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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Posnanski Top-100 #57: Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter is the most overrated/underrated player of our time. This is in part because he has been a central figure on the essential team of the last 20 or so years, the New York Yankees. This is in part because he is such a charismatic figure and because he has so gracefully (and carefully) managed his image. But perhaps most, this is because Jeter’s value as a player has always felt at least partly unmeasurable. And the arguments about unmeasurable things can rage hot and rage forever.

Have at it

gehrig97 Posted: January 26, 2014 at 07:50 PM | 60 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: derek jeter, yankees

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   1. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 27, 2014 at 09:46 AM (#4646648)
whatever the numbers and people's opinions what is absolutely true is that you cannot overstate the value of having an intelligent and athletic player in the middle of the action. it is no coincidence that jeter has had multiple 'you gotta be kidding me' moments involving some unique play where he was the defender.
   2. Sean Forman Posted: January 27, 2014 at 09:52 AM (#4646650)
Harvey,

I understand what you are saying, but I do wonder how much of these is that he's played essentially a full season of postseason games. If you were to watch a good starter for a full season, don't you think you might see a similar set of plays?
   3. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:03 AM (#4646656)
I like his posts about players I don't particularly know much about to be much more interesting than his posts about guys like Jeter. For example, his post about Kid Nichols was a fun read.
   4. john_halfz Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:09 AM (#4646659)
[2] Not necessarily. Jeter may have been hampered by limited lateral quickness and/or poor positioning for most of his career.

But he also anticipates how plays may develop, particularly with men on base. After the pitch is thrown, at least, he knows where to go, and where the throw should go. Doesn't sound like a lot, but that, in combination with sure hands, has probably somewhat mitigated a potential disaster. And led to some pretty impressive moments, as well.
   5. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:23 AM (#4646663)
If you were to watch a good starter for a full season, don't you think you might see a similar set of plays?

i used to watch the Yankees play 10 or so games a season in jeter's heyday and he regularly demonstrated a game intelligence far greater than the typical shortstop.

i freely acknowledge his other limitations. but his game 'smarts' has always been his greatest asset

it galls me somewhat that this community seems to underplay this part of his portfolio

jj hardy is that type of player. only hardy also is a fundamentally better shortstop.

that kid in Atlanta flashed some of this as well. and since his base tools are so awesome it's not suprising that his defensive numbers are eyepopping
   6. zonk Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:25 AM (#4646664)
I'm with Sean --

Yeah, he was really toolsy and prone to bonehead errors -- but I remember plenty of times where I'd see Shawon Dunston make a play and think, just for a moment, "Geez, how is this guy not thought of as the best SS in baseball?".... Then he'd airmail a routine grounder into the 15th row and I'd remember why.

57 seems high for Jeter... He's a great player, no doubt HoFer, and whatnot... but I feel like I could get easily get to 10 better SSs than him without even thinking too hard.
   7. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:28 AM (#4646666)
zonk/sean

i am not speaking to jeter's 'ranking'

just sharing why i admired the player. i like guys with baseball smarts
   8. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:43 AM (#4646670)
Then he'd airmail a routine grounder into the 15th row and I'd remember why.


One thing in Jeter's favor (and it links to Harveys' comments about his baseball IQ) is that you rarely see Jeter make that kind of play. He has a pretty good sense of his limitations and if he doesn't have a play he eats the throw. Yeah his range sucks but I think not making a bad situation worse is an important skill for a big league player. Jeter rarely turns an infield hit into a runner on second situation and that has value.

He's not a good defensive player but I think his reliability on balls he does get to makes him a bit more valuable than an average player with his range would be.
   9. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:50 AM (#4646675)
A-Rod's spent nearly half his career at 3B now, so he's out of the running IMO. Yount and Banks are in the same position. You may feel differently and include them.

There's only two players who are clearly better, for their careers, than Jeter. That's Wagner and Ripken. After that comes Jeter, Ozzie, Vaughn, Appling, Trammell, and Larkin. Those six can be placed in almost any order you wish, which would put Jeter in 8th place, at worst. For Jeter to be outside of the top 10 of shortstops would require you to consider him the equivalent of Pee Wee Reese or Lou Bourdreau, while at the same time ranking guys above him who spent barely half their career at the position. That's at the very least not "easily" 10 better shortstops.

He was, as Posnanski points out, a metronomically magnificent player, and I don't think this placement is a reach. I'd put him at somewhere around 5th among SS, personally.
   10. Morty Causa Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:56 AM (#4646679)
I might even go so far as to say that Posnanski has Jeter underrated. (And others.) I kind of wish Joe would go more into justifying his ratings, as well as explaining why he prefers one player over another, or others, who are very similar. After a while I get the sense that much of his ratings are mired in unexplained arbitrariness. Keen observations and smart comments otherwise, though.

Edit for typos.
   11. cardsfanboy Posted: January 27, 2014 at 11:21 AM (#4646688)
I might even go so far as to say that Posnanski has Jeter underrated. (And others.) I kind of wish Joe would go more into justifying his ratings, as well as explaining why he prefers one player over another, or others, who are very similar. After a while I get the sense that much of his ratings are mired in unexplained arbitrariness. Keen observations and smart comments otherwise, though.


