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March 31, 2006

The Defense of the 1996-2001 Yankees
by SG

In my earlier post about the 2005 Yankees and their horrific defense, rsmith51 asked about how the 1996-2001 Yankees would fare. With a little digging at ESPN's site, I was able to find Zone Rating back through 1996, so I gave it a shot.

A few notes before I start.

1) ESPN's ZR prior to 2001 was not sorted by teams or leagues, so in the interest of time I had to combine the leagues to calculate the averages. I'm not sure if this will skew the numbers much one way or the other, but it's worth noting.

2) The Yankees' had a lot of roster changes throughout this period, and many players split time between the Yankees and other teams. Again, in the interest of time, I did not try to separate those players time between New York and elsewhere, so I simply removed them. You'll see this in the lists below where the innings don't add up to the team's actual defensive innings. I may have missed a few which would cause the innings to be high, so mentally adjust for that as well.

3) Standard caveats about the problems with defensive metrics apply, so don't take these as gospel. They're just a piece of information.

Anyway, let's start with 1996. Remember, these are the players' compared to the average defender at the same position.

I was a bit surprised that Mariano Duncan wasn't worse. He scared the hell out of me back then. I also didn't remember Andy Fox being so bad. The team total of about -18 made them about two wins worse than the average team defensively.

Next up, 1997.

I was surprised to see Tino so low. Other than that, the numbers seem to match my memories. Not much different than the '96 version defensively.

The winningest single-season baseball team ever, the 1998 Yankees are next.

I'm getting a little nostalgic. How great was this team? Leading the league in runs scored and allowing the fewest runs in the league is the mark of an all-time great team, and the defense was the best in the league that season, at 32 runs above average.

The 1999 vintage.

A fairly steep defensive decline followed 1998, as the defense gave up 40 more runs than average, but were still pretty solid overall at -8. The decline of Chuck Knoblauch was becoming apparent in 1999.

The 2000 version.

The weakest of the dynasty teams, but thankfully they had the patsy Mets to beat up on. Their defense was not too bad though, a little worse than a win below average.

The 2001 version.

And this is when the defensive decline really seemed to start, as the 2001 version was 15 runs worse than the 2000 version.

The overall numbers seem to coincide with my memories of the teams, although some of the individual seasons for some players seem out of whack.

Spring Training
Carl Pavano bruised his ass on a play at first in his first game of the year, according to Peter Abraham's blog. He still pitched in a minor league game yesterday, but may miss a day or two.

Mike Mussina pitched yesterday, and despite a less than impressive outing, feels ready.

"We're throwing at full speed, I've thrown all my pitches and I haven't had any trouble," Mussina said. "I don't see any reason why I'd have anything to worry about. Something could always happen; it's a long year. But I don't see any reason to expect my elbow to give me any problems."

We all hope so Moose.

Chien-Ming Wang is good to go, and will pitch tonight's game in Arizona. Good news as well.

I guess I'm done. Posting may be sporadic by me next week as my employer has decided that I should travel on business during the opening week of baseball season for some reason. Jerks.

I noticed that Cliff Corcoran has posted the Yankees' 25 man opening day roster, so here it is: