How to completely miss the point about defense

A look into the world of pro scouting
Open Thread: Edwar on the shelf

It pains me to link to this, but I have to if I want to make the most obvious point in the universe. So go here, to Dugout Central, which in general isn’t light on the flimsy analysis. For those who don’t want to waste their time, I’ll sum up Michael Walsh’s premise: Derek Jeter isn’t a bad defender because he doesn’t make a lot of errors. Not only that, but his errors, in general, are okay because they don’t cost his team the game. It’s great stuff, compelling and rich. Except that it misses the point by about as far as possible.

The quote that made me laugh the hardest: “Regardless of the conclusions of any individual study, scientific or otherwise, there is no question that Derek Jeter is nothing less than a solid defender.” Yes. Damn everything people have studied and observed over the years. Because Michael Walsh says that “to even infer that he may be the worst fielder in all of baseball is simply ridiculous,” it must be true. Because he said it. And Michael Walsh is smarter and has an acuter sense of baseball skills than everyone else in the baseball-loving world.

One sentence can debunk Walsh’s entire argument. I hand the mic to Pinto: “It’s not about the errors Jeter makes, it’s about all the balls that he never gets a glove on that other shortstops turn into outs.” Anyone who has watched the Yankees for the past decade plus can see that Jeter is poor getting to balls hit to his left. The stats bear that out, but we don’t even need them in this instance. It’s so obvious that anyone who has watched even a few other shortstops knows that Jeter’s range doