Coaches raved about Gregorius’s run-saving fielding the previous two seasons, but his defense has regressed this year, in part because of poorer range. Granted, shortstop is a demanding position, and Gregorius, who is 29 and will be a free agent soon, missed the first half of the season recovering from elbow surgery in his throwing arm.
Torres, 22, played shortstop while Gregorius was out and then shifted back to second base, where he played last season. Some metrics, such as D.R.S., rated Torres as an average shortstop but a slightly below-average second baseman this year. Carlos Mendoza, the Yankees’ major-league infield instructor, said the team viewed Torres as equally capable at both positions.
The biggest discrepancy Mendoza had noticed between the publicly available metrics and the Yankees’ internal evaluations, however, was at third base. Mendoza said the Yankees rated Urshela, who has made many highlight-reel plays at third, as a run-saving “plus-plus” defender.
LeMahieu, 31, also played at third in the absence of injured Miguel Andujar. LeMahieu won three Gold Glove Awards at second base before signing with the Yankees this winter, and has been a good defender at second and third base this season, according to most advanced metrics. But in the case of Urshela, 27, several similar statistics rated him slightly below average.
Inside Edge, which has individuals watch every play and account for the difficulty of each, noted an improvement over last season for the Yankees in making the “routine” play at third, but also a significant jump in making “non-routine” (read: more difficult) plays. Mendoza attributes much of that to Urshela.
“His hands, his ability to get to balls, and convert the play — he’s really good,” Mendoza added.
The discrepancies might be merely a reflection of the limitations and the fickleness of each metric, and how defensive analytics are rapidly evolving through advanced tracking technology such as Statcast, which is owned by Major League Baseball and shares its data with teams but only some of it with the public. It has pushed defensive data into new territory, such as measuring arm strength or a first step toward a ball.