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Defensive indifference: 2023’s five worst defensive plays

The Yankees kicked the ball around in 2023, so let’s masochistically relive the worst of the worst.

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees finished 12th in the major leagues with positive four Outs Above Average in 2023, proof that defensive metrics are very flawed when taken individually. The ill-fated team made plenty of the kinds of fielding mistakes that don’t necessarily show up on the metrics. With that being said, there were plenty of scorebook errors as well. It’s tough to pick just five plays, so we’re talking pure boneheaded-ness for these purposes, not necessarily most impactful to win probability.

5. Gleyber Torres, September 16th at Tigers

This one was pretty impactful, though. It’s no surprise that several of these came in the dog days of the late season. As the losses piled up, the listlessness escalated. Here, the pitcher Jonathan Loáisiga does his job: he gloves it, turns and throws relatively accurately to Gleyber Torres covering the bag. Torres gets lazy, noticeably drops his elbow, and slings one over DJ LeMahieu’s six-foot-four frame. Ballgame over, Yankees lose. Thanks for playing. Drive home safely.

4. Giancarlo Stanton, September 8th vs. Brewers

Here’s another from the nightmarish second half of the season. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with Giancarlo Stanton. Off the bat, this fly ball had an xBA of .280. Okay, shrug that off. Maybe Aaron Judge makes that play, but Big G isn’t the fastest out there. The only blame for that aspect falls on the coaching staff for setting Stanton up to fail. The mistake comes with the fact that especially with runners on base, he needs to realize he can’t get there, slow up and play the carom. Instead, he doesn’t come particularly close to catching it and the ball bounces way past him, allowing Mark Canha to score from first. But that’s not all! Once the ball finally makes its way back into the infield, LeMahieu, for good measure, sails a short throw over Oswald Peraza’s head and Willy Adames advances. The Yankees would go on to lose this game 9-2.

3. Jake Bauers, September 23rd vs. Diamondbacks

You know Jake Bauers had to make a cameo. Not much to say about this one except that the part-time outfielder may need a geometry lesson to explain that the fastest way between two points is a straight line. Either that or he should consult the Jets’ Garrett Wilson about running efficient routes.

2. Gleyber Torres, June 11th vs. Red Sox

This one is uniquely deflating, and falls under the category of “Gleyber Torres is out of this world, and not in a good way.” Torres gifts the Red Sox with a free base, and winning major league teams don’t give away free bases. That might be an understatement — this is a Facebook Marketplace level free base. It was less impactful than the Adames play, but it’s just ... pathetic.

1. Clay Holmes, August 13th at Marlins

This game itself was demoralizing in its timing. In mid-August around the AL East, Baltimore was surging, Tampa Bay was trying to keep pace, and Toronto was pushing their way into the playoff picture. The Yankees and Red Sox were lackadaisically battling over fourth place. The Yankees would finish 10-18 in August including this speed-run meltdown in Miami.

The Yankees’ offense put up seven runs led by an Anthony Volpe homer and Stanton double. Gerrit Cole turned in his usual quality start. That alone should be enough to win 95 percent of the time. Going into the ninth, the score was 7-3. Clay Holmes then came in and pulled a Han Solo: “never tell me the odds.” After a double, single, and walk, Holmes used that power sinker to induce a tapper back to the mound, at which point he made the error.

In successive events that felt inevitable, Luis Arraez tripled and Jake Burger singled to walk it off. This also brings up the perpetual question if closers in non-save situations are more likely to get rocked. Aaron Boone decided that was a bunch of hooey, and got burned. With the game on the line, this just happened to be the worst possible time to ask a pitcher to make an athletic play.

Several of these plays aren’t a result of lack of ability — they’re pure mental mistakes and shockingly avoidable. Many, many moments like these added up to the six months of mediocrity, together representing the worst Yankees season of my lifetime.