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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Schoenfield: A few notes on Derek Jeter’s defense

Hey, at least it’s not Jeter is a Douche.

This come up in our Spreecast from today on Derek Jeter’s retirement, somebody insisting we point out that Jeter cost his team more runs on defense than any player in history. I just wanted to follow up on that a bit more.

That statement is arguably—or maybe inarguably, depending on your belief in defensive metrics—a true statement. According to Baseball-Reference.com, the players who cost their teams the most runs on defense over their careers compared to an average defender at their position:

1. Derek Jeter: -236 runs
2. Gary Sheffield: -196 runs
3. Adam Dunn: -165 runs
4. Michael Young: -154 runs
5. Bernie Williams: -139 runs
6. Manny Ramirez: -129 runs
7. Bobby Bonilla: -121 runs
8. Danny Tartabull: -120 runs
9. Ricky Gutierrez: -117 runs
10. Chris Gomez: -114 runs

...OK, back to Jeter. Saying he cost his team more runs on defense than any other player isn’t the same thing as saying he’s the worst defensive player of all time. Obviously he’s a better defender than Adam Dunn or Manny Ramirez or Dave Kingman or Greg Luzinski. He was good enough to remain at shortstop for nearly two decades. Baseball-Reference rates Jeter’s worst years as -27 in 2005, -24 in in 2007 and -23 in 2000. He rates as plus defender twice: +2 in 1998 and +4 in 2009. As Ben Lindbergh wrote last year on Grantland, after Brian Cashman told Jeter after the 2007 season that he needed to work on his positioning and lateral quickness, he did makes some changed and improve on defense for a couple years. Then he got old.

Maybe Jeter didn’t deserve those five Gold Gloves. But the Yankees still won five rings with him at shortstop. In the end, I’d say everything worked out OK.

Repoz Posted: February 13, 2014 at 04:23 AM | 88 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics, yankees

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   1. Tommy in CT Posted: February 13, 2014 at 07:13 AM (#4656089)
I read an analysis once - wish I could remember who wrote it and when - that posited that the one thing shared by all the great dynastic teams was that they were strong up the middle defensively. I remember looking at this theory and concluding it was pretty solid (although the early '70's A's might have been the exception, in my opinion). I find it utterly extraordinary that the greatest dynasty in the last 50 years of baseball could have been anchored at shortstop and CF by two positively terrible defenders. Then consider that Jorge Posada is generally derided defensively here at the so-called Thinkfactory, and that Chuck Knoblauch was undeniably suffering a defensive meltdown in '98 and never really recovered. Is it really possible that the 1998-2000 Yankees were a historically weak defensive team up the middle?

But of course the one unifying attribute of the ultra stat geeks is that they never re-examine their models or assumptions.
   2. Rants Mulliniks Posted: February 13, 2014 at 08:45 AM (#4656098)
Them's fightin' words!
   3. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: February 13, 2014 at 09:15 AM (#4656103)
Is it really possible that the 1998-2000 Yankees were a historically weak defensive team up the middle?


Considering they scored 965, 900 and 871 runs those three years...yes. (Averaging nearly six runs per game covers up a multitude of sins.)
   4. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 13, 2014 at 09:27 AM (#4656107)
I find it utterly extraordinary that the greatest dynasty in the last 50 years of baseball could have been anchored at shortstop and CF by two positively terrible defenders.


Bill North and Bert Campaneris were good defensive players.

In all seriousness RMc's point about the offense is a good one but beyond that I think Jeter's ability not to make errors is meaningful. His range sucked but at the same time he was the classic "he makes the plays he gets to" type guy and I think there is real value to not making a bad situation worse. Jeter was never the guy who would throw away a slow roller and turn an infield hit into a double. I think that has a benefit.
   5. McCoy Posted: February 13, 2014 at 09:45 AM (#4656112)
I read an analysis once - wish I could remember who wrote it and when - that posited that the one thing shared by all the great dynastic teams was that they were strong up the middle defensively. I remember looking at this theory and concluding it was pretty solid


But of course the one unifying attribute of the ultra stat geeks is that they never re-examine their models or assumptions.


Gentlemen, we have found irony!
   6. Publius Publicola Posted: February 13, 2014 at 09:52 AM (#4656116)
LOL. First thing that entered my head after reading #1 too, McCoy.
   7. Publius Publicola Posted: February 13, 2014 at 09:59 AM (#4656119)
What's extraordinary about Jeter's defense is not that it was bad, but that it's badness went seemingly unnoticed by practically everyone whom one would assume should know better.

And look at that list. Every other player on that list was known to be a bad defender except Jeter. He is baseball's Chauncy Gardner equivalent, a man presumed to be something completely different than what he really is.
   8. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 13, 2014 at 10:06 AM (#4656122)

And look at that list. Every other player on that list was known to be a bad defender except Jeter. He is baseball's Chauncy Gardner equivalent, a man presumed to be something completely different than what he really is.


In fairness to Jeter I think a list like that is going to make him look worse than it is. I'd rather see that information on a rate basis than as a counting stat. As a player who played a LOT of games at a premium defensive position a poor player is likely to look worse. It's a bit similar to Reggie Jackson being the all time strikeout leader, yeah he fanned a lot but using the counting stat makes it appear worse than it was. Jeter was a poor defensive player but had Sheffield or Chipper stayed at shortstop for 2500 games they probably would be 50-100 runs worse than he was.

The Gold Gloves remain inexplicable.
   9. Tommy in CT Posted: February 13, 2014 at 10:13 AM (#4656126)
Considering they scored 965, 900 and 871 runs those three years...yes. (Averaging nearly six runs per game covers up a multitude of sins.)


The '98 team had a great offense. The '99 and '00 teams didn't even lead the league in scoring. The '00 team barely scored more than the average (5.41 to a league ave. of 5.30).

Look at the teams that have won 105 or more games in the last 60 years. Look at the '69-'70 Orioles, or the '75 Reds, or the '61 Yankees, or the '86 Mets, or the '54 Indians, or the '01 Mariners. Now look at the C-2B-SS-CF personnel on those teams. Those teams had it ALL going for them, in every phase. You don't win that many games when one phase of your game is just plain weak. You sure as hell don't go 125-50 when your defense up the middle stinks.
   10. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 13, 2014 at 10:18 AM (#4656130)
Look at the teams that have won 105 or more games in the last 60 years. Look at the '69-'70 Orioles, or the '75 Reds, or the '61 Yankees, or the '86 Mets, or the '54 Indians, or the '01 Mariners. Now look at the C-2B-SS-CF personnel on those teams. Those teams had it ALL going for them, in every phase. You don't win that many games when one phase of your game is just plain weak. You sure as hell don't go 125-50 when your defense up the middle stinks.


