Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Monday, February 18, 2013

HHS: Derek Jeter, Defense and Championships

Jeter used a scooter to get around during the winter…looks like he’ll need a Rizzuto during the summer.

Usually when a team maintains the same infield year in and year out, defense is at least part of the reason why. But, that hasn’t been the case for the Yankees. After the jump, I’ll explore this topic in a bit more depth.

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.

Repoz Posted: February 18, 2013 at 07:52 AM | 47 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics, yankees

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. hardrain Posted: February 18, 2013 at 08:18 AM (#4371238)
Oh Good! I was thinking this morning over corn flakes and coffee that what the world needs, more than anything else, is another "Pasta diving Jeter" article.
   2. Blastin Posted: February 18, 2013 at 09:28 AM (#4371248)
Not sure this is really "and championships" at all.
   3. Rants Mulliniks Posted: February 18, 2013 at 09:32 AM (#4371249)
the Yankees completed their eighth consecutive season with a left-side infield of Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.


Where does the ####### time go!
   4. hardrain Posted: February 18, 2013 at 09:33 AM (#4371250)
Cano is on the left side?
   5. AROM Posted: February 18, 2013 at 10:30 AM (#4371261)
When the batter is David Ortiz, yes he is.
   6. Bug Selig Posted: February 18, 2013 at 10:59 AM (#4371275)
When the batter is David Ortiz, yes he is.


You sure?
   7. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: February 18, 2013 at 11:27 AM (#4371295)
Eh, he's on somebody's left side.
   8. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 18, 2013 at 11:51 AM (#4371308)
- 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.


It's anomalies like this that make me question the value of these ratings. I'll put my skepticism in form of a question:

Has there ever been a batter as historically bad as PastaDivingJeter, who nevertheless in 3 or 4 widely scattered years managed to perform above average? I've seen plenty of hitters who've had one or two seasons early in their careers that stand out, but I've never seen one whose batting numbers are as consistently godawful as Jeter's defensive metrics, and yet every few years they seem to learn something about hitting and put up numbers that are radically better than their historic norm---only revert to their godawful form the next year.

I'm not sure that this can be explained by randomness, and in Jeter's case I don't see injury as being a part of it. To be honest, I'm not sure what really explains it.
   9. The District Attorney Posted: February 18, 2013 at 11:56 AM (#4371313)
Fielding is a smaller sample size than batting, right?
   10. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 18, 2013 at 12:06 PM (#4371316)
Fielding is a smaller sample size than batting, right?

Not so much for shortstops. In Jeter's career, he's had 11,895 PA's, 10,551 AB's, and 10,216 fielding chances.
   11. Publius Publicola Posted: February 18, 2013 at 12:21 PM (#4371328)
Seriously though. If your range is stiff before you break your leg, it's going to absolutely ossified coming back from one. I just don't see his bat compensating fro his defense anymore.
   12. Yastrzemski in left. Posted: February 18, 2013 at 12:24 PM (#4371330)
In defense of the defenseless - I believe in Jeter's career the Yankees have won less than 90 games only 2 times. And he has helped them to 13-14 seasons with 95 or more. So what the author is saying is that without Jeter the Yankees would have been better?
   13. Dan Posted: February 18, 2013 at 12:39 PM (#4371343)
Fielding is a smaller sample size than batting, right?

Not so much for shortstops. In Jeter's career, he's had 11,895 PA's, 10,551 AB's, and 10,216 fielding chances.


The difference is that all plate appearances are meaningful for determining hitting ability, whereas a huge number of fielding chances are routine and only more difficult plays are really determinative of a fielder's skills.
   14. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 18, 2013 at 01:06 PM (#4371353)
The difference is that all plate appearances are meaningful for determining hitting ability, whereas a huge number of fielding chances are routine and only more difficult plays are really determinative of a fielder's skills.

That makes sense, but over the course of a season, wouldn't the number of difficult plays remain fairly constant on a year-to-year basis? And if so, then what would explain those four oddball positive seasons mixed in almost randomly within 14 other seasons of crapitude? It's hard to believe that Jeter's fielding skills would be as bad as they seem to have been for so many years, and then seemingly out of nowhere suddenly blossom and then wilt again as they did on those four occasions. Something doesn't quite add up, though I'm not sure exactly what it is.
   15. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: February 18, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4371356)
That makes sense, but over the course of a season, wouldn't the number of difficult plays remain fairly constant on a year-to-year basis?...Something doesn't quite add up, though I'm not sure exactly what it is.

