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Hey, Guess What?


Do we really need another article about Derek Jeter’s fielding? Even though he’s only played a handful of games this season, even though the topic has been beaten to death? Apparently so, and this one by Ben Lindbergh comes recommended from our pal Hank Waddles. Check it out over at Grantland.

[Photo Via: N.Y. Daily News]


1 RagingTartabull   ~  Aug 29, 2013 9:58 am

one time I heard Christopher Hitchens say "George Bush is an idiot jokes are the jokes stupid people tell to each other to feel smart." And while I disagree with that point...well I kinda GET it.

He has no range...I get it...I'll make sure to tell him at his Hall of Fame induction.

2 Start Spreading the News   ~  Aug 29, 2013 11:36 am

[2] I don't get it when applied to Jeter. Why does pointing out Jeter's bad defense imply that he can't be a hall of famer? There are plenty of people in the Hall who played bad D.

Does pointing out that Mo is a one pitch wonder lessen the fact that he is HOF pitcher and greatest reliever of all time?

3 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 29, 2013 12:20 pm

[1] & [2] I think most of the articles on Jeter's defense inspire a lot of "what if Jeter was also a great defender" type debate. Those are kind of useless, like asking "what if instead of hitting .315, he hit .415?" Yeah, he'd be better, but so what?

This article actually contrbutes something new, though it stoops to ask the same dumb questions at the end. Jeter sucks now in a whole different way than he sucked several years ago, showing he has made strides in certain aspects of his defensive game. Unforttunately, any gains he's made have been given up to age.

Still, he was able to continue being "bad" instead of falling from "bad" to "retired" so that's a huge win for us and the Yanks.

4 GaryfromChevyChase   ~  Aug 29, 2013 12:35 pm

If Alex is "away" next season, Jete to 3rd.

5 Chris   ~  Aug 29, 2013 1:10 pm

[4] Seconded.

6 Bronx Boy in NC   ~  Aug 29, 2013 2:55 pm

[4], [5] Right with ya.

I don't see as much discrepancy between what the stats tell me and what my eyes tell me as most people seem to. The numbers say he's not defending the position as well as his counterparts--and what about that contradicts the following sense impressions?

-Hustles* (hence the stands dive)
-Smart (hence The Flip)
-Arm reasonably accurate

-Poor lateral range, especially to his left
-Jump throw may look good but lacks mustard compared to a set throw
-Arm not especially strong

To me that snapshot feels pretty consistent with the sabermetric case against Jeter, and it's also consistent with two decades of respecting the guy and being happy he's on my team.

The Bill James note in the article is spot-on: He has to be really good at something if he's held down starting SS for 15+ years with subpar fielding results.

The big contradiction doesn't seem like much of one to me.

*I will admit one contradiction of my own (see: Whitman). I will stand by saying that in the main, Jeter hustles and doesn't dog it. But it also seems he's accepted his own bad press re: range to his left and sometimes waves at balls there I'd like to see him get dirty for. Self-fulfilling in a way.

7 Chyll Will   ~  Aug 29, 2013 3:55 pm

"Yunnow, this orange is pretty good."


"Yeah. It's juicy and sweet; not bitter, not too pulpy. Sure would like to have another one, but I'm feeling okay with just this one..."

"Yeah, but you know what would make it better?"


"If you chilled it, sliced it up, dipped it in chocolate and sold each slice for a dollar."

"Yeah, I suppose. I'd have a little change in my pocket then. But I wouldn't have the orange."


8 Hank Waddles   ~  Aug 29, 2013 4:38 pm

The interesting thing about all these Jeter defense articles is the fact that they exist. Lindbergh kind of gets this and alludes to it a few times (though he makes it clear that NO ONE, including him, thinks that Jeter's defense diminishes his Hall of Fame candidacy).

This is the nature of sports. Or, more accurately, the nature of sports analysis. Ted Williams was the greatest hitter of all-time (don't start, that's not what this thread is about), but even before people were trying to quantify fielding, there were tons of people who wanted to downgrade Williams because of his poor defense. Think about that for a minute -- Williams was a far greater hitter than Jeter, and he played a far less important position, but people STILL were critical.

