• In Defense Of Jeter

    Posted by on August 29th, 2005 · Comments (17)

    Looking at the leaders in Fielding Win Shares for AL SS this morning, this is what I saw:

    Player-Team-FWS:
    1 J Uribe CHA 6.4
    2 J Peralta CLE 5.7
    3 J Lugo TB 5.0
    4 D Jeter NYA 4.8

    I was surprised to see Jeter so high – because the sabermetric crowd usually likes to kill Jeter’s defensive rep.

    Last year, Rob Neyer of ESPN.comn called Jeter a “terrible” SS – twice in the span of days, once in print in his column and once in an ESPN News interview.

    I never understood the “terrible” label.

    Does Jeter have great range? No. His range, in my opinion, is somewhat limited – esp. going to his left.

    Is he a terrible SS? No. A terrible SS would have been moved off SS by now. Tony Batista was moved. Chipper Jones was moved. Mike Lansing was moved. Mark Lewis was moved. Jose Offerman was moved. Wil Cordero was moved. Julio Franco was moved. In the big leagues, if you truly are a terrible SS, you will eventually be moved. Even a stupid team figures it out after a while. Jeter has not been moved, because he is not terrible with the glove at SS.

    As a Yankees fan, at no point in time, over the last several seasons, has a ball been hit to Jeter at SS where I thought “Oh, no, why did you hit it to him?” – - the way one would think when balls were hit to the Jose Offerman or Wil Cordero types (when they were trying to play SS).

    In fact, when a grounder is hit to Jeter, within normal range, my gut reaction and expectation is “that’s an out.” I have no fear whatsoever on a groundball to Jeter.

    Further, in Baseball America’s recent 2005 Best Tools Survey, League Managers selected Derek Jeter as the AL’s “Best Defensive SS” – ahead of Miggy Tejada (at # 2) and Michael Young (at # 3).

    So, the stats now favor Jeter, and are in line with those on the field. Therefore, is it now time for people to stop lamenting about Jeter’s glove work?

    Comments on In Defense Of Jeter

    1. Bozo
      August 29th, 2005 | 11:52 am

      Rob Neyer is a biased moron.

    2. Paul in Boston
      August 29th, 2005 | 1:00 pm

      I agree with your assessment of Jeter. He has poor range, especially to the left, but he is sure-handed and makes the plays right at him securely, has a good arm, and seems especially good at going back on fly balls.

      With Rodriguez at third, and Cano at 2nd, the infield seems much better than in previous years. Any data to support this?

    3. August 29th, 2005 | 1:28 pm

      Good question. Thanks. I want to noodle that for a while.

    4. Jason O.
      August 29th, 2005 | 1:29 pm

      If a sabermetrics person looks at you w/ a straight face and tells you he’d take Lugo, Peralta or Uribe over Jeter, then it’s no use continuing the conversation. They are too far gone in the us vs. them, “we’re gonna change the world” revolutionary mindset.

      Forget SABR et al, for a moment and participate in this thought experiment: Would Beane or JP Ricciardi take Lugo, Peralta or Uribe over Jeter?

    5. Makofan
      August 29th, 2005 | 1:32 pm

      Jeter went from a poor defensive shortstop to an excellent defensive shortstop in the last two years, according to stats. How much of his improvement has come from experience, and how much for having a third baseman with a great range to his left (A-Rod seems weaker down the line – he’s no Graig Nettles)

      Any true SABR person, if they believe their own stats, would have to acknowledge Jeter as doing a fine, fine job the last two years.

    6. James
      August 29th, 2005 | 1:41 pm

      Uribe & Lugo – not a chance.

      Peralta…that would be a good question. Character, Leadership & Intangibles aside, Jhonny Peralta is 8 years younger, good with the glove and even better with the bat. So, my answer to Jason’s question is yeah, I think one or both would probably take Peralta. I would certainly think about it and I’m a HUGE Jeter fan. Still, if I’m just thinking what’s best for the team, I gotta think very hard about it…8 years and a lot less $.

      P.s. Keep in mind that Peralta’s 20 HRs & 63 RBI come in 130 less ABs than Jeter.

    7. DFLNJ
      August 29th, 2005 | 1:47 pm

      I think Derek Jeter is denigrated by SABR-metricans all the time because his style of play is a huge indictment of their view of the game.

      Most of the things he does to help the Yankees win don’t have a statistic to measure them with. You can’t quantify running hard to first base on every ground ball, or diving into the stands to catch a foul pop, or making a backhanded throw on a relay where you’re not even supposed to be in that position. Yes, he has decent offensive stats, and apparently his fielding is now statistically up to par, but to me that’s never been what makes Jeter great. The bloody face after diving into the stands against the Red Sox, or the backhanded flip against Oakland, those weren’t plays that figure into statistics, yet they define Jeter’s career. Sometimes you have to put down your calculator and just watch the game.

      As far as I know, Bill James hasn’t come up with a stat that measures heart yet.