Really? It sounds about right to me, Without looking anything up I can easily name 30+ players better than Jeter, and considering that Pos is going to include the Negro leagues there are a few of them who will rank higher than him, at best Jeter is 3rd best shortstop of all time, and also ranks behind a few of the hybrid players like Arod or Yount. (I mean you have Mays, Cobb, Ruth, Williams, Bonds, Musial, Aaron, Robinson, Mantle, Speaker, Henderson, Wagner, Hornsby, Ripken, Schmidt, Bench, Berra, Gehrig, Pujols, Arod, Collins, Ott, Lajoie, Young, Maddux, Clemens, Alexander, Johnson, Randy Johnson, Grove, Seaver, Mathewson....and a few others...) (looking it up, I think legitimate arguments could be made for Yaz, Spahn, Niekro, Perry, Collins, Morgan, Foxx, Eddie Mathews, Clemente, Kaline, Griffey jr, Boggs, Brett and Chipper---actually I'm pretty comfortable with saying everyone I listed ranks better than Jeter, we haven't really hit the debatable guys and I'm at 46 names, and this is ignoring short career phenoms like Pedro or Koufax or even Piazza, and of course we know Josh Gibson will be in there.)
   12. GregD Posted: January 27, 2014 at 11:29 AM (#4646690)
Yeah I don't think he's worried about exactly where someone slots, or at least he spends almost no time justifying 57 vs 61 or something. I think he has 100 players he wants to write about who were great players.

It would be hard for me to believe that Jeter is not in the top 10 shortstops ever. Since he is almost certainly one of the 4-5 best-hitting shortstops ever for a career, you would have to believe that the dWAR numbers that are currently atrocious in fact wildly overrate him. So instead of arguing that the numbers are correct and his reputation is wrong, you would have to argue that the numbers themselves are so wrong as to be almost useless.

bref has him by career behind Wagner, ARod, Ripken, Yount, Smith, Appling, and Vaughan in total WAR for players who played a lot of shortstop. A bit ahead of Trammell and Larkin. Even if you move him behind them on the grounds that bref's defensive numbers are so bad that you have to override them, he's still top 10. Are you going to then move Ernie Banks or Cronin or Reese or Boudreau, as scott asks? That seems hard to justify without relying on big subjective overrides of the data. If the career measures bother you, you can go by peak, but he had 15.5 WAR over two seasons, 20 over 3, and 24.6 over 4 consecutive years. Who from the lower list is catching him there?

I am no Jeter fan, and I despise the tendency of media people to make him emblematic of the "good in the game" but I also think Jeter got about as much out of his talent as anyone I ever saw. He played smart; he was in impeccable shape over a long career; he was consistent. He may not have had the physical talents that people assumed he had, but he got as much out of what he had as anybody I can think of.
   13. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 27, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4646693)
at best Jeter is 3rd best shortstop of all time, and also ranks behind a few of the hybrid players like Arod or Yount.

Yount has already been listed at #62. Among other really good shortstops, Barry Larkin (85), Ozzie Smith (77), and Arky Vaughan (73) are also behind Jeter on the list.

That said, I agree wholeheartedly with the first paragraph of #12. I'm not reading these essays for the rigor of the rankings.
   14. zonk Posted: January 27, 2014 at 11:49 AM (#4646702)
OK - redacted...

   15. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 27, 2014 at 11:55 AM (#4646704)
Posnanski had "Roy Hobbs" at No. 57, but replaced him with Jeter. Since he put Thomas and Bagwell together, his 100 is now headed toward 101 players.

I think these are accurate counts so far:

Negro Leaguers: Bell, Rogan, Leonard, Williams, Stearnes (partial Irvin and Campanella)
Japan: Oh (partial Ichiro)
19th Century Players: Radbourn, Nichols
Active Players: Ichiro, Cabrera, Jeter
   16. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: January 27, 2014 at 12:04 PM (#4646711)
Yeah I don't think he's worried about exactly where someone slots, or at least he spends almost no time justifying 57 vs 61 or something.


And this is why we keep Pos in the rolodex. There are few things in the current iteration of stat-dork analytic tendencies more annoying and played than the ordinal list of rankings (usually by WAR.)
   17. gehrig97 Posted: January 27, 2014 at 12:27 PM (#4646730)
Hmmm... far as I can see, there are only two active players who will crack the remaining slots on the list: A-Rod (let's call it 16th) and Pujols (22nd).
   18. PreservedFish Posted: January 27, 2014 at 12:32 PM (#4646731)
few things in the current iteration of stat-dork analytic tendencies more annoying and played than the ordinal list of rankings


This isn't exactly unique thing that stat-dorks do. But yeah, the point here is clearly the biographies and not the rankings. I almost would prefer it to be "100 remarkable players."
   19. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: January 27, 2014 at 12:34 PM (#4646733)
But yeah, the point here is clearly the biographies and not the rankings. I almost would prefer it to be "100 remarkable players."


I think Turkey Stearns is in the lead so far. Great piece of writing, great character, and someone I knew virtually nothing about before Joe wrote it up.
   20. pikepredator Posted: January 27, 2014 at 12:50 PM (#4646745)
I wouldn't be surprised if Joe tweaked the rankings to keep things mixed up, too. make sure to break up the players by position/NEL/etc. that way the unveiling of each new player is part of the overall story he's telling. This list is a meatball down the middle for his writing style.

there's no way to guess who's next. Sure we might be able to guess most of the next 10 and it will get easier as we get to the top, but who's next? After he's already put in turkey stearns and roy hobbs and two guys at one slot? I haven't been this excited to see what's next since Lost was in its infancy.
   21. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 27, 2014 at 01:01 PM (#4646750)
There's only two players who are clearly better, for their careers, than Jeter. That's Wagner and Ripken. After that comes Jeter, Ozzie, Vaughn, Appling, Trammell, and Larkin. Those six can be placed in almost any order you wish, which would put Jeter in 8th place, at worst. For Jeter to be outside of the top 10 of shortstops would require you to consider him the equivalent of Pee Wee Reese or Lou Bourdreau, while at the same time ranking guys above him who spent barely half their career at the position. That's at the very least not "easily" 10 better shortstops.

Only if you don't count pre-1947 blacks like John Henry Lloyd, Grant Johnson and Willie Wells at the very least and possibly (Artie Wilson, Buster Clarkson, Dick Lundy and Dobie Moore), or 19th century SS like Dickey Pearce, George Davis, Bill Dahlen, Jack Glasscock (and possibly John Ward and Hughie Jennings). I personally have Jeter about 25th all-time, but I can see an argument anywhere between about 7th and 30th.
   22. GregD Posted: January 27, 2014 at 01:11 PM (#4646757)
I personally have Jeter about 25th all-time
To get there, given his offense, you have to penalize his defense far, far more than WAR or UZR do, right? So how does that work? Do you discard all their defensive numbers since the ones for Jeter are so far off from your system? Or just his?

