Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Passed a Diving Jeter
2008-02-24 08:37
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

It's the story that won't go away: Derek Jeter's fielding. Jeter's glove work has been a topic of conversation for the better part of five years now. He is getting older so we can reasonably assume that his fielding will continue to slip. This is no great crime, of course. Unless, the guy playing next to you is, or at least, was, better suited to the position The main bone of contention has been that while some have viewed Jeter as a great defensive player, others, looking at the numbers, say, "You have got to be kidding me."

In today's paper, Joel Sherman gets tot he heart of the matter:

This is not just one set of Ivy League academics calling Jeter the majors' worst fielding shortstop. Just about every respected baseball statistician who has publicized results reveals Jeter is, at best, among the poorest defensive shortstops in the game.

You can attack methodology; you can say no perfect formula has yet been devised to encapsulate all the elements - positioning, speed of the hit ball, field conditions - into a single defensive statistic. However, these metrics keep evolving in sophistication. And Jeter keeps faring poorly in nearly every study year after year. Do you think there is a conspiracy? Do you think statisticians en masse have covertly met and made their quest to soil Jeter's glovely reputation?

"This study has been done a zillion times and the same conclusion is reached every time," an AL official said. "What do you think that means?"

For Jeter devotees, it means assailing the geeks. But as an AL executive said, "this isn't geeks vs. jocks. This is myth vs. reality." In reality, most baseball officials laugh off the three Gold Gloves Jeter won from 2004-06 in the way they do the four Bernie Williams won as having more to do with offense, fame and winning than with actual defense.

I understand why Jeter did not move from shortstop to second or third when Alex Rodriguez arrived in New York. It is Jeter's will and his ego that made him into a great player. I don't even blame him for not wanting to move. However, it would have clearly been the best move for the team, so I take Jeter's reputation as the ultimate team player with a grain of salt. Jeter's fielding is an old story around these parts, but it is one that likely won't go away until the time comes when he finally moves to another position.

2008-02-24 09:10:02
1.   OldYanksFan
Reposted from last thread (now that it is actually relative to this thread).

SG has a wonderful post on Jeter and breaks down his 2007 year in terms of BRAA and FRAA. He also posts where Jeter would fall in BRAA if he played one of the other positions.

I may be reading it wrong, but unless we can someone who can (close to) equal Jeter's run production (BRAA + FRAA) at SS, it appears that in terms of team value, he is best off where he is. IF he GIVES UP more runs AND produces LESS runs in the future, it may be a different story. But as I read it, it looks like SS is still the best position for Jetes for a few years.

2008-02-24 09:50:58
2.   JL25and3
It's also not just the statheads who are saying that Jeter's a lousy fielder. Anyone who watches him regularly knows that.

However, I do think the "pasta divingjeter" tag is unfair. Jeter almost never dives for balls in the first place.

2008-02-24 10:19:47
3.   OldYanksFan
... pasta standingJeter?
... pasta lungingJeter?
... pasta stillinhiscrouchJeter?
... pasta frozenJeter? (thaw before cooking)
2008-02-24 10:42:55
4.   mehmattski
1 Jeter GAVE UP 22 runs as a shortstop last year, relative to replacement. He hit 33 above replacement.

According to SG's projections, Jeter's worst move, by BRAR, would be to first base, since he'd only be 21 runs above average there. So to break even on "Runs above Replacement," Jeter would have to do no worse than -10 FRAR at first base. Considering even the worst of Jason Giambi isn't at that level, I think Jeter would do just fine there.

Meanwhile, plugging AG in at short stop, even this season, would probably result in replacement levels with the bat. Could it result in +11 FRAR with the glove? If the reports that he's better than Adam Everett on defense are true, then yes he can.

So I've just outlined the math behind moving Jeter to first and replacing him with AG this year. Obviously that's not going to happen with Giambi still on the team. But if Jeter has another terrible defensive year and AG improves his hitting, it would probably benefit the Yankees to make the switch as soon as next year.

2008-02-24 11:37:27
5.   Jeb
"This study has been done a zillion times..."

A zillion? And people say arod exaggerates!

