees was that this would be, not just a good defensive team, but arguably a great one. Instead the Yankees are making costly and embarrassing errors.
The infield has been the the biggest offenders. And among them Chase Headley stands out, and not in a good way. He has 14 errors, one more than his season high of 13 in 2010, and a discouraging -8 defensive runs saved. On Friday, in a brutally sloppy 11-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, Headley committed yet another error.
Not only did this lead to a a four-run inning that arguably cost the Yankees the game, but in a case of literal adding-insult-to-injury the ball bounced up and hit Headley in what YES announcer Ken Singleton gracefully described as “a vulnerable spot.” Headley had to leave the game because of nausea. A feeling that many fans watching this team on a bad defensive night can relate to.
Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
While that may have been one of the more painful errors, one of the worst moments was also in a loss to the Orioles this weekend. This time it was not even an error, well not officially. In the third inning of the 9-4 loss to the Orioles on Saturday an arguably easy play for a foul ball landed between first baseman Mark Teixeira and catcher Brian McCann.
It seemed to be a communication issue (not the only one of the night a similar play occurred between Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran in right field the night before) as both watched the ball drop. A play that happens, but what doesn’t always happen is that batter Nolan Reimold hit the a game tying home run on the very next pitch. That play highlighted a very defensively sloppy game that featured two errors and a series of miscues which no doubt contributed to the loss.
Manager Joe Girardi is understandably frustrated by the defensive problems. His solution may be different from what you would expect though. He thinks the defense may need to stop trying so hard. Recently he said, “I’m trying to figure it out, they work hard [improving defense] every day.” Adding that the players who are struggling the most, Headley and shortstop Gregorious have a good track record for defense and that “It’s hard to put our finger on because these guys have a history of playing good defense and they’re just not doing it.”
Alongside the left side of the infield Headley is joined in his defensive struggles by shortstop Didi Gregorius who has eight errors on the season and a -4 defensive runs saved. Gregorius was also expected to wield a good glove and like Headley at times he does. One of the most frustrating aspects for fans is the extreme inconsisitency in the play of these two. At times, they deliver sparkling plays that are “web gem” worthy, but watching them is a mixed bag as you never know which defensive player you will see. The one who can sparkle, or the one who will make a flub.
Girardi suggested that perhaps the problem with the Yankees defense is that they are trying too hard. He suggested that the solution may be to actually stop trying so hard. He said, “Maybe we should go the other way, tell them to relax a little bit.” At first, that seems counterintuitive–telling a team to not try so hard–but it makes sense in the context. These are good defensive players who are making mistakes. There are players who are defensive liabilities, like Boston Red Sox left fielder Hanley Ramirez, whom you put on the field knowing that they are there for their offense and you will put up with poor defense in exchange for their bat. This is not the case with most of the Yankees. Beltran is a notable exception.
Girardi seems to think the solution to the poor defensive play may be for the Yankees to stop trying to hard and let their abilities take over. We will be watching to see if the players take this advice and how well it works. Hopefully, we will more consistent play and that high error number will stop rising.
What do you think? Do you think Girardi is right about these players, that they just need to “relax” and play? What, if anything, do you think would help them play up to their potential? Let us know in the comments below.
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