Jeter started out being the test case for believing defensive numbers over reputation, but the issue seems to have shifted. Is Jeter now the test case for disregarding defensive numbers in favor of subjective factors?
   23. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: January 27, 2014 at 01:25 PM (#4646771)
I have no special love for Derek Jeter, but I'm very confident that the metrics get his defense wrong, especially in the late 90's and early 00's. Both Jeter and Bernie Williams were very well regarded by scouts. Both won GG's. Both are awful by the metric. The Yankees won a ton of games in that time frame, and while their pitchers reflect poor defensive support, I have a hard time believing that two key positions were manned by all-time bad defensive players.

Jeter at -5 in his prime? I'll buy that. Jeter at -25? I have a much harder time with that. (Note that if you do the same for Bernie, it's basically the difference between the HOVG and the HOF.)
   24. Rickey! On a blog from 1998. With the candlestick. Posted: January 27, 2014 at 01:31 PM (#4646773)
Jeter at -5 in his prime? I'll buy that. Jeter at -25? I have a much harder time with that. (Note that if you do the same for Bernie, it's basically the difference between the HOVG and the HOF.)


I hate Jeter's smug little mug about as much as I hate anyone, but this is true. And this is also why I think Bernie Williams should be in the Hall. I don't trust the back dated metrics at all.
   25. bookbook Posted: January 27, 2014 at 01:52 PM (#4646780)
I worry about this concept and our perceptions around the idea of baseball smarts. Ever since George Will's article on Cal Ripken claiming he was the smartest, had the best sense of where the ball was going, was a positional genius, etc. The other guys who were playing baseball their whole lives didn't figure the same things out? None of them? Heck, the DR guys were living and breathing baseball while Cal was doing geometry and captaining his school's soccer team.

As someone who has watched Yuniansky Betancourt and Willie Bloomquist make incredible plays, I'm skeptical that our perceptions are accurate on the Jeters and Ripkens of the world.
   26. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: January 27, 2014 at 02:08 PM (#4646794)
I worry about this concept and our perceptions around the idea of baseball smarts. Ever since George Will's article on Cal Ripken claiming he was the smartest, had the best sense of where the ball was going, was a positional genius, etc. The other guys who were playing baseball their whole lives didn't figure the same things out? None of them? Heck, the DR guys were living and breathing baseball while Cal was doing geometry and captaining his school's soccer team.

As someone who has watched Yuniansky Betancourt and Willie Bloomquist make incredible plays, I'm skeptical that our perceptions are accurate on the Jeters and Ripkens of the world.


I'm sure our perceptions are wrong, maybe often so, but someone has to be the best and someone has to be the worst. Just to use Ripken as an example, you have a guy who was not especially fast and built vastly different from his early-career contemporaries who was unquestionably a great defender. It seems logical to suggest that his baseball IQ might be a good reason for that.
   27. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 27, 2014 at 02:15 PM (#4646802)
I have no special love for Derek Jeter, but I'm very confident that the metrics get his defense wrong, especially in the late 90's and early 00's. Both Jeter and Bernie Williams were very well regarded by scouts. Both won GG's. Both are awful by the metric. The Yankees won a ton of games in that time frame, and while their pitchers reflect poor defensive support, I have a hard time believing that two key positions were manned by all-time bad defensive players.

Jeter at -5 in his prime? I'll buy that. Jeter at -25? I have a much harder time with that. (Note that if you do the same for Bernie, it's basically the difference between the HOVG and the HOF.)


I'd even buy -10 for Jeter's prime. But, -25 is stretching credulity.
   28. Ron J2 Posted: January 27, 2014 at 02:20 PM (#4646806)
#12 It is worth noting that for WAR purposes for the bulk of his career the defensive numbers are heavily regressed. If you use any system that starts with the set of assumptions that Colin Wyers (to take but one example of somebody who has put a lot of thought into defense), Jeter ends up far worse.

He always is going to end up as the worst defensive SS among players who had a significant career at the position and any systemic problems are likely to be at the extreme edges.
   29. BDC Posted: January 27, 2014 at 02:40 PM (#4646823)
"Backdated" or not, it strikes me that the WAR metrics do balance: that is, the Yankees dynasty teams 1996-03 tend to rank very high on oWAR, relatively low on dWAR, high on pitching: just what you'd expect from a team that gave some runs back by stretching its defenders, on the theory that they were going to end up with huge net pluses by having such great hitters up the middle and some strikeout pitching to avoid too many Pasta groundballs. A run is a run, after all, and in high-run environments you can win even while giving quite a few up. If one could really argue that Jeter and Williams were excellent defenders, they would be among the greatest players ever. (Jeter pretty much is anyway.)
   30. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: January 27, 2014 at 03:08 PM (#4646839)
No offense intended, but the idea that one can easily find 10 better SS than Jeter (which implies that with a little effort it could be 15 or 20) kinda feels like troll territory and sour grapes. Or, at best, a pretty wide open and selective definition of what qualifies as best. If ya follow that logic ...
   31. villageidiom Posted: January 27, 2014 at 04:51 PM (#4646922)
Or, at best, a pretty wide open and selective definition of what qualifies as best.
Or what qualifies as shortstop.
   32. philphan Posted: January 27, 2014 at 05:40 PM (#4646957)
Both Jeter and Bernie Williams were very well regarded by scouts. Both won GG's. Both are awful by the metric. The Yankees won a ton of games in that time frame, and while their pitchers reflect poor defensive support, I have a hard time believing that two key positions were manned by all-time bad defensive players.