2008-02-24 11:43:50
6.   Ken Arneson
5 A friend of mine in college once did a study and determined that a "zillion" is a irrational number somewhere between 16 and 17. So that sounds about right to me.
2008-02-24 12:11:03
7.   rbj
2 , 3 How about Pasta LinguiniJeter?
2008-02-24 13:45:48
8.   weeping for brunnhilde
Caveat: Here I go again.

You don't need fucking statistics to know Jeter's a poor shortstop, you just need to watch baseball games!

Sorry, it just irritates me. It's like I foresee a day when people won't even bother to watch anymore, they'll just cut to the chase and read the stats.

Who needs to watch a game when you've got stats?

Like that Star Trek episode where they stop actually fighting real war but just fight a computer-simulated war instead and when your number comes up, your duty is to report to an execution chamber in accordance with the results of the simulation.

Only the execution's real.

I know I sound like a raving crank, but there you have it.

2008-02-24 13:49:22
9.   weeping for brunnhilde
2 Of course! And it's easy to sort of forget how bad he is, to be inured to it, but then you watch other shortstops make all these amazing plays where you wonder how they ever got to that ball and then you realize, "Oh, right, this guy's range just looks preternatural compared to Derek's."
2008-02-24 13:53:36
10.   monkeypants
8 The problem, Weeping, is that people continue to use the exact same arguments that you do, to argue that Jeter is a GREAT defensive SS. You know, like: "I don't care what your f'ing statistics say, have you ever watched the games and seen Jeter make that long jump throw? Who else does that?" etc."

The issue is not really stats v. watching the games, nor are subjective impressionistic arguments to be completely ignored. BUt baseball has long been a game of numbers and statistics, and there is no reason to fear advanced metrics.

2008-02-24 14:01:47
11.   monkeypants
10 To continue, I for one actually think that Jeter is a better SS than the stats say, though I do fully admit that he's not very good. Last year he was truly awful, but as it has been pointed out a number of times, he was very banged up last year (that's probably why his base running suffered badly). If a healthy Jeter continues to play SS so horribly this year, well then they should probably move him ASAP.

On a side note, the swipe at Bernie's Gold Gloves in the Sherman piece is a little unfortunate. When he was younger, Bernie was actually a pretty decent CF (maybe not so much in 1999 and 2000), and his defensive stats--if I recall--stood up well to supposed defensive wonder Junior Griffey.

2008-02-24 14:41:44
12.   Chyll Will
I gotta agree with monkeypants' moderately conservative assessment of Jeter's skills, although in deference to Weep I believe there are many more casual fans who are lost by or decidedly disregard modern statistics in forming their opinion of Jeter's defense. This argument has been stated before where a person who has witnessed a small sample size of Jeter in play will often come away convinced that he's one of the great shortstops of all time or one of the worst, given what they get a chance to see. And many, I believe, are still going to stand by one of the greatest the statistical anomalies of his career (The Flip Play) as the standard of his play. I still like to think that Jeter's a superior fielder because of that; how many can you picture having the presence of mind to make a play like that?

That said, I don't analyze modern statistics as well as many here, but presented in the way they are I'm willing to accept them and what they represent, the same way many GMs are doing now. It only makes sense, even if it flies in the face of sentiment.

I gotta say too, it'll be a hell of a day when Jeter is actually moved from SS; Cash has built up for a day like this with his casual withdraw of Bernie from the roster (or if you prefer, Bernie's rejection of competing for a job on a non-guaranteed contract) and his (seemingly) passive-aggressive involvement in Torre's rejection of a new contract. Jeter likely won't go down easy under any circumstances. But then, it may not be Cash's decision to make down the line, either.

2008-02-24 14:44:40
13.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
4 First base? What about left field when Captain Caveman's contract runs out?

11 "supposed defensive wonder Junior Griffey.." Huh??