All of those teams had some kind of glaring weakness. I think you would have a difficult time finding any team in baseball history that didn't have some form of weakness somewhere. Maybe the '27 Yanks and Big Red Machine? Jeter was a bad defensive player and he was a great player overall. I'm not sure why it would be surprising that the Yankees would succeed with him as their shortstop.
   11. Scott Ross Posted: February 13, 2014 at 10:22 AM (#4656132)
The '98 team had a great offense.

You sure as hell don't go 125-50 when your defense up the middle stinks.

The team that went 125-50 had an up-the-middle defense that netted out to +1.1 dWAR. To say Jeter's D was lacking is not to say he was relentlessly awful every season.

   12. Publius Publicola Posted: February 13, 2014 at 10:25 AM (#4656135)
You answered your question, Tommy. The 2000 win was a fluke and the 98-00 Yankee teams were not really good, and so are NOT the most dominant dynasty of the last 50 years.
   13. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 13, 2014 at 10:33 AM (#4656138)
If the Yankees weren't so dominant Bud Selig and his cronies wouldn't have had to completely overhaul the entire landscape of the sport to hamstring them.
   14. Publius Publicola Posted: February 13, 2014 at 10:35 AM (#4656141)
The starting pitching of the Big Red Machine was pretty meh

Also, Jeter's defense was OK when he was a very young player. They had other very solid defenders. Brosius and Tino were very good. the bullpen was very strong. Oneill was very good. The overall team defense was probably average to above average.
   15. Sean Forman Posted: February 13, 2014 at 10:40 AM (#4656145)
You're right Tommy, the ten or so people who have dedicated 1000's of hours to this question and have looked at it from 5+ different approaches and directions and who entered the discussion with no preconceptions about Jeter's defense and yet reached unanimity on the quality of Jeter's defense are all wrong and you are right. Sorry for wasting your time.

Or maybe, Career WAR of every pitcher to throw 100+ IP for NYY from 1996-2013
   16. BDC Posted: February 13, 2014 at 10:51 AM (#4656152)
This goes without saying, but if a team won games by scoring and allowing them in some propitious ratio, then they won them, however they won them. Objecting that prima facie they couldn't have won them with that balance of numbers does not make sense. It's like saying that Shaquille O'Neal couldn't have been that bad a free-throw shooter, because he won a couple of scoring titles.
   17. GregD Posted: February 13, 2014 at 11:01 AM (#4656160)
The 98 Yankees gave up 73 fewer runs than any other team in the league and had the highest Defensive Efficiency rating in the league though they were only fifth in Total Zone fielding runs above average. They gave up the fewest Homers and were 4th in strikeouts and 2nd in fewest walks so they had some good pitching fundamentals to start with, but obviously their defense was helping them overall that year. As it did the next year. By 2000 obviously the defense was getting shaky and so was the team
   18. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 13, 2014 at 11:09 AM (#4656164)
The 98 Yankees gave up 73 fewer runs than any other team in the league and had the highest Defensive Efficiency rating in the league...


I'm glad somebody noticed.

They gave up the fewest Homers and were 4th in strikeouts and 2nd in fewest walks...


Coney and Boomer belong in the HOF!
   19. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: February 13, 2014 at 11:19 AM (#4656168)
I think you would have a difficult time finding any team in baseball history that didn't have some form of weakness somewhere. Maybe the '27 Yanks and Big Red Machine?

Isn't there a common consensus about this? The 1976 Reds gave 55 starts to pitchers with ERA+s under 100. For the 1975 Reds, it was 84. Moving to the 100-105 ERA+ range, it's 22 more for the 1975 team and 35 starts in 1976. And the Mona Lisa could've tweezed her eyebrows a little.
   20. McCoy Posted: February 13, 2014 at 11:29 AM (#4656176)
Hell, the Yankees were great up the middle, just not defensively.
   21. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 13, 2014 at 11:31 AM (#4656179)
In all seriousness RMc's point about the offense is a good one but beyond that I think Jeter's ability not to make errors is meaningful. His range sucked but at the same time he was the classic "he makes the plays he gets to" type guy and I think there is real value to not making a bad situation worse. Jeter was never the guy who would throw away a slow roller and turn an infield hit into a double. I think that has a benefit.


Sure it does, but it's dwarfed by the benefit of having even league-average range.

Jeter was the worst shortstop in baseball history to play anywhere close to the number of games he played at the position. But then, playing that many games at shortstop is in itself a significant accomplishment.


The '98 team had a great offense. The '99 and '00 teams didn't even lead the league in scoring. The '00 team barely scored more than the average (5.41 to a league ave. of 5.30).


The 2000 team wasn't very good. In fact they were barely better than the 2013 Yankees. They just lucked into a division where nobody could get near 90 wins and won the playoff lottery. You wonder how much different a lot of narratives would be if they'd merely hit their Pythag and missed the playoffs, or if they'd lost the playoff lottery and gotten unceremoniously bounced in four games in the first round.

edit: Yes, in before "they wrapped up their division in early September and went like 3-19 after they stopped caring" and etc.
   22. Pleasant Nate (Upgraded from 'Nate') Posted: February 13, 2014 at 11:36 AM (#4656183)
#1 is the early front-runner for dumbest post of the year.

I came to make the same point #16 did, with the exact same example using Shaq. Coke to you sir.
   23. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: February 13, 2014 at 11:45 AM (#4656186)
#1 is the early front-runner for dumbest post of the year.

you have to forgive Tommy--he still hasn't gotten over the fact that Guidry fell off the HOF ballot
   24. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: February 13, 2014 at 12:08 PM (#4656210)
The 2000 team wasn't very good.

I remember when the '00 Yanks lost their last 7 regular season games, I jokingly said on the air, "Not only is this team not winning the World Series, they might not win another game ever again...!"

Hmph.
   25. Tommy in CT Posted: February 13, 2014 at 12:15 PM (#4656222)
You're right Tommy, the ten or so people who have dedicated 1000's of hours to this question and have looked at it from 5+ different approaches and directions and who entered the discussion with no preconceptions about Jeter's defense and yet reached unanimity on the quality of Jeter's defense are all wrong and you are right. Sorry for wasting your time.


No sweat, Sean.

My point wasn't really directed just at Jeter. It's the stats that suggest that Posada was subpar and that Jeter, Williams and Knoblauch collectively sucked. I suppose it's possible to come within 2 outs of winning 5 WS in 6 years with terrible defense up the middle. But that kind of anomaly would make me re-examine the methodology of the stats you're so defensive about (forgive the pun).
   26. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 13, 2014 at 12:19 PM (#4656226)
It's the stats that suggest that Posada was subpar and that Jeter, Williams and Knoblauch collectively sucked. I suppose it's possible to come within 2 outs of winning 5 WS in 6 years with terrible defense up the middle. But that kind of anomaly would make me re-examine the methodology of the stats you're so defensive about (forgive the pun).


