Yankee Fan vs. Jim Crikket, ALDS Defense

In last night’s post, Yankee Fan vs Jim Crikket discussed how the Yankees and Twins pitching staffs matched up. Today, they debate the what can be expected of each team’s defense in the upcoming Yankee/Twin ALDS.

Jim Crikket: Let’s start out with the outfields. A lot of Twins fans have complained about this year’s outfield not measuring up defensively to last season’s. But guess what… Young, Span and Kubel WERE last season’s outfield in Games 1 and 3 of the ALDS… and while some think Delmon has put back on a few of the pounds he shed last offseason, I still think he’s improved out there in left field. There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of room for bloopers to drop in between these guys, but at least the guys at the corners have arms that could keep Yankee runners from taking the extra base. Nick Swisher is no greyhound in right field for the Yankees either, but Granderson and Gardner cover plenty of ground between them. Purely defensively, the Yankee outfield has the edge.

Yankee Fan: This is turning out to be quite a boring exchange, as we keep agreeing on things.  I’ll admit to relative ignorance regarding the Twins’ outfield defense.  Then again, speed isn’t something Kubel or Young is especially known for, but Span sure can make up a lot of ground between them.  In contrast, the outfield of Gardner, Granderson and Swisher does cover a lot of ground.  The right field experience (sorry Swish) is not ideal from a defensive standpoint, but I admit it’s a lot of fun to watch (through clenched fists of course).  I think if I stick with my prediction that the ball will be in play a lot in the deciding games, I have to give an advantage to the Yankees here — the Twins’ outfield will allow a couple of extra doubles in the gap or singles that dunk in.


Hudson is just one of the Twins infield upgrades

Jim Crikket: If the Yankees have to win by scratching out a couple of extra bloopers, they probably won’t even want to advance, just on principle!

It pains me to admit it, but the Yankees may very well have four future Hall of Famers in their infield (does that count as my “nice” thing to say about Jeter?), though I think you’d have to say Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira will need to produce at current levels a few more years to make that a reality. Rodriguez still covers some ground at third base but until Jeter is moved out of the SS position, I’ll always consider that infield to be suspect defensively. The Twins infield has been significantly upgraded over last year’s playoff version defensively (Valencia, Hardy and Hudson over the trio of Tolbert, Cabrera and Punto around the horn in Game 1 of the 2009 ALDS) and while Cuddyer’s not going to make his infielders look as good as Teixeira will his, I like the Twins’ unit better than the Yankees overall.


ARod, Cano and Jeter

Yankee Fan: Hey now, as a long time Yankee Fan, if the Yankees win without any “help” from the umpires I will be happy.  Finally, something we can disagree on!  I think Teixeira fields his position amazingly, and A-Rod is no slouch at third.  While Cano has generally played gold glove-caliber defense this season, his mind and focus tends to wander.  That shouldn’t be a problem in the playoffs, but that remains to be seen.  As for Jeter, I will be the first to admit his fielding has tailed off a little this year.  More than once I found myself saying “wow, he usually gets to that one” or “wait, the runner beat the throw?”  Then again, I think that the recently trendy criticism of Jeter’s defense has been mostly unwarranted.  Having watched him just about every day for the past dozen plus years, I can say the kid fielded far better than the critics would have us believe.  Overall, I think the Yankee infield is more than competent, as is the Twins’ infield.  I don’t think the difference defensively is worth discussing, even assuming lots of ground balls by the pitchers in the series.  But if I had to decide, I’d take the Yankee infield… four future hall of famers is nothing to scoff at!

I suppose the only thing left to discuss is the defensive catcher position – do we even have to discuss this?  Mauer is a game-changer.  He can hit, run, and throw out baserunners (not to mention handle a pitching staff).  The Yankee catchers can hit some, and Posada can handle most pitchers (I’m looking at you Burnett) but generally can’t run or throw out baserunners.  Herein lies a deceptive advantage for the Twins.  Depending on the way the games play out, the Mauer factor can carry much more weight than, say, “Span v. Granderson.”  In case you couldn’t tell, I think this is where the Twins win the series… if they win it.

