It’s now stated as fact that Miguel Andujar is a poor defensive third baseman. What’s overlooked, though, is the Team is poor defensively…
Miguel Andujar or Gleyber Torres – Just off the top of your head based on what you witnessed watching games, hearing analysts talk, and so on – who was the better player defensively for the New York Yankees last season?
Naturally, most Yankees fans would answer in a landslide vote, picking Torres over Andujar. I would have done the same thing. And that reaction is mostly because our brain is wired to respond that way. When we hear something often enough, we tend not only to believe it but worse to accept it as fact.
By now, you’ve probably guessed that Miguel Andujar was very close defensively to Gleyber Torres in 2018, despite Andujar being the topic of all the negative talk. And that’s not even close to the number of lives the Yankees are giving the defensive woes of Gary Sanchez (18 passed balls, six errors, and 34 wild pitches, some of which generously were not seen as passed balls).
The Yankees as a whole are a notoriously poor fielding team. In 2018, the Yankees ranked 20th out of 30 major league teams in fielding. No Yankee has won a Gold Glove over the last two years. And before that, Brett Gardner managed to win one in 2016, while Derek Jeter picked up five in his career (though, there should be a recount on those).
Quickly, because there’s a larger point to be made here, we find that Andujar totaled 15 errors while Torres committed 17, even though Andujar fielded 100 more chances than Torres. Generally, miscues are a nebulous way to judge fielding prowess, so we need to drill a bit deeper for answers.
In Andujar’s case, there is a clear lack of range, and also times he can be a little slow with his transfers and throws. He’ll double clutch a bit before making the throw. We can see his lack of range on this play:
According to Statcast, based on exit velocity, that ball should have gone for a hit only 27% of the time. You’ll notice Andujar’s first step is more of a “lean” to the ball, rather than a move similar to stealing a base. Noticeably, he didn’t manage to get a glove on the ball.
Gleyber Torres has a different problem that translates away from the physical ability to mental lapses which cause flubs on routine balls hit to him. Watch here…
That ball should be caught and the transfer made to get in position to make the throw. The error did not lead to a run, but it did force J.A. Happ who was pitching that night to face another batter and throw more pitches, which is not of minor importance even though nothing shows up in the boxscore on Torres, other than the error.
And so, we have not one but two Yankees middle infielders with defensive issues. Andujar’s problem is mainly a lack of range, but he flawlessly fields balls hit directly to him, easily making all the routine plays. Torres, who is more athletic than Andujar will make the spectacular play but flub the easy ones. Neither is a winning formula for a Championship caliber team like the Yankees.
What is annoying, at least to me, is that Miguel Andujar personally gets the brunt of all the criticism, while Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez (except for Joe Girardi who called out his catcher’s “low energy”) get a pass.
Factor in the offensive production of Miguel Andujar versus Torres and Sanchez last season and things look even more bizarre. At the age of just 23, Andujar led the Yankees in almost all offensive categories in 2018, and there is no reason that side of his game won’t continue throughout his career.
Leave the kid alone, will ya? Miguel Andujar needs to improve his play at third base, and no one probably knows that better than he does. By all accounts, he works hard on his defense, and he wants to improve. It could be, though, that he will never be a standout in the field because a lack of range is something that is innate.
The salient point remains. Miguel Andujar is not the only player on the Yankees who suffer defensively. So when there are only ten teams in the major leagues worse than you in fielding, maybe it’s time the Yankees own up to the fact they have never put a premium on fielding when it comes to choosing one player over another.
Instead, the Yankees have always gone big for power and offense. And Miguel Andujar is all that.
And Just For The Record…
Mike Schmidt, attributed to be one of the best third basemen ever, made 26 errors in his first full season with the Phillies, and 24 the following season in 1975. And Brooks Robinson, who is single-handedly credited by most to enable the Baltimore Orioles to win the World Series in 1970, made 21 errors in his inaugural season with the Orioles in 1958. A message to the Yankees on Miguel Andujar – look before you leap.