2008-02-24 14:56:35
14.   nick
weeping--I'm not exactly disagreeing with you: but remember that ALL Jeter's defenders base their claims on "watching baseball games"--so then you have to prove, somehow, that you watch BETTER--ain't gonna work! Seriously, to know Jeter was bad, in the only context where bad means something, you'd have to watch video of a bunch of mlb shortstops pretty systematically, I think--otherwise your eyes will confirm your biases--we're talking about mlb shortstops here, in an absolute sense ALL of these guys are extraordinarly good fielders--unless you think the average college shortstop is actually better than Jeter defensively?
2008-02-24 15:31:47
15.   monkeypants
13 I meant that in Bernie's prime, he was as good of defensive CF than Junior, at least according to the more advanced defensive metrics. So, if Junior was as great as his reputation and many, many Gold Gloves suggests, then Bernie was awfully good as well.

There is sometimes a tendency for GG to "lag" behind reality--Bernie was pretty good for a few years in his prime, but only started getting the awards later, when his ability started to decline.

2008-02-24 15:43:14
16.   mehmattski
8 Except, these aren't "just statistics." It's tracking the vector of every ball in play of every game, and comparing the shortstops based on how they make similar plays. There's nothing magical about it- the types of defensive metrics used show that Derek Jeter is statistically significantly worse at playing shortstop, compared to anyone in the league not named Hanley Ramirez.

So the criticism "it's not the same as watching the games" is moot, because they do watch the games. Every one of them. Every play- the speed and direction of every batted ball.

Finally, I think the best defense for the "why watch the games" attack on statistics is seen every game, right here at the Bronx Banter: despite most of us being very knowledgeable about stats and how teams maximize runs over long term, and how short term results are insignificant... we still are here every day living and dying on each pitch.

So we do watch the games, even with stats. The stats tell us why, over the long term, a team should be constructed a certain way. It allows us to properly recognize the best and worst, and challenges our intuition. They should never be the only way to analyze baseball- but neither should raw emotion, either.

2008-02-24 16:00:34
17.   RIYank
I don't get the "why watch the games?" dig.

Do you (Weeping) think that the only reason to watch baseball games is to find out how good each player is?? If that were the reason, then I do think there would be very little reason for me, personally, to watch baseball games. I'd just take the evidence that other people watching have recorded and use that. A blind man could find out the answers just as well as I could.

That's not why I watch baseball games.

2008-02-24 16:31:03
18.   Knuckles
I haven't been the most active poster this winter, but I have been keeping an eye on the Banter and the comments.

That said, can I say what seems to have been unsaid for a while...

At what point does it make sense to take a flier on Bonds? All the guy does is hit and get on base & hit for power- you can't seriously argue that the combo of Matsui/Damon/Giambi/Duncan will be healthy and effective enough all year to preclude getting 450 PA's for Bonds. The whole 'character' thing is moot at this point- as big of a jerk as Barry is, it's becoming clear that the Yanks have had their share of juicers and a-holes over the years. What's one more, if he can put up a .280/.450/.550?

Shoot me down, but it's just a thought. I can stomach Barry Bonds in our lineup if he's balanced by the Cano/Melky/Hughes/Joba's of the world...

2008-02-24 16:44:37
19.   SF Yanks
18 I'm all for it, and I don't think it can hurt any.
2008-02-24 16:57:16
20.   Chyll Will
18 That's assuming that nobody has asked about Bonds. Perhaps a few have gotten past the "eww, he's gonna go to jail" mentality and inquired about his asking price. What is his asking price? And is this worth 450 PAs as a DH/PH? If he did what Frank Thomas and Mike Piazza did after the end of a major contract and take spare change to play, it would likely be well worth it... I'd take a flier at a sensible discount.

I doubt the Yanks are afraid to take a Bonds into their fold for personality sake, it's probably whether his asking price justifies taking at bats or a roster spot away from a more versatile position player. Are you basically paying $XX million for Giambi's twin with no position? Do you justify it by forcing him to play left field 50 games a year?

I'm not saying you're wrong, Knuckles, but I wonder if the production really outweighs the risks at the price he's likely asking for. What would you want to pay him at this point? $2 mil for one season? Is that fair, more than fair, less, and would he take it?

2008-02-24 17:00:23
21.   RIYank
But Chyll, he's a much better hitter than Giambi.

I think he might well be in jail, though. That's a problem even for a DH.

