• Sherman Rings In On Jeter’s “D” Debate

    Posted by on February 24th, 2008 · Comments (6)

    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.
    3. Confidence.

    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.

    Comments on Sherman Rings In On Jeter’s “D” Debate

    1. Bradley
      February 24th, 2008 | 11:08 am

      Jete has never been great defensively. But media heads and over zealous fans like to make out that he is the sole reason as to why we havent won a championship in a few years.

      Its almost like people are jealous of the attention he gets. So they continually take shots at him, in retaliation for being ”Mr Yankees” for so long.

      Abreu was in the lower third, with Zone Rating last year. But do we read articles on it? No.
      Matsui is one of the worst fielding left fielders during his time with us. But do you read articles? No.

    2. Basura
      February 24th, 2008 | 11:16 am

      How come Joel Sherman, Steve, and “wwstaff” aren’t castigating Jeter for a poor work ethic as they do with Hughes?

      His need to “rededicate” himself shows he wasn’t dedicated before.

      Of course I don’t believe this but that’s the logic used to criticize Hughes.

    3. Sonny M
      February 24th, 2008 | 1:08 pm

      I’ve ripped Joel Sherman as much as anyone (I say this as a guy who actually bought and read his book “birth of a dynasty” which has more then a few questionable annecdotes).

      But he is right about Jeter. The conversation about Jeter’s defense starts and stops at his hitting.

      The fact is Jeter should have moved early in his minor league days, but Stick (then and even now) grew personally attached to DJ, saw him as himself, and always stuck with him….even though he is in the wrong position.

      But make no mistake, DJ will move eventually, no matter what he says, and just like other ball players, he is going to want some coin when he does move. Robin Yount moved, Jeter will be no different.

      Also FWIW, Cal Ripken was forced to move under Davey Johnson for a short time, and basically went to war about it, he bitched, whined and moaned, later on his career, he accepted it, because then it was done differently, its not just moving the player, its also how its handled, and how you approach it.

      Even Mickey Mantle switched positions, its a matter of how you do it.

    4. baileywalk
      February 24th, 2008 | 3:34 pm

      Someone should send a mass E-mail out to New York sports writers. “To: hacks. From: Yankee fans. Re: Jeter’s defense. He’s not that good — we know it and we get it. Good-bye.”

      Jeter doesn’t have much range anymore. We see it and we know it, but he’s not moving off shortstop and there’s nothing we can do about it. I hate that all these stories somehow frame it as “Jeter is a defensive liability, the latest study says he’s the worst, and the Yankee fans are mad as hell about it!”

      Yeah, we know, we know. We understand it. We see it with our own eyes. I don’t buy that he’s the absolute worst, but it is frustrating that so many balls get by him.

      I just hate that Yankee fans are always portrayed as raving, blind, foaming zealots who don’t understand the game and are never realistic about their players.

    5. singledd
      February 24th, 2008 | 5:25 pm

      Check out the analysis by SG at RLYW.
      http://www.replacementlevel.com/
      Good stuff… and I THINK it shows Jeter is better off at SS unless we can’t find another above average hitting SS with an average glove or better.

    6. Rich
      February 24th, 2008 | 5:39 pm

      Attempting to demonstrate that the Yankees are better off with Jeter at SS without knowing how much (if any) his defense will continue to decline is problematic.

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