Jim Crikket: Yeah, Joe Mauer didn’t win the batting title this year. He finished what? Third? Whatever. Jorge Posada is no slouch, even at his advanced age, but the clear advantage here goes to the Twins.  There has been a lot of discussion about the Twins starting pitching not looking real sharp for the past couple of weeks, but a lot of those games were being caught by back up catchers. It will be interesting to see if having Mauer back behind the plate has an effect on Liriano, Duensing and Blackburn in particular.

Next: Who’s bringing the lumber?

24 Replies to “Yankee Fan vs. Jim Crikket, ALDS Defense”

  1. I guess people are agreeing with our assessment thus far, because there is no dissent in the comments. I invite any dissenters to debate here.

    You may be surprised at JC’s and my final predictions…coming soon!

  2. My only real disagreement with any of this is that I think the recent criticism of Jeter’s defense is just people catching up to what’s always been true.

    He’s always been a below-average shortstop who is really good at making easy plays look flashy.

    He hasn’t even been the best SS on his own team for the last, what, 5 years?

  3. Wait… you thought other people actually READ the stuff we put out here? Silly Yankee fan. It’s pretty much just the three of us, though we do occasionally make up other names and leave comments here to make it look like we have friends/readers.

  4. First off, I’d just like to say that this discussion with YF is making me miss the ‘Cave.

    That having been said, one thing I’ve been wondering is how banged up the Yanks are compared to the Twins. I mean, we all know that there are a lot of Twins players that have been day-to-day over the last few weeks and that worries me. A lot. Any thoughts on how that may effect the series?

  5. Oh, I read, but I feel like my knowledge pales in comparison to everyone else, so I seldom make comments (more out of fear of making a total fool of myself).

    Any upcoming discussion on intangibles like cohesive clubhouse etc?

  6. …and I just figure no body really cares what I think 🙂

    I’m just at a very zen point right now…it is what it is. Whatever happens in this round of the playoffs…it was another great Twins season, with more great Twins moments.

    GO TWINS!!!!

    *this post brought to you by my good friend…the ellipsis

  7. Wow! We really DO have readers! 🙂

    Lynnie … we would LOVE to have the comment section of all of our posts turn in to the sort of ‘discussion’ that used to take place in the ‘cave! Think of our posts as ideas for topics and then let’s discuss in the comments!

    tdow, I can’t imagine you making a fool of yourself in a Twins discussion. As for the intangibles, YF and I sort of ran out of room before getting to that type of thing (as you can see, our final post is lonnnnnng as it is). Personally, I think the clubhouse chemistry thing IS important during the course of a 6 month long regular season (imagine spending that much time with people you don’t like!), but once you’re in the post-season, it’s like a sprint and it’s the ‘tangibles’ that matter most.

    jamar, I couldn’t agree more… it’s been a lot of fun this season and while I’ll be disappointed if it ends in the first round, it won’t make what’s gone on for the past season any less remarkable. And yes… I do care what you think (even when you disagree with me… and are wrong.)

  8. One thing that might increase the use of the comments would be some sort of system for notifying us when someone replies after us . . . I’m guessing the three of you get notified when someone comments, but the rest of us don’t (at least I don’t) . . . I think it’s a setting in WordPress that you can modify (pings or trackbacks or something) . . . (and jamar, you know I LOVE the ellipsis 🙂

  9. Dew – actually only the author get’s notified but I think you get notified when you subscribe to the RSS service. I’ll do some checking but if you go up to the upper right corner, that is how you sign up to be notified of new posts and comments.

  10. Sorry, looks like comment reply notification is a plugin/addon . . . probably something to research in the offseason 🙂

  11. Thanks for pointing out the feed Babs . . . I’m pretty sure I looked for the RSS feed earlier in the season but didn’t see one . . . so either I missed it or it was added later and I spaced it 🙂 I’ve added you all to my baseball feeds . . . Now if I only was better about checking my NetNewsWire feed reader . . . Unfortunately whenever I do I seem to lose several hours of my day . . .

