Apparently the Yankees defense has been the worst in baseball this season by a large margin (-48 runs below average!). I have no trouble believing they’re pretty bad, though I was surprised to see them that far behind: though remember, zone rating and other defensive metrics are still somewhat flawed.
The player’s who seem to be the biggest culprits for these bad stats are Jeter and Cano (check out Joe Posnanski’s blog: Jeter/Cano are -41 in outs made (scroll down a ways)). Jeter is no surprise, but Cano ranked as one of the top second basemen in baseball last year. Jeter’s defense has actually improved slightly from last year. Cano ranks as one of the worst defensive second basemen there is now, primarily because of a terrible last month.
So how can the Yankees’ defense be fixed? Well, mostly they just need to hope Cano starts playing like he’s capable. That would bring them back to the pack immediately. If the Yankees bring in Teixiera instead of Giambi, that would also likely be a small improvement (I realize Tex is much better than Giambi, but first base really isn’t that critical). A-Rod is solid and Posada should be alright if he heals properly (big if) and is spelled by Molina. With Damon in center, the outfield isn’t good. If the Yankees traded Damon, put Jeter in LF, let Gardner or Melky play center, and signed a good defensive shortstop, the whole team’s defense probably improves dramatically.
But would that be worth it offensively? And how do you just move Jeter from short following a year where his defense actually improved?
All of this is a long winded way of saying the obvious: the Yankees almost certainly will improve their hitting and pitching next year, but odds are they will still be pretty bad at defense.