The very fact that his defense has been analyzed so tirelessly implies that we're nitpicking here. No one, after all, worries about Lyle Overbay's base running or Brett Gardner's hitting. Those players are who they are. Jeter is who he is -- a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the most respected player in baseball -- but for some people that isn't enough.

As Yankee fans, most of us are willing to forgive Jeter's defensive deficiencies -- not because our Jeter love blinds us to those faults, but because we've watched him everyday and realize that there is no shortstop of his era (unless you count A-Rod; again, not a debate for this thread) that we would rather have had over the past seventeen years. In fact, there are fewer than ten shortstops IN BASEBALL HISTORY that would've been better. That number gets dramatically smaller when intangibles like leadership, public persona, and will to win are added in.

So yes, I recommended this article to Alex. Lindbergh's method intrigued me, and I enjoyed the video evidence. But as Jon mentioned, he falls into the same trap in the end. He asks, "How many more World Series would the Yankees have won?" Truly, the question should be, "How many fewer World Series would they have won with another shortstop?"

9 Chris   ~  Aug 29, 2013 4:44 pm

Perfect, Hank.

10 monkeypants   ~  Aug 29, 2013 5:59 pm

[4][5][6] Does Jeter have the arm for 3B? Plus, is it worth moving him for what is probably his last season (at least with the Yankees). Unless of course he tears the cover off the ball like he did last year, in which case the defensive argument is moot, because he will outhit his defensive liability. The thing with Jeter is that he does not really hit well enough to warrant taking a corner spot, so you pretty much have to ride him as long as possible at SS to maximize his value. The plan should be to keep him at SS but rest him more (sit him v. tough righties?) and sprinkle in a goodly number of DH days.

11 Chris   ~  Aug 29, 2013 7:55 pm

Not only does he have the arm for a 3B, the move minimizes his main weakness, range. Also you don't have a solid in-house option (with ARod gone) and you do have a SS ready to play every day in Nunez. Your point's taken about not being a typical hitter for 3B, but if Boggs could do it Jeter can too.

12 monkeypants   ~  Aug 29, 2013 8:36 pm

[11] and you do have a SS ready to play every day in Nunez.

Hahahahahahaha. If Nuñez is the solution, I'll take the problem.

Boggs was a far better hitter than Jeter, and so while he was not a typical slugging 3B, his career 131 OPS+ more than justified him playing a corner position. Jeter's value as a hitter will drop if he moves off SS to 3B. It *is* possible that his relative betterness at 3B would make up for it, but that is speculative...and really, why experiment in what is likely his last year with the team. The best strategy is, easily, to keep him at SS as long as his bat carries his glove.

13 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 29, 2013 8:38 pm

8) Hank, thank you. That was great.

14 Hank Waddles   ~  Aug 30, 2013 12:02 am

[12] I've never completely bought into the idea that a player must hit a certain amount to warrant his defensive position. Instead of looking at each individual spot in the lineup, why don't we look at the entire lineup? Sure, Jeter won't be the offensive threat that you sometimes have from a third baseman, but doesn't the added pop you get from Canó at second more than make up for that?

15 monkeypants   ~  Aug 30, 2013 4:01 am

[12] You're looking at it the wrong way around. Cano doesn't make up for a deficient 3B, but rather a deficient 3B takes away from the advantage you have from batting a Cano at 2B. Plus, keep in mind that you not only have a relatively poor-hitting 3B if you move Jeter there, but you also lose the offensive advantage you used to have at SS, because now the full-time SS is Nuñez or some other dreck.

Sure, a power-laden lineup like the Yankees had during the dynasty years, with well-above-average players at traditionally lighter-hitting positions C, SS, CF, and strong hitters at other positions let them get away with carrying relatively weaker bats at traditionally more offensive positions (especially LF, in those days), but that is an exceptional way to build a team. And going forward, the Yankees will not have elite bats at C or CF or SS (if they move Jeter), and they will carry deficient offence at RF (Ichiro), DH (rotating hospital bed),and possibly 3B (assuming Jeter's moves there) and 1B (as Teixeira continues to slide). It seems to me the smarter move is to keep your advantage at SS (i.e., play Jeter there as long as possible) and try to find a decent bat at 3B, which should be easier than trying to replace above-average offence at SS.

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