    8. David
      August 29th, 2005 | 1:50 pm

      Jason O. asks, How much of Jeter’s improvement has come from experience, and how much for having a third baseman with a great range to his left.

      On experience, I’d guess the answer is zero. After all, Jeter has already had many years of experience.

      I’d also guess that ARod’s range is also zero. I may be wrong, but I think the statistic is based on how many outs and assists the fielder accumulates. If ARod gets to more balls than the average 3rd baseman, that leaves fewer for Jeter. It would seem that ARod’s range should make Jeter’s fielding score worse, not better.

      Maybe there’s no change is Jeter’s fielding. Maybe the last 2 years’ pitching staffs had a style of pitching that tended to get more balls hit to shortstop.

    9. Don
      August 29th, 2005 | 1:51 pm

      Off topic: Congratulations to the Gulf Coast League Champion, the GCL Yankees.

      They beat the GCL Red Sox in a one game playoff then took two straight from the GCL Mets to win the title.

    10. Jason O.
      August 29th, 2005 | 2:04 pm

      Good point on the relative differences in career, James: Now equalize their ages at, say, 24 and equalize both salaries and answer the same question.

      DFLNJ raises a great point: The us vs. them rivalry re: statistics was created by Michael Lewis for book marketing purposes. There is a balance of perf. analysis and scouting on every smart team.

      On another topic I do think that SABR conclusively demonstrates that Earl Weaver-style “big ball” managerial tactics maximize runs scored over a 162 game season.

    11. Josh
      August 29th, 2005 | 2:57 pm

      I agree with most of these comments. Enough with “win shares” and other inane SABRmetric categories. It’s time to take the game back from the SABR geeks who want to reduce everything to a statistical formula. Let them go back to playing strat-o-matic and leave the rest of us alone. He has some flaws, but DJ is a terrific SS, and there’s no one better in the clutch, offensively or defensively. Uribe? Lugo? Nice players, but give me a break. DJ is a 1st ballot hall of famer. And BTW, Rob Neyer, as with most of ESPN.com’s “analysts” is a Red Sox fan. He has no credibiltiy on Yankee issues.

    12. DFLNJ
      August 29th, 2005 | 3:16 pm

      On another topic I do think that SABR conclusively demonstrates that Earl Weaver-style “big ball” managerial tactics maximize runs scored over a 162 game season.

      ———————————————-

      As somebody who loves the “National League style” of play, I have to grudgingly agree with that point, as it seems the Red Sox and A’s (among others) have probably proved that it does. Your point about balance is I think the key. You have to balance rigorous statistical analysis with actual knowledge of the game and scouting. I would say that extends to the Earl Weaver vs. National League style debate. It’s best to have a big ball lineup, but you shouldn’t go overboard and ignore bunting and baserunning tactics and build a team that does nothing but try to hit home runs.

      Case in point: the Red Sox won the World Series last year with big boppers who get on base a lot, but they got to the World Series, in my mind, because Dave Roberts stole second base.

      Championship teams do what they have to do to win.

    13. Rafael
      August 30th, 2005 | 3:36 am

      call me wrong, but i think that dave roberts actually stealing second base wasn’t the main thing…it seemed as though he got into Rivera’s head and made him lessen his focus on the hitter, which to me is far greater than simply stealing a base

    14. August 30th, 2005 | 10:48 am

      Anyone who says Jeter is a terrible SS is crazy.

      He makes more than the plays right to him.

    15. August 30th, 2005 | 10:52 am

      And yes, it is time for the lamenting to stop. I don’t even know why it started. It’s taking really a complete, great player (not being great at everything doesn’t make you not complete – he may not have the greatest range, but it’s pretty good) and nitpicking.

      But, of course, it won’t. Because he’s Derek Jeter, shortstop for the New York Yankees, captain of the New York Yankees, holder for 4 World Series rings. It’ll never stop. People are waiting for him to get old and start to slow down so they can get louder.

    16. DFLNJ
      August 30th, 2005 | 2:56 pm

      call me wrong, but i think that dave roberts actually stealing second base wasn’t the main thing…it seemed as though he got into Rivera’s head and made him lessen his focus on the hitter, which to me is far greater than simply stealing a base

      ————————————————-

      I don’t necessarily disagree with that. I think my point holds, in that Roberts’s ability to steal that bag ( a small-ball talent) changed the game. We can debate whether the steal or the threat of a steal was more important, but if that’s Ortiz over there at first, that inning would have taken a totally different course.

    17. Raf
      August 30th, 2005 | 5:59 pm

      As far as I know, Bill James hasn’t come up with a stat that measures heart yet.

      ======================================

      At SS, I think Andy Stankiewicz and David Eckstein have/had a lot of heart. I’d rather have Tejada playing short.

      There may not be #’s to quantify “heart” but in lieu of that, there are other factors that can be quantified.

      I can make all the diving plays, and shovel passes in the world, but if that’s all I can offer, I’m not going to last very long in the league.

      What’s Rey Ordonez been up to as of late?

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