Yankees: Poor defense is proving to be a liability for team
On Tuesday, the Yankees were lucky to win a game against the Astros after committing five errors. The Yankees youthful infield must improve their fielding to reduce the pressure on their offense and vulnerable pitching staff.
A home run hitting machine of an offense paired with a lucrative bullpen can take a team far into the postseason. However, errors can kill the Yankees chances at taking home the Commissioner’s Trophy this fall.
One of the overlooked components of the 2009 Yankees championship roster was their Gold Glove infield. The offense of the ’09 team was indeed ridiculous. I think an elite defensive lineup was the real difference maker for them.
Mark Teixeira was a vacuum at first base, Robinson Cano made every play look easy at second, and both Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were Gold Glove-winning shortstops locking down the left side of the infield. Also, the combination of Jorge Posada and Jose Molina gave the Yankees veteran leadership at the catcher position.
The 2018 infield is more of a youthful experiment filled with great hitters and average at best fielders. I believe the team will grow more comfortable with their leather throughout the season, but for now, the defense must be addressed.
Catcher – Gary Sanchez
Fans are not shy to express their displeasure with 25-year-old Gary Sanchez‘s inability to block a baseball. However, he is one of the best hitters on the team and has a cannon for an arm. For Gary to take a much needed next step towards stardom, he needs to improve his blocking ability.
I will say that having Gary play catcher is a huge advantage for the Yankees because of his mighty swing. It’s rare for an offense to have their catcher play a vital role in the team’s lineup. His go-ahead two-run single on Wednesday night was a perfect example of the impact his bat can make against a good team like the Astros.
And by the way, while this may seem hard to believe, according to Fangraphs, Sanchez leads the Yankees in Defensive Runs Above Average with a 2.8 Def. Among AL catchers, he ranks second behind Jonathan Lucroy of the Oakland Athletics.
First Base – Greg Bird
Greg Bird, according to the Yankees management is expected to be a real stud at the plate and on the field. Compared to platoon partner Tyler Austin, Bird appears to be the better fielder. Unfortunately, because of his frequent injuries, we don’t have a valid metric to measure his ability.
What we do know is in his 96 career games and 777.1 innings of major league play, Bird, only has one error according to Baseball Reference. If Bird can develop into a plus fielding first baseman, he would undoubtedly do favors for the Yankees infielders as Teixeira did during his career in pinstripes.
A quick note to mention, out of the five errors committed by the Yankees on Tuesday, Bird was the only infielder not to make one. So far, I have no complaints with him patrolling first base, and neither should anyone else.
Related Story: Yankees: Where should Greg Bird and Gleyber Torres bat in the lineup?
Second Base – Gleyber Torres
Scouts have praised Gleyber Torres for years now, and some even said his fielding ability was his greatest asset. If he’s ever going to be regarded as one of the better defenders in the MLB, he will need to improve his performance immensely.
He hasn’t been in the majors for long, yet he still has found a way to commit seven errors at second base. He may be the best offensive option compared to veteran utility man Neil Walker and fan-favorite Ronald Torreyes, but his defense so far has been a liability.
I’m confident he will develop into a star soon. Remember, he is 21-years-old playing in front of 40,000-plus screaming Yankees fans; it could be intimidating at first. Still, it would be unfortunate for one too many errors by the kid to cost the Yanks a huge game.
Shortstop – Didi Gregorius
Didi Gregorius has already played an influential role on Gleyber Torres, who is a natural shortstop. While Didi has been regarded as a plus-fielder in the past, he’s never won a Gold Glove. I’m comfortable with Gregorius’ ability to play the position, but there is a room for improvement.
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In 2018, he ranks ninth among AL shortstops in Defensive Runs Above Average with a 1.3 Def. An important metric to be addressed to measure a shortstop’s true ability as a fielder is their range. Didi struggles compared to the rest of the league’s shortstops in the range category.
According to Fangraphs, he ranks No. 12 among AL shortstops in “range runs” with a -2.6 RngR. If Didi had a little more range, maybe several hits wouldn’t have made it out of the infield. Also, a lack of range could be the difference maker when it comes to a contract extension.
The Yankees will not want a slow shortstop if they can move Gleyber over there. Could the days be numbered for Gregorius in pinstripes? Possibly.
Third Base – Miguel Andujar
Rookie third baseman Miguel Andujar was expected to be a liability at the hot corner. The prospect was always regarded as a good hitter with a rocket arm, but he could appear awkward playing the position at times, according to scouts.
Some fans, including me, don’t think he’s been a problem on the field. At a glance, all some of us see is a young prospect excelling at the plate, and holding it down at third. When I did some research, I learned that Andujar is well below average at the position.
Among AL third baseman, Andujar ranks No. 11 in Defensive Runs Above Average with a -2.9 Def. He also ranks No. 11 among AL third baseman in “range runs” with a -3.3 RngR.
His bat is very nice, and he’s also very young at 23-years of age. He has plenty of time to improve his abilities. But I need to start seeing improvements to feel comfortable with him playing in the postseason.
The left side of the infield is a weakness
According to the numbers, the limited range of Andujar and Gregorius is a liability for the Yankees. Having both of them play on the left side of the infield creates a hole in their alignment. It is still early in the season, and this is something worth monitoring.
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I’ve always hated seeing professionals make errors. I know it’s part of the game and every once in a while mistakes are bound to happen. But in a game against the defending World Series Champions who beat you in the ALCS, I feel every player needs to be on their A-game.
The Yankees may have gotten away with a victory on Tuesday after making five errors, but I doubt it will happen again. Let’s hope their fielding improves as the season progresses.