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Yankees’ Outfield Due For Changes In 2013

Gardner. Granderson. Swisher. How often have you heard those names said together? Too long, is my guess.

Those three guys have been the starting outfielders for New York since the beginning of the 2010 season. Nick Swisher in fact has been saluting bleacher creatures on a daily basis since the 2009 campaign.

All of them have done more than the Yankees could have ever asked when they first arrived in the Bronx. Gardner has become one of the top defensive players in the game, as well as a lightning rod on the bases. Curtis Granderson, as predicted found his power stroke in Yankee Stadium and has now put up back-to-back 40 home run seasons. And Nick Swisher continues to prove he was worth way more than Wilson Betemit – the player the Yankees had to give up to get him. He’s now put up four consecutive 20+ home run, 80+ RBI seasons, recording his 90th RBI today in Minnesota, the first time he’s done that since 2006.

Clearly, this Yankees outfield is one many teams would only dream of having. But to me, this should be the final year those three man the outfield together. Here’s why:

Granderson = Dunn – Maybe Chicago should ask for me to apologize for that Wilson Betemit joke. This season, Curtis Granderson has truly evolved into a strikeout or home run hitter, a la Mark Reynolds or Adam Dunn. He gets his share of doubles, but more often than not he’s heading back to the dugout, bat in hand and shaking his head. 40 home runs are nice, but not as nice as a high batting-average or on-base percentage, something Grandy has never really accomplished in his career, besides batting .302 for Detroit in 2007. Also, his defense is some of the worst among center-fielders, as he constantly is letting balls sail over his head or fall in front of him. As you know I’m no saber-metrics bust, but whatever stat there is for runs allowed, he was high up there in 2011 and once again is in 2012. The Yankees should look to trade Curtis for pitching, be it a #2 starter or a number of solid pitching prospects. Many teams will overlook the many flaws of Granderson to bring in a 40 homer hitting center-fielder. Because the saying does hold true – chicks still dig the long ball.

Melk, anyone? – Call me crazy, but I think the Yankees should strongly look into bringing back the original Melk man, Melky Cabrera. No doubt he has become one of the more idiotic players in recent memory, as he was suspended for 50 games for testosterone and tried to cover it up in the days prior to his suspension. But using PEDs or not, a return to New York could work wonders for him and the Yankees. Certainly, he must have learned his lesson, and if not he’ll be disciplined and put in his place by the Bombers. There’s no fooling around if you’re a Yankee, and a reunion with close friend Robbie Cano could inspire him to do his best and play hard, without cheating. Moving Gardner to center and Melky to left would greatly improve the defense and allow both of those guys to finally play in harmony on baseball’s biggest stage.

Stick it to the Red Sox – If that Melky Cabrera return frightens you too much, how about signing a guy like Cody Ross? That’s what I mean by sticking it to the Red Sox. Have the Yankees bring this guy in (they’re already reportedly very interested) and make him your starting left fielder. This year, in the AL East mind you, so no “can he produce in the division” talk, he’s hit .270 with 21 home runs and 77 RBIs. He also can play right field and a little bit of center, so he’s also a very flexible option in the outfielder. Most importantly to me, this guy has played in the postseason for the Giants, and came up big as the World Series MVP. Whether that’ll transition to New York is a question, but to me he’d be a solid option as the new left fielder as well, all considering Gardy moves back to center.

Swish needs to stay – As mentioned above, Nick Swisher has been arguably the most consistent outfielder in baseball the past four years. The energetic, always positive Swish has been a fan favorite and a very productive hitter, whether near the top or bottom of the Yankees’ lineup. He seems to just complete it- without him, there’s a hole in the order. The Yankees seem to have their sights on moving on from Swisher this offseason, and going younger or bringing in a cheaper option to fill his void. Which could happen and work, but to me, Swisher is essential to the Yankees’ chances next season. He’s still in his prime and simply is a Yankee if I’ve ever seen one. As long as he stays healthy, he should be a lock again for 20 home runs, 80 RBIs, and being a leader in the Yankees clubhouse for 2013. A three-year deal may be what Cashman will need to give him, but it’ll all be worth it if Swish just continues to do what he’s done for the Yanks since 2009.

So that’s my opinion. A Yankees outfield of Ross/Melky in left, Gardner in center, and Swisher in right is young enough and fresh enough to lead to even more production in 2013. Granted, Grandy probably won’t go anywhere and Melky may not be back in pinstripes, but Ross is a very likely option, and keeping Swisher should become a no-brainier for Cashman following this year. No matter what happens, one thing’s for certain – the Yankees outfield will still be one of the best in baseball in 2013.
What do you think the Yankees should do with their outfield? Should it change, or stay the same? Sound off in the comments below…

What Does it Take to be a Good Fielder? – Outfielder Edition

If you watched Jim Edmonds through his career, you would know how much of a great outfielder he was. What did he display? Fantastic range, solid arm.

In a series of these “What does it take to be a good fielder” sessions, I will deeply examine the qualities we look for in a fielder.

As a very wise college baseball coach I knew once said, “The easiest thing to do in baseball is to catch a baseball.”

That statement is the basis of the derailing of the FPCT stat, used for fielders. FPCT, as you may know, stands for Fielding Percentage or the number of putouts divided by the number of opportunities for putouts. Well, if we go by that statement, that catching a baseball is the easiest aspect of baseball, then FPCT is a fairly useless stat in finding a good outfielder.

That is why, when looking at an outfielder’s fielding, you cannot look solely at FPCT.

In fact, you cannot look solely at stats.

Stats will not show you the great range an outfielder has, although those in favor of UZR or even DRS may beg to differ. Please, although these stats may be helpful, they are not always right, and quite often, are not.

The things you should look for in an outfielder are the following:

  1. Range – An outfielder needs to be fast, needs to get to as many balls as possible. If he can cut off a line-drive to the gap, that could turn a double into a single, or even turn two runs into one. You don’t need much range to have a good FPCT. Look at Jason Bay in 2009. He had a 1.000 FPCT – perfect. He was also looked at as one of the worst outfielders in baseball. Why? Range.
  2. Arm – A good arm is not something that many outfielders have. It is something that is quite undervalued. Let’s simulate a game situation here: It’s the 9th inning. Man on 2nd base. 2 Outs. Tied game. The batter hits a single up the middle. The centerfielder charges it and makes a solid crow-hop throw to the catcher. It is an absolute bullet and hits the catcher at the chest. 3 Outs, no runs scored. That is what a good arm can do for your team.
  3. The Ability to Read– What does this mean? It is how an outfielder sees the ball off the bat. If the outfielder can get a good read on the ball, he will get a good jump, and with a good jump, he will get to more balls. There have been good outfielders who haven’t had the greatest range, but would always get fantastic reads and jumps off the bat. An example of one of these outfielders would be Andruw Jones. Not the fastest guy in the world, but one the best. Those who have both range and good reads are the really extraordinary outfielders. An example of one of these extraordinary outfielders would be Torii Hunter.

    Hunter has been known for these mind-blowing catches.

If you are a MLB outfielder, FPCT should be a given good aspect of your game.

The ability, if you want to call it an “ability”, of catching a baseball, should not be as overvalued as it is today.

After all, it’s an outfielder’s range, arm, and ability to read a ball of the bat that really determines a good outfielder.