There's your (possible) answer, fish-bulb: a faulty assumption. It's possible that in those outlier years the number of difficult plays wasn't constant. Or that A-Rod and/or Cano were particularly healthy/rangy in those years, mitigating Jeter's missed chances. The composition of the pitching staff could affect the type of plays to be made, too.
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 18, 2013 at 01:31 PM (#4371361)
There's your (possible) answer, fish-bulb: a faulty assumption. It's possible that in those outlier years the number of difficult plays wasn't constant. Or that A-Rod and/or Cano were particularly healthy/rangy in those years, mitigating Jeter's missed chances. The composition of the pitching staff could affect the type of plays to be made, too.

I think there's a positioning thing going on here.

The last 3 years of Torre ('05-'07) Jeter was -67 combined by B-Ref, -40 by UZR.

In the first 3 years of Girardi ('08-'10) Jeter was -22 by BRef, +2 by UZR.

Basically a +40 run improvement in each, or +13 per season. From a 34-36 y.o..
   17. Brian Posted: February 18, 2013 at 01:32 PM (#4371362)
Does a player who is as weak a hitter as Jeter is in the field even get the opportunity to have those bounce-back years with the bat? Offensive numbers determine playing time and they'd likely be driving a UPS truck by then.
   18. villageidiom Posted: February 18, 2013 at 01:47 PM (#4371365)
Has there ever been a batter as historically bad as PastaDivingJeter, who nevertheless in 3 or 4 widely scattered years managed to perform above average?
I seem to recall someone saying a few years ago that the amount of variation in defensive stats is such that a full season of a player's defensive stats is about as stable as 1-2 months of hitting stats. If so, then the equivalent question is this: Has there ever been a batter as historically bad as PastaDivingJeter, who nevertheless in 3 or 4 widely scattered periods of 1-2 months managed to perform above average? And the answer is most likely yes... although with the mitigating factor Brian mentions in #17 it's not something you see very often.
   19. SoSH U at work Posted: February 18, 2013 at 02:16 PM (#4371384)
If so, then the equivalent question is this: Has there ever been a batter as historically bad as PastaDivingJeter, who nevertheless in 3 or 4 widely scattered periods of 1-2 months managed to perform above average?


Ken Reitz, every April.

If there's a blueprint for a crappy player to carve out a long career, Reitz followed it to a T. Enjoy a nice burst of hitting in your cuppa coffee appearance, then get out of the gate fast each year. You'll get an awful long leash as teams keep waiting you to return to your established level.
   20. GuyM Posted: February 18, 2013 at 02:33 PM (#4371399)
It's hard to believe that Jeter's fielding skills would be as bad as they seem to have been for so many years, and then seemingly out of nowhere suddenly blossom and then wilt again as they did on those four occasions.

I think that's correct. But remember, in addition to the random variation in performance you see from hitters, there is a lot of measurement error in defensive stats that we don't have on offense. The methodology for collecting the BIS data underlying both DRS and UZR has changed over the past decade, and I believe BIS now admits their data had range bias problems until the past couple of years. So the most likely explanation is that Jeter never was average in the field. Far more likely is that the metrics underestimated his opportunities in those years that he appeared to be OK. Jeter's outs made totals don't bounce around that much.

Let's look at 2009, which was a good year for Jeter according to both UZR and DRS. That year, AL pitchers gave up 26,949 GBs, and 6,330 or 23.5% of those were turned into SS assists. NYY pitchers gave up 1844 groundballs, and NYY SS had 395 assists, for a 21.4% conversion rate. Assuming Jeter faced the same proportion of GBs as the team overall (and he played about 87% of the innings), Jeter recorded an assist on 21.2% of GBs. That difference between 21.2% and league average (.023) would mean Jeter made 37 fewer plays on GBs, at a cost of 26 runs, than an average SS. Now, it's possible that the GBs given up by NYY pitchers provided fewer opportunities than average at SS. But is it likely that the GB distribution was radically different enough to make Jeter an average SS, despite making fewer plays (relative to GB total) than any other SS in the league? No, that's not very likely. My guess is that if you look at other "good" Jeter seasons, you will often find a similar story.
   21. Ron J2 Posted: February 18, 2013 at 02:36 PM (#4371403)
#13 Best I can tell there's no meaningful signal in ~70% of defensive chances.

