At age 38, with a healthy ankle, Derek Jeter was rated as the worst defensive shortstop in baseball by most every advanced defensive metric in 2012. He was sure-handed as always, but his range—which has never been a strength—declined to near-statue levels.
Derek Jeter will turn 39 years old this season. He is coming off a broken ankle and now has a plate and screws in his leg. He was unable to work out his legs all winter as he rested and rehabbed from the surgery.
If this sounds like a bad combination, well, it probably is.
Jeter played shortstop Wednesday night, his first time playing defense since breaking his ankle exactly five months before. His return brings stability to the position for the undermanned Yankees, who are already down several key players with the start of the season just a few weeks away.
Jeter’s leadership and offense will be essential to the success of the Yankees. But they may have to succeed despite his defense; it will represent a coup if Jeter is merely just as poor as he was last year. In all likelihood, he will be worse.
...According to Fangraphs.com, Jeter’s Ultimate Zone Rating, a combination of his range and his propensity to make errors, was -16.5, worst in the majors among the 21 full-time shortstops. By Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved system, Jeter cost his team 18 runs in 2012 with his fielding. That was again worst in the majors.
And those ratings take into account how remarkably sure-handed Jeter is. The Yankee shortstop is an expert at fielding the balls he gets to and firing them to first base. The problem is that he doesn’t get to all that many anymore.