If you ever wanted to understand why everyone hates New York Yankees fans, look no further than the argument that’s circulating Twitter about current shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
There’s normal discourse, then there’s toxic/delusional discourse. And this discussion falls under the latter category.
For those not paying attention, Kiner-Falefa was acquired this past offseason as a stopgap option to pave the way for either Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza, both of whom still need time to develop. Could the Yankees have gone in a better direction? Absolutely. But they didn’t. And for fans to “expect more” out of IKF when he’s delivering … exactly the output he has for his entire career is borderline insane.
IKF debuted in 2018 with the Texas Rangers and came up as a catcher/infielder. That year, he played in 111 games (46 at third base, 35 at catcher, 20 at second base, 2 at SS and 2 at DH). In 2019 he exclusively split time between catcher (38 games) and third base (25 games). In 2020 he won a Gold Glove for his play at third base (46 games) and also played 15 at short.
In 2021, he was converted to a full-time shortstop, logging 156 games and offering promise considering he had only logged 17 at the position across the previous three seasons. He finished the year with a 2.0 dWAR, 10 Defensive Runs Saved, and 19 errors, good for a .972 fielding percentage. Elite? No. Fine? Yup.
Through 76 games with the Yankees, he’s been a tad worse, logging a .962 fielding percentage after committing 10 errors, but owns a 1.0 dWAR and 5 Defensive Runs Saved — all of which are essentially on par with what he produced last year. The information was right there for fans to see when this trade was made.
Yankees fans complaining about Isiah Kiner-Falefa are delusional.
How about his offense? Oh, the exact same? No way. How in the world …
IKF’s claim to fame as a hitter is that he’s a contact bat, and someone who’s featured in the bottom of the order. His career slash line is .265/.316/.348 (.664 OPS and 81 OPS+). In 2022, he’s hitting .267 with a .631 OPS and 84 OPS+. He has just 16 career homers and 71 doubles in 468 games, so that was never going to change.
What IKF was brought in to do was provide range at shortstop (which he has, despite some frustrating gaffes on relatively routine plays), put the ball in play as the No. 8-9 hitter (which he’s done), lessen the strikeouts (39 in 282 plate appearances), and steal bases (he’s on pace for a career-high 24).
So what do you want, folks? An All-Star at every position? The Yankees are 61-25, have the best record in baseball, and have a number of other guys doing their jobs much more poorly than IKF.
You want to option him? Go ahead! Sure that’ll be great for his eventual trade value if/when the Yankees want to move on from him after this season should Volpe or Peraza be ready in 2023.
Also, what available shortstops are capable of making plays like this at all? There’s a reason his dWAR (1.0), FanGraphs’ Def (2.7) and DRS (5) are all in the green.
What’s even funnier about all this, though? Fans really got up in arms when he made a throwing error in the seventh inning of Sunday’s game against the Red Sox, which eventually paved the way for a Trevor Story bases-clearing double that fully put things out of reach for the Yankees.
But what about the two DJ LeMahieu misplays the previous innings where the outfielders refused to call him off near-impossible balls to catch, which eventually allowed the game-winning run? IKF’s throwing error was egregious, but Xander Bogaerts also walked, Alex Verdugo singled, and then Story doubled. IKF’s error didn’t allow the game to get out of hand.
It’s gotten to the point where some said Yankees fans were “too hard” on Gleyber Torres for his defense, especially with what he was able to contribute on offense. The difference, here? Torres was supposed to be a shortstop, and the fact he was uncomfortable at the position led to awful defense (-0.5 dWAR, -1.1 Def, -10 DRS and 18 errors in 108 games) and an offensive regression for the ages (disappearing power and a below-average OPS+ and wRC+ after being arguably one of the best-hitting middle infielders in baseball).
The two cases aren’t the same. And to be mad at IKF for mediocre play? A gigantic waste of time. This is the player he’s been since 2018. The Yankees knew that, so you might as well be mad at Brian Cashman.
The Yankees have six All-Stars on the roster, but that clearly isn’t enough for some fans. Below-average play anywhere on the roster in unacceptable, even when you have the best record in baseball.
Save it for Reddit. Nobody wants to hear it.