Yesterday we took a look at the best and worst offenses and defenses to make the playoffs since 2004. Perhaps the most interesting discoveries involved the Yankees, who produced the top three offenses as well as the bottom three defenses in this span. In 2005, however, their defense plummeted ten miles south of abysmal towards incalculable, unfathomable depths.
That season, the aggregate UZR in the Bronx was -130 runs. -130! Despite a tremendous offense worth +139 runs, only nine runs remained due to defensive ineptitudes.
How were they that bad? Not only is it the worst team defense of playoff teams, it is the worst team defense of anybody since at least 2002. The next worse mark belongs to the 2003 Brewers at -75 runs. Essentially, the Yankees defense in 2005 fell 5.5 wins below the next worse defense in the same seven year span.
Of players with at least 70 games played at a position, only Alex Rodriguez’s third base performance of +1.4 runs surpassed the league average mark of zero. After Rodriguez came Tino Martinez, with a -1.3 mark at first base, and Hideki Matsui, with -1.9 run defense in left field. Jason Giambi logged 78 games at first base as well, with -3.2 run defense. So far, things don’t look that bad, but we’re just getting started.
Every stathead’s favorite whipping boy, Derek Jeter, is next with a -12.5 rating at shortstop. Jeter won a gold glove for his “stellar” defense. His partner up the middle, Robinson Cano, played even worse defense, at -18.4 runs. The poor defensive performances of both Bernie Williams and Gary Sheffield dwarf that figure, however. Williams played -28.6 run defense in centerfield, which was almost equally as poor as Sheff’s -29 UZR in right field.
So there you have it: the worst defensive team in the win values era. I would venture a guess that their reign would extend even farther back as well. Luckily, they were able to hit, but the team could have been even better with more solid defenders. Everyone is quick to point fingers at A-Rod or concoct other reasons for their dearth of recent championships, but perhaps much of it has to do with how offensive production looks sexier than defense, and the Yankees have trotted horrible defenders out, time and time again.