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Yankees rank among worst in defense this season

The Yankees currently rank 24th in the majors in errors per game. They’re averaging .73 errors per game, only better than the Mets, Pirates, Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox, and Mariners. For perspective, that number would have ranked them 27th in the majors last season. The 2018 Yankees were middle of the pack with .57 errors per game.

So who’s to blame so far? The Yankees have 16 errors through 22 games. That gives them an overall .980 fielding percentage, good for 24th in the league. The biggest culprit: Gary Sanchez. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’s made some absolutely terrible throws to second base this year. Runners are currently 6-6 in stolen bases on the young catcher, though he does have one pickoff.

Then there are three infielders all with two errors each: DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Luke Voit. After that Brett Gardner, Miguel Andujar, J.A. Happ, CC Sabathia, Gio Urshela, and Tyler Wade all have an error apiece. In all honesty, if Andujar and Sanchez had been healthy all season, odds are the Yankees would have even more errors.

The analytics to this point don’t paint much of a better picture either. The team is currently at -9 defensive runs saved (DRS), with players like Urshela (-3), Andujar (-2), and Voit (-2) bearing most of the responsibility. DRS rates players as above of below average on defense, so the cumulative picture so far isn’t great. FanGraph’s DEF (defense) metric, which looks at stats like UZR and DRS, has the team currently ranked 26th with a -5.9.

If we look at Statcast’s Outs Above Average (OAA) analytic, we see the Yankees in a similar spot. Per Baseball Savant, OAA looks at, “The cumulative effect of all individual Catch Probability plays a fielder has been credited or debited with, making it a range-based metric of fielding skill that accounts for the number of plays made and the difficulty of them.” With that in mind, the Yankees rank 25th in the majors with -2 OAA.

Now to be fair, it’s early in the season. Is Urshela actually bad defensively? Of course not. He’s only played 14 games, and a few bad plays will skew all these stats. He’s actually known for his good defense, and he’s already made several impressive plays this season, including this one just two nights ago:

Defensive metrics can always suffer from sample size issues, especially just a month into the season. But the point is that the Yankees defense hasn’t been all that great in this small sample size. If you look at last season, they ranked middle of the pack in most categories. At this point, that is absolutely still a realistic goal this season. But you probably shouldn’t expect much more than that.