And Andy, talking specifically of Jeter, the standard deviation of his rbat is 15.9. The standard deviation of his totalzone is 8.3 runs. (the BIS numbers are 8.8, though we don't have them for his full career). In other words, his offensive numbers (by this metric -- but I think it's a valid way to look at volatility) are more volatile than his defensive numbers. (Which is completely unsurprising)

What truly appears to concern people about his fielding numbers is not the range of results but the fact that they're generally negative but occasionally veer into the positive. But that's no real surprise either. His average is -9.2 and the occasional +5, +4, +2 is completely predictable. Jeter's offensive numbers have a range of -9 to +58 (with an average of 22 -- using rbat in all cases)

   22. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 18, 2013 at 03:26 PM (#4371434)
It's hard to believe that Jeter's fielding skills would be as bad as they seem to have been for so many years, and then seemingly out of nowhere suddenly blossom and then wilt again as they did on those four occasions.

I think that's correct. But remember, in addition to the random variation in performance you see from hitters, there is a lot of measurement error in defensive stats that we don't have on offense.


And that was my point to begin with. We all know from both consensus stats and by continued observation that Jeter is a fielder of limited range, and here I'm being polite. So I'm not trying to fanboy him into something he's not.

But unless those positive outlier seasons were caused by health issues (or the lack of them), which doesn't seem likely, I don't see how fielding skills can come and go like batting skills, since the two skills have relatively little in common other than general reflexes.

I'm not saying that defensive skills can't be improved**, or that they don't atrophy with age. But I just can't see "sample size" or randomness affecting fielding skills in the same way that they affect batting skills,*** and I can't see how they would come and go the way they've done with Jeter.

Bottom line for me is that beyond demonstrating Jeter's obvious lack of range over the course of his career, I'm not sure whether those defensive metrics aren't still in the nascent stages of reliability. This won't be the first generation of statisticians that's had to go back to the drawing board to refine a particular metric, so there's nothing particularly damning in acknowledging that.

**By positioning, perhaps, but that leaves unexplained the difference among the three Girardi years, unless Girardi lost his cheat sheets along the way.

***An exception would be when you've got a mental case like Steve Sax or Chuck Knoblauch's throwing phobias, but I can't recall that's ever being an issue with Jeter.
   23. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: February 18, 2013 at 04:00 PM (#4371450)
   24. bunyon Posted: February 18, 2013 at 04:13 PM (#4371461)
I'm not saying that defensive skills can't be improved**, or that they don't atrophy with age. But I just can't see "sample size" or randomness affecting fielding skills in the same way that they affect batting skills,*** and I can't see how they would come and go the way they've done with Jeter.

If I understand what you're trying to say, I disagree strongly. I think you're saying that players shouldn't have ups and downs with their fielding, that if a guy is a great fielder, he'll always be a great fielder. I disagree with that. You have jumps, hands, timing, etc. I would completely expect defensive performance to fluctuate as does hitting.

Also, I don't think it really matters whether or not Jeter has been an average, to slightly below, SS or a historically bad SS*. His best case is average to slightly below. He'll be coming back at age 38 from a broken ankle. That is a not a guy a contender plans to use at SS every day. If he's truly historically poor defensively, he could be the equivalent of a dirty bomb at SS.

* defensively, of course.
   25. SoSH U at work Posted: February 18, 2013 at 04:21 PM (#4371464)
If I understand what you're trying to say, I disagree strongly. I think you're saying that players shouldn't have ups and downs with their fielding, that if a guy is a great fielder, he'll always be a great fielder. I disagree with that. You have jumps, hands, timing, etc. I would completely expect defensive performance to fluctuate as does hitting.


I would expect it to fluctuate, but at a lower range than hitting, in part because hitting involves a greater number of variables, many of them completely or nearly completely outside the hitter's ability to influence (such as the performance of pitcher or the fielder). These other individuals don't come into play as much for defenders, IMO. The ball is hit, you're measured by how well you do on the balls hit into your area.

* Outside bunts or Ichiro-type slap hitters, hitters have very little precise directional say in the batted ball.
   26. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 18, 2013 at 04:55 PM (#4371480)

**By positioning, perhaps, but that leaves unexplained the difference among the three Girardi years, unless Girardi lost his cheat sheets along the way.


