Midseason defensive check-in: infield

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Welcome to the mid-season infield defensive check-in. Just a reminder, for the defensive check-in series we are using Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). You can read more about these two defensive metrics and how they are calculated here.

The 2018 iteration of the Yankees seem to be slightly above average on defense as a whole. They currently rank 11th in baseball with a +17 DRS and 14th in baseball with a +6.5 UZR. As you would guess, anything above zero is considered above average.

Earlier this season, we saw some defensive lapses mentally and some overall shaky defense, but it seems to have stabilized over the last few months. I think that can be attributed to the lineup and defense more or less being “set” on an everyday basis. Let’s take a look at what the advanced metrics think about the Yankee infield in the early going.

These values can fluctuate from season to season, but this is just a “defensive check-in” so let’s look at the data. (Insert small sample size disclaimer here).

Didi is having another exceptional season at the plate, however in the field; the defensive metrics think he has taken a slight step back. When we see numbers like this, it’s important to illustrate that these can get skewed from a few bad games, so I would not get worked up over it. He remains a very good fielder, but is probably a tick below gold glove caliber, at least in my eyes. The updated numbers are below:

Gleyber Torres had just come up when we did our first defensive check-in. As the games have gone by, I think we can all see that he is a plus defender. He has the range and arm of a shortstop, and since second base in further down the defensive spectrum, he is above average over there. We have seen a few “rookie” plays but that is to be expected from a 21-year-old. Maybe the aforementioned plays are why UZR doesn’t see him as “plus” at the moment, but our eyes tell us he can certainly make all of the plays, and even dazzle us on occasion.

Now that Greg Bird is back from the DL, we can give a representation of his defensive numbers in 2018.  While we are waiting for his bat to get going (maybe it’s soon given his 2 homer night against the Sox last Friday) he has been surprisingly solid defensively over at first base.

The book on him coming up was that he might be able to improve enough to be “average” someday at the position, and I think we are starting to see that now. Props to Gregory for working hard on his defense.

While Miguel Andujar has been a really nice player offensively, there is really no sugarcoating his defense at this point in the season. The metrics don’t like him.  This is mostly due to poor range, according to the “range” factor that is included in the UZR calculation. This is to be expected, however, and I think as long as he’s not making a lot of errors (only 4 this season) the Yankees are going to live with the growing pains, because his bat is so electric.

His arm, however, remains a big plus tool. If he could iron out his footwork, and working on getting a better first step on the ball, that would go a long way in turning the below ugly numbers around.

Gary Sanchez, while on the DL at the moment, has been a bit better this season at blocking balls. He will always be a work in progress in that area, because he is just a bigger guy in general, but given his fantastic arm and good pitch framing, he is still an above average defensive catcher.

Austin Romine has been really good with the bat this season, but he’s also been a defensive stalwart.  He’s already saved 6 runs this season, in limited play, via DRS, and he has never been above average before this season in that metric. Nice to see him finally come into his own.

(Note: DEF is UZR with positional adjustment via Fangraphs)

Obviously, there are other players that have contributed to the infield defense: Ronald Torreyes, Neil Walker, Brandon Drury etc., but the above listed players have contributed the most and are getting the bulk of the playing time.

This concludes the Yankee infield defensive check-in. Outfield check-in coming soon!

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