Why is it hard to understand that their offensive contributions outweighed their defensive deficiencies? Instead your counter is this:

I read an analysis once - wish I could remember who wrote it and when - that posited that the one thing shared by all the great dynastic teams was that they were strong up the middle defensively. I remember looking at this theory and concluding it was pretty solid (although the early '70's A's might have been the exception, in my opinion).

"I read something once, not sure where or when, that suggested something that I sort of agree with, and it was on the internet, so it must have been true."

Good argument, I am persuaded.
   27. Greg K Posted: February 13, 2014 at 12:21 PM (#4656229)
I'm not sure where you get the idea that the methodology of defensive stats haven't been re-examined again and again by those who put them together. Isn't that what all these different metrics are about?
   28. Publius Publicola Posted: February 13, 2014 at 12:27 PM (#4656233)
I'm not sure where you get the idea that the methodology of defensive stats haven't been re-examined again and again by those who put them together. Isn't that what all these different metrics are about?


of course they have Greg. And they continue to be re-examined as we sit here now chatting so enjoyably. Tommy CT just can't stand it when his perfumed princes from the Bronx are subjected to scrutiny or criticism.
   29. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 13, 2014 at 12:30 PM (#4656235)
Why is it hard to understand that their offensive contributions outweighed their defensive deficiencies?


Why is it hard to understand that you're letting Tommy distract you from what actually happened on the field in 1998 and 1999? Those Yankee teams excelled at preventing runs. In part because of excellent pitching; in part because of good defense at other positions; and in part because those up-the-middle players performed adequately, which is not to say particularly well, on defense. This was sort of covered in #17.
   30. PreservedFish Posted: February 13, 2014 at 12:51 PM (#4656252)
Tommy, did you watch these guys play baseball?

Posada was never considered to be a plus defender, and he never looked like one. This was most obvious when he had the job share with Girardi. Posada was fine, he was average.
Knoblauch everyone knows about.
Williams lost his speed in front of everyone's eyes in a very obvious manner, and his arm was always terrible. His reputation as a poor defender may have lagged a year or two behind the reality. Same thing that happened with Griffey, Beltran, etc.

Jeter was really the only guy for whom there was/is any real controversy or disagreement.
   31. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: February 13, 2014 at 12:51 PM (#4656253)
The thing that always bugs me with these arguments is that this isn't a case where the eyeball test seems to disagree with the advanced stats. After 2000 or so, Jeter's range seemed really limited to the naked eye.
   32. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 13, 2014 at 01:01 PM (#4656259)
Williams lost his speed in front of everyone's eyes in a very obvious manner, and his arm was always terrible. His reputation as a poor defender may have lagged a year or two behind the reality.

The thing that always bugs me with these arguments is that this isn't a case where the eyeball test seems to disagree with the advanced stats. After 2000 or so, Jeter's range seemed really limited to the naked eye.


But Williams hadn't lost his speed in 1998 and 1999, and his arm got even worse when he hurt his shoulder. Per BBREF, Jeter was actually slightly above average defensively in 1998. Tommy's argument, such as it is, is that the 1998/1999 Yankee teams couldn't have had so much success if they were running historically bad defenders out at the four most important positions. The obvious rebuttal is that those players were not historically bad in those specific seasons. Williams was a poor defender in 1998 and 1999; he didn't become horrific until years later. Whatever happened to Jeter's eyeball-tested range after 2000 or so is irrelevant to a discussion of how the Yankees won in 1998 and 1999.
   33. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: February 13, 2014 at 01:05 PM (#4656260)
This would be the first time Mike Francessa had heard such ideas!
   34. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: February 13, 2014 at 01:06 PM (#4656261)
32 -- true. To the naked eye, Jeter seemed like a decent SS from 96-00 (not Ripken or Vizquel, but solid). Ditto for Williams. I'm speaking more to the general argument the career stats must be wrong.
   35. BDC Posted: February 13, 2014 at 01:18 PM (#4656271)
As several here have suggested, the c2000 Yankees were an interesting dynasty with a dynamic history.

In 1998 they led the league in team oWAR by a lot and were fourth in team dWAR.

In 1999 they were third in oWAR, close to the top, 11th in dWAR.

In 2000, fifth in oWAR, tenth in dWAR.

In 2001, fifth in oWAR again, 14th in dWAR.

In 2002, when they lost the pennant but had the best record in the league by half a game, they were first in oWAR by a lot, 14th in dWAR.

In 2003, they were second in dWAR to Boston, both teams way ahead of the pack, and 13th in dWAR.

In 2004, first in oWAR, 14th in dWAR by a lot.

Pitching aside for a moment, and recognizing that these stats and rankings are just outlines of what happened, this history is quite consistent with a team philosophy, probably pretty conscious, to maximize advantages by keeping weaker fielders at positions where they greatly out-hit their competition. As noted, the 1998 team had pretty good defense, and it's no wonder they won 114 games. The rest of the next few years saw declining defense and a dip, then a renewal, in the offensive capability relative to position.

And I do think this was visible while it was happening. Not only the decline of Knoblauch and Williams and Jeter, but bringing in Matsui and Giambi and then, in 2004, Sheffield as well. You could see where they were putting their chips, and they kept getting into the playoffs all the same.
   36. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 13, 2014 at 01:51 PM (#4656299)

I am a little skeptical about the magnitude of defensive metrics for more recent players. Or at least, I am skeptical about comparing them directly to defensive metrics from earlier periods when we didn't have the detailed raw data that we do now. I admit to not being in the weeds on how those metrics are calculated, but I would guess that there's going to be a much narrower range in the earlier metrics due to there being less data available (and therefore having to rely more on assumptions and averages).
   37. fra paolo Posted: February 13, 2014 at 02:13 PM (#4656318)
I am a little skeptical about the magnitude of defensive metrics for more recent players. Or at least, I am skeptical about comparing them directly to defensive metrics from earlier periods when we didn't have the detailed raw data that we do now. I admit to not being in the weeds on how those metrics are calculated, but I would guess that there's going to be a much narrower range in the earlier metrics due to there being less data available (and therefore having to rely more on assumptions and averages).

It depends. If you want more extreme results, Humphry's DRA, available at Seamheads.com, can supply them, although so far I don't see them going to quite the extremes that one can find in UZR. But other 'pre-modern' systems do indeed operate in a more narrow band.

Ditto for Williams. I'm speaking more to the general argument the career stats must be wrong.

Even to the stats, Williams looks better in 96-00 than 2002 and afterwards. What's problematic is that Williams looks worst in BB-ref rfield, the most readily accessible measure. His DRAs, his BPro FRAA's and his Win Share and WS Above Bench numbers aren't quite as bad, and can reach the heady heights of adequacy in some seasons.