The Girardi years look like perfectly normal aging by UZR. From age-34 to 38: -0.3, +6.4, -4.7, -6.5, -15.2.

The weirdness in the transition from -13 p.a. in the later Torre years, to basically average.

I think the best case you can make for Jeter is that he was a -5 to 0 SS earlier in his career, but the Torre Yankees used some positioning that caused his stats to be wonky.

   27. BDC Posted: February 18, 2013 at 05:06 PM (#4371489)
Has there ever been a batter as historically bad as PastaDivingJeter, who nevertheless in 3 or 4 widely scattered years managed to perform above average?

Mark Belanger comes close. He was terrible, almost always, but in 1969, 1971, and 1976 wasn't bad at all at the plate, especially for a shortstop.

There are a few catchers who kind of fit the bill, too: Brad Ausmus, or think of Bob Boone batting .295 at the age of 40 after conclusively proving for a decade he was washed up as a hitter, surviving on glove reputation alone.

The question requires an extreme player as an answer, someone who stayed in the league because his skill so overwhelmed his weakness, for a long career despite just not being adequate at one important thing. So there aren't going to be many of them.
   28. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 18, 2013 at 06:00 PM (#4371518)
If I understand what you're trying to say, I disagree strongly. I think you're saying that players shouldn't have ups and downs with their fielding, that if a guy is a great fielder, he'll always be a great fielder. I disagree with that. You have jumps, hands, timing, etc. I would completely expect defensive performance to fluctuate as does hitting.

SoSH pretty much mirrors my thoughts on this. My assumption is that the number of "hard chances" won't vary that much from season to season, even though they're a relatively small percentage of fielding chances.

Given that assumption, I can see non-injury related fielding skills being affected in opposing directions: Improvement by knowledge, and decline by aging. Obviously these are independent of each other, and their effect can vary by player, but I would expect that in the absence of injury, a shortstop's fielding skills would gradually improve as his knowledge increased, and then gradually (or not so gradually) decline once he began to lose a step or three. Jeter's stats don't seem to reflect this with any degree of consistency.

The wild card here is positioning that's set not by knowledge, but by falsely assumed knowledge. Call it the Torre factor if you want, and maybe that explains it all, though I'm not sure I'm buying it.

But here's another pair of stats that I'd like someone to explain: In 2005, Jeter had the worst year of his career WRT defensive runs saved above average (-27). And yet in that same year, he posted his best Range Factor, both PG and per 9 innings. Obviously there are factors here I'm missing, but he had a relatively normal number of errors that year (15), and I can't see how it all adds up.
   29. bunyon Posted: February 18, 2013 at 06:52 PM (#4371537)
I'm not talking variance due to aging or increased experience. I'm talking good ol' fashioned hot and cold, which I know has a bad rep around here. It isn't predictive, but fielders will have good and bad games. Ozzie made errors, too.

Of course there will be less variance due to fewer hard chances, but there will be variance. No one is a robot out there.
   30. villageidiom Posted: February 18, 2013 at 07:28 PM (#4371553)
I would expect it to fluctuate, but at a lower range than hitting, in part because hitting involves a greater number of variables, many of them completely or nearly completely outside the hitter's ability to influence (such as the performance of pitcher or the fielder). These other individuals don't come into play as much for defenders, IMO. The ball is hit, you're measured by how well you do on the balls hit into your area.
OK, let's back it up to just the equivalent variable: balls in play. Are fielding stats, which are all predicated on balls in play, going to fluctuate more or less than a hitter's stats based just on balls in play? In aggregate they're exactly the same, so ultimately it comes down to how it gets apportioned to each hitter and/or fielder.

There is absolutely no judgment involved in how to apportion it to a hitter: we know exactly* which hits and which outs were the product of each hitter.

For some outs, and for many hits, we don't know with certainty which fielders get responsibility, nor how much responsibility each gets. Even if we could tell which hits are the fault of the SS, vs. 3B or 2B or LF or P, we can't tell which outs fielded by the SS are more to the credit of the 1B (or 2B or 3B or C) for having saved a bad throw. The judgment involved introduces some fluctuation in the stats.

* If we had to apportion credit among fielders and the hitter, that would be another story.

My assumption is that the number of "hard chances" won't vary that much from season to season, even though they're a relatively small percentage of fielding chances.
Will they vary more than the number of "hard chances" for a hitter?

