News & Notes: Hank Steinbrenner, Dr. Fauci on resuming sports, Jackie Robinson Day, and more

We’re a bit overdue for a news and notes post, are we not? Of course, not much is going on in the baseball world these days. A few things have come about in recent days though, so let’s get to it.

Rest In Peace Hank Steinbrenner

Sad news yesterday: Hank Steinbrenner passed away at the age of 63. Hank has been out of the public eye for a few years now, though his health issues weren’t known.

Hank had a little bit of his father in him, occasionally popping up with a blustering quote about the state of the Yankees or a player on the team. He seemed like the obvious successor to George, though as was made clear in a terrific obituary today by Tyler Kepner of the New York Times, Hank never had much interest in taking over. Though Hank clearly loved the Yankees, he had plenty of other passions in life. Kepner’s piece gives us good insight into the person Hank was. Rest in peace.

Empty stadium sports? Dr. Anthony Fauci is on board.

Here’s what Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says about Major League Baseball and other sports resuming in 2020:

“Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. … Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”

I’ll save my opinion on this for now since we just discussed it on the podcast earlier this week. Rather, I take this as a sign that the leagues really are going to try to resume play this year. Now that federal officials are essentially on board, it seems inevitable. I’d certainly welcome baseball with open arms, but I’d be lying if I told you that I had absolutely no concerns about it.

A Different Jackie Robinson Day

Obviously, with no baseball to be played at the moment, Jackie Robinson is a little different this year. Here’s what’s on the slate today instead:

An update from Kyle Higashioka

Presumed backup catcher Kyle Higashioka has been keeping a diary in partnership with the New York Post. In his latest entry, he covers a myriad of topics although the highlight is, unsurprisingly, that he’d like to play baseball this year.

Higgy mentions the Arizona Plan, though he doesn’t give his opinion on it other than emphasizing his desire to play. Who can blame him? As he writes in his piece, Higgy has been in the minors since 2008 and this year was going to be his first real opportunity. He’s worked hard to get to this point and hit a number of lows along the way, so it’s easy to understand why Higashioka wants this chance so badly. I feel for him.

A review of defensive metrics

It’s really difficult to get an understanding of how advanced defensive metrics evaluate players. There are a number of statistics, all with varying degrees of difficulty to understand. From UZR to DRS to FRAA to OAA, what’s the best metric? Baseball Prospectus’ Jonathan Judge and Sean O’Rourke did the research.

For infield defense, Statcast’s Outs Above Average is easily the best metric out there. This stat was just released a few months ago after previously only being available for outfielders. Bobby wrote an overview of OAA and the Yankees’ infielders while I took a deeper look at its assessment of Gleyber Torres.

Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) shines for outfield defense, which came as a surprise to the piece’s authors. FRAA is BP’s defensive metric du jour, by the way. So, what does FRAA think of Yankees’ outfielders?

  • Aaron Judge is a terrific outfielder with 22.1 career FRAA.
  • After three straight years of elite defense per FRAA from 2016 through 2018 (no season lower than 11.8), Brett Gardner dipped to -0.2 last season.
  • Giancarlo Stanton posted strong numbers in right field for the Marlins, but has been very slightly below average in left field for the Yankees.
  • Aaron Hicks has -17.2 FRAA with the Yankees, which is quite bad and a bit unexpected.
  • Mike Tauchman was pretty good out there last year (4.0 FRAA). Clint Frazier is below average per the system (-4.7 career FRAA), but perhaps not as bad as anticipated.

I can’t say I really know how FRAA works, but it’s interesting as one data point. I think we’re better off looking at an array of metrics along with the traditional eye test to get a sense of who’s good and who’s bad in the field.


Friendly reminder: the Views From 314ft podcast is available wherever you get your podcasts. Please subscribe, rate, and review whenever you have a chance. This week, we spoke to Sophia Chang about her interpretation of the 1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera Rookie Card and also discussed a few of the league’s plans to resume play.

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2 Comments

  1. The Original Drew

    Any defensive metrics that say that Aaron Hicks is a well below average CF, then something is very very wrong.

  2. Coronaveddardus

    I’ve never cried as much as I did yesterday when I heard the news about Hank, Derek. He was the last link we had to George and many we’re hoping he would have taken the reins instead of Hal. If he had we’d have 3 or 4 more rings and we wouldn’t be shut down like this. If George were alive he’d be Hank. And now we’re stuck with Hal for another 40 years. Not even a global pandemic can get rid of him.

    There’s only one man alive who I trust with my life and that’s Dr. Facui. If he says we can play in empty Stadiums then we should be doing that immediately. None of this play in Arizona garbage. The Yankees were meant to play in Yankee Stadium not the Grand Canyon. Test the players and staff every day, isolate them in the Four Seasons, every player and coach wears a mask, no fans come in to the ballpark for now and we should be able to have all this up and running by Easter.

    I feel so bad for Higgy and Jackie. They’re two of my favorite ballplayers of all time. Jackie should have been honored today and Higgy should be playing. They could have played one game today, Yankees vs Dodgers and showed it in prime time. The ratings would have been through the roof. There was a way to do it to keep every one safe. If the WWE is an essential service, and it should be, then baseball is too. Get them masks and PPE and get the season going again.

    The only metrics that mean anything now are the ones on Worldometer. Nobody will ever take these defensive metrics seriously again after this, not that they did before.

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