EDIT: And there's an issue here that some of those UZR values need to be assigned to the pitchers. As it stands, fielders get 100% of the penalty for a BIP that is a hit.
   38. bookbook Posted: February 13, 2014 at 02:54 PM (#4656356)
+I read an analysis once - wish I could remember who wrote it and when - that posited that the one thing shared by all the great dynastic teams was that they were strong up the middle defensively.+

I would hope that analyst wasn't arguing that no future great dynastic team could exist without strong up-the-middle defense. If s/he was, it sounds like one of those statements such as "Offense is fine, but pitching wins championships" or "a stitch in time saves nine" or "too many shortstops spoils the clubhouse chemistry" that are fine statements as long as you don't expect them to be literally true.
   39. cardsfanboy Posted: February 13, 2014 at 02:59 PM (#4656364)
My point wasn't really directed just at Jeter. It's the stats that suggest that Posada was subpar and that Jeter, Williams and Knoblauch collectively sucked. I suppose it's possible to come within 2 outs of winning 5 WS in 6 years with terrible defense up the middle. But that kind of anomaly would make me re-examine the methodology of the stats you're so defensive about (forgive the pun).


You are making a poor assumption there. You are focusing on "winning the world series" instead of how well they played in those seasons. Winning the world series is great and all, but it isn't indicative of "dynasty" and sure isn't indicative of how "complete" the team is.

I like defense efficiency, it pulls away a lot of the assumptions and as pointed out the 1998 team was pretty good defensively- leading the league. They had several players put up positive defensive numbers (including Posada and the corners were good, and Jeter wasn't a liability yet) 1999 they had the third best defense efficiency and put up good numbers again at the corners (Tino, Curtis, Brosius and O'neil) but their up the middle defense had failed them. 2000 they were 5th in efficiency with Knoblaugh, Williams and Jeter being the only real liabilities. By 2001 they were a below average fielding team and getting worse.

I can see an argument being made that the players up the middle defense might have been affected because the quality of the corner players took away some of their chances.... If I had never seen Jeter play defense. I just do not get how anyone post 1998 could watch Jeter play defense and not come up with the conclusion that he was a poor defender. It was obvious with the eyes, you don't need numbers to tell you that. At no point in time has Jeter ever looked like a good defender and he doesn't have the Ripken/Gehrig reputation of being the type of player that knew how to position himself. The silly gold gloves make me disrespect baseball people because there is literally nothing about Jeter's defense that can make someone with a brain, think he's even average. He's a poor defender, with a bad first step, limited range and a dumbass hop throw that hurts his chances of making the out. I have made the joke that I think Prince Fielder has more range than Jeter and I'm not really sure how much I'm joking, Jeter takes forever to make his first step, his reaction time is pitiful and has been that way for most of his career. The fact that people don't see it something so blatantly obvious is very sad.
   40. Karl from NY Posted: February 13, 2014 at 04:26 PM (#4656473)
I just do not get how anyone post 1998 could watch Jeter play defense and not come up with the conclusion that he was a poor defender. It was obvious with the eyes, you don't need numbers to tell you that. At no point in time has Jeter ever looked like a good defender

Jeter does look like a good defender. He's very good at the visible parts of defense. He grabs everything he can reach, never bricks a ball off his glove. He's a very reliable thrower, never airmailing it. He's fine at turning the DP. So his fielding percentage and error rate are very good. And of course he's had a few particularly flashy memorable reputation-cementing plays.

Jeter's flaws don't show up to the casual observer. If the jump throw comes in a fraction late, he doesn't get blamed, instead he gets credit for a good effort. Or if he dives late at a ball up the middle, nobody really notices Jeter's miss, they just credit the batter for a good hit in the hole. He will prefer to eat a ball rather than rush a panicky error-prone throw, which to the casual analyst is simply "Jeter had no play" not "A faster SS would have."

Spotting the flaws in Jeter's game requires the advanced metrics. The casual fan in the stands can't gauge a .2 second difference in response time. -20 defensive runs for a season is like two missed balls per week which you'd never notice if you weren't looking for it. If you don't know about or blow off defensive metrics, you will simply think he looks good and never reach the real conclusion.
   41. alilisd Posted: February 13, 2014 at 04:32 PM (#4656479)
that posited that the one thing shared by all the great dynastic teams was that they were strong up the middle defensively. I remember looking at this theory and concluding it was pretty solid (although the early '70's A's might have been the exception, in my opinion).


In addition to Campeneris and North, Dick Green rates as a positive defender by Rfield for those A's, Jackson and Monday were solid in CF during the 1971 and 1972 seasons before North arrived. It also thinks Duncan and Tenace were decent at catcher in those years, and loves Fosse behind the plate in 1973.
   42. dlf Posted: February 13, 2014 at 04:36 PM (#4656482)
I am certainly willing to listen to someone posit a reason why the defensive metrics are missing something from Jeter or the Yankees defenders of a decade an a half ago. Personally, I can't think what that would be, but I'm happy to listen with a very open mind. Not all biases are always removed from the information -- see for example the work of Chris Dial providing some evidence that Andruw Jones took all the discretionary plays making his out of zone numbers appear better than they should have. But just stating that a good team has to have good defenders at key positions is silly hand waving.

I am a little skeptical about the magnitude of defensive metrics for more recent players. Or at least, I am skeptical about comparing them directly to defensive metrics from earlier periods when we didn't have the detailed raw data that we do now.


The pre PBP defense at BaseballReference is intentionally regressed towards the mean so by design there are no outliers as extreme as exist post PBP. Any comparison between, say Greg Luzinski and Adam Dunn needs to keep this in mind.

To the naked eye, Jeter seemed like a decent SS from 96-00 (not Ripken or Vizquel, but solid).


Did Ripken ever really look good based on the eyeball test? He had a great arm which allowed him to play deep and get to a lot of balls that way, he apparently positioned well, and had a good first step. But he wasn't acrobatic and was probably the slowest SS since Lou Boudreau. Effective? Yes. Perhaps even greatly so. But aesthetically, he wasn't Tony Fernandez or Ozzie Guillen.
   43. AROM, Instagram Gangsta Posted: February 13, 2014 at 04:42 PM (#4656488)
"Spotting the flaws in Jeter's game requires the advanced metrics. The casual fan in the stands can't gauge a .2 second difference in response time. -20 defensive runs for a season is like two missed balls per week which you'd never notice if you weren't looking for it. If you don't know about or blow off defensive metrics, you will simply think he looks good and never reach the real conclusion."

If you watch enough baseball you should develop enough pattern recognition to see poor range. A certain speed/location ground ball off the bat, you get used to whether it is normally reached by the SS. Then when a guy has a number of those plays and not so many plays that are not normally fielded, you can tell who the good fielders are. That's tougher to keep track of than UZR/DRS though.
   44. villageidiom Posted: February 13, 2014 at 04:47 PM (#4656494)
Jeter's flaws don't show up to the casual observer. If the jump throw comes in a fraction late, he doesn't get blamed, instead he gets credit for a good effort. Or if he dives late at a ball up the middle, nobody really notices Jeter's miss, they just credit the batter for a good hit in the hole. He will prefer to eat a ball rather than rush a panicky error-prone throw, which to the casual analyst is simply "Jeter had no play" not "A faster SS would have."
This.

