This week, MLB released a new Statcast tool: infield outs above average. This tool is a continuation of Statcast’s outs above average statistic, which was previously only available for measuring defense among outfielders. The new metric shows very poor infield defense by the Yankees in 2019.
Before we take a look at how the Yankees infield graded out in 2010 let’s start by examining how outs above average (OAA) measures defense. Basically, OAA describes a defender’s contribution to his team by recording how many outs that defender has saved.
Statcast calculates this figure, which can be a plus or minus rating, by recording every play a fielder makes (or doesn’t make) while simultaneously measuring the difficulty of that play. For a more in-depth conceptual description of OAA, click here.
While the previously available Statcast data for outfielders put the Yankees at tenth in the MLB for OAA, scoring a +3, the new infield data released on January eighth, 2020 shows the Yankees in 28th out of the 30 Major League teams with a mark of -18. The first Yankees infielder to appear on the individual leaders’ list is DJ LeMahieu (as a second baseman) at number 24.
It’s no secret that the Yankees have struggled with infield defense in the past few years as they’ve relied on a young core of infielders. That needs to change in 2020.
For a team that will be a top contender for the World Series in 2020, the poor infield defense needs to be addressed. In order to compete with teams like the Astros, who were third in the majors with a mark of +27 for the infield and second in the league with a mark of +14 for the outfield, the Yankees need to show at least a little improvement with their infield defense.
The Yanks don’t need to be on the same level as the Astros or the A’s–that kind of jump might be too difficult. However, the team should set their sights on at least being within the top fifty percent of major league infields. That goal starts with certain players.
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As previously mentioned, LeMahieu played stellar second base in 2019 and figures to be the everyday guy their in 2020 now that Didi Gregorius is gone. He also added value spending time at first and third.
Miguel Andújar (-11 OAA in 2018) and Gleyber Torres (-7 OAA in 2019) seem to be hurting the infield the most defensively. Luke Voit did not log enough innings at first base last season to earn an OAA score while the surehanded Gio Urshela somehow finished with a low score of 0.
Hopefully, the work that Andújar put in the past two offseasons will pay off for him in 2020, where he could see action at third and first base. For both he and Torres, simply gaining more experience in the majors may improve their defense. Although it could take some time now that Torres is shifting back to shortstop primarily and Miggy returns after missing the majority of lasts season due to injury.
As the infield prepares to tighten up this season, even some slight improvements could be just the thing to put the Yankees over the top in 2020.