What's interesting here is that a batter has essentially an infinite number of "chances" in one plate appearance, any of which could be characterized as success (pitch didn't result in an out) or failure (pitch didn't result in getting on base). In a 12-pitch PA the hitter can have as many as 12 chances, 11 of which resulted in neither an out nor a time on base, and could still get a success or failure in the PA. The fielder doesn't have that volume of opportunity. I think the element of self-selection by the hitter within a PA is an important distinction.
   31. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 18, 2013 at 07:31 PM (#4371558)
I'm not talking variance due to aging or increased experience. I'm talking good ol' fashioned hot and cold, which I know has a bad rep around here.

I'm not arguing against the hot and the cold, only I think that with fielding much more than batting, it's likely to even out over the course of the season. And I still can't figure out how to make sense of Jeter's 2005 season.
   32. Howie Menckel Posted: February 18, 2013 at 07:50 PM (#4371563)

Didn't Yankees coach Mick Kelleher, the ex-Cub, improve Jeter's positioning and thus some performance.

I think it was Jeter moving in too much because he knew he was very good at chasing down pop flies in the short OF. But that left him more vulnerable to grounders due to his slow reaction times. Something like that, anyway....

   33. Ron J Posted: February 18, 2013 at 09:42 PM (#4371598)
My assumption is that the number of "hard chances" won't vary that much from season to season,


I think that's a shaky assumption. And that unequal distribution of difficult chances are the primary source of error in defensive metrics.
   34. Publius Publicola Posted: February 18, 2013 at 10:03 PM (#4371604)
Has there ever been a batter as historically bad as PastaDivingJeter, who nevertheless in 3 or 4 widely scattered years managed to perform above average?


Eddie Brinkman deserves consideration. in 1967-68, he put up a 48 and 44+ OPS+. Then in 69-70, he recorded 89 and 80, dropped back to 59 the following year, then at age 32, his last full season, he recorded a 74.

Ted Williams was an incredible hitting coach. Bad manager but a phenomenal hitting coach.
   35. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 18, 2013 at 10:04 PM (#4371606)
My assumption is that the number of "hard chances" won't vary that much from season to season,

I think that's a shaky assumption. And that unequal distribution of difficult chances are the primary source of error in defensive metrics.


You could well be right, but the logical followup to that point would be to ask a few more questions:

1. What is the definition of a "hard chance"? Does it apply only to ground balls? What about popups that a player has to run a long way to catch? What's the dividing line between "hard" and "routine"?

1a. Once the definition is agreed upon, who looks at the videos to count those "hard chances"? Hopefully not too much subjectivity would creep into the count.

2. And once that point has been settled, has anyone worked out a defensive metric that considers ONLY "hard chances"? That way the critical number would be a rate stat that would (a) mean something more than it does now; and (b) not vary as much from season to season.

Until all those issues have been addressed and resolved, I can't see how defensive metrics can be relied on to give us much more than a crude graph of relative abilities. Of course if there's a metric out there that does deal with all of the above, I take it all back and turn myself over to the bulls.
   36. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: February 18, 2013 at 10:09 PM (#4371607)
Mark Belanger comes close. He was terrible, almost always, but in 1969, 1971, and 1976 wasn't bad at all at the plate, especially for a shortstop.


Mark Belanger is a perfect example. The three years mentioned he had OPS+ of 95, 97, and 100, all while batting 590 or so times. His best full season after those was 75, and he went downhill quickly after that: 64, 61, 61, 59, 58...
   37. PreservedFish Posted: February 18, 2013 at 11:21 PM (#4371627)
I think it's cute how people always use positioning as "the thing that explains every result we don't understand" in these advanced defensive stats conversations.
   38. Walt Davis Posted: February 19, 2013 at 03:05 AM (#4371684)
It's anomalies like this that make me question the value of these ratings. I'll put my skepticism in form of a question:

Has there ever been a batter as historically bad as PastaDivingJeter, who nevertheless in 3 or 4 widely scattered years managed to perform above average? I've seen plenty of hitters who've had one or two seasons early in their careers that stand out, but I've never seen one whose batting numbers are as consistently godawful as Jeter's defensive metrics, and yet every few years they seem to learn something about hitting and put up numbers that are radically better than their historic norm---only revert to their godawful form the next year.