Spotting the flaws in Jeter's game requires the advanced metrics.
NOT this.

For the casual observer - someone watching on TV, or in person but watching the batter until the ball is hit - you are correct, as one can't see what one is not watching. If you are specifically trying to assess SS defense, and actually watching the SS from before the ball is hit until the play is done, you will spot the flaws easily. You'll see his positioning, relative to other SS. You'll see the first step. You'll see the range. And you'll see all the things the casual observer sees.

The advanced metrics will help you to tally the impact of what you see. But you can spot the flaws easily without them. You just need to observe it all, rather than observe some and assume the rest. Arguably the part of SS defense that separates the best in MLB from the worst in MLB has already happened by the time the casual observer is even aware the ball has been hit to short.
   45. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 13, 2014 at 04:52 PM (#4656498)
Every team in MLB would gladly take Jeter's career with whatever offensive and defensive trade-offs came with it. That is the forest & trees aspect that sometimes get lost around here.
   46. villageidiom Posted: February 13, 2014 at 04:59 PM (#4656508)
Every team in MLB would gladly take Jeter's career with whatever offensive and defensive trade-offs came with it.
I don't think that's in dispute. But TFA is about his defense.
   47. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:13 PM (#4656525)
Did Ripken ever really look good based on the eyeball test? He had a great arm which allowed him to play deep and get to a lot of balls that way, he apparently positioned well, and had a good first step. But he wasn't acrobatic and was probably the slowest SS since Lou Boudreau. Effective? Yes. Perhaps even greatly so. But aesthetically, he wasn't Tony Fernandez or Ozzie Guillen.

He did to me. He wasn't acrobatic, but that fantastic arm and, like Jeter, he almost never made a mistake. I just always had the sense that any ball hit in his direction would turn into an out.
   48. cardsfanboy Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:14 PM (#4656526)
Jeter does look like a good defender. He's very good at the visible parts of defense. He grabs everything he can reach, never bricks a ball off his glove. He's a very reliable thrower, never airmailing it. He's fine at turning the DP. So his fielding percentage and error rate are very good. And of course he's had a few particularly flashy memorable reputation-cementing plays.


No he doesn't. That is the part that is exasperating, he wears the uniform nicely, but he doesn't play good defense to the eyes. Way to many batted balls per game get by him, routine plays that most shortstops make, he doesn't even show up in the frame. His reaction time absolutely sucks, can't say much about his positioning, but he does not, nor has he ever, get a good read on the ball, and it's painfully obvious.

Yes he makes few mistakes and is solid to the ones he does get to, but it's obvious he isn't getting to as many as a regular shortstop. That is the thing that bothers me about him winning those gold gloves, it's clear to the eyes he isn't making the plays that everyone else makes routinely. Heck if I was a conspiracy nutter, I would think that the managers kept giving him gold gloves because they didn't want the Yankees to move him off of short. I just can't imagine trained baseball men weren't seeing the same thing that was obvious to a casual observer.
   49. jmurph Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:15 PM (#4656529)
Every team in MLB would gladly take Jeter's career with whatever offensive and defensive trade-offs came with it. That is the forest & trees aspect that sometimes get lost around here.


I'm roughly 100% sure no one here disagrees with that first sentence, making your second sentence pretty silly.
   50. SG Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:19 PM (#4656530)
Way to many batted balls per game get by him, routine plays that most shortstops make, he doesn't even show up in the frame.


If this was actually true, Jeter would be rate as about a -400 defender every year.

The difference between Jeter and an average shortstop if you think he's a -20 defender is about one play a week. This notion that he misses several plays a game that an average shortstop would make is patently ridiculous.
   51. cardsfanboy Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:23 PM (#4656537)
The difference between Jeter and an average shortstop if you think he's a -20 defender is about one play a week. This notion that he misses several plays a game that an average shortstop would make is patently ridiculous.


Hyperbole..

He misses plays that he should get and on tougher plays which maybe nobody gets to, but at least other shortstops show up in the frame, he is not even getting close.
   52. Brett "The Hitman" Gardner Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:26 PM (#4656541)
Just a fun thought exercise: if Jeter played for a 5 time championship team in, say, the 1950s and won his same five gold gloves, I think history would look at him as CLEARLY the 2nd best Shortstop ever with a reasonable case against Wagner. By reputation he'd be Derek Jeter: clutch winner, ultra intangibles, fantastic hitter, elite defender.
   53. Howie Menckel Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4656544)

I wish I had trademarked my phrase about Jeter a decade ago - "gracefully slow."

that's where the confusion lies, I think. We associate gracefulness with overall competence, and slowness with clumsiness. Here you have a guy who doesn't react to a ground ball as quickly as his peers, but he has such a nice form as the ball goes.... pastadivingJeter.

   54. Mayor Blomberg Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:31 PM (#4656550)
He played defense to the score.

story over.
   55. Nasty Nate Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:34 PM (#4656552)
The difference between Jeter and an average shortstop if you think he's a -20 defender is about one play a week. This notion that he misses several plays a game that an average shortstop would make is patently ridiculous.


I don't disagree with your conclusion, but he could miss more than the one play a week due to range issues, but make up for that with other aspects of his defense to get back "up" to -20.
   56. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:34 PM (#4656554)
Awesome #1! A Tommy in CT sighting. I was hoping we'd see more of you during the HOF debates as your "Guidry for the HOF" rants are always amusing.

Jose's #4 is spot on. There's tremendous value in not making mistakes. There are plenty of SS with superior range who throw the ball all over the diamond, or to the wrong base or make an ill advised throw when the runner will clearly be safe.

Jeter was a great player and as a Sox fan who lived through the revolving door of SS after the Nomar trade it must have been nice for NY to have a HOF player they could pencil in every day for the last umpteen years.

And I think at that last series in Boston they should give him a gift basket, that'd be like the gold standard for funny stuff.
   57. AROM, Instagram Gangsta Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:43 PM (#4656561)
Jeter will go into the hall in July 2021. I'm looking forward to being there.
   58. BDC Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:47 PM (#4656564)
if Jeter played for a 5 time championship team in, say, the 1950s and won his same five gold gloves, I think history would look at him as CLEARLY the 2nd best Shortstop ever with a reasonable case against Wagner

Possibly. Though it's interesting that one rarely sees a huge discrepancy between the retrospective advanced metrics and contemporary defensive reputations. The biggest that comes to mind is how B-Ref RField sees Pie Traynor, who by reputation was Godlike. But DRA sees Traynor as very good indeed, best in his era except for Billy Werber. I guess what I'm saying is that consensus great defensive SS of the 1950s were pretty good by the numbers: Aparicio, McMillan; so if they'd thought this alt-Jeter was that good, he likely would have been.

