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April 26, 2005

Posted: Tuesday April 26, 2005 12:34PM; Updated: Tuesday April 26, 2005 3:36PM
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Because the world needs another sports blog ...

Who is to blame for Yankees' woes?

There are three components to baseball -- hitting, pitching and defense. The 8-11 Yankees are performing only one of out those three with any sort of competence -- they are third in the AL in runs scored with 105. The other two factors -- pitching and defense -- have combined to allow 112 runs (tied for second-worst in AL). SI's Tom Verducci points out the problems with the pitching in fine detail in his column today, so I'll focus more on the defense. The job of a defense is to turn batted balls into outs, and there is a statistic for that called "defensive efficiency." The Yankees rank dead last in the AL by a hefty margin in this category. Here are the bottom five:
10. Orioles .684
11. Rangers .681
12. Red Sox .670
13. Royals .669
14. Yankees .639
Another useful statistic called "FIP" -- fielding independent pitching -- shows that the Yankees' team ERA would improve by 0.57 runs if the defense were just average instead of poor. But in defense of Derek Jeter and Co., I should point out the Yankees pitchers aren't just getting hit -- they are getting hit hard. This table from The Hardball Times shows New York's pitchers allow the most line drives in the AL -- a rate of 20.3 percent. Bad defense and bad pitching is not a good combination for a team with championship hopes.
-- Jacob Luft (12:30 p.m.)

Why is hitting not a problem also? Although their batting average isn't bad when compared to other AL teams, the Yankees are either blowing out teams or getting blown out, like Saturday in the 10-2 loss to Texas. The only one hitting with any sort of consistency right now is Derek Jeter.
-- Pat Cosgrove, Warwick, N.Y. (1:14 p.m.)

They were 8-11 this time last year and they won 101 games. Are you kidding me with this stuff? One-hundred-one wins is fine with me, just as long as A-Fraud can maybe get a hit in a game that matters and not when they are winning 19-8.
-- Jon Schulz, Congers, N.Y. (1:26 p.m.)

The problem lies with Mr. Steinbrenner. He likes to sign name players. Unfortunately most of them were names years ago and are now just has-beens. I love my Yankees but there have been some great players traded away in order to get these past-their-prime superstars. There are some terrific kids in the farm system who, if given the same chances Derek Jeter had, could be highly productive Yankees for years to come.
-- John Kuehl, Henrietta, N.Y. (1:26 p.m.)

Yeah but any kid who gets called up has to succeed right away or he gets tagged with the dreaded "can't play in New York" label.
-- JL (1:42 p.m.)

Statistically, Jeter has been one of the worst defensive shortstops in the past few years. Then they jokingly give him a Gold Glove last year. Do you think the Yankees brass has fallen for ESPN's Jeter love and propaganda, which prevents them from making accurate assessments of the team's fielding capabilities?
-- John, Los Angeles (1:48 p.m.)

In a perfect world, Jeter plays center field, A-Rod plays shortstop and they sign a third baseman (Joe Randa was available for nothing). But in regard to Jeter, do we really want to go there again?
-- JL (1:50 p.m.)

The Yankees look like an old team this year. Besides Randy Johnson, there is no one else on the staff who puts fear into anyone. Their bullpen is old, folks are finally getting to Mariano Rivera, who has only made six appearances all year anyway. Although they started 8-11 last year, too, they didn't have to contend with improved ballclubs such as Baltimore or Toronto and Boston will always be a factor. The Yankees will be lucky if they make the wild card this year.
-- Keith Almodovar, Hawthorne, N.Y. (2:15 p.m.)

They do score runs but not off of tough pitchers. Their lineup has several hitters (Tino, Giambi, Sierra, Posada, Womack) who are easy to pitch to. They only have three "tough" hitters (Jeter, Sheffield and Matsui). Also, Bernie Williams can't cover any ground anymore. Do you have any stats on Bernie's deterioration in center field?
-- Javier, Albany, N.Y. (3:50 p.m.)

Baseball Prospectus has a stat called "fielding runs above replacement." Here's how Williams has done the past four years: 17 (2001), 2 (2002), 10 (2003), 7 (2004). Also, check out this wicked cool chart on how Williams performed last year. It's not pretty.
-- JL (3:55 p.m.)

If "defensive efficiency" is so important, and I'm not saying that it isn't, then why are the Orioles (10th) and Red Sox (12th) currently occupying the Nos. 1 and 2 spots in the standings in the AL East?
-- Matt Burk, Pittsburgh, Pa. (4:04 p.m.)

That's a great question, Matt. The rankings for this stat aren't nearly as important as the numbers themselves. The Yankees are .30 points behind the 13th place team, Kansas City. That is a huge margin. The Red Sox have allowed 28 fewer runs than the Yankees, and their .32-point advantage in efficiency is one of the reasons why.
-- JL (4:55 p.m.)

As a Sox fan, I'm all for kicking the Yankees when they are down, but defensive efficiency can also be discounted by sample size and competition. Consider the fact that Toronto and four of the bottom six teams are in the AL East and have been playing each other for most of the first month. Similarly, four of the top six are in the AL Central and have been playing each other most of the month. Coincidence? The Yankees have faced the Red Sox and Orioles for 12 of their 19 games. I would expect New York's efficiency to improve once they start facing less effective offenses.
-- Todd Sullivan, Nashua, N.H. (4:57 p.m.)

Come on, JL. You and others are probably right about the so-called "perfect world" scenario. But bringing a guy like Joe Randa into the picture just shows how ridiculous this discussion is. Why was Randa available for nothing? Because he's nothing more than mediocre the last couple of seasons. He's off to a hot start, that's all. Claiming that not getting him or some similar type of player was some type of management mistake is just a cheap shot.
-- Flemming, Copenhagen, Denmark (5:07 p.m.)

Is Randa much different than Scott Brosius? Brosius' clutchness notwithstanding, I would rather have Randa. And, for the record, I know at least one person who pumped up Randa in the offseason.
-- JL (5:15 p.m.)

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