Aaron Boone bafflingly doubles down on Isiah Kiner-Falefa defensive praise


The New York Yankees have made tangible change in their infield picture by promoting top prospect Oswald Peraza for the season’s final stretch. It remains unclear, though, exactly how much run he’ll get, and what position he’ll predominantly occupy.

After all, a struggling Gleyber Torres might be en route to working his way out of the everyday rotation, leaving a hole Peraza can fill at second base. That could also be Oswaldo Cabrera’s everyday territory, with Peraza occupying shortstop and sending Isiah Kiner-Falefa back into the utility role he was always intended for.

A natural shortstop occupying shortstop is something the Yankees have seemingly shied away from since the departure of Didi Gregorius, for whatever reason. Torres manned the position in a 130-game audition that did not go well and ate up his offense, too, in 2021. Kiner-Falefa has a Gold Glove on his mantle, but that award came for his work at third base, not short.

By most metrics, he’s always struggled at shortstop, and this year, the numbers are a bit of a mixed bag. For instance, his ability to play balls hit in front of him has been red-alarm bad, but some of the other advanced metrics reward him for his efforts.

And thanks to Aaron Boone’s appearance on the Michael Kay Show on Thursday (prior to Peraza’s promotion), we know exactly which metrics the Yankees have their eyes on!

Boone took to the mic after Kiner-Falefa’s ugly error helped open the floodgates for Gerrit Cole Wednesday, and called his guy “one of the best defenders in the league at shortstop.” That is … not true, by most accounts, though there are a couple of numbers that would indicate Kiner-Falefa’s been getting a raw deal. Those numbers rank him fifth and seventh, which are coincidentally the numbers Boone dropped while speaking to Kay.

Aaron Boone, Yankees cite Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s defensive numbers to praise him

And, there you have it. IKF is in the top five or seven shortstops if all you care about is Total Runs Saved and Range Runs. Keep those statistics in mind the next time you’re trying to figure out a potential Yankees acquisition target. Clearly, they love them!

Unfortunately, he’s a -2 in Outs Above Average overall after posting a remarkable +5 mark as a third baseman back in the shortened 2020 campaign, a significant fall from grace in that statistic dragged down again by his charging ability (-8 on balls in, -13 last year).

If the defense is going to be this confusing, the offense should probably be at least … tangible. Sadly, it’s mostly been absent, save for one memorable home run at Fenway Park. Kiner-Falefa has been exactly as advertised on one side of the ball, and somewhat underwhelming on the other.

Or, if you’re the Yankees, a top-five-or-seven guy. Wink wink.

Kiner-Falefa certainly has a role to play on a contending team. He puts bat on ball. He has the offensive fundamentals down. He can slap an annoying single or find the line with a double from time to time.

But he should probably be a rotating infield option who gets to cover his best base — third — rather than a starting shortstop. Hopefully, Peraza (or Cabrera) finds his footing quickly and becomes a true top-five option at the position in a no-spin zone by next season.