From Joel Sherman today -
You can attack methodology; you can say no perfect formula has yet been devised to encapsulate all the elements – positioning, speed of the hit ball, field conditions – into a single defensive statistic. However, these metrics keep evolving in sophistication. And Jeter keeps faring poorly in nearly every study year after year. Do you think there is a conspiracy? Do you think statisticians en masse have covertly met and made their quest to soil Jeter’s glovely reputation?
“This study has been done a zillion times and the same conclusion is reached every time,” an AL official said. “What do you think that means?”
For Jeter devotees, it means assailing the geeks. But as an AL executive said, “this isn’t geeks vs. jocks. This is myth vs. reality.” In reality, most baseball officials laugh off the three Gold Gloves Jeter won from 2004-06 in the way they do the four Bernie Williams won as having more to do with offense, fame and winning than with actual defense.
One AL official said, “You particularly notice with groundball guys like [Andy] Pettitte and [Chien-Ming] Wang how many grounders went through that shouldn’t have. Pettitte must have had a culture shock going from Adam Everett in Houston, who was the best [shortstop], to Jeter, who is not in that league.”
Perhaps the strongest condemnation came from Jeter, who said, “Last year, I didn’t have a good year defensively.”
It doesn’t sound like much, especially since Jeter limited a serial inadequacy to just 2007. Except Jeter is not one to ever publicly apologize for, or criticize, his own game.
This is the elephant in the room. Will the Yanks move Jeter off of shortstop when the time comes – assuming that time is not here already – or will they be like the Orioles, who kowtowed well past Cal Ripken’s expiration date at short and hurt the organization? Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi avoided that bubbling cauldron by saying they won’t look beyond this season. Jeter said the same, but then cited San Francisco’s Omar Vizquel, 41 in April, in suggesting he could also play his whole career at short.
“I am comfortable with the left side of the infield at this moment in time,” Cashman said. “Do I have concerns in future years? Let me get to future years.”
Also in the Sherman piece, Joel notes: “[Jeter has] rededicated himself in the offseason with exercises designed to improve his lateral quickness and first-step explosiveness. One Yankee official saw this version of Jeter and said, ‘He set the clock back five years.’”
To me, infield defense has always been about three elements:
1. Eye-hand coordination.
2. Lateral quickness and first-step explosiveness.
Jeter has #1 and #3 covered. Let’s hope that his off-season work now addresses #2. It would be nice to hear “Past-a-diving Jeter” less than 50 times this season.