There are early Gold Glove winners who aren't seen as that great by the retrospective metrics, of course: Don Kessinger is an example. His glove reputation was high, perhaps because he couldn't hit so it was assumed he must be able to do something. OTOH his first GG came in a season (1969) when RField actually sees him as pretty good, well above the rest of his career; then he hung onto the GG for one year as "incumbent," and never won another. But that's a different issue. Gold Gloves often don't match reputations. Michael Young's reputation was as bad as his metrics, and he won a Gold Glove anyway.
   59. BDC Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:50 PM (#4656565)
There's tremendous value in not making mistakes. There are plenty of SS with superior range who throw the ball all over the diamond, or to the wrong base or make an ill advised throw when the runner will clearly be safe

It's good for fan blood pressure not to make mistakes. I never saw Pete Rose make a mistake at first base. I rarely saw him field a grounder, either. I think it's fair to say the value he added by being mistake-free didn't make him much of a fielder. Guys who are actually rangy, quick and have good arms rarely make mistakes, either.
   60. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:55 PM (#4656567)

The pre PBP defense at BaseballReference is intentionally regressed towards the mean so by design there are no outliers as extreme as exist post PBP. Any comparison between, say Greg Luzinski and Adam Dunn needs to keep this in mind.

Thank you, that was my point but written much more clearly.
   61. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 13, 2014 at 05:59 PM (#4656569)
It's good for fan blood pressure not to make mistakes. I never saw Pete Rose make a mistake at first base. I rarely saw him field a grounder, either. I think it's fair to say the value he added by being mistake-free didn't make him much of a fielder.


It's not that it makes him a good fielder but I think it mitigates some of the damage. Put another way if I have two players who are -15 runs defensively one due to repeated errors and one due to lack of range I think the error-prone player hurts his team more. I have no data behind this, just the theory.
   62. cardsfanboy Posted: February 13, 2014 at 06:09 PM (#4656571)
It's not that it makes him a good fielder but I think it mitigates some of the damage. Put another way if I have two players who are -15 runs defensively one due to repeated errors and one due to lack of range I think the error-prone player hurts his team more. I have no data behind this, just the theory.


Error prone shortstop is probably allowing the runner to double advance. A ball pastadiving Jeter just means a man on first, while a throwing error means that same man is on second most likely. But the defensive metrics already account for that. So technically a good system that is rating the two players the same should be equivalently unvaluable to the team.

Having said that, I think the sure handed guy, feels like he's causing fewer problems for the team.
   63. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: February 13, 2014 at 06:09 PM (#4656572)
Jeter will go into the hall in July 2021.

It is a national tragedy that St. Derek will have to wait five years before Hall of Fame enshrinement, just like so many other run-of-the-mill first-ballot Hall of Famers. I hope the Hall will see fit to do the right thing and waive that whole waiting period nonsense on Captain Clutch's behalf.
   64. cardsfanboy Posted: February 13, 2014 at 06:23 PM (#4656584)
It is a national tragedy that St. Derek will have to wait five years before Hall of Fame enshrinement, just like so many other run-of-the-mill first-ballot Hall of Famers. I hope the Hall will see fit to do the right thing and waive that whole waiting period nonsense on Captain Clutch's behalf.


I know you are making a joke, but considering the only reason they waive the waiting period has been because of imminent death or actual death, not sure if that is such a nice thing to say.(or if they are over a certain age for managers and executives)

   65. Karl from NY Posted: February 13, 2014 at 06:41 PM (#4656592)
July 2020, right? The 5 year wait would be 2015-2019. Or is he not going in first ballot?
   66. cardsfanboy Posted: February 13, 2014 at 07:05 PM (#4656596)
July 2020, right? The 5 year wait would be 2015-2019. Or is he not going in first ballot?


I think it's a five year wait for the vote and you go in on the sixth year.
Maddux retired in 2008 and is being inducted 2014.
   67. Publius Publicola Posted: February 13, 2014 at 07:08 PM (#4656597)
A ball pastadiving Jeter just means a man on first


But it also means the man who was already on and going from second to third scores while the error prone one might prevent a run by dropping it in front of him and getting the ball late to first.

I don't think it's easy to make those kinds of assumpions. Failure to make outs is failure to make outs. Not being able to keep the ball in the infield has a lot of negative consequences too.
   68. Karl from NY Posted: February 13, 2014 at 07:13 PM (#4656598)
Yeah, the sixth year, so if Jeter retires after 2014 then he's in in 2020.
   69. Moeball Posted: February 13, 2014 at 07:24 PM (#4656601)
A few comments:

1)On teams that looked like they had no weakness - about the best I saw was the '84 Tigers. I think Hernandez was about the only guy on the squad that had a career year - usually you find more than that on teams that are considered truly great. But there really weren't any weaknesses on that squad, either. Yes, Parrish only hit .237 and had a sub-.300 OBA, but he also hit 33 HRs, played solid defense and was still a positive player overall. Darrell Evans had one of his worst seasons and still had an OPS+ of 105. It was like that all throughout the lineup - Trammell, Whitaker, Gibson, etc. - all had good seasons but none had their best season that year. Same with the pitching. Morris and others had excellent seasons although not career best seasons (again, except for Hernandez). Just a very solid team overall and the bench was terrific, too.

2)I mentioned this in one of the earlier Jeter threads, I think - I wonder if Torre liked having players that reminded him of himself. He was a very good hitter although not good defensively as a catcher - but it is so hard to find catchers that can hit like he did that you gladly take the tradeoff because the reality is that the defensive component is not costing you as much as the offensive component is helping you, thus it's an overall positive contribution to the team. One of the things that jumped out at me once the era of Bill James/Pete Palmer etc. started was that for the first time I could see that when teams frequently referred to players as "good glove, no hit" - yet kept putting those players in the lineup - usually the offensive shortcomings of these types of players were far worse than the defensive benefits, and the teams shouldn't have been playing these guys. Outside of the rare Ozzie Smith or Bill Mazeroski or maybe Mark Belanger, that tradeoff doesn't really work although decades of media would declare otherwise. The flip side of that is that a lot of teams throughout baseball history have been reluctant to put good hitters at key defensive positions if they were poor fielders, thinking that too many runs would be cost on the defensive side of the ledger. I think we now know, in this era of enlightenment, that if you can actually find someone who can really hit who can also play those key positions (even if a bit below average defensively), go for it. So maybe Torre loaded his roster up with guys like Posada and Jeter and Bernie, thinking he was getting so strong a plus on the offense that it clearly outweighed the defensive deficiencies.

