FanGraphs.com has released its first installment of 2010 UZR data. I am not a big fan of this metric for reasons previously outlined, but nonetheless, it is gaining prominence and is worthy of consideration.
Not surprisingly, the Rays place atop the early UZR returns with a team rating of 10.5. Right behind them in fourth place, however, is a surprise. If you’ve watched the Red Sox, you’d swear that their defense has been a major reason for the team’s early malaise. However, according to UZR, Theo Epstein’s genius is real as the Red Sox check in with a UZR of 6.6. Meanwhile, the Yankees, who have committed only 4 errors and currently have a nine game errorless streak, rank toward the bottom of the UZR charts with a rating of -6.1.
The Yankees biggest UZR culprits are the double play tandem of Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano, who currently rank near the bottom at their positions with a UZR of -2.3 and -2.9, respectively. Is Jeter reverting back to his status as UZR’s whipping boy at short? Anecdotally, he has looked shaky on defense, both in terms of range and the mishandling of routine balls that were scored hits (by my count, at least two opposition “hits” should have been scored as an E-6 on Jeter). Of course, one should caution that even for a full year, the sample size for defensive stats can be too small to draw meaningful conclusions, so two weeks is basically the proverbial grain of salt. Then again, any sample of data would be enough to accurately portray Marcus Thames inability to play the outfield. In 19 defensive innings, Thames UZR stands at an abysmal -2.0 (UZR/150 of -148.7).
On the bright side, Alex Rodriquez has been playing a great 3B. According to UZR, Arod’s 1.8 rating ranks him as the second best defensive 3B in the game so far. Again, I think most who have watched every Yankee game would agree with this assessment (check the Sabathia near-no hitter for a case in point). Another early positive has been the CF play of Curtis Granderson, whose early UZR returns have him at 1.4, good for 6th best among major league center fielders.
Other notables atop the leader boards include former Yankees Johnny Damon, who ranks second among left fielders, and Austin Jackson, who tops all center fielders with a UZR of 3.1.