I watched a lot of Yankees baseball in the late 90s and early 00s, and I loved Bernie Williams, but his defensive shortcomings were painfully obvious. Besides having an extremely weak arm, he got some of the worst reads on fly balls that I have ever seen in a star centerfielder. Early in his career, he would manage to outrun a lot of his mistakes, but as he aged, he became a real sieve in CF. As I recall, he was also an early adopter of Lasik, and after that I thought his defense got even worse, not better--especially in night games. I was a real Bernie fanboy, but he was very hard to watch sometimes in the field.
   33. bookbook Posted: January 27, 2014 at 06:03 PM (#4646966)
Ripken had a great arm so he could play deeper than anyone else. He had long arms and very good fast twitch reactions, so played "faster" in defense than he ran. I don't think it was about brains
   34. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: January 27, 2014 at 06:22 PM (#4646970)
He had long arms and very good fast twitch reactions, so played "faster" in defense than he ran. I don't think it was about brains


To turn around your previous argument don't other guys have good fast twitch reactions?

And were Ripken's arms really that long? How much of an advantage to longer arms give a defensive player?

Lastly, shouldn't the fact that he realized he COULD play a bit deeper count as a sign of baseball IQ?
   35. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 27, 2014 at 06:36 PM (#4646977)
I personally have Jeter about 25th all-time
To get there, given his offense, you have to penalize his defense far, far more than WAR or UZR do, right? So how does that work? Do you discard all their defensive numbers since the ones for Jeter are so far off from your system? Or just his?

No, I just used BB-Ref's WAA numbers to get there. In my next iteration I'll incorporate DRA but I didn't do anything to specifically penalize Jeter. I was surprised by his mediocre showing myself.
   36. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 27, 2014 at 07:03 PM (#4646989)
No, I just used BB-Ref's WAA numbers to get there.

I think you may need to revisit your math then.
   37. toratoratora Posted: January 27, 2014 at 07:17 PM (#4646993)
I'm sure our perceptions are wrong, maybe often so, but someone has to be the best and someone has to be the worst. Just to use Ripken as an example, you have a guy who was not especially fast and built vastly different from his early-career contemporaries who was unquestionably a great defender. It seems logical to suggest that his baseball IQ might be a good reason for that.

Not to mention that his Dad was a coach and Cal grew up in the clubhouse and surrounded by the game. Better yet,he was around the 60's and 70's O's-Who better to pick up tips from than players such as Brooks and Belanger?
I watched Cal his whole career.He was big and didn't have much range,but he was rarely out of position and he had a good accurate arm.
It's always been my perception that in some ways this part of his game is underrated.How nice would it be as a pitcher to look behind you and see Cal out there,always in place,always ready to make the play, every inning every game? That's a nice security blanket.
   38. Moeball Posted: January 27, 2014 at 07:28 PM (#4646999)
And were Ripken's arms really that long? How much of an advantage to longer arms give a defensive player?


One of the first things I ever read as a wee lad about Honus Wagner was that he had exceptionally long arms and that his teammates would tease him about it. But he also was considered the finest defensive shortstop of his day with a cannon throwing arm, so maybe it does mean something?

Now, a real off the top of my head numeric exercise. Maybe we can look numbers up that could fine-tune this, and I'm sure I'm oversimplifying this, but I just want to get a sense of something here.

What percentage of balls in play are really fieldable? (Is that even a word?) Here's what I'm thinking - if, on average, about 4 balls per game are hit anywhere near where a shortstop could make a play on them - and if 80% of all balls hit in the area are going to have the same results no matter who is playing shortstop - either screaming liners ripped through the hole that nobody could possibly stop or routine plays that virtually anybody could handle - that would leave about 20% of the balls hit into the area that would actually test major league defensive skill. 20% of 4 plays per game would come to 0.8 plays per game or about 130 plays over the course of a season. These are the plays that would really tell you who were the outstanding fielding shortstops and who should be moved to some other position.

Now, historically, hasn't an out recorded usually been worth about a 0.25 run reduction? Doesn't a single usually represent about a 0.45 run increase? So, isn't the ability to turn a single into an out worth about 0.7 runs saved? If this is roughly the case, then it would seem to me that the maximum possible difference between an Ozzie Smith type shortstop and a really dreadful one - over the course of 130 plays in a season - would be about 90 runs, and that's if Ozzie could convert every single one of the "questionable" plays into outs while the terrible fielder couldn't handle any of them. If the average fielding shortstop is in the middle somewhere, say, converting 65 of those plays into outs - then, at most the top shortstops would be about 45 runs per season better than average and the worst defensive shortstops would be about 45 runs below average.

That's a pretty significant range and, if it reflected reality, this would mean that a top-notch defensive shortstop really could be about 4 WAA in a season even if he was just an average hitter. So does it reflect reality? I don't honestly know. Andrelton Simmons' rfield this past year came in at +41 compared to an average shortstop, so it may be plausible that the range extends that far upward, but I think from what I've read above that a lot of people here don't trust the defensive metrics enough to even buy the premise that a shortstop could be 40 runs above average defensively in a season. I sense that it isn't just that people don't believe Andrelton Simmons was a +41 last season - I think people don't believe that anyone could be a +41 in a season.

To tie this back to the Jeter topic, on the flip side of that I also think people don't believe that the bottom end of the range could extend to -30 or -40 runs in a season, either. So here's what I'm thinking - I think we all agree that the average player today is better than the average player of past generations. A certain amount of timelining seems appropriate. Maybe the way to approach it might be that perhaps in days of yore there were 20% of balls in play that were truly up for grabs - but maybe that's only 10% now? If that were the case then the extremes of the range at shortstop would get cut in half from my earlier example. A top level fielder would only be at most 20-23 runs a season better than average whereas the bottom-dwellers would only be about 20 or so runs below average. Does this fit more in line with what most people think?

