Graphing the Yanks’ outfield defense


Outfield Defense

That graph comes courtesy of Dan Turkenkopf at Beyond the Box Score. Dan took the vector data from Dave Pinto’s database and plotted it to show where each of the Yanks’ starting outfielders excels defensively. Basically what you’re seeing is how good each player is on balls hit to a specific “zone,” with green being good and red being bad. The center fielder is shown above the corner guys just so you can see the overlap, it doesn’t mean that balls hit to corners will go undefended or anything like that. And also don’t worry about the background, the New Stadium will have the same dimensions as the old joint.

The very first thing I noticed was how bad Nady is on balls hit right at him, basically about five outs worse than expected. He’s even weak to his immediate right and left, which tells me that he’s just not very instinctive out there, and is at his best defensively when it’s obvious off the bat that he’ll need some hustle to get to the ball. You know what would be cool? If Mr. Turkenkopf put one of these together with Swisher in right instead of the X-man. (nudge nudge)

Damon is the opposite of Nady, eating up everything hit close to him, which is what you’d expect from a veteran Major League outfielder. He’s also stronger going to his right, which probably has something to do with him not having to reach across his body with his glove to field balls on that side. Gardner’s very strong out there, making plays on everything hit even remotely close to him. He shows the same pattern of struggling to get to balls that would require him to reach across his body with his glove, so my theory might hold a little water. Of course the small sample size police are in full force with Gardy.

Judging from the graph, it looks like the biggest problem areas are the gaps (expected), specifically the left-center field gap. And, you know, the whole Nady in right field thing. Joe and I have mentioned on the podcast several times that the hardest ball to field is the one hit right at you, but it looks like Nady is the only one in the Yanks outfield with this issue.

This is some really interesting stuff. What do you guys think?

Categories : Defense


  1. If Mr. Turkenkopf put one of these together with Swisher in right instead of the X-man. (nudge nudge)

    Say no more, say no more!

  2. Matt says:

    This is valid because I can see the zones with my own eyes.

  3. A.D. says:

    What should be interesting for the stadium is, you see that Damon has green well to his left, including foul territory, which I’m guess comes from strong fielding in bigger outfields elsewhere. One would think that by moving Damon over in LF they wouldn’t loose anything to his right & would help cheap to the gaps where he is weaker

  4. Paulie says:

    This is interesting, especially the thing with balls hit right at Nady. However, I don’t think you can really judge someone based on this.

      • steve (different one) says:

        i don’t know if this is what he meant, but without knowing the number of chances, i don’t know how meaningful it really is.

        we are talking about 89 games in RF, then looking at only one of 8 zones, and drawing firm conclusions?

        was this 20 balls and he misplayed 1 or 2?

        it’s a tiny sample.

    • andrew says:

      I don’t really think it’s that interesting (if by interesting you meant weird/out of the ordinary)

      Just from my own personal experiences, I played infield my whole baseball career and then was eventually moved to the outfield the last 2 years I played. The one single thing about playing outfield that I found to be most difficult were balls hit right at you, for reasons that Mike mentioned: “which tells me that he’s just not very instinctive out there, and is at his best defensively when it’s obvious off the bat that he’ll need some hustle to get to the ball.” Even Damon, who is widely considered to be a much better defender than Nady, has a red bar near the center of his zone.

      Joe and I have mentioned on the podcast several times that the hardest ball to field is the one hit right at you, but it looks like Nady is the only one in the Yanks outfield with this issue

      Mike, I’ll agree with your assessments that you make on the podcasts and disagree with your reading of the graph. Damon has a red bar near the middle of his graph, and while Gardner maintains all green in his middle, the shade of green seems to be deepening as you move away from his absolute center, which would imply that he gets slightly better at getting to balls the further they are away from that center zone. That is until it reaches the outermost zones which are just extremely difficult to run down due to a physical ability standpoint, and not an instinctive defensive ability standpoint.

