Insert Aaron Rodgers voice:
Yes, April games count just as much as September games do despite what Paul O’Neill tells you. But six games is a sneeze in baseball time. If the Yankees have a six-game stretch in June where they win only two, you wouldn’t even notice. (Looks sideways at you, Jack Curry…)
As has been noted, they are obviously suffering from having a pretty good team on the injured list, and a good chunk of that is uncontrollable. The strength and conditioning staff has a little say in that, but not much in this case I don’t think. But the General Manager giving the shortstop keys to a guy who hasn’t played baseball in a year and a half is a factor, obviously.
And for the last time, hitting is not easy. All players go through weeks, even months sometimes where they hit either well or not well. No 30 home run hitter in history hit five home runs each month. No .300 hitter ever got three hits every ten at-bats. Ups and downs happen whether you accept it or not. Reminder: It’s usually the people who don’t like statistics that expect players to be automatons. Those of us who use advanced statistics know that players are human.
Another reminder: The other guys get paid a lot of money too because they’re pretty damn good. You get beat sometimes, it happens, relax. Mathew Boyd has been an above league average pitcher for a year and a half and Jordan Zimmermann has been better than league average for 11 seasons. Just because they aren’t Verlander and Kluber doesn’t mean they can’t shut you down.
So relax, you don’t need to worry about any of the above.
But here’s what you do need to worry about:
Yes, Aaron Boone gets out managed pretty consistently, but that’s not what I want to talk about. We’ve covered this before here so no need to completely re-hash but from lineup construction to pitching changes, he usually ends up giving the other team a shot when they shouldn’t have one.
What the Yankees need to worry about is that they can’t play defense.
Here’s what my eyes have seen: Aaron Judge and D.J. LeMahieu have been great. The rest of the team looks like a bad little league team playing on a bumpy field.
Gleyber Torres at short reminds me of Jeter, but not in the good way: Looks great coming in and going back but has about as much lateral range as a statue. Mitch McConnell goes to his left better than Torres does.
Can we put a screen behind 2nd base to stop Gary Sanchez’ throws from going into center field? I’ve been Sanchez’ biggest defender, but he’s been a train wreck defensively so far.
Clint Frazier looks like a coach said “Hey, that guy’s pretty athletic, let’s put him in the outfield” just to find out he’s never been in the outfield before. No range, misjudges line drives, and couldn’t hit the water with a throw if he were on a boat.
But that’s my eyes. And if you’ve read my stuff before, I don’t trust anyone’s eyes, not even my own. So I checked some numbers and here’s what they say:
The Yankees defense is awful.
Forget errors, forget fielding percentage. They’re about as useless as batting average and pitchers’ wins in terms of what they tell you about player performance. Look at numbers that tell you if the fielders a) get to batted balls, and b) turn those batted balls into outs, relative to league average.
According to three different metrics* the Yankees are between 24th and 28th in MLB as a team defensively.
This is something about which you should be concerned. Or something you should find “concerning” as Michael Kay would say. (Pro tip: it’s “disconcerting”, not “concerning”.)
Yes, physical mistakes happen, but not getting to batted balls and not turning them into outs isn’t something that should fall into a slump, generally speaking. And if it doesn’t improve, the Yankees have a big problem.
The pitching has been great. They’re top ten in MLB in both adjusted ERA and FIP and 12th in K/BB ratio. And the run prevention as a team has been pretty good as a result. But they’ve played teams who aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts so far. Giving high octane offenses more chances because you can’t get outs doesn’t end well for the pinstripes.
Yes, I get that not having Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius may be beyond control. When you have two plus defenders at two prime positions gone, you’re going to notice. But roster formation and lineup construction are factors in team defense, and the Yankee brain trust does have some influence over that. Cashman and Boone need to be better in that regard.
*According to Baseball Reference, they’re 24th in Total Zone Fielding Runs Above average and 27th in BIS defensive runs saved above average. Fangraphs Def, which encompasses everything that happens on defensive plays has them 28th in MLB.
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