Some final thoughts on Jeter's defensive performance, for what it's worth. Many people think the B-Ref rating of Jeter defensively is too harsh and therefore don't trust the numbers, assuming that he really was only about -5 runs per season instead of -25 or whatever. But B-Ref's rating is actually very favorable for Jeter compared to some other measurement systems. Michael Humphreys' book Wizardry has Jeter as much worse defensively than B-Ref shows him - something like 100 runs worse over the course of his career, I think - and the old defensive Pete Palmer linear weights system - which, granted, nobody really uses much any more - is still reflected on the Retrosheet site. There Jeter is downgraded so harshly defensively that he is seen to be giving back almost all of his offensive value over his career to the point where he is only about 15 or 16 WAA for his career - this is a level that is clearly well below HOF-level historically and is barely even HOVG.

In case I'm reinventing the wheel here, has anyone seen any actual studies as to what percentage of balls in play really are playable with any chance of turning them into an out? I'm curious.
   39. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 27, 2014 at 07:29 PM (#4647001)
Ripken Sr didn't coach with the big club until 1976. Managed in the minors for 15 years before that.

Of course, I'm not sure how much young Cal would have learned by hanging out with the 1969 O's, seeing as he was 9 years old that summer. ;-)
   40. Howie Menckel Posted: January 27, 2014 at 09:28 PM (#4647045)

HOM in 2008 did SS rankings for those retired by 2002

http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/hall_of_merit/discussion/election_results_wagnerlloyd_ripken_vaughan_davis_dahlen_and_yount_get_at_l
   41. Walt Davis Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:09 PM (#4647053)
Jeter at -5 in his prime?

Which prime? Chances are a player's defensive prime occurs early in their career while their offensive prime occurs when they are 27-28 (or so). As a player adds bulk (as most young players do as they improve as hitters) and compiles some nagging injuries, their speed and defensive range are probably declining. I can see an argument that for key defensive positions -- C, SS, maybe CF -- that the "intelligent" side of the game takes longer to develop and maybe they reach their defensive peak at about the same time. Anyway, I recall MGL speculating that a player's defensive skill is in near-constant decline from about age 20 or something. (It was one of those not-well-documented MGL speculations and I don't buy it to that extreme but I think it's in the right direction).

Anyway, I raise this not specific to Jeter just that I can well believe that players are bad defenders in the years we normally think of as their "prime."

That said ...

From ages 23-32, Jeter has -4.9 dWAR which is hardly mind-bogglingly bad, just half-a-win worse than the mythical average position-free defender. But, Aramis Ramirez -- a reasonable example of a somewhat below-average 3B -- comes in at just -1.6 dWAR over those ages. I wouldn't consider Jeter to be a worse defender than ARam ... although some of that difference is both playing time and more opportunities at SS.
   42. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:41 PM (#4647065)
Chipper Jones #56

Negro Leaguers: Bell, Rogan, Leonard, Williams, Stearnes (partial Irvin and Campanella)
Japan: Oh (partial Ichiro)
19th Century Players: Radbourn, Nichols
Active Players: Ichiro, Cabrera, Jeter


I'm kind of curious about the over/unders for Negro League, 19th Century, and Japanese players? I looked at the early HOM ballots, and Radbourn required eight elections to be inducted. He was passed over for 16 other players. Surely Posnanki's first 56 will have only a handful of those 16, at best (and they were only the earliest of 19th century players)? Is Oh going to be the only fulltime NPB player? Negro Leaguers beyond Charleston, Gibson, Paige, Lloyd? I'm thinking Dihigo probable, with Torriente, Suttles, Wells, Mendez, Bill Foster possible?
   43. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:47 PM (#4647066)
From ages 23-32, Jeter has -4.9 dWAR which is hardly mind-bogglingly bad, just half-a-win worse than the mythical average position-free defender. But, Aramis Ramirez -- a reasonable example of a somewhat below-average 3B -- comes in at just -1.6 dWAR over those ages. I wouldn't consider Jeter to be a worse defender than ARam ... although some of that difference is both playing time and more opportunities at SS.

The odd thing with Jeter is the stats show him as worse is his late 20's and early 30's than in his late 30's. Doesn't make a lot of sense, so people tend to distrust the less reliable early numbers.
   44. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: January 28, 2014 at 12:20 AM (#4647108)
Dear Poz,

I love you. I read everything you write, and I can even forgive you for the Paterno biography; you were in an impossible situation there. For my money you are the best sportswriter in America. Please stop writing "drove in X RBIs". Every time I read that it pushes me just a little further toward homicide.

Your fan 4-ever,
Zeth
   45. Blackadder Posted: January 28, 2014 at 01:39 AM (#4647129)
Dan Rosenheck has argued, quite persuasively to my mind, that the position switching technique used by rWAR and fWAR underrates shortstops of the 70's and 80's compared to other infielders, and compared to shortstops of the 90's and 00's. Given this adjustment, Trammell, Larkin and Smtih are vastly ahead of Jeter, without even getting into the issue of the PBP metrics probably overrating his defense. Hell, Campaneris gets well into the mid 60's WAR, which makes him comparable to Jeter.
   46. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 28, 2014 at 02:12 AM (#4647131)
I think you may need to revisit your math then.

Or you could visit math for the first time and prove me wrong
No offense intended, but the idea that one can easily find 10 better SS than Jeter (which implies that with a little effort it could be 15 or 20) kinda feels like troll territory and sour grapes. Or, at best, a pretty wide open and selective definition of what qualifies as best. If ya follow that logic ...

OK let's see you prove this
   47. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: January 28, 2014 at 06:23 AM (#4647137)
Prove what? That to me it kinda feels like troll territory and sour grapes?

