• Posnanski: Jeter Underrated

    Posted by on August 19th, 2009 · Comments (11)

    Via Joe Posnanski:

    I think that in many ways Derek Jeter this year has added a third title. He has, against all odds, become UNDERRATED. And that is a wicked turn. I think Jeter at 35 is having one of his greatest seasons. I think he’s playing defense better than he ever has, he’s getting on base and slugging like he did in his prime, and in my view he has been the Yankees most valuable player in 2009. And, for once, it’s funny, I don’t hear too many other people talking about it.

    He’s hitting .330 through Tuesday and has a .394 on-base percentage — tied with A-Rod for best on the Yankees. He’s on pace for 218 hits, 109 runs, 21 homers. 27 stolen bases. He’s having a great offensive season, quite similar to the season last year’s MVP, Boston’s Dustin Pedroia, had.

    And — this is weird — those advanced statistics that have so universally mocked his defense now show him to be, well, darned good defensively. The Dewan Plus/Minus system — a video system where they plot every ball hit in play — had long shown him to consistently be the worst shortstop in baseball. Now, it has him as a plus-7 shortstop, a top-10 shortstop. Ultimate Zone Rating — UZR — which had shown him to be costing his team runs defensively every single year since 2002 now calculates that he has saved the Yankees almost six runs this year. Jeter has made it clear he doesn’t care about such statistics so it probably gives him no satisfaction.

    Still, the numbers suggest that he’s playing shortstop better than he has in years. Two baseball insiders concur, saying that he positions himself better now than he ever did before and his already quick release has gotten even quicker. Plainly, not as many grounders are getting past a diving Jeter.

    Yeah, but, Jeter is still a meanie to A-Rod, right? And, being a BFF to Alex is much more important than all this other stuff…

    Comments on Posnanski: Jeter Underrated

    1. YankCrank
      August 19th, 2009 | 3:12 pm

      I don’t know who that last line is a shot at? Like I said in one of my posts in the Water Cooler, “My issue isn’t with Derek Jeter, but with the Yankee fans” when it comes to A-Rod.

      I love Derek, always have, and think he’s having an amazing year. I hope it continues for as long as he’s a Yankee. He deserves a ton of credit for whatever work he’s put in to make this year such a success.

    2. MJ
      August 19th, 2009 | 3:20 pm

      I don’t know who that last line is a shot at? Like I said in one of my posts in the Water Cooler, “My issue isn’t with Derek Jeter, but with the Yankee fans” when it comes to A-Rod.
      ——–
      Seriously right.

    3. August 19th, 2009 | 3:37 pm

      YankCrank wrote:

      I don’t know who that last line is a shot at?

      Oh, I dunno…from all the comments made today by various folks it seemed like many think Jeter is the spawn of the devil for his failures to make A-Rod feel like he’s part of the team, etc.

    4. MJ
      August 19th, 2009 | 3:46 pm

      Oh, I dunno…from all the comments made today by various folks it seemed like many think Jeter is the spawn of the devil for his failures to make A-Rod feel like he’s part of the team, etc.
      —–
      That’s taking it a little far. No one said that. I can only speak for myself in this regard but I do think that it wouldn’t have killed Jeter to publicly speak out in support of A-Rod. It might not have changed anything and it might not have gotten the fans off A-Rod’s back but it still wouldn’t have taken much effort to do it.

      It doesn’t matter because it’s water under the bridge at this point. That was three years ago and A-Rod’s since won another MVP and slowly begun to garner more acceptance among the fans (or at least fans are resigned to his presence and pay slightly less attention to him than in previous years). Whatever the case may be, Jeter didn’t come out smelling like roses that season. He could’ve been a little more gracious and a little more magnanimous. If nothing else, he would’ve looked like the bigger person by contrast.

      Anyway…

    5. YankCrank
      August 19th, 2009 | 3:48 pm

      Oh, I dunno…from all the comments made today by various folks it seemed like many think Jeter is the spawn of the devil for his failures to make A-Rod feel like he’s part of the team, etc.
      ——-

      Idk, I kind of interpreted them a little differently, I saw more comments referring to why Yankee fans boo Alex instead of any slamming Jeter. At least that’s what I was going for. No big deal.

      I like the post, Derek is certainly having a hell of a year!

    6. Raf
      August 19th, 2009 | 3:49 pm

      It isn’t so much Jeter’s fault as fault of clueless fans and the media. Too much has been made of their relationship or lack thereof. Two people who play on the same team may or may not be best friends. Big whoop.

      Instead of trying to choose sides, I don’t know why we can’t just enjoy having 2 HOF caliber players on the same team.

