• Pasta Barely Moving Jeter?

    Posted by on February 18th, 2013 · Comments (12)

    Via Doug at High Heat Stats

    It’s no secret to any regular readers of this site that Derek Jeter is not in the lineup for his defense. Even a casual fan will probably notice that Jeter seems unusually limited in his range, both to his left and his right. I live on the West Coast and don’t see a great deal of the Yankees, but even in the 10 or 15 games I may see during a season, I’m struck by how often a ball that seems to be hit where you’d expect a shortstop to be able to make a play often results in Jeter taking a step or two towards the ball and then pulling up, as the ball bounces through to the outfield, or is even fielded by the 2nd or 3rd baseman (though, usually, without the opportunity to make a play for an out). Also common to see, especially on plays to his right, is Jeter getting to the ball but not getting off a throw.

    Now you may be saying “Why am I picking on Derek Jeter?”, to which my answer is simply the Jeter is the most obvious place to start in evaluating the Yankees infield defense. For some perspective on Jeter, consider:

    • Jeter ranks lowest among all players since 1901 at -231 career WAR fielding runs. Jeter passed former teammate Gary Sheffield early in the 2011 season and is the only player at or below the -200 mark.
    • Jeter has 13 seasons with Rfield scores of -10 or less. Former teammates Sheffield and Bernie Williams rank 2nd and 3rd with 10 and 8 seasons, respectively.
    • In his 18 seasons, Derek has had positive Rfield scores only 3 times, in 1998, 2004 and 2009. Fangraphs has him with only two seasons (2002, 2009) with positive UZR scores.

    There’s nothing new here. We all know the metrics and issues with Jeter’s defensive efforts in the field. And, we’ve known it for a long time now.

    But, the biggest question on Jeter’s glove work this season is this: If Derek was “that bad” when he was younger and healthier, what’s he going to be like now that he’s 39-years old and has a metal plate and screws in his left ankle for support?

    This, my friends, could be very rough to watch.

    Comments on Pasta Barely Moving Jeter?

    1. Garcia
      February 18th, 2013 | 12:44 pm

      Agreed. Definitely won’t be pretty.

    2. #15
      February 18th, 2013 | 1:25 pm

      The statheads will never agree with me, but I can watch the games, and I always do, and I can see that Jeter’s defense is not the massive liability it’s made out to be. What he gives up on range to his left, he still compensates for with: 1) tracking fly balls very well, 2) sure-handedness on routine plays, and 3) rarely, if ever making a mistake on an outfield relay throw which he still makes at an above average level. He typically shows throwing yips early in the season and Tex has helped a bunch in that manner. In a critical defensive position, he’s been good enough to get us to the playoffs all but one year of his career. Sure, there is going to be less there over time, and the injuries will show up, if only in conditioning and agility. In short, the defense he gave us last year was good enough. I’ll take that again.

    3. February 18th, 2013 | 2:19 pm

      Put me in the camp of “If it’s the last out of Game 7 in the World Series, I want it to be a ground ball hit directly at Derek Jeter” because I know he will not mess up a routine play, esp. in a tight spot.

      That said, it seems like, at least once a game, there’s a grounder to his left where I wonder if a younger, quicker, and better fielding SS would have made that play…

      HOWEVER, if the world wants to use the “What’s wrong with the Yankees since they win 95 games every season!” card against those who lay a claim against the team, then that same card should be used when it comes to how Jeter is “costing” the team. If he’s that bad and costing them all these runs, where it is showing up in the W-L column?

      In any event, I think this year it’s a different deal because of his age and the ankle. And, as Yankees fans, we don’t want to see Jeter out there at SS like he’s Willie Mays trying to play CF in the 1973 World Series. His legacy doesn’t deserve that closing note.

    4. #15
      February 18th, 2013 | 3:10 pm

      Yeeesshhh. I do remember the Willie years in Flushing. Even though I grew up nearby and hated the Metamucils, it was tough to watch Willie stumbling around out there. I would hope that Willie’s reasons for hanging on: 1) money, 2) money, and 3) money, aren’t in play with Derek. Willie hung on because he had to, not because he wanted to.

      We’ll get a look at Jeter in a few weeks and we’ll really have a look by say, May. If he’s done, I’ll be the first to advocate that he hang ’em with dignity. I thought we were there a couple of years ago and he surprised me, by a wide margin, with his resurgence at the plate.
      We’ve seen enough from this guy to not underestimate his drive. Let’s watch and see what we get.