Not following your drift, Ivan G.
   48. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 28, 2014 at 06:47 AM (#4647139)
At their respective best Larkin was better than jeter and there was a legit gap

Only Larkin was at his best about half as long as Jeter

You can find similar scenarios with other shortstop comparisons to jeter

being consistently good for 15 years at a middle infield position is extraordinary
   49. ThisElevatorIsDrivingMeUpTheWall Posted: January 28, 2014 at 08:57 AM (#4647146)
I think durability in a middle infielder should get a lot of credit.
   50. villageidiom Posted: January 28, 2014 at 10:47 AM (#4647214)
The odd thing with Jeter is the stats show him as worse is his late 20's and early 30's than in his late 30's. Doesn't make a lot of sense, so people tend to distrust the less reliable early numbers.
There was an article a ways back that mentioned that Yankees management sat him down at some point and showed him the range of balls other SS were fielding, vs. what he was fielding, and told him he was hurting the team. Supposedly after that he worked much harder to improve his defense. This was relatively late in his career to date.
   51. Michael J. Binkley's anxiety closet Posted: January 28, 2014 at 03:04 PM (#4647471)
Let me try to provide a justification for Ivan's ranking of Jeter (I also have him about 25th all-time, and I use a different system than him, and I'm going to demonstrate how such a ranking is justified - and this simple system is even different from my full evaluation system - note: no timelining).

If you go by straight BBRef WAR (yes, I know it isn't the be all and end all - but it works for simplicity's sake), there are 9 shortstops who have a listed WAR higher than Jeter: Honus, A-Rod (most of his value came at SS, thus he is classified as one), Ripken, George Davis, Vaughan, Appling, Dahling, Yount (see A-Rod) and Ozzie. That right there could put him in 10th.

Now once you adjust WAR for strike and pre-expansion shortened seasons, and add in the most conservative WWII credit possible, the following also jump ahead of Jeter in straight WAR: Glasscock, Larkin, Wallace, Trammell, Monte Ward and Reese). Now he drops down to 16th.

If you have any sort of peak bonus, Lou Boudreau, Joe Cronin and Ernie Banks can jump ahead of Jeter, since they are all within 2-3 WAR of Jeter adjusting for pre-expansion seasons. And Jeter probably wouldn't jump ahead of any of the others previously listed since his peak, although good, was still lower than every single one of them except Reese, who with war credit (he never had a WAR below 4 from 1942-1955 in any season that he played - so even just just giving him 4 WAR per year credit for the 3 years he missed, he jumps to over 10 WAR ahead of Jeter. So theoretically Jeter is down to 19th in this exercise.

Negro League Players: I have no doubt that Pop Lloyd was better than Jeter. I also have Grant Johnson and Willie Wells ahead of him, and Dobie Moore, Dick Lundy and Bus Clarkson behind, but YMMV. But even just including LLoyd, Jeter drops to 20th.

Special cases: Pre-NA and NA players Dickey Pearce and and George Wright and the ultimate peak shortstop candidate, Hughie Jennings. I have all three of them ahead of Jeter, but I can understand why others wouldn't due to uncertainty/short career, respectively.

Thus, going by straight (short-season and war-credit adjusted) BBRef WAR, not even giving peak bonuses to the Boudreaus, Cronins, and Banks, Jeter has the 16th most WAR all time. And this is with BBRef's relative generosity towards Jeter's defense compared to some other systems (e.g. DRA). If you use DRA for Jeter's defense instead, his career WAR drops down to around 55, and he really becomes a borderline candidate.

But if you use any sort of WAA system (like Ivan) or a system that gives extra emphasis to peak/peak rate (like me), even without using DRA or any more punishing defensive metrics, Jeter can drop into the low/mid 20's of SS rankings. That said, I have him fairly clearly over the line, but not anywhere close to a no-brainer, let alone close to the inner-circle.
   52. Walt Davis Posted: January 29, 2014 at 04:04 AM (#4647841)
If you go by straight BBRef WAR (yes, I know it isn't the be all and end all - but it works for simplicity's sake), there are 9 shortstops who have a listed WAR higher than Jeter: Honus, A-Rod (most of his value came at SS, thus he is classified as one), Ripken, George Davis, Vaughan, Appling, Dahling, Yount (see A-Rod) and Ozzie. That right there could put him in 10th.

And that right there you've made a huge mistake.

WAR in seasons of primary SS:

Jeter 71.6
ARod 63.4 (52.3 at 3B so the gap isn't even large, virtually equal # of starts too)
Yount 50.6

Sorry, it's absolutely ludicrous to pretend that Yount is in the same league as Jeter as a SS.

Yount had 1468 career starts at SS. ARod has under 1300. Derek Jeter has 2531 starts at SS.

To wipe that away by mis-classifying multi-position players as a SS is moronic.

Note this also applies to Ripken but he's well ahead of Jeter as a SS so no matter. Also Vaughan would lose a few WAR, just enough to move him a smidgen behind Jeter in career WAR.

Davis is an interesting case, mostly a 3B/OF early in his career, not moving to SS until age 26. He compiled 27 WAR in his (mainly) non-SS years. That drops him well behind Jeter. Of course 3B was a more important defensive position in the deadball era so maybe you could argue that Davis was more valuable at 3B in those days. Of course one could also argue that 1890s baseball is about as similar to post-deadball baseball as the Wright Bros to the Airbus A380 and so comparing the two is really kinda pointless.

Now once you adjust WAR for strike and pre-expansion shortened seasons, and add in the most conservative WWII credit possible, the following also jump ahead of Jeter in straight WAR: Glasscock, Larkin, Wallace, Trammell, Monte Ward and Reese). Now he drops down to 16th.

I suppose. Some of these are by the slimmest of margins. Larkin lost about 1/3 of a season to the 94 strike. We could possibly add 2 WAR for this which puts him a whopping .6 WAR ahead of Jeter. This isn't nearly enough to help Yount or ARod catch up in career WAR. It might be enough to push Davis ahead of Jeter by a bit.

