New York Yankees

New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius has had his fair share of miscues here in 2016 making us all wonder: what happened?

One year ago, Didi Gregorius rose to the occasion and took over a position for the New York Yankees that had been the residence of a Yankee legend for almost a quarter century.

Nobody had a tougher transition to life as a Yankee than Didi. He had to fill the shoes of Derek Jeter, who was the starting shortstop, the captain, and a legend for the Bombers since coming up in 1996.

Despite Jeter’s average defensive abilities winning gold gloves arguably because he was just an esteemed professional on and off the field, it doesn’t mean the development was any better for Gregorius.

While attempting to satisfy the mighty New York crowd, the 25-year old heard chants of “Derek Jeter!” during his Yankee Stadium introduction. I don’t care how tough you are, that would get underneath your skin.

Didi, however, stayed patient, true to himself, and made his defense rank among the best in the league. Even with making an error on Opening Day, advanced metrics showed that he had the second hardest throw to first while having the highest efficiency of any shortstop in 2015, according to FanGraphs.

He owned the fifth-best fielding percentage in the American League (.979), the highest fielding runs above average (14.2), and his ultimate zone ranking was also the best in the AL.

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Simply put: Didi Gregorius was one of the best defensive shortstops in the game a year ago and was seemingly set for an encore as he embarked on his second season in pinstripes. Unfortunately, for everyone who thought that, has endured a substantial slap to the face.

Among qualified fielders so far in 2016, Didi’s .960 fielding percentage ranks dead last in the AL as the second year Yankee is tied for the most miscues.

His fielding runs above average has dropped from the best overall a year ago to -2.7 through 41 games played featuring an ultimate zone ranking of -18 compared to, yet again, the best total from last year. And it’s not like his miscues are just innocent transgressions that have no significance on the end result of a contest.

In yesterday’s 3-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, the turning point of the game came in the top of the third inning when Devon Travis reached on a fielding error by the Yankees’ shortstop.

The grounder tipped off the top of his glove and ricocheted into the outfield to put Travis on.

Following the E-6, Edwin Encarnacion tattooed a CC Sabathia changeup into left which scored Travis and Jose Bautista to give their divisional rivals a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in an eventual series loss for the Bombers.

Although an argument can be made as to whether or not it was a bad hop or not but the play was makable. And it cost the New York Yankees a ballgame.

“He needs to improve on it,’’ Girardi told Newsday about Gregorius’ defensive woes. “I mean, that’s what has to happen. He’s a better fielder than what he has shown these first two months. And I expect he will be better as the year goes on.’’

The error yesterday was Didi’s second in two games and eighth overall.

What Didi Gregorius has been doing this season, way more than last year, is let the game speed up on him. What does that mean? This happens when an athlete is attempting to take charge rather than trusting their elite and proven set of natural talent to take over.

When the game “speeds up” on us, the logical thinking goes out the window and is replaced by us having total control over the situation. Not only in the fielding aspect of it but in every part of the game of baseball. Batters could chase a pitch out of the zone, a pitcher could make a poor pitch, and fielders could make miscues that they know do not represent them. Basically, they begin to press.

What many ballplayers do, and what Didi is seemingly doing, is rather than going through things one step at a time, they concentrate to a deceitful extent on the end result and nothing is achieved except a booted ground ball.

This may or may not be he reasoning behind why Gregorius’ glove got so putrid from one year to the next, but it doesn’t make much sense for it to just happen.

One thing Gregorius proved to Yankees’ fans who had their doubts was that he’s an elite fielder. Right now, it’s been difficult to recapture that swagger with the leather but if he lets the game come to him the way he did a year ago, prominent results will follow yet again because let’s face it: they are supposed to.

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