      As I iterated above, I always found it much easier to read a ball hit off to my side because you are able to run in the direction left or right first, and then adjust your path for the distance the ball has been hit while in route. Meanwhile, for a ball hit straight at you, by the time you figure out how far it’s been hit, you are still at a standstill and can’t recover in time to reach the ball and it’s probably dunking in front of you or 5 feet over your head

  5. Drew says:

    It looks like Gardners best area is only a 1 on that color scale. I don’t understand this whole dealy.

  6. Darth Stein says:

    I would love to see what this chart looks like with Abreu. The big red paint brush would be taxed on that one.

  7. Darth Stein says:

    Why can Damon only field 2 rows into the seats? It appears that he is below average with anything further out or on the upper deck. That needs to be addressed! I bet Jeter, man of the people, would get to all of those foul balls if we put him in LF.

  8. John says:

    Isn’t Nady’s sample size for RF in Yankee Stadium kind of small…he played LF mostly last year.

    • steve (different one) says:

      this may bring in his time in Pittsburgh as well, i don’t know.

      even if it does, it’s a small sample. if it doesn’t, it’s less than meaningless.

      well, it’s fun, but that’s about it.

      • John says:

        But this is for Yankee Stadium only I think. Fielding in Pittsburgh is different, so this graph would not work.

        • But this is for Yankee Stadium only I think.

          Nowhere does it indicate that this is for Yankee Stadium only.

          I doubt BtB would be foolish enough to plot a graph they expected people to take seriously based on 7 games and 50 innings of Nady in YS alone. I have to assume the opposite, that this is based on all of Nady’s 2008 and not just his YS numbers.

          • A.D. says:

            On top of the fact that they have Damon in the green fielding several rows into the seats, my guess there’s more foul territory/bigger OF elsewhere.

      • Yeah. I’m assuming Nady’s sample includes the RF he played with the Pirates.

        But, for the record, Nady didn’t play “mostly LF last year”:

        45 games/389.0 innings in LF, all for us
        89 games/763.2 innings in RF, some for us but mainly with PIT

        Also, FWIW, his Pittsburgh 2008 RF UZR/150 of +3.8 is his easily his best mark in recent history. His previous years in RF are less appealing:

        2003 Padres 105/846.2 +13.4
        2004 Padres 2/14.0 -10.9 (N/A SSS)
        2005 Padres 13/82.0 -5.2 (N/A SSS)

        2006 Mets 71/620.2 -10.7
        2006 Pirates 28/234.0 -17.1
        2007 Pirates 94/748.0 -7.9
        2008 Pirates 82/713.2 +3.8
        2008 Yankees 7/50.0 -23.5

  9. Rob S. says:

    Nick Swisher was not aquired to play right field, he’s not even a natural outfielder. Nady shouldn’t lose his job because Swisher lost his. Swisher is now a super utility guy and a decent bat off the bench, that’s it. These charts mean nothing to me, I don’t recall Nady playing bad defense after he came over last year and they switched his position. In any case Gardy should be able to cover a lot of ground.

  10. Joey H says:

    Here’s an idea, let Nady and Damon sit there, collect dust and let George Herman “Babe” Gardner catch all the fly balls.

  11. Darth Stein says:

    This chart tells me that Nady needs to “go rover” Jacky Moon style. By running around RF he minimizes the chances that a ball will be hit right at him.

    I also think he should wrestle a bear.

  12. Phil McCracken says:

    Abreu seems to have the same problem as Nady. During the WBC he had trouble with one hit right to him.

    Also a few years ago, Sheffield seemed to let a lot of balls hit right at him take a hop instead of making the play in the air.

  13. Bonos says:

    I would vote for a chart of Melky as CF just for laughs.

  14. Glad you like the graph.

    Unfortunately we don’t have a large enough sample for Swisher in 2008 to even make this worth putting together for him.

    I’ll fall back to the same argument that he’s been better in the past than Nady and is at least considered competent enough to occasionally play CF.

    I’ll see what I can do for Melky.

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