If you have any sort of peak bonus, Lou Boudreau, Joe Cronin and Ernie Banks can jump ahead of Jeter, since they are all within 2-3 WAR of Jeter adjusting for pre-expansion seasons. And Jeter probably wouldn't jump ahead of any of the others previously listed since his peak, although good, was still lower than every single one of them except Reese

Just to reiterate, you have to have a massive peak credit to move Yount ahead of Jeter. Banks has the better case with 55 peak SS WAR.

Here's a comp you'll never see anywhere else:

Boudreau, 63 WAR, 7024 PA, 1526 career starts at SS
AROD, 63 WAR, 5687 PA, 1256 career starts at SS
Banks, 55 WAR, 5205 PA, 1121 carerre starts at SS

ARod is the best of this bunch but this is his immediate comp group as a SS. Then ...

Vaughan, 71 WAR, 7426 PA, 1465 career starts at SS

That's the tough decision relative to ARod. ARod wins on rate, Vaughan on career length, I probably still put ARod ahead. But then Vaughan missed the 44-46 seasons, I assume due to the war. Depending on how much credit, that would shift him back ahead of ARod.

On Yount, the best comp is probably Fregosi:

Yount, 51 WAR, 6621 PA, 1468 starts
Fregosi, 46 WAR, 5945 PA, 1375 starts

Yount wins but it's fairly close. Nomar is always an interesting case with 42 WAR in about 4500 PA in about 1000 starts. Awesome peak but no career value beyond that. Yount's 9 WAR in 2100 PA is probably enough to keep him ahead of Nomar on the rankings.

As to Jeter, of course any ranking which ignores career length will make him look worse. And of course any ranking that accepts his WAR defensive numbers much less DRA numbers that are apparently even worse will make him look bad.

But that leaves us with some curious findings. Jeter's -9.2 career dWAR is, by far, the worst-ever for a SS. But we are also left with the curious finding that the only 3 SS with significantly negative dWAR are all current players -- Jeter, Yuni and Hanley -- and that overall only 7 SS have ever compiled negative career dWAR. Jeter is losing 30-35 wins to guys like Dahlen, Davis, Boudreau, Reese. Are we really confident in that?

Using the cut-off of 80% of games at SS, Jeter is 2nd all-time in oWAR with 94. Now that's in nearly 12000 PA and, other than Appling, the only SS close to him in PA are the defensive guys. Still, the only ones behind him on this list that would catch him I think is Vaughan with Larkin coming very close. Oh, and Ripken who doesn't quite make the 80% cutoff but he is 17 oWAR behind in slightly more PA.

That obviously misses all the peak guys. Hard to easily do peak by position but I'll look at ages 24-33 with 70% at SS and first 12 years with 70% at SS.

On the 24-33 list, Jeter is #1 all-time with 65 oWAR. Again, he has a lot more PA than most -- Wagner would easily pass him. Ripken though, in roughly the same PA, is 18 oWAR behind. That's a lot. Larkin pro-rated is again roughly equal to Jeter.

The first 12 years list is good because a lot of the guys have roughly equal number of PAs:

ARod 77 oWAR, 7100 PA
Vaughan 69, 7400
Jeter 69, 7700
(Wagner)
Ripken 60, 7800
Larkin 51, 5900 (add 1/4 to get him to 64 WAR)
Yount 51, 7100
Reese 49, 7600

No matter how you slice it, you seem to come up with Jeter as one of the greatest offensive SS of all-time. Unlike many of the similar prime hitters, Jeter was terrible defensively ... yet oddly remained at the position for over 2500 games while some of the others were moved off the position after 1200-1500 or washed out of baseball altogether.

So here's where we've really got to have faith in Rfield. Comp him with Reese. (I'll get to the war below) Jeter is 20 oWAR ahead over the first 12 years in essentially the same PA but he is 5 WAR behind. So 2 wins a year in defense he's losing to Reese. That's not implausible -- Reese about 1 win above-average, Jeter 1 win below. By dWAR, we finally find some SS worse than Jeter -- Ricky Gutierrez and (pro-rated) Chris Gomez, Yuni and Hanley. (Isn't it funny all the historically lousy SS have played in the last 20 years?) Reese meanwhile ranks out as the 10th best young SS. (Isn't it funny that none of the best-fielding young SS are from the last 20 years?)

As to Reese, the WAR and years 1-12 ... Reese had 17 WAR/14 oWAR in "actual" years 4-6, 16/14 in years 7-9, 16/14 in years 10-12 and 5.6/3.2 in year 3 (pre-service). Give him war credit while dropping actual years 10-12 and he's not going to budge. He was as consistent over this time frame as a player can be.

I would also have my doubts that the Negro Leagues produced three SS greater than Jeter. In the post-integration, there have been four great African-American SS -- Jeter, Larkin, Ozzie and Banks. Is it likely that in the 30 years of top Negro League play that there were three of that caliber? That would have been able to hold their own in terms of offense, defense, durability and not being moved off of SS?

Anyway, I don't have a problem with Jeter outside the top 10 in baseball history, especially if you're going to include the pre-1900 guys (which I would not but that's me). I don't have a problem with putting ARod ahead of Jeter on a "great peak beats an excellent career" argument although you are still relying heavily on Jeter's defensive numbers for the conclusion that his career has only been "excellent." I absolutely and unequivocally refuse to accept the silly notion that Yount belongs anywhere near Jeter on a list of great SS.

If you want to make an argument that Yount's career as a SS-CF is greater than Jeter's career as a SS, be my guest. But Yount's SS argument is nothing but peak/prime and it's not a particularly impressive peak/prime. (Well, it's a pretty impressive "peak" but too much meh at the start of his career brings down the prime.) Anything else belongs in the alternate universe where Yount didn't have to spend nearly half his career at another position to stay on the field.
   53. AROM Posted: January 29, 2014 at 09:27 AM (#4647846)
But then Vaughan missed the 44-46 seasons, I assume due to the war.


He did, but it wasn't the war against the Germans or Japanese. His war was against Leo Durocher.

