Ellsbury, Jeter, McCann are failing Yankees

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8
8:58
PM ET
Both run-scoring base hits by the Kansas City Royals on Sunday came on balls New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury came close to catching, but couldn’t quite come up with.

On the list of problems the Yankees currently have, Ellsbury’s defense may not rank high. But when the team put up $153 million to get Ellsbury, the Yankees didn’t expect his defensive numbers to be what they are.

Ellsbury ranks 30th in defensive runs saved among the 35 center fielders with the most innings played this season. He’s not catching the balls similar to the one hit by Lorenzo Cain as often as he has in any prior season in his career. He has rated above average on the “deep ball” component of the defensive runs saved stat in every year since 2008. In 2014, he’s well below average.

Now, you’ll probably point out that Ellsbury has made his share of very good catches this season, and that is true. He has 16 “good fielding plays” (think Web Gem nominees) based on defensive evaluations by Baseball Info Solutions (a video scouting service used by teams and media), and should easily surpass the 27 he had last season.

But he has 10 defensive misplays & errors, only three fewer than he had in all of 2013.

Those misplays and just-misses add up over the long run. On Sunday, they contributed to another Yankees defeat.

That’s one of the more fixable problems the Yankees are currently dealing with. (The sample size is small enough to think it could be just a temporary funk, or that adjustments to Ellsbury's positioning could fix things.)

What else is of immediate concern at the moment?

Time to move Jeter down?
Derek Jeter is now 4-for-30 this month, and it has become talk-show fodder that the time has arrived to move Jeter down in the lineup.

That may be warranted. Jeter currently ranks last in the majors in isolated power, a stat that measures a hitter's ability to garner extra bases on his hits (in other words, hit doubles, triples and home runs).

Since getting four hits against the Chicago White Sox on May 25, Jeter has 46 at-bats and only one extra-base hit. His slash line is .174/.191/.196 in that span.

We know that Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long likes to chart a “well-hit average” stat. Our version of that stat (tracked by a company that provides data to teams, including the Yankees) has Jeter with only two balls that registered as hard-hit in his past 11 games.

What’s up with McCann?
Brian McCann is hitting .234 with a .319 slugging percentage and no home runs in his past 15 games.

McCann’s 2014 numbers resemble those from his 2012 season, when he hit .230, with 20 home runs and only 14 doubles, and slugged .399.

The cause of the low batting average is partly McCann’s stubbornness in pulling ground ball after ground ball. He’s 8-for-58 when hitting a ground ball this season, and 2-for-31 when pulling one.

The minimal power is an issue, particularly away from Yankee Stadium, where he has only two home runs in 106 at-bats.

Long may want to take a Curtis Granderson-type approach in dealing with McCann, to help get him back to hooking pitches over the fence (a specialty for the Yankees' previous center fielder).

In the previous four seasons, McCann averaged 10 home runs per season against pitches that were in the lower half of the strike zone and on the outer half of the plate (or off the outside corner). He has only two in 2014.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
13 2.77 141 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146