3)I think B-Ref actually is very generous to Jeter defensively. As the defensive measuring systems get better in the years to come I think we will see he was considerably worse than even the -239 runs, maybe even 100-200 runs worse. Won't matter. He still helped the team overall because of his offensive contributions. With his career offensive numbers I think he'd be an easy first ballot HOFer even if he wasn't a shortstop. As much as the media has clearly overrated him defensively throughout his career, I think they may have actually underrated him offensively.
   70. alilisd Posted: February 13, 2014 at 08:07 PM (#4656619)
see for example the work of Chris Dial providing some evidence that Andruw Jones took all the discretionary plays making his out of zone numbers appear better than they should have.


I'm not following this. If Jones had the range to get there and field a "discretionary" flyball, how does this make him "appear better" than he was? He still had the range to get there and he made the catch.
   71. Karl from NY Posted: February 13, 2014 at 08:28 PM (#4656630)
Outfielders on other teams who don't ball-hog appear worse compared to Jones, making him look better.

Suppose another outfielder, let's call him Beltran, regularly defers to his adjacent outfielder on balls both can reach. Jones gets credit for his catches, Beltran gets none for his deferrals, even if they have equal range.
   72. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2014 at 08:59 PM (#4656646)
There are early Gold Glove winners who aren't seen as that great by the retrospective metrics, of course: Don Kessinger is an example. His glove reputation was high, perhaps because he couldn't hit so it was assumed he must be able to do something. OTOH his first GG came in a season (1969) when RField actually sees him as pretty good, well above the rest of his career; then he hung onto the GG for one year as "incumbent," and never won another. But that's a different issue. Gold Gloves often don't match reputations.

Kessinger won those for a couple of reasons. First, he broke the record for consecutive errorless games at SS ... broken shortly thereafter by Bud Harrelson I think then probably Bowa and god knows who since. Second, he was a master of the Jeter jump-throw from the hole which always looks great when it works.

Possibly my memory's wrong but .... SS get lots of chances and make lots of errors of course (OF can go years between errors) but Kessinger had a 54-game errorless streak in 69. I note the game where it was broken was actually a suspended game and I have no idea how those count in streaks and he went another 5 games after that without an error. My memory though was more along the lines of 60+ games.

Like all the other Cubs in 69, he fell apart in late Aug and Sept. He made 20 errors on the year and 11 of them occurred from Aug 25.

I'm guessing the suspended game counted as Harrelson put up a 56-game streak in 1970. So that's reasonably consistent with my memory although I would have guessed it was a couple of years later.

Laugh now kids, just imagine the useless #### you're gonna remember about Miley Cyrus 30 years from now.
   73. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2014 at 09:02 PM (#4656648)
Any ball that two OF can get two early enough that one can defer is a mile-high can of corn and presumably correctly coded as a play that any average OF can make. And CFs almost never defer.
   74. dlf Posted: February 13, 2014 at 09:19 PM (#4656656)
#73 - Early PBP had location, but not hang time so there was no way of telling the rope into the gap from the proverbial can o' corn in the identical location. This goes back about a decade (and my mind is filled with useless trivia about Rob Wilfong, Hosken Powell, and Bombo Rivera, not to mention Hogan's Heros et al), but my recollection is that Dial showed that Jones had more discretionary plays than other CFs based on actual ball distribution compared to the anticipated distribution relying only on location without hangtime.
   75. Publius Publicola Posted: February 13, 2014 at 09:21 PM (#4656657)
I agree with Walt. Dial can get a little self-righteous with his defensive metrics sometimes, and make assertions that aren't necessarily relevant or correct.
   76. Mike Emeigh Posted: February 13, 2014 at 09:48 PM (#4656665)
I note the game where it was broken was actually a suspended game and I have no idea how those count in streaks


Suspended games always count on the original scheduled date, not the resumed date (this is how, for example, Barry Bonds has a listed debut date of April 20, 1986 even though he was playing at AAA on that date). The game in which Kessinger committed the error was the second game of a June 15 doubleheader. He actually did commit the error before the game was suspended, but it would not have mattered anyway.

-- MWE
   77. Blackadder Posted: February 13, 2014 at 10:54 PM (#4656685)
I think people here should check out Wizardry. Humphreys argues that a) fielding metrics like UZR and TotalZone treat errors as much worse than range plays not made; and b) errors aren't in general any worse than range plays not make. Given a) and b), sure handed fielders like Jeter are going to be overrated by the relevant metrics.
   78. bjhanke Posted: February 14, 2014 at 03:11 AM (#4656720)
The idea that Derek Jeter grades out to be a decent defensive SS when young is provably wrong. Take a look at your copies of Win Shares the book, which only covers through the 2000 season. It has letter grades for every defender who played a serious number of games at a position. At the time, Derek Jeter had only played 6 years, and defense is a young man's game. Jeter's grade? D+. That is a truly horrible grade for a SS, and for a YOUNG one, presumably at the height of his glove powers, it's dreadful beyond imagining. What is hard is to see how the management of the Yankees could keep putting him out there. But I guess, if you HIT enough....

The old Win Shares defensive rankings are surprisingly current, for a method dating to 2000. They pass any plausibility test. For example, here's a list of four guys, bunched together by the alphabet, all of whom are graded as A+ for their entire careers: Herman Long, Rabbit Maranville, Marty Marion, and Dal Maxvill. You can go to any contemporary account of these guys, whose careers cover a range of 90+ years, and immediately see that they were all regarded, when playing, as glove superstars. A couple of places down, Ed McKean, who played in the 1880s and 1890s, is graded as F. Contemporary accounts agree with this completely. The next guy down is Roy McMillan, who played in the 1950s-1960s. He's graded at A-. Anyone who saw McMillan play, including me, could see that he was a star glove. In other words, in this case, Win Shares is not a failing system. It's accurate. And it ranks the YOUNG Derek Jeter as a truly lousy defensive SS. Why he stayed there, especially after the Yanks acquired Alex Rodriguez, who was a better SS, though not a really good one, is something we may never know. - Brock Hanke
   79. Cooper Nielson Posted: February 14, 2014 at 07:03 AM (#4656730)
No he doesn't. That is the part that is exasperating, he wears the uniform nicely, but he doesn't play good defense to the eyes. Way to many batted balls per game get by him, routine plays that most shortstops make, he doesn't even show up in the frame. His reaction time absolutely sucks, can't say much about his positioning, but he does not, nor has he ever, get a good read on the ball, and it's painfully obvious.

I completely agree with cardsfanboy here. Sure, I'm saber-friendly (that's why I'm here), but I was noticing -- with my eyes -- that Jeter was a poor defensive shortstop long before I saw any advanced metrics that supported the notion. This goes back to at least the 2001 postseason, but possibly a few years before that.

Every time I would see the Yankees on TV, I would notice that, on relatively slow grounders up the middle, Jeter was always just barely getting into the frame at the point when even an average shortstop would have been fielding the ball standing up. (That's why there's a guy here named Pasta Diving Jeter, after all.) This was very visible to me, and I am hardly a scout or lifetime "baseball man."
   80. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 14, 2014 at 09:44 AM (#4656758)
Why he stayed there, especially after the Yanks acquired Alex Rodriguez, who was a better SS, though not a really good one, is something we may never know.