Anything can be explained by chance -- the size of the variance will simply tell you how likely such outcomes are. Then when you pull in the probability of it happening to at least one somebody ...

Anyway, Rfield is not what you want to use here. Jeter is a lousy fielding SS, maybe historically bad by SS standards but a much better defender than a guy who's historically bad by RF standards. Jeter has -9 dWAR (half a win per year); Sheffield had -29 dWAR. Light years apart. Prince in 7 full seasons is already up to -15 and could end up blowing past Sheffield if he lasts as long. bWAR is essentially saying that Jeter is Bill Madlock or Ray Durham playing SS -- not a pretty sight but a damn sight better than Harmon Killebrew (-19 dWAR).

As to wackiness, ain't nothing better than Campaneris' 22 HR in 1970 -- about 30% of his career total in about 7% of his career PA.

Now, how about Derek Jeter's crazy hitting numbers? The first number is the change in Jeter's Rbat from the previous season starting with 1997 compared to 1996. The second set is the change in his Rfield:

+5 +11
+24 +5
+20 -13
-26 -12
-1 +6
-16 -1
+5 +5
0 0
+11 -14
+5 +11
-6 -8
-22 +14
+19 +13
-36 -12
+10 -6
+13 -3

His year-to-year variation in Rbat is much larger than the year-to-year variation in Rfield. The biggest bounce he's ever had on defense is 14 runs; he's had 7 seasons where his offense changed more than that.

Imagine how insane you would think it is if his defensive numbers changed by 36 runs from one season to the next but the 36 run drop in offense from 2009 to 10 wasn't taken as evidence of the unsuitability of offensive stats.

If Jeter (or any player) can regularly bounce around by 10, 20, 30 runs on offense from year-to-year, why would you be alarmed that defensive numbers bounce around by 10-15 runs sometimes.

Feel free to take a look at any of his stats. It's pretty common for his BA to bounce around by 20-30 points. His OBP went through a stretch where it went up 50 then down 22 then down another 40. His ISO went up 40 points then another 50 points then down 60 points. His BABIP has varied between 307 and 396 -- particularly fun was up 43, down 64, up 36, up 40, down 24, down 34, up 35, down 61.

Also missed in all of this is that a missed play is worth something on the order of .7 to .8 runs -- the single is worth about -.5 and the out would have been worth +.3. -12 runs is 15 missed plays which is 1 every 10 games or so. I don't think it's hard to believe he'd miss a play every 10 games most of the time and I don't find it hard to believe that some years he makes those 15 plays. He's had some seasons where his HRs went up/down by about 10; seasons where his doubles have jumped/dropped by 15-20; why not defensive plays not made?
   39. PreservedFish Posted: February 19, 2013 at 04:17 AM (#4371692)
If Jeter (or any player) can regularly bounce around by 10, 20, 30 runs on offense from year-to-year, why would you be alarmed that defensive numbers bounce around by 10-15 runs sometimes.


Do you have this point on autotext by now?

Obviously people think that defense doesn't slump or vary the way that hitting does. It's not a very studied view, and it might be totally bunk, but it exists.

(Also, Rbat and Rfield probably operate on different scales, don't they?)
   40. Ron J2 Posted: February 19, 2013 at 10:44 AM (#4371748)
Also, Rbat and Rfield probably operate on different scales, don't they?


Not sure precisely what you mean, but:

a) they're both expressed in runs (obvious to be sure, but worth noting since we're talking scales)

b) The range between the best and worst hitters (by rbat) is far larger than the difference between the best and worst fielders (by any defensive metric when you express it in runs). The differences are smaller when you compare regulars by position (ie compare the rbat and rfield of ss separately) but still the range of results are generally larger on the hitting side.
   41. Howie Menckel Posted: February 19, 2013 at 11:29 AM (#4371789)

"I think it's cute how people always use positioning as "the thing that explains every result we don't understand" in these advanced defensive stats conversations."

????

Admittedly, I think it's cute when people think that a change in defensive strategy couldn't possibly explain anything, so there's that.
   42. GuyM Posted: February 19, 2013 at 12:13 PM (#4371836)
Admittedly, I think it's cute when people think that a change in defensive strategy couldn't possibly explain anything, so there's that.