2008-02-24 17:20:57
22.   Knuckles
Bonds will not play for $2M, I'm almost positive of that. And the fact that jail could be in his future is a massive wrinkle.

But the point is, it's the 1st week of ST and he is unemployed. The Yankees are one of the few teams who have the money to throw his way at this point in the (pre)season. He made $15M last year, and much of that was probably the Giants doing an ROI on what they would reap if/when he passed Aaron in a SF uniform.

This is a guy, who, like Clemens, seems to think he is innocent of all charges against him- why not ask him to put his money where his mouth is (before someone like DET or CHW wises up and does the same)? I don't see the issue with offering him $9M, then get creative- reduce it to $6M if convicted during the season, and add bonuses based on PA's. If he's in uniform, he'll get on base and hit.

2008-02-24 17:28:28
23.   Chyll Will
22 See? I could live with that. I wonder what he has been asking for...

21 It wasn't a problem for Ron LeFlore, but that was a different story >;)

2008-02-24 17:33:23
24.   OldYanksFan
I am all for Bonds. Warts and all, he is electric to watch. I am a Yankees fan and love watching games and our individual players, but when Bonds walks to the plate with a bat in his hand, it's just excitement that transcends anything else in baseball.

I really don't think money is an issue. He will work cheap and certainly for incentives. Look what we paid for 1 year of Roger to help us make the PS. I have to guess he would love to play his last year on the Yankees and help us win a WS. A one year contract simply can't hurt us.

In terms of balancing the lineup, I'm sure something ca be worked out. Giambi can play 1st 3 of 4 games until he is injured. There is no reason we can't split 3 OF positions and some DH (40 games) for our 4 OFers. We should only be so lucky that nobody gets injured and everyone has a decent year.

The idea of watching pitchers face an inning iof Bonds/ARod/Giambi is just tasty as hell.

On days where JD sits, we may have a 1-5 of:

Gives me the chills (Chylls?) just typing it. The man who broke Aarons record followed by the man who will eventually break his records.

The media will go wild.
People in CA. will be able to hear the wailing in Boston.
Yankee hatred will be back in vogue.
The Evil Empire will be back.
It would be soooo much fun.

2008-02-24 17:38:08
25.   OldYanksFan
18 Thanks for reminding us of the white elephant in the room. I think we should offer a $100,000 bonus for every HR Bonds headbutts into the RF stands.
2008-02-24 17:54:19
26.   uburoisc
I'm all for taking a flier on Bonds as well. Give him a heavy incentive-based salary and listen to the lovely wailing of Yankee haters 'round the land. I think there is something about Bonds in pinstripes that works for me. I watched him hit quite a bit out here in LA, and I can say that when he's at the plate, everybody stops to watch.
2008-02-24 18:04:19
27.   Chyll Will
25 Who'd win a brawl in such a room, the white elephant or an 800-lb gorilla? (Place your bets, place your bets...)
2008-02-24 18:21:19
28.   weeping for brunnhilde
Points taken, everyone, thanks for the impassioned responses.

Really, I think I do understand what everyone's saying.

My reaction was obviously an over-the-top rant, but I do want to point out I wasn't trying to dismiss statistics, just to express my bemusement that in this case statistics should be necessary.

It's just nearly inconceivable to me that anyone could watch Derek day in and day out and overrate his fielding because his major weakness--range--is so apparent to all of us who watch.

To use an analogy, it's like Obama at the debate the other night: "You don't need an economist to know people are struggling" or whatever he said.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know Jeter's not Ozzie Smith. (Then again, maybe Ozzie Smith wasn't Ozzie Smith--I was young then and only remember the highlight reel acrobatics and those cartwheels.)

Anyway, when do the bloody games start?

2008-02-24 18:24:23
29.   weeping for brunnhilde
24 I really don't want Bonds on the team as a matter of principle and taste, but you're right, he is magical.

I loved watching him back ca. 2001. I had a couple of Giant fan friends so I got the chance to get to know they guy and man, he really was something else.

The eye on that guy.

