In case you didn’t check out today’s action, Joba Chamberlain pitched three shutout innings. Can we stop panicking now? There’s something truly weird about the Psychology of Joba, by which I mean not what goes on in his head, but what seems to go on in ours when he pitches. It seems like a sizable percentage of the population might feel more at ease if he was simply sealed in plastic and never allowed to pitch again. If you don’t use him, he can’t get hurt. There is a kind of denial at work here. Injury risk can be mitigated, but short of a perfect prescience, they cannot be prevented.
In other news from the game, Nick Swisher went 3-for-4 and Xavier Nady went 2-for-4. Swisher’s spring on-base percentage is now .389, Nady’s .267. I don’t expect anyone around the Yankees to care, because consistency at hitting usually trumps consistency at getting on base, even though better to start with the latter and hope for the former than the other way around. There’s still some time, though, for Swisher to show enough for the Yankees to make the right decision.
Finally, Brett Gardner knocked a triple today, took a walk, and scored two runs. Spring Training statistics are meaningless for the most part, especially this year when camps have been decimated by the WBC, but if consistency of hitting is part of what Gardner had to show, he’s done that so far, and he’s also demonstrated far more thump than before with six extra-base hits–the guy continues to lead the Yankees in home runs this spring. Again, that’s not something to get too excited about, as Angel Berroa is tied for second with two, and also leads the club with a .429 average. Heck, the Ransom of A-Rod is batting .400. It doesn’t promise much of anything, but it’s all good to see.
Another one from the comments
And from a frequent commenter, letsgoyankees, this one on this morning’s entry regarding the dynasty teams:
I agree with almost every point you made except pitching and defense. These (today’s) Yankees have great pitching and a very good defesne! Weren’t we lin the top three last year in errors (correct me if I’m wrong!)? Think about it…A-Rod, Tex, and Jeet all have gold gloves (that’s right, I said I think Jeet is still a good shortstop.I’ve argued it in the past and I’m not changing my stance now.) and Cano is pretty good. Yes, he makes a lot of errors, but only because he has great range. He’ll fix the error porblem. At cathcer we’re suspect with Posada but with Molina we have perhaps the best defensive catcher in the league! Our centerfielder, be it Gardner or Melky, will be an excellent defender. And Damon (minus the chicken arm) and Nady aren’t terrible. And our pitching staff speaks for itself. Our defense is pretty darn good!
Letsgo, you’ve got to let go of errors. Not making errors is part of having a good defense, but a bigger part is simply how many balls in play a team turns into outs. If the pitcher doesn’t strike out the batter or give up a home run, and the batter puts the ball between the lines, what happens next? For most of this century, the Yankees have not been very good at collecting those pesky grounders and flies. Commonly referred to as defensive efficiency (DEF), this is the most basic aspect of defense and also the one that, if improved, can yield the most dramatic results: in 2007, the Rays ranked dead last in the majors in turning balls in play into outs. They shuffled some players around and jumped to first in the majors–you know what happened next. In 2008, the Yankees were 25th in the majors; in 2007 they ranked 13th; in 2006 it was 8th; in 2005 it was 22nd; in 2004 it was 20th; in 2003 they ranked 28th; in 2002, 23rd; in 2001, 25th; in 2000 they ranked 13th.
And that leaves me with these questions: if the Yankees defense has been so good, why are so many balls finding holes? If Derek Jeter is such a great shortstop, why don’t the balls he gets to show up in the numbers? It can’t be all balls over Bobby Abreu’s head–the responsibility has to be shared out, to varying extents, around the diamond.