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Doin’ Alright

Derek Jeter’s fielding improved last year, so much so that he was awarded the Gold Glove for American League shortstops. Now, he may not have been the best defensive shortstop in the league, but he had one of his best seasons with the leather. According to Steve Lombardi, Jeter’s fielding has remained at the top of the league again this year:

Is he a terrible SS? No. A terrible SS would have been moved off SS by now. Tony Batista was moved. Chipper Jones was moved. Mike Lansing was moved. Mark Lewis was moved. Jose Offerman was moved. Wil Cordero was moved. Julio Franco was moved. In the big leagues, if you truly are a terrible SS, you will eventually be moved. Even a stupid team figures it out after a while. Jeter has not been moved, because he is not terrible with the glove at SS.

While Jeter’s power numbers have dipped (he hit 23 homers and 44 doubles in 2004, and he has 14,and 21 respectively so far this year), Jeter has walked 60 times so far in 2005, up from 46 all of last year. He has six sacrifices this year, down from a ridiculously high 16 in 2004 (that spike was a direct result of Jeter’s early season slump, and it was a habit he did not break out of all year, even after he starting hitting). Jeter scored his 100th run of the season yesterday and his line of .315/.393/.456 makes for another impressive year, don’t you think?

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1 rsmith51   ~  Aug 29, 2005 10:19 am

1.  I think Jeter is an OK SS, but I think he could be an outstanding CF. In addition, the Yanks already have a better SS on the team. It's not going to happen, but putting him in CF would make the team much better. Maybe next year.

2 Shaun P   ~  Aug 29, 2005 11:29 am

2.  I've said that before myself, but sometimes I wonder if its better to leave well-enough alone. A-Rod is a fantastic 3B - the best the Yanks have ever had, which is saying a lot - and with some luck, we'll have good in-house options for CF in a year or two (hello, Melky).

I also wonder if the possibility for injury goes up if Jeter moves to CF, given that he'll be 32 (his 2006 baseball-age), in which case I say don't do it. I'm not saying he's not a good enough athlete to do it - but I'm guessing that being a CF requires a comfort zone that I imagine takes some time to get.

Still, it is an interesting idea . . .

3 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 29, 2005 11:30 am

3.  For two or three years now the Robin Yount comp has come up with Jeter time and again. I still think it holds, though I agree, I don't think Jeter is going to move from SS. Without a viable CF out there on the free agent market it certainly is something to consider. But my guess is that moving Jeter to the OF is a longshot.

Regardless, he's a competent shortstop.

4 JeremyM   ~  Aug 29, 2005 12:20 pm

4.  Did Melky get sent down to AA? I looked for his stats on the Clippers site and I found nothing. Wouldn't it have made more sense to put him back with Columbus?

5 yankee fan in Hollywood   ~  Aug 29, 2005 12:24 pm

5.  Just an OK SS ???? Maybe im blind but I have never thought Jeter was just an OK SS...He'll make mistakes once in a while but he's still one of the greatest at the end of the day. Or maybe I love the yanks so much i'm not able to see what's wrong with Jeter...so now i turn to ask you guys..what is wrong with Jeter @ SS ???

6 Jen   ~  Aug 29, 2005 12:47 pm

6.  JeremyM, I believe Melky went back to Columbus but Kevin Thompson has won the CF job there. Melky appears to be in Trenton right now.

There was a good article in the Star Ledger about Mark Newman's report on the farm system. (via Off the Façade)


7 JeremyM   ~  Aug 29, 2005 12:51 pm

7.  Great link, thanks Jen. Hope Cabrera wasn't crushed by failing in the show on his first brief go-around.

8 yankz   ~  Aug 29, 2005 1:05 pm

8.  Jeter's a Yankee for life, so where's he going to play towards the end of his contract? The thought of a 39 year old SS is scary, and I'm the biggest DJ fan alive.

9 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 29, 2005 1:24 pm

9.  Jeter has a fantastic arm, is extremely reliable on the routine plays and is capable of making difficult plays with consistancy when charging the ball or going to his right. He's also fantastic on pop-ups. Where he falls short is his range, primarily to his left.

I don't think it is a coincidence that Jeter's fielding stats have improved since Rodriguez joined the team. With a legitimate Gold Glove SS playing third base to his right, and Jeter's strength being going to his right, he can play closer to second, thus closing the gap up the middle (to his left), which is where the hole in his range existed. We're all far too familiar with announcers saying "base hit up the middle" and "past a diving Jeter," but with Rodriguez covering more ground around third and Jeter moving over a tad, that's been less of a problem this season and last.

This all points to the shortcomings of fielding stats. Fielding territory overlaps and ones defensive stats can be skewed by the ability of one's defensive neighbors. I'm not completely convinced that Jeter is playing a better shortstop than he was in 2003, just that he's in better position to make use of his particular abilities at the position.

Now, all of that said, I don't know for sure that Jeter actually is positioning himself closer to the bag. I'd love for someone with press access to ask him about it, or for someone to compare some video on where he played a given batter in 2003 compared to '04 and this year.

Also, Jeter has played beside many strong defensive third basemen (Boggs, Brosius, Ventura, Boone), all of whom have posted higher Range Factors while playing next to Jeter than Rodriguez did last year. So maybe everything I just said was bunk. Then again, it seems far too plausable, doesn't it?

10 JVarghese81   ~  Aug 29, 2005 1:42 pm

10.  Jen,
I'm surprised that they didn't include Tyler Clippard in that article. Maybe it's because he's still in Tampa (trenton next year, I hope). http://tinyurl.com/7t8zu

Same thing with Cox. He'll be pushed up next year though for now, I'd just shut that guy down - with the CWS, he's got a good amount of mileage on his arm. http://tinyurl.com/bmk5x

Also, with Duncan, it'll be interesting ot see what he does in the AFL in a different park. Keep in mind that the kid is only 19 and in AA. He's still damn good - wait & see.

11 Dan M   ~  Aug 29, 2005 2:05 pm

11.  Cliff, don't forget Sterling's "up the middle and through."

I've been advocating the Yount-switch for 2 years, but Shaun P makes a great point (Jeter would be 32) considering that Yount did it when he was 29.

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