09 October 2002

John Perricone, the illustrious keeper of Only Baseball Matters, the only blog of which I know whose title is actually a complete sentence, had this to say about the much-maligned Yankees defense:

Looking farther ahead, I'd say Brian Cashman's got some real hard thinking to do this off-season. He's got a shortstop with a third baseman's range, a first basemen whose really a DH, a centerfielder who should be in left, a second baseman who kind of looks like a centerfielder, and a catcher who should be a DH.

So I took it upon myself to respond to him and defend (sort of) my favorite team:

John, I just noticed your take on Yankees you deem to be out of position, and I'd have to say that you've got some points. Jeter and Soriano are both just about the worst defensive players in the majors at their positions. Jeter made 56 errors in AAA Columbus one year, and I guess the way he's evaded that kind of statistical sore thumb is by not getting to anything hit more than five feet from wherever he happens to be standing at the time. Hey, if you don't make the play, you can't be credited with an error, right?

Soriano, I think you have to cut a little slack, because he only started playing second base last year, and It's gotta be tough to learn that on the job in the Majors. Nevertheless, if he still can't improve next year, they might want to consider making him a centerfielder or something. At least then he'd have some excuse for being way out there

in shallow right center on a play that's clearly the CF's ball. He'd need a lot of training though, as I seem to remember him stinking very much bad when they put him in LF during Spring 2001. For all that effort, they might as well leave him at second.

Giambi's never going to be mistaken for Kieth Hernandez or Donnie Baseball with the leather, but he's basically a middle of the pack defender, as his Range Factor, which is right around those of Thome and Konerko, will attest to. You can live with that kind of "mediocrity" for a guy who hits like Giambi.

Bernie should definitely be in left field. No question. He has lost a lot of range, and couldn't throw well BEFORE his shoulders started hurting at the beginning of last year. If he can swallow his pride and move to left next year, and allow Juan Rivera or some free agent/trade acquisition to play CF, the Yanks will be better for it.

Posada, I think, gets a bad rap for his defense. He led the majors in errors, but he also was second in assists, second in Range Factor (which admittedly is helped significantly by catching a pitching staff that was second in the AL in strikeouts), and at least decent in other areas. Posada is not nearly the liability at catcher, if he is a liability at all, that Jeter, Soriano or Williams are at their positions.

Maybe the Yankees can get someone to impart knowledge of how to read pitchers and position themselves if Willie Randolph gets hired away by the Mets or someone else. Willie was a pretty good defensive 2B, as I recall, but maybe they just don't listen to him much because he's been there so long. A new hitting coach (Jeff Pentland) turned around Sammy Sosa's career, maybe it'll work for Jeter and Soriano. Maybe not. Keep up the good work, and good luck to the Giants, Travis Nelson

.....To which John responded:

Yeah, it's really an accumulation of all of them being below average that hurt the team so much. If they could just solve the CF, SS and 2B problem, the rest of it is background noise. Trouble is, it ain't gonna be easy. Offensively, Jeter is just off the mark as a SS, as a 3B, he's below average. Yeah, Soriano has played second for just a little while, but why keep him there? I'd say they would be better off getting a second baseman, jeez, they could pick up Alfonzo from the Mets for nothing, and then move Soriano to center field so his offensive talents could really blossom.

Then either hire an Alan Trammell [Ed's note: Trammell is apparently employed for at least the first six games of next season.] or somebody like that to help Jeter postion himself better. The problem I have with Posada is that he can't throw anyone out, and even worse, he's not even a threat to. Once the playoffs start, he can be run on with impunity, sort of like Rob Nen. This eliminates the chance for a DP, among other things. Again, this is an accumulation, Jeter's got no range, Soriano is inexperienced, Giambi is a lunk, Posada can't throw, Williams has no arms. That's a lot of extra hits and bases, and look what happened.

Don't be afraid to give me a plug for my LCS preview.

Your friend,
John J Perricone
Only Baseball Matters

...And so I responded, rather cleverly, I think:

I don't know that they could get Alfonzo for "nothing". the guy had an off year, but he still hit .308/.391/.459, which put him right behind Kent and Vidro (had he been a 2B), and he hit .330 with runners on base or in scoring position. There just weren't any runners most of the times he came up. I'm not convinced that Jeter would field 3B any better than he does SS, as I think that the smaller coverage area would be more than accounted for by the decreased time to react. But he's got the arm for it. They could shift both of them over one, putting Soriano back at SS where he started, and stick Edgardo Alfonzo in at 2B. Then they could trade for Antonio Alfonseca, and record the first ever Alfonseca to Alfonso to Alfonzo double play on a comebacker to the mound! (Let's see Franklin P. Adams write a poem about that.) Anyway, Posada's not great at throwing out basestealers, but he's really not that bad, and if you've seen the Yankees pitchers, they're not the best at holding runners on or getting to the plate quickly. At least some of the blame has to go to them, just as some of the credit for Posada's high range factor goes to the pitchers. Besides, if the opposing team doesn't hit .376 against them, and they usually don't, there won't be as many baserunners to worry about. Will plug your site when I get a chance.

With all of that being said, I mostly agree with John, though I think that the Yankees lousy pitching in the postseason had more to do with their early exit than the defense. But the lousy pitching was a fluke, even if it was a particularly wretched, 400-pound mutant fluke with green eyes and purple smoke emanating from its gills. The defense was pretty much what it was all year: Wanting. Hopefully George won't hit the Panic Button and clean out the front office because the pitching staff happened to have four consecutive bad games.

( Was that enough of a plug, John?)

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