      I do wish the Yankees had a vacuum cleaner SS in the minors that we could spot in once in a while. That ought to be part of the plan for getting the most out of Jeter. Nunez is clearly not that guy.

    5. February 18th, 2013 | 4:01 pm

      Remember (?) the old saying, “Shake a tree, find a fielder.”

      Those were the days. Now, it’s a lost art – or those great fielder, no stick, guys just don’t get signed any more.

    6. Garcia
      February 18th, 2013 | 4:23 pm

      @ #15:
      Yeah, all good points. I remember one time listening to Lou Pinella talk about the most frustrating thing to a manager is the person who can’t make the routine play. Making an error on a play that isn’t routine is one thing, and that’s forgivable, but making an error on a routine ball hit to you and extending an inning really drives a manager crazy.

    7. Evan3457
      February 18th, 2013 | 6:37 pm

      Jeter’s defensive cost is not visible, but it is nonetheless very real.

      I mean that both figuratively and literally.

      Literally, because when Jeter fails to make a play on the ball hit up the middle anywhere from 1-3 steps to the left of 2nd base, a somewhat difficult play for an average fielder, a routine play for a shortstop with good range, it looks like a clean hit, and the responsibility “obviously” lies with the pitcher. Anyone can “see” that.

      Figuratively, because doesn’t leave a visible mark in the most obvious portion of the box scores. BUT:

      1) It denies the defense and out and puts a runner on base, just the same as an error on a routine grounder.

      2) It adds pitches to a pitcher’s pitchcount, and in the middle of a long inning, can be fatal to that pitcher’s start that day.

      But it doesn’t LOOK like a bad play. It looks like bad luck for the pitcher, or good “hittin’ ’em where they ain’t” for the hitter. It’s doeesn’t “sweep the leg” of a struggling pitcher. It’s more a “straw that broke the camel’s back” type of psychological cost. And fatigue cost.

      But it’s real. Very real.

      Steve L. wrote:

      If he’s that bad and costing them all these runs, where it is showing up in the W-L column?

      It shows up in starters going fewer innings, relievers having to pitch more innings more often, and in turning a goose-egg into a 2-run rally. Not necessarily fatal in most games, but a slow drip, drip, drip against the team’s efforts, all season long.

      Just as his hitting is a plus, plus, plus, all season long, as compared to most shortstops. And his base-running, although this is less of an asset than it used to be.

    8. Evan3457
      February 18th, 2013 | 6:41 pm

      Oh, and even with the persistent defensive cost, which is probably in the realm of about 150-200 defensive runs over the course of his entire career, Jeter is an obvious Hall of Famer, barring cataclysmic relevation.

      Such is the value of his hitting, vs. that of the average major league shortstop.

    9. Raf
      February 18th, 2013 | 8:21 pm

      Steve L. wrote:

      Those were the days. Now, it’s a lost art – or those great fielder, no stick, guys just don’t get signed any more.

      Alberto Gonzales & Ramiro Peña are still around.

    10. MJ Recanati
      February 19th, 2013 | 10:45 am

      #15 wrote:

      I do wish the Yankees had a vacuum cleaner SS in the minors that we could spot in once in a while.

      The team does have a vacuum cleaner SS in the minors and his name is Ramiro Pena. The issue with Pena — as with most SS in baseball — is that he can’t hit worth a lick and the Yankees tolerate Jeter’s poor defense because he still hits enough to overcome most of his defensive shortcomings.

      In fact, the reason why the sub-par (for him) 2008 and 2010 seasons stand out is because the Yankees were getting only average (or slightly above) offense from Jeter and his lousy defense. As long as Jeter hits, his defense isn’t crushing the team. The moment his bat goes, Jeter has to go too.

    11. February 19th, 2013 | 10:49 am

      Pena looked bad a SS the last time he was in New York. And, he’s not with the Yankees any more. He’s on the Braves.


    12. MJ Recanati
      February 19th, 2013 | 11:12 am

      Steve L. wrote:

      Pena looked bad a SS the last time he was in New York. And, he’s not with the Yankees any more. He’s on the Braves

      The point still stands that it’s not hard to find a defensive replacement for Jeter that will be much, much better at him in the field. The reason why the Yankees aren’t pushing Jeter off SS is simply because he can hit enough to justify his poor defense. For as long as that is the case, Jeter will remain at his preferred position.

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