Ever since Curtis Granderson revealed that the Yankees asked if he’d be willing to move to left field this weekend, various people have weighed in on the merits of such a move. My take? It really doesn’t matter much at all. Whether you have Brett Gardner in left and Granderson in center or vice versa, the overall impact on the Yankees will be so minor as to not be worth the discussion.
Gardner may actually be the better defender at this point, and we have been conditioned to believe that the best defensive outfielder should play center, as he will have more opportunities to flag down balls than either of the corner outfielders. But if you have two guys who can capably handle center field (as the Yankees now do), it isn’t all that important which one ends up in CF.
The CF-playing-a-corner guy doesn’t magically lose some range when shifting to a corner. His physical abilities are the same, and his ability to cover ground to his left and right remains the same. The only difference is that instead of covering two gaps, he’s now covering one gap and one line.
Even if we accept that Gardner is a better defensive outfielder than Granderson, which may or may not be true, the Yankees wouldn’t lose anything in their ability to cover the gap in left center with the current alignment. They would take a very marginal hit in right field gap coverage, but that would be somewhat offset by the gain in their coverage of the left field line.
The total difference in defensive performance between the two alignments is simply the drop in value in right-center balls caught minus the rise in value in left field line balls caught. We’re talking about a marginal difference on just a handful of balls in play over a full season. We’re talking about fractions of a run.
The Yankees have two center fielders. One of them will play left field. It doesn’t matter which one. So, just to avoid it becoming a story, it should probably be Granderson. No point creating something for the media to talk about when the end result just doesn’t matter.