Couple of things... first, Jeter stayed at SS before the A-Rod trade because the Yankees did not have a better option; if they had Troy Glaus in their organization instead of Jeter, Glaus would have been the SS. Second, trading for A-Rod would have created a serious controversy about who should play SS (at least among Yankee fans), except that A-Rod was so desperate to get out of Texas that he volunteered to change positions; given that he was, as you note, "a better SS, but not a really good one" and given that Jeter was not particularly likely to be particularly good at 3B either, the runs saved by switching them just weren't going to be close to worth the headache. Third, again as you note, although he was the reigning two-time GG winner, A-Rod does not grade out as a particularly stellar defender. Neither does Michael Young (obviously) or Erick Aybar for that matter. Hell even Omar Vizquel probably didn't deserve two or three of his GGs (although he might have deserved the award in a couple of other seasons when he didn't win). Yet the only GGs anybody ever wants to whine about are Jeter's.

Every time I would see the Yankees on TV, I would notice that, on relatively slow grounders up the middle, Jeter was always just barely getting into the frame at the point when even an average shortstop would have been fielding the ball standing up.


As SG noted, if this were literally true Jeter would grade out as a -400 defender every year. Either you're exaggerating, or your eyes are deceiving you, or you are succumbing to confirmation bias. As it happens, other teams do occasionally allow hits on slow rollers up the middle. More than occasionally, in fact.
   81. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 14, 2014 at 09:56 AM (#4656761)
Every time I would see the Yankees on TV, I would notice that, on relatively slow grounders up the middle, Jeter was always just barely getting into the frame at the point when even an average shortstop would have been fielding the ball standing up. (That's why there's a guy here named Pasta Diving Jeter, after all.) This was very visible to me, and I am hardly a scout or lifetime "baseball man."


At the risk of a little self-gratification I suspect you and virtually everyone here is a lot closer to a "baseball man" than the average fan. The average fan sees very few errors and pretty jump throws and comes away impressed.

Despite what many people like to say about "us" the fact is the people who post here probably watch a LOT more baseball than most fans so we are going to notice things that the average fan doesn't notice. I'm not saying we are scout-level knowledgeable, we aren't, but I think the people who post at BTF are in a very high percentile of baseball knowledge.

Man that comes across as awfully self-congratulatory. I'm going with it anyway.
   82. BDC Posted: February 14, 2014 at 10:04 AM (#4656767)
Initially at least, given both bats were in the lineup, it shouldn't have mattered much who played SS and who played 3B. I suppose Jeter could have moved in 2004 to CF, but maybe by that point he wouldn't have been much better afield than Bernie, and then you've got to find a decent third baseman who can hit as well as Bernie Williams, and the problems cascade. Solely considering the left side of the infield, AROD had an outstanding year at 3B in '04, and Jeter had his usual terrible one at SS, suggesting that AROD would have had a good year at shortstop and Jeter a poor one at 3B, the sum value remaining about the same.

The problem later was that AROD became a mediocre 3B and Jeter kept being a terrible SS, and the problem became entrenched. Of course, this is the baseball version of a "first world problem." It plagued the Yankees all the way to the 2009 Series title :)
   83. bjhanke Posted: February 14, 2014 at 01:33 PM (#4656917)
I didn't mean to imply that I thought Jeter does not belong in the Hall of Fame. He does. What's unusual is just how long his team kept him at a top defensive spot. Rogers Hornsby, for example, started out as a good shortstop. However, he filled out some, and lost some quickness and his arm wasn't the best, so he ended up at 2B, so the Cardinals could try the likes of Tommy Thevenow at short. They could certainly have found a better-hitting second baseman than Thevenow, or they could have rescued Morrie Rath, who was a valuable leadoff man and a Gold Glove second baseman, or somebody from the top minors, and just gone with Hornsby at SS, and the new guy at second, figuring that the offensive gain from Thevenow to the other guy would be more than the defensive loss by playing Hornsby at SS. But they didn't do that. Nor did the Cubs with Ernie Banks. What makes Jeter unique is that he's the only SS to be that bad defensively from the beginning and sill have the job decades later. I can't really think of another example. But the main point of my last comment was that Derek Jeter was NOT a good young SS who lost the skills mid-career. No, he was just plain lousy, even as a kid. And they didn't move him anyway. Goodness knows they had enough years to find a real SS and make a place for Jeter elsewhere. But they were committed, somehow, to Jeter at short. As I said, this is, as far as I know, unprecedented, which is why it draws so much comment. - Brock
   84. BDC Posted: February 14, 2014 at 01:44 PM (#4656926)
I agree, Brock. Move Jeter to CF in 2004 and his career looks a whole lot like Robin Yount's.
   85. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: February 14, 2014 at 01:46 PM (#4656928)
Nice posts, Brock. Honestly, the thinking you've espoused in 83 is the strongest argument for Jeter as underrated defender by statdorks - we know the metrics will get it wrong sometimes and we know that there is general agreement b/w the establishment and our metrics for shortstops over the long run, so what are they or we missing? (Mind you, I am in the Jeter as bad defender camp as well, for reasons mostly already beat to death in this forum.)
   86. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 14, 2014 at 06:12 PM (#4657133)
On teams that looked like they had no weakness - about the best I saw was the '84 Tigers.

How soon we forget, the 2013 Red Sox.
   87. Dan Posted: February 14, 2014 at 07:30 PM (#4657164)
Initially at least, given both bats were in the lineup, it shouldn't have mattered much who played SS and who played 3B. I suppose Jeter could have moved in 2004 to CF, but maybe by that point he wouldn't have been much better afield than Bernie, and then you've got to find a decent third baseman who can hit as well as Bernie Williams, and the problems cascade. Solely considering the left side of the infield, AROD had an outstanding year at 3B in '04, and Jeter had his usual terrible one at SS, suggesting that AROD would have had a good year at shortstop and Jeter a poor one at 3B, the sum value remaining about the same.


What the Yankees really should have done was move Jeter to 2B, leave ARod at SS, and have Cano shift to 3B in the minors to come up in 2005 at 3B. Jeter doesn't have the reaction time to play 3B well, but his weaknesses could be at least somewhat covered for at 2B. He has a decent enough arm that he could play a deep 2b to cover for his poor first step, allowing him to make up some range. And Cano almost certainly has the tools to be at least an adequate 3B, if not a GG quality one.
   88. Zach Posted: February 14, 2014 at 09:35 PM (#4657196)
I disagree with the argument that the eye can't distinguish between a good and a bad shortstop. Just wait for a grounder up the middle or past third base. The good shortstop may only *make* the play a few more times than the bad shortstop, but he will frequently make a better play on the ball. The good defenders are closer to the ball even if they don't make the play.

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