Speaking of war credit issues, I would not be so quick to put Lou Boudreau ahead of Jeter. His best season, 1948, was one of the best alltime for the position and better than anything Jeter ever did, but his next 2 best seasons came while most of the competition was away fighting WW2. Those seasons should be downgraded a bit.
   54. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 29, 2014 at 10:01 AM (#4647857)
WAR in seasons of primary SS:

Jeter 71.6
ARod 63.4 (52.3 at 3B so the gap isn't even large, virtually equal # of starts too)
Yount 50.6

Sorry, it's absolutely ludicrous to pretend that Yount is in the same league as Jeter as a SS.

Yount had 1468 career starts at SS. ARod has under 1300. Derek Jeter has 2531 starts at SS.


I would say 63 WAR in 1300 games is much, much better than 72 WAR in 2500 games, and 50.6 WAR im 1468 games is quite a bit better.

I mean, per 150 games at SS, ARod generated 7.3 WAR, Yount 5.2 and Jeter 4.2. That makes them better SS, in my book. I don't know why we're so fascinated by longevity.

I mean if you could draft Jeter's SS career, or ARod's SS career today (and control them at market prices) 30 teams would draft ARod, and they wouldn't think about it very hard.
   55. GregD Posted: January 29, 2014 at 10:42 AM (#4647885)
The argument about Jeter being in the top 10 isn't about ARod, though. It's about people like Yount and Larkin and Reese.

And in part it is an argument about whether the list is "best shortstops" or "best people who played a good chunk of their career at shortstop" which is the argument that always arises with the multi-position players like Yount or ARod or Biggio or Torre.

More broadly, I can see:
a) basing it on peak and only counting peaks--but Jeter's offensive peak is terrific as shown above

or

b) basing it on career but deciding to penalize people in SS ratings for being moved off the position

The low ratings of Jeter seem to me to be risking judging other players on peak against Jeter's career. If Jeter is a top-10 peak, can he fall out of the top-10 career by playing longer at shortstop than other players? It seems illogical to me to rate Jeter above Yount at peak but behind at career as a reward for Yount moving off of shortstop.
   56. Ron J2 Posted: January 29, 2014 at 04:25 PM (#4648155)
Walt and I have been over the issue of other position contributions. Here's the top end of the peak list for SS -- excluding seasons with substantial time at another position. Years selected by WAR but list is sorted by oWAR

best 5 seasons. Not necessarily consecutive. Also including time at SS in those years (POS%) and OPS+ in those years.

Player             oWAR  dWAR  OPS+  POS %
Honus Wagner       46.3   8.9  183    99
Alex Rodriguez     41.2   8.3  153   100
Arky Vaughan       37.9   6.0  154   100
Derek Jeter        36.4   0.3  132   100
Ernie Banks        35.8  10.4  148   100
Cal Ripken         34.0  15.3  136   100
Robin Yount        33.4   6.5  138    91
Barry Larkin       30.9   4.8  137   100
Lou Boudreau       30.9  14.0  137   100
Alan Trammell      30.6   7.7  136    96
Nomar Garciaparra  30.6   4.8  139   100
Hughie Jennings    29.9   8.9  140    95
Joe Cronin         29.2  10.2  130   100
Luke Appling       28.2   9.1  125   100
George Davis       25.4  12.8  125    99
Ozzie Smith        20.5  16.3  100   100 


Yount and Trammel spent more time at DH in their best seasons than I recalled. Not a lot and not sure it really matters for the purposes of this type of discussion.

Of course OPS+ undersells Jeter and Larkin in particular.

Boudreau includes two war years. Appling also has one.
   57. AROM Posted: January 29, 2014 at 04:31 PM (#4648162)
Ron, I wish you put WAR as a column there. Nothing wrong with breaking it up into offense and defense, but the problem is that you can't add OWAR and DWAR to get WAR, because the replacement runs part is included in both.
   58. AROM Posted: January 29, 2014 at 04:36 PM (#4648169)
It seems illogical to me to rate Jeter above Yount at peak but behind at career as a reward for Yount moving off of shortstop.


It does seem strange. The idea that if you rate them as peak shortstops, you'd take Yount. If rank them as all around players for their full careers, you might take Yount (although with less certainty). But then you rank them as career shortstops, then Jeter is ahead. In fact, some might call that moronic. But it's not an easy question, I can see validity in either approach.
   59. Ron J2 Posted: January 29, 2014 at 04:53 PM (#4648190)
#57 I actually made a decision to exclude a total WAR listing because I didn't want people to be able to say X WAR in best 5 years, case closed. What I was trying to do was give some sense of how good a guy was at the plate (will probably use EQA or some other rate stat that includes baserunning eventually) and a general sense of how good he was defensively. I think it makes for a better discussion specifically about peak.

But since I'm just in beta as it were, feedback is welcome.
   60. Blackadder Posted: January 29, 2014 at 06:01 PM (#4648244)
Going back the point about shortstop replacement levels: from 1974 to 1984, rWAR gives Yount roughly 32 wins from Rpos + Rfield, i.e. 32 wins for simply showing up as a shortstop. It also gives Jeter roughly 32 wins from 1995 to 2005; I got 31.5 using the total runs to win conversion rate over that time period, rather than going season by season. Looking at Dan R's spreadsheet, which only goes up to 2005, Jeter has 33.3 replacement wins, so only ~2 more than AROM (Dan doesn't separate out replacement runs from position, preferring to compare directly to positional replacement level.) Yount, on the other hand, gets 44.3 replacement wins through 1984, a full ~12 wins more than AROM gives you.

So if you believe Dan R about shorstops in the 70's and 80's--he seems quite persuasive to me--Yount picks up another 10 wins relative to Jeter at shortstop. At that point even the most modest of peak weightings gets Yount ahead of Jeter, and all of that is without considering Yount's CF time (I know Walt thinks that doing so is "moronic", which seems a strangely strident response for that is clearly a matter of taste) or other assessments of Jeter's fielding.

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