I missed this pretty blunt quote from Brian Cashman a few days ago, courtesy of Rob Neyer:
“A.J. led the American League in strikeouts,” Cashman said. “There’s a lot of reasons why his power and his stuff — if he can maintain health — really are a benefit.
“We are a bad defensive team, so a guy that prevents the ball from being put into play is a good thing for us.”
Oh, and you have to appreciate Cashman’s honesty here. When’s the last time you heard the general manager of a good team admit that his team was bad at something? At best, they’ll usually soft-peddle the criticism, say something like, “We don’t have a great defense.”
Last season, the Yankees were 25th in the majors in defensive efficiency — that is, turning batted balls into outs — and they don’t figure to be much better this season. But with Sabathia and Burnett and Joba Chamberlain in the rotation, it really shouldn’t matter a great deal.
I think that Neyer is understating the improvements that the Yankees have made defensively this offseason. Replacing the statuesque Giambi at first and the awful Abreu in right, coupled with Brett Gardner filling in for Melky Cabrera in at least some of the games, should put the Yankees squarely in the middle of the defensive pack. Combine that with the improved starting pitching, and the Yankees should be significantly better at run prevention than they were in 2008.