    Back to the Rangers/Rays game now . . .

  12. for Blog administrators – I have searched out and added the ability so that we will all three be notified about comments on the others posts instead of just our own.

    for Blog readers – I have no idea how it works yet but I supposedly have added the ability to be notified about comments in a particular blog post as followup to your own comments as a separate notification to the RSS feed. That way you don’t have to get ALL the information if you only care about that particular post’s comments.

    I have no idea how either works quite yet – guess we’ll find out!

  13. Sorry for the belated replies, I was told nobody read this blog (after committing to 32847239874832 words of course) 🙂

    With respect to Jeter’s fielding, the comparison between A-Rod and Jeter are irrelevant here. The question is whether Jeter’s fielding is as bad as people say it is. Having watched him for so long, I can tell he is slipping a little, but the theories and “proofs” that purport to show that Jeter’s fielding is sub-par are, in my opinion, inaccurate.

    I recall when Rey Ordonez of the Mets was labeled the best defensive shortstop in baseball (really, there was a time when people thought this). Ordonez was the king of making routine plays worthy of the highlight reel, and everything else went by him. Jeter, on the other hand, gets to the balls that he should get to in three dimensions. I have seen him range far to his left, right, and jumped high for balls I didn’t think could be fielded. If I am to judge with my own two eyes, I would say that his fielding has slipped a little this year, but not enough to make him a defensive liability (yet).

    I guess we will see whether Jeter doesn’t field certain grounders that “should” have been fielded starting tonight. I certainly will be on the lookout for them.

    With respect to injuries, other than Pettitte, who is still “returning to form” following a stint on the DL, nothing comes to mind for me on the Yankee side.

    JC already dealt with why we didn’t cover “intangibles” (please, for the love of sushi, let McCarver use the word in relation to Joe Mauer!!!) or the home field/stadium effects because of time/space constraints, but I am happy to continue the discussion…

  14. Wow this may be a record for comments on a post (not counting spam anyway)… I really have only 2 words to add in response to YF’s defense of Jeter’s defense.

    Jeter SUCKS!!!!!!! 🙂

  15. Exhibit A – JJ Hardy unable to range to his right and throw out a speedy runner.
    Exhibit B – Derek Jeter ranging to his right and throwing out a speedy runner.

    Very similar balls in play, different outcomes.

    The defense rests.

  16. I’ve learned a couple of things in my life. Never try to convert someone’s religion and never try to convince a Yankee fan that Jeter isn’t a god. If by “ranging to his right”, you mean “took 3 steps and backhanded a ground ball”, yep Jeter did that. Congrats. Let the SOB retire, waive the 5 year wait for HoF induction, and then just close the HoF to any future inductions because nobody will ever be as good as Derek Jeter again.

  17. JC, come on — now you’re not playing fair. Sure I am a YankeeFan, but I have the ability to take teams, players and individual plays for what they’re worth. I never called Jeter a god, only said that his defense wasn’t as horrendous as people say it is. I even conceded that his defense has slipped this year. Why can’t you take a look at the Hardy and Jeter plays, see the similarities, and admit that Jeter made a good defensive play on a hard hit ball to the hole. A play that was difficult to make, as demonstrated by Hardy’s inability to make it?

    Jeter is not the #1 shortstop who ever lived. However, his defense is better than people give him credit for. Is that such a difficult proposition to admit?

  18. Yeah, I have no comments on Jeter – he’s not worth my time – but I will stand up for my own guy. What do you mean JJ can’t range to his right?? There was one play last night that he “ranged” so far to his right that he was practically playing 3B and actually called Valencia off a ball to catch it and throw to 1B!

