Watching Yankee games during the first half of 2012 was thrilling at times, thanks to win streaks and dingers and dingers, but when the Yankees took to the field instead of the batter's box, things were sometimes downright ugly. The Raul Ibanez Outfield Experience certainly contributed to that, Curtis Granderson's route reading was always an adventure, and whatever it is that makes Derek Jeter give up on balls hit more than two steps toward the middle didn't help matters. It's not that there were tons and tons of errors, the Yankees are doing fine in that department, but all those plays that you know deep down should have been made are the ones that are perhaps most difficult to deal with.
Defensive metrics aren't perfect. We know this, so it's not as if you must take UZR or anything else as gospel, but when trying to get a read on how a team is doing on defense, my go-to statistic has been Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Fangraphs defines DRS as "how many runs a player saved or hurt his team in the field compared to the average player at his position", with 15+ being Gold Glove caliber, 0 being average, -10 being poor, and -15 being awful.
People will still take issue with the use of "average player" and write off any numerical measure of defensive ability, but we aren't trying to pin down anything revolutionary here, just get an idea of how the team is performing defensively. A ballpark figure that confirms what we see will do just fine. Numbers after the jump.
Pre-ASG 2012 data is on the left, complete 2011 data is on the right:
- The fact that Andruw Jones is rated the best outfielder by DRS is hilarious and a testament to how good he still is. When he dives for a ball, he catches it. It doesn't roll to the corner for a triple like with some other older outfielder we know. At least someone seems to have told Ibanez to stop diving so much...for now.
- Raul Ibanez's 2011 was impressively bad. We knew he was bad, but -23 runs bad? That takes talent, or a complete lack thereof. The fact he's had to step into Brett Gardner's role didn't help.
- Alex Rodriguez led the team in DRS last season, but hasn't looked totally comfortable in the field this year. Not sure what it is, but there have been a few occasions where he just missed a play you'd expect him to get. He's not embarrassing himself out there, which is good, but he could really stand to do better.
- Robinson Cano really has looked better on defense to my eye and DRS seems to at least be in agreement with that so far. The quality of his glove has kind of fluctuated over the recent years, and improved defense would just further his standing as the best player on the team.
- Should Derek Jeter continue the pace he's at this year, he'd easily out-do his DRS from last year. He needs to step it up a bit in the second half to keep him out of 2011 Ibanezian territory when the season is over.
- The right side of the Yankee infield has been so good, kind of the polar opposite of the left side. It's kind of amazing to get to see how well Mark Teixeira fields his position. Complain about his slumps, but he's a tremendous asset on defense.
- Catcher metrics are always iffy, and probably don't do a good job, at least through half of the season, of showing what Russell Martin seems to excel at: pitch framing. Not sure what is causing his DRS numbers to be so different so far this year, but he does tend to get a little lazy on balls in the dirt that he tries to backhand, so that might have something to do with it.
- If Granderson wants an extension, someone needs to fix his route reading. Sooner rather than later is preferable, because Derek Jeter won't be around to make his number look slightly less bad forever.
- DRS likes whatever Chris Stewart is doing. DRS doesn't have to watch him bat.