    7. Corey
      August 19th, 2009 | 4:59 pm

      I wonder if the whole problem with Derek’s defense was that he always positioned himself more in the hole so that he could make that jumping “Jeterian” back handed throw that he loves to do so much. He hasn’t done that this year, has he? That might be a point for putting Jeter before the team. (pure speculation/pot stirring :) )

    8. butchie22
      August 19th, 2009 | 5:33 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      YankCrank wrote:
      I don’t know who that last line is a shot at?
      Oh, I dunno…from all the comments made today by various folks it seemed like many think Jeter is the spawn of the devil for his failures to make A-Rod feel like he’s part of the team, etc.

      Good show, mate that was golden! Talk about telling it like it is….I loved that last line. Once again, I don’t feel sorry for Alex. He’s with Hawn’s Spawn, making shitloads of money(27.5 million) and playing on a great team. I hope that he does well in the field and that’s that. an As I’ve said , it seems that everyone is getting along on this team so the fact that Afraud and St Derek are not BFFS( I love the fact that you used this new skool expression, Steve) is not that important right now.

      @ Raf, very conciliatory and wise. Arod and Jeter have been both clutch this year, let’s hope it continues to the playoffs. Nuff said….

      @ Corey, I don’t get your point 100% BUT I love it! Never thought of that Jeterian play being so important…..

    9. Evan3457
      August 19th, 2009 | 6:59 pm

      Corey wrote:

      I wonder if the whole problem with Derek’s defense was that he always positioned himself more in the hole so that he could make that jumping “Jeterian” back handed throw that he loves to do so much. He hasn’t done that this year, has he? That might be a point for putting Jeter before the team. (pure speculation/pot stirring )

      The classic knock against Jeter’s defensive play was made by Bill James in the original Fielding Bible. I’ll summarize:

      Jeter played short in a shallower position when compared to other shortstops. This enabled him to look great coming in to charge slow rollers, and, in fact, the defensive rating systems showed he was better than average at that small fraction of defensive plays. Because he played shallow, his superb natural ability to go back on popups was magnified into almost a supernatural ability. But the rating systems showed he was a plus on that small fraction of plays as well.

      Where playing shallower that nearly all other shortstops hurt him was on his lateral mobility. It made the spectacular jump-throw on the ball in the hole an all-too-frequent sight. It made a play most shortstops make with higher frequency than Jeter could through conventional, less spectacular methods, into a high-risk proposition. Jeter, due to his exceptional athletic ability was able to accomplish it often enough to escape critical examination of this deficiency.

      What finally cracked the veneer on Jeter’s defensive reputation was the large number of balls hit up the middle to the left of second, and even behind the bag, which most shortstops handle, and it was obvious Jeter was not getting to them (the recurrent mocking faux play-by-play call “past a diving Jeter”), and it was costing the team too many hits and runs, and extending to many rallies, and breaking too many pitchers.

      It was so obvious, I could not deny what my eyes were telling me; Jeter was hurting the Yankees defensively, and not by a little. Jeter pooh-poohed it; his defenders were staunch and fierce in manning the ramparts of his reputation.

      Now, however, I must give Jeter enormous credit. He may deny it, but it is just as obvious to anyone who has been watching the last season or two that Jeter is positioned deeper, and positioned better on many hitters. His footwork is better. His release is faster. His ability to cover ground is much improved.

      He rarely uses the jump-throw on the ball in the hole anymore. He now makes the large majority of the plays in the hole the conventional way of all shortstops that’s been handed down from generation to generation: he takes the extra step, plants the back foot, and makes a strong throw. Or he holds the ball if he thinks he has no shot. The jump-throw is only for emergencies, when he thinks the Yanks really need the out.

      There are very few genuine, adored superstars of Jeter’s eminence who would fundamentally re-work a major aspect of their game in the face of criticism (whether he knows it himself, or chooses to acknowledge it). Extraordinary few of them would do it in their late 30′s, risking their reputation, and their job. How many in the bright glare of New York City media attention? Almost none, I’d say.

      But Jeter has, and at the age of 35, as a defensive player, he is as good a shortstop as he has even been, if not better. He might actually deserve a Gold Glove this year, if he wins it.

      Bill James wrote that criticism of Jeter and it was vaild when he wrote it four or five years ago. James also had this compliment for Don Mattingly, 10 or so years ago: 100% ballplayer, 0% bullspit. (Except he wasn’t as family-friendly as that.)

      By changing his game to improve his performance at his age and level or accomplishment and public acclaim, Derek Jeter has shown he also deserves the accolade…

      Derek Jeter: 100% ballplayer, 0% bullspit.

    10. butchie22
      August 19th, 2009 | 7:22 pm

      Bill James himself admitted that he didn’t watch Jeter everyday, so his analysis about Jeter’s deficiencies were rather skewed. But I appreciate the analysis just the same. The coda of 100% ballplayer and bullspit is apropos to say the least.

    11. Rich
      August 19th, 2009 | 8:37 pm

      Someone is a little obsessed with Alex Rodriguez.

      It will be interesting to see how long Jeter can maintain this level of plays. Three more years of it would be great.

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