    I’m not a stat person who is going to come out with zone ratings and UZR and WAR – but I will say flat out that RANGE is not one of JJ’s weaknesses. He has absolutely no issues moving to his right or left whatsoever and has actually been of great assistance to a rookie 3B who hits like crazy but is still learning big league defense. His weaknesses this year have been controlling his throws. Whether that has anything to do with his wrist issues or not, he has a cannon for an arm and started the season with lazer aim and now occasionally overthrows or misses the target.

    I’m all for knowing the strength AND weaknesses of your own players but RANGE is not one of JJ’s weaknesses and it makes your assessment of your own player look a little suspect.

  19. Sorry, YF, but I won’t admit anything that simply is not true and Jeter’s defensive shortcomings are well documented and accepted by virtually everyone who isn’t a Yankee fan. I won’t go through all the defensive metrics and I certainly don’t worship at the alter of “advanced metrics” like a lot of people… but by virtually every objective defensive measurement of range and effectiveness at his position, Jeter has come up short of his reputation for years. I believe he had ONE above-average year (last year or the year before… I forget which) in this decade. All that Yankee fans can say in response is, “we’ve watched him for years and we know what we see.” OK, whatever. As Babs said, he simply isn’t worth even this much time debating. I’m done with him now. 🙂

  20. It truly is amazing that in order to rebut my presumption you have to change the point of the post. Simply – I never said JJ’s range was a weakness. In fact, JJ’s range being superb only serves to augment my argument. All I was saying is that Jeter made a good defensive play on a hard hit ball to his right. I asked JC to admit that single point, and bolstered my reasoning by pointing out that JJ (who for the sake of argument has TREMENDOUS range) couldn’t make a similar play. Indeed, my post said “A play that was difficult to make, as demonstrated by Hardy’s inability to make it?” which indicates that Hardy is a good defensive shortstop (what sense would it make to say Jeter is good as compared to a bad shortstop?).

    It was not the exact same play (I am fairly certain the two were not positioned in the exact same spot at the time the ball was hit, that the speed of the two different runners was not exactly equal, that the spin on the batted ball was not exactly the same, etc.). Similar plays, different results. To wit – a single point: Jeter’s defense is not as bad as people say it is.

    Why is it so difficult to say that? You could even say something along the lines of “I still think Jeter’s a terrible defensive shortstop, but he sure didn’t look it on that play,” thereby admitting that at least that defensive play didn’t support the theory, but other evidence showed that that play was an anomoly. I would even accept that. Instead, I am met with sarcastic arguments like “To all Yankees fans, Jeter is a god” and “JJ Hardy’s range is amazing!”

    Perhaps this is because my first post this morning didn’t clarify that I was continuing the Jeter’s defense isn’t as bad as they say he is” thread from the post above. For that confusion I apologize.

  21. “by virtually every objective defensive measurement of range and effectiveness at his position, Jeter has come up short of his reputation for years.”

    Eh, that’s half of what I was looking for, I will read into it the other half — that Jeter converted a difficult defensive play into an out last night.

    “All that Yankee fans can say in response is, ‘we’ve watched him for years and we know what we see.’ OK, whatever.”

    People who live in “we love Nick Punto” houses shouldn’t throw stones. 😛 We, as baseball fans, see things despite the metrics and stats sometimes. I can agree to disagree (as the above posts suggest) but certain metrics can’t replace what the eye can see and has seen for 15 years.

  22. I not only didn’t change the subject, I will point out that perhaps you are going to great lengths to defend a position that simply shouldn’t have the effort. You said:

    “Exhibit A – JJ Hardy unable to range to his right and throw out a speedy runner.
    Exhibit B – Derek Jeter ranging to his right and throwing out a speedy runner.

    Very similar balls in play, different outcomes.

    The defense rests.”

    So… which plays did you pick to exemplify this statement? My reply was simply to point out that your Exhibit A isn’t actually an exhibit at all – so no, it doesn’t make Jeter look any better, it makes your formula missing a point. Yes, you can say that you have Exhibit B and that’s legitimate with specifics which you didn’t supply.

    Otherwise, your statement is completely baseless and doesn’t really help you in any way.