2008-02-24 18:25:19
30.   Chyll Will
28 From what it's looked like around here lately, not soon enough, guv'nah >;)
2008-02-24 18:29:28
31.   Chyll Will
30 Yeah, I need some baseball right about now. I'm watching "Pride & Prejudice" on PBS and the prevailing thought is, "nice racks!" >;)
2008-02-24 18:45:06
32.   Knuckles
27 I'll take Farnsworth, and the points, over both the gorilla and the elephant....
2008-02-24 18:59:26
33.   Shaun P
31 I should watch PBS more often! ;)

28 And, to me, weeping, you just gave the best reason to have stats - they tell us what happened when we didn't see it ourselves. I never saw (or heard) Brooks Robinson, or Clete Boyer, play a single inning live. Without the fielding stats - however poor they were at the time - how do you know they were really that good? I prefer to not have to lean on the (just for example) Joe Morgans of the world, who (like all of us would) remember their friends first, and best.

Re Ozzie at least, what you remember and the stats agree - he truly was The Wizard.

18 I'd take Bonds any day, assuming he no longer will cost the Yanks their 1st round pick. The Giants didn't offer him arbitration, right?

My guess is, unless Bonds is very desperate, I don't see him taking below the $15M he made last year. He's too proud to take a pay cut, and proud enough to hold out. The question is, would he take $15M on May 1st if it was pro-rated (a la Clemens last year)?

2008-02-24 19:17:29
34.   OldYanksFan
We are into ST and I haven't heard a peep about interest in Bonds. Piazza and Thomas signed for a few million. Yeah Bonds is better, but carries a ton of baggage.

Bonds wants 800. Financially, I think he has a pretty good portfolio. I may be wrong, but I don't think anyone will offer him $10m. How many AL teams can afford $10m AND will deal will the stigma of Bonds?

2008-02-24 19:19:57
35.   Chyll Will
33 Right. No arb for Bonds. However, it seems that front offices are the ones saying no; ostensibly because they want to get younger, but really they most likely want to step away from the steroids mess altogether, hypocritical as it may be. LaRussa suggested Bonds as protection for Pujols (wow) and was turned down flat. What do you think the Cubs' excuse is? NOW they want to save money?

At any rate, Bonds can still afford to wait it out and deal with his legal troubles, which I'm certain is what's on all of these GM's minds. But I doubt anu manager in his right mind would not want his bat in the lineup in May, regardless of his situation.

2008-02-24 19:22:26
36.   Chyll Will
34 Psst!
2008-02-24 19:35:34
37.   3rd gen yankee fan
31 OMG I love you guys. I am rehabbing from a month and a half "Jane-uary" promotion at work and this comment just cured me! LMAO
2008-02-24 19:36:37
38.   3rd gen yankee fan
btw Phil Hughes was kind enough to post a picture of "the window" over on his blog. How can you not love this kid?

2008-02-24 19:37:40
39.   Chyll Will
In other news, Boston signs Bartolo Colon to a minor-league contract...

2008-02-24 19:43:50
40.   OldYanksFan
I'm actual surprised that neither the Angels or Mariners have landed Bonds. He could be a difference maker for either of those Teams.
2008-02-24 19:51:13
41.   Chyll Will
37 Anytime >;)
2008-02-24 20:27:00
42.   Shaun P
40 My understanding is that the M's have this thing about "chemistry" or "character guys" or some such thing. Why that didn't stop them from signing Jose Guillen, but stops them from signing Bonds, is beyond me.

The Angels already have too many guys who need time at DH (Guerrero especially) and shouldn't really the field. As much as they need the offense, I don't think there's room.

2008-02-25 06:02:21
43.   rbj
42 "The Angels already have too many guys who need time at DH (Guerrero especially) and shouldn't really the field. As much as they need the offense, I don't think there's room. "

Same with the Yankees. Where/when is Bonds going to play. There's already Matsui/Damon/Giambi for LF-1B-DH (plus Posada getting some ABs at 1B/DH & a kid making it out of ST). Do the Yankees just cut Giambi and pay his salary + Bonds'? That's an awful lot of money. Besides, with the recent Clemens thing and Pettitte's admission, bringing in another suspected PED user might be seen as a bit too much. I would rather use Barry's ABs for a kid to develop at the ML level. The Yankees do need to get younger with position players as well as with pitchers.

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