The point is that claims of "change in positioning" almost never have any evidence associated with them. No evidence that a change took place in a specific circumstance, and no evidence that it helped/hurt the defense. It's invariably hand-waving, usually in service of ignoring some result that is considered offensive and/or mysterious.
   43. PreservedFish Posted: February 19, 2013 at 12:28 PM (#4371844)
What Guy said.

Also, please note that I never said that changes in defensive strategy couldn't explain anything.
   44. Howie Menckel Posted: February 19, 2013 at 12:47 PM (#4371859)

"Also, please note that I never said that changes in defensive strategy couldn't explain anything."

I think you said that right below where I said I used "positioning as the thing that explains every result we don't understand."

wait, you can't find that line? huh.

I'm also not sure how "evidence" can be proven via change in positioning. Even if a player moved 2 feet forward and backward each play and his fielding metrics improved significantly that year, it could always be said that it is merely a correlation and not cause and effect.

Let's just agree that we won't assume either that changes in defensive strategy always work, or that they never work - and then go from there.


   45. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 19, 2013 at 12:55 PM (#4371864)
Let's just agree that we won't assume either that changes in defensive strategy always work, or that they never work - and then go from there.

Let's just agree that it's going to be a long time before defensive metrics can measure fielding skills to the same degree of nuance as batting metrics measure hitting skills. That doesn't mean that Derek Jeter is a good or even average shortstop, which few if any people here are saying.
   46. Howie Menckel Posted: February 19, 2013 at 01:23 PM (#4371887)

"Let's just agree that it's going to be a long time before defensive metrics can measure fielding skills to the same degree of nuance as batting metrics measure hitting skills."

I agree.

   47. GuyM Posted: February 19, 2013 at 01:29 PM (#4371894)
Let's just agree that we won't assume either that changes in defensive strategy always work, or that they never work - and then go from there.

No, let's assume that the differences we observe between fielders in terms of their success at turning batted balls into outs reflects their fielding skill. That is, let's start by assuming that every fielder positions himself in the best place possible given his particular strengths and weaknesses, and that to the extent he doesn't do this it is his shortcoming. Then, if someone wants to argue that a specific player is positioned unusually well or badly, and this is the result of management commands rather than his own judgment, that someone can provide some evidence for those claims.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
cardsfanboy
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogOTP Politics November 2014: Mets Deny Bias in Ticket Official’s Firing
(4269 - 11:12am, Nov 24)
Last: snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster)

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 11-24-2014
(2 - 11:12am, Nov 24)
Last: Dag is a salt water fish in fresh water world

NewsblogStanton Losing About $141 Million of Record Deal to Taxes - Bloomberg
(3 - 11:04am, Nov 24)
Last: Charles S. will not yield to this monkey court

NewsblogBoston Red Sox in talks to acquire free agent Hanley Ramirez - ESPN Boston
(9 - 11:01am, Nov 24)
Last: Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site

NewsblogCashman in wait-and-see mode on retooling Yanks | yankees.com
(25 - 10:59am, Nov 24)
Last: You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR)

NewsblogOT:  Soccer (the Round, True Football), November 2014
(454 - 10:52am, Nov 24)
Last: Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine

NewsblogRed Sox trying for mega-free agent double play: Panda and Hanley - CBSSports.com
(103 - 10:50am, Nov 24)
Last: Textbook Editor

NewsblogOT: NFL/NHL thread
(8651 - 10:44am, Nov 24)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogESPN Suspends Keith Law From Twitter For Defending Evolution
(107 - 10:36am, Nov 24)
Last: Famous Original Joe C

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - November 2014
(1012 - 10:32am, Nov 24)
Last: Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine

NewsblogOT: Wrestling Thread November 2014
(61 - 9:57am, Nov 24)
Last: Conor

NewsblogSunday Notes: Arroyo’s Rehab, Clark & the MLBPA, Doc Gooden, AFL Arms, ChiSox, more
(17 - 9:30am, Nov 24)
Last: depletion

NewsblogMatthews: Cashman sleeps on the street, says all is quiet on the free-agent front
(25 - 9:18am, Nov 24)
Last: bunyon

NewsblogHanley Ramirez and the Logjam in Boston | FanGraphs Baseball
(1 - 8:05am, Nov 24)
Last: Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer

NewsblogKemp drawing interest, raising chance he's the Dodgers OF dealt - CBSSports.com
(30 - 1:16am, Nov 24)
Last: akrasian

Page rendered in 0.6846 seconds
52 querie(s) executed