The second game of Spring Training for the New York Yankees equaled a second loss against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Two spring losses is certainly no cause for concern, but some of the play in the field brought up a thought.
Overshadowed by promising offensive performances from Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann was the poor defense displayed in Wednesday’s game. The Yankees made two errors on the day, one by second-baseman Yangervis Solarte and one by last-minute roster addition Addison Maruszak.
Similar to losses, errors by non-starters are no immediate cause for concern, but this did get me to thinking. The Yankees spent a lot of money on bats and arms this offseason, but what about defense? The additions made to the roster were much-needed, but defense is not something that should be ignored.
Brendan Ryan is an excellent defensive shortstop, but he is on the team almost exclusively to back up Derek Jeter. He could possibly come in at second and third sporadically if needed. Right-fielder Carlos Beltran was brought in for his bat alone, as his outfield defense leaves something to be desired. Beltran was rated at minus-six runs saved in right field last season with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Yankees will miss Robinson Cano’s bat as well as his defense at second base. While his replacement Brian Roberts was once viewed as a high-caliber defenseman, the aging ex-Baltimore Oriole is now rated as average by advanced defensive metrics. His defensive runs saved rating is neutral. McCann is not known to be a stellar defensive catcher as much as a big bat and game manager.
Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, along with Mark Teixeira (if healthy), are really the only standout defensemen on the starting roster at the moment. On one hand, if the team can score five-plus runs per game, then defense might not matter as much. On the other hand, sometimes great defense is the difference in a close game.
The Yankees should seriously consider creatively using the good bench defense they do have. For example, bring Ryan in after Jeter’s last at-bat to play the field and call Ichiro Suzuki off the bench for late-game defensive help in right field.
The offense looks good, but the defense should not be ignored.