By Mark Simon

The New York Yankees outfield has been overwhelmed by injuries this season. At various times, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton have been sidelined. In looking for someone who could fill in at all three spots off the bench, they turned to 28-year-old Mike Tauchman as a replacement.

Tauchman has been great, both at the plate and in the field, and it’s the latter that we’ll focus on here.

Tauchman has saved 14 runs with his defense, which ranks tied for sixth among outfielders this season. Of the outfielders ranked in the top 17, Tauchman has the third-fewest innings played. He’s made the most of his time in the field.

How has Tauchman reached such lofty numbers, normally reserved in the Yankees outfield for Brett Gardner?

He has nine Runs Saved in left, one in center and four in right.

Let’s focus specifically on left field and right field.

Sports Info Solutions divides each outfield into three sections – shallow, medium, and deep. Tauchman gets a statistical credit or debit on any ball hit to those spots in which he has a greater than zero percent chance at making the catch. The credit or debit is based on the historical probability of each batted ball being caught.

If Tauchman makes a catch on a ball that is typically caught by a left fielder 40 percent of the time, he gets a credit of 0.6 (1 minus 0.4). If he misses it, he gets a debit of 0.4 (for the 40 percent of the time the ball is caught). Credits and debits are added up to get a player’s Range and Positioning rating, which is converted into Runs Saved.

Here’s how Tauchman has done on shallow, medium, and deep balls in the two corner outfield spots.

You can read this as (for example): “Mike Tauchman has 29 outs on 44 plays in which he had a greater than zero percent chance to make the play. The average player would have recorded 24 outs (29 minus 5).”

Mike Tauchman – 2019 Season (LF & RF)
Outs Plays with >0%

out probability

Plays Made

Above Average

Shallow Balls 29 44 5
Medium Balls 41 50 3
Deep Balls 36 45 3

Of note, Tauchman has 15 catches on balls with an out probability of 50 percent or less and has failed to make the play in only five instances with an out probability of less than 50 percent. That number of high-value catches and the lack of high-value misses leads to a combined run value of nine runs at the corner outfield spots.

Now why is Tauchman making those catches? Surveying the video of those plays found two common themes. One was that he was well positioned, likely by a combination of the Yankees coaches and the analytics department. Tauchman’s most valuable play is this catch on a ball hit by Tommy La Stella of the Angels. It doesn’t look like a difficult catch, but given where the ball was hit (the right-center gap) and how long it was in the air for, that’s a ball that is caught by the right fielder only six percent of the time.

That play does show something else that holds up. Tauchman is good at reading the low line drive and closing ground on it quickly. This catch against Cavan Biggio of the Blue Jays came on a ball that is turned into an out 13% of the time. He has another catch of that ilk on a ball hit by Yonder Alonso of the White Sox. That ball had an out probability of 26%.

SIS Video Scouts chart Good Fielding Plays and Defensive Misplays & Errors, and players have a chance to gain or lose Defensive Runs Saved based on how they fare in each of those areas. Tauchman has 9 Good Fielding Plays and only 4 Misplays & Errors. Converting each of those plays to a run value gives Tauchman a net of three more Runs Saved. He receives his biggest spike (1.2 Runs Saved) for having a home run robbery against Pedro Severino of the Orioles.

Lastly, let’s look at the deterrent value of his arm.

Tauchman doesn’t have a large sample of plays involving baserunner advancement in center or right field. But in left field, he’s recorded three assists without a cutoff man and allowed 17 out of 38 baserunners to advance on base hits on balls he’s fielded. The 45 percent advancement rate is around MLB average.

The bigger deal is those three instances in which he erased a baserunner (the value in doing so is significant). For that, he receives two runs of credit. The best of the plays he’s made with his arm might be this one nailing Garrett Hampson of the Rockies at home plate.

Putting it all together, Tauchman gets:

  • +10 Runs Saved for his Range & Positioning (9 for the corners, 1 for centerfield),
  • +3 Runs Saved for his Good Fielding Plays
  • and +1 Run Saved for the deterrent value of his arm.

That combination makes him one of the most valuable defensive outfielders and one of the best stories in MLB (for more on Tauchman check out either of those links).

Most Defensive Runs Saved – Yankees
Mike Tauchman 14
Aaron Judge 11
Brett Gardner 8

For more stories like this that go inside the numbers, check out our Stat of the Week and the SIS Baseball Podcast.