As we saw earlier today, no matter how you slice it, the Yankees had one of the league’s most shutdown defenses in 2022, leading the league in Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150 and finishing near the top in Outs Above Average. The baseball season is long, however, and even good defensive teams have days where they struggle with the leather. Which ones were the worst of the worst? Here are my candidates.
Is it Oswaldo Cabrera or Luis Castillo?
On the whole, Oswaldo Cabrera made a strong positive impression with the glove from the moment he made his major league debut earlier this season, and it’s clear to me that a Gold Glove is somewhere in his future. But even so, he was far from perfect.
August 22nd saw the rookie make his first career start at second base, marking the fourth different position he played in his first six games (an MLB first). While he filled up the highlight reel at shortstop, third base, and in right field, his first foray to the keystone involved this less than stellar moment.
In a play that looked eerily similar to Luis Castillo’s infamous dropped ball, Cabrera ranges deep into the outfield grass and collides with right fielder Marwin González, neither of whom seemed to call for the ball. Rather than heading back to the dugout for the second out of the inning, Pete Alonso found himself at first base.
Lucas Luetge can’t handle the pop up
Early in the season, the Yankees scored two runs in Detroit when a pop fly by Josh Donaldson fell to the ground between home plate and the pitcher’s mound. The catcher could not locate the pop fly and the pitcher could not corral it with an attempt to catch it that would have made him look cool, calm, and collected if he caught it, but made him look lazy and disinterested because he didn’t.
Well, just a few weeks after that, Lucas Luetge dropped an easy pop up off the bat of A.J. Pollock.
Honestly, I have nothing to add except, Seriously, you couldn’t catch that? This is why PFPs — Pitchers’ Fielding Practice — is vital.
The Yankees don’t learn from their shortstop mistake
While scrolling through pages and pages of Yankees errors and defensive miscues from this past season, one name that popped up more than any was Isiah Kiner-Falefa: his 16 errors led the team, and there were countless plays from throughout the season that either should have been classified as errors or were saved by a nifty play by first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
There are many plays that I can draw your attention to. There’s this miscue on September 4th, this throwing error from July, this botched ground ball from April, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The truth is, however, while IKF gets flagged for the error in the scorebook, the true error is found within the Yankees managerial staff and front office, who continually insisted on playing him at a position that he clearly wasn’t all that good at despite the fact that he was a stopgap and that the prospects he was holding the fort down for (Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza) had forced their way onto the roster and were playing well.
The Judge and Darth Bader don’t communicate
In my mind, there is nothing worse than a miscommunication that results in an easy out turning into a big play, particularly when there are veterans involved. And yet, on the biggest stage of the season, down 2-0 in the ALCS and looking rather lifeless, Harrison Bader and Aaron Judge simply did not hear each other call for the ball, resulting in the Gold Glove center fielder dropping a surefire out.
To make matters worse, Chas McCormick followed that up with a two-run homer that gave the Astros an early lead. What should have been the final out of the inning instead turned into a gut punch.
The Double Play that Ended the Season
Look, were the Yankees going to mount a comeback after trailing 3-0 in the ALCS? No, of course not: after all, it had never been done before (please refrain from correcting me in the comments section below, let me live my fantasy). Still, winning at least one game was something that we should have expected, and indeed, after three days looking like extras in the Night King’s army, the Yankees finally punched back in Game 4. They held a 5-4 lead in the top of the seventh, with one out.
Jonathan Loáisiga, doing his best to will the Yankees into tomorrow night, was looking for three quick outs to get the ball to closer Clay Holmes. He struck out Martin Maldonado to lead off the inning, then Jose Altuve reached on an infield single. Facing Jeremy Peña, Loáisiga got exactly what he wanted: a ground ball to second base, a tailor-made 4-6-3 double play.
Then Gleyber Torres made a bad throw, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa took a terrible route to the bag, and the ball careened into left field. Instead of the inning being over, it was first and second with one out, the catalyst for an inning in which the Astros tied the game, took the lead, and in effect ended the Yankees season.
Well, at least it wasn’t a walkoff home run that eliminated the Yankees this time.