Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Myth Busters: Johnny Damon

I've been getting the sense from a lot of Yankee fans that they have lost confidence in left fielder Johnny Damon. His defense in particular has drawn the most criticism. So is Johnny Damon a bad outfielder? A bad player? The RJG Myth Busters went to investigate these claims.

There is no doubt that Johnny Damon has lost a step. He lost the centerfield job to Melky Cabrera after a series of injuries limited his playing time in the outfield. In 2007, Joe Torre used him more as a DH and limited his outfield time to 651 innings, nearly half of what he used to play in Boston. 2008 saw Johnny Damon playing most his games in left field, and has left many with the impression that he just doesn't have it. Though he's never had an arm, his legs have carried him this far since he can cover more ground than most players. So was Johnny Damon a bad defensive player?

The question has two approaches. You can look at the stats, which don't tell the whole picture, and you can go on what you saw. The stats gave Damon a .992 fielding percentage having made 2 errors all season. That sounds pretty good. However, I do remember him misplaying balls hit to him that were not considered errors. I also remember him being a pretty good left fielder with a much better range than our twice operated on Matsui. So, my take? I think he was a good left fielder who misplayed a couple balls, and Yankee fans, known for their irrational criticism and their underlying hatred of Johnny Damon since he came from the Red Sox, just couldn't let that go.

This says nothing of Damon as a hitter. In a largely failed season, Damon emerged with the highest average on the team. In fact, he gave the Yankees a .303 average, 17 homeruns, 71 RBI's and 29 stolen bases (so much for him losing his legs) from the leadoff spot. I would take those numbers any day. His .375 OBP is also impressive considering his job as lead off is to, you know, get on base.

So is Damon a bad player? No, he isn't. Sorry Yankee fans, but this myth has just been busted.


Antone said...

I agree with Damon being shaky in CF. Even when he was on the Sox, I thought he was horrible going back on balls hit over his head. Even when he made the play, it was usually an adventure. I prefer him in LF too, but wouldn't mind him getting some time in CF every once in a while if it means that we don't have to use Gardner or Melky out there.

Fernando Alejandro said...

Yeah, I like Gardner and Melky's defense, but if it means keeping their bats out of the lineup for long stretches of time, I'd take Damon in center.

The Yankees have quite the dilema for 2010. Damon, Mastui, and Nady will all be free agents. A-Jax may be coming up then, but they really can't expect him to fill the void in his first year.