What We Know- This Group Can Play Some Defense
Part of what makes the trio of Gardner, C-Grand, and Swish so valuable. and arguably the best OF group in baseball, is the fact that they are all 2-way players. Nobody is out there hidden in a corner outfield spot because they're an embarrassment with the glove but the Yanks need their bat in the lineup. Brett Gardner can flat out cover ground out in left field, and makes plays that other left fielders would have no chance to make look easy, something that is not the easiest thing in the world to do in left field at Yankee Stadium. Nick Swisher, while not being as fleet-footed as Gardner, gets good jumps on balls, takes smart angles, and can flash the cannon to hold a runner or throw a guy out. And Curtis, defensive metrics be damned, can make some spectacular plays thanks to his speed. All three of these guys contribute in their own ways at the plate, and then go out in the field and supplement their offensive value by playing good defense and preventing runs.
What We Don't Know- Just How Good Curtis Granderson Is Defensively
Advanced defensive statistics are still nowhere near as accurate as offensive ones, and if you try to use them to judge Curtis Granderson you'll see a perfect example of that. In his first 2 full seasons in Detroit he posted UZR/150 values of 13.6 and 14.5, both of which are pretty damn good. He followed that up with 2 consecutive years of negative UZR/150 values, then was back to positive with a 7.9 in his first year with the Yankees. Last year, though, C-Grand put up his second worst number to date, -5.3, which begs the question of just how good is he out there in center? He doesn't always get the greatest jump on the ball, sometimes his routes are a little circuitous, and his arm isn't top notch, but when I think back to plays like the one he made in Game 4 of last year's ALDS I'm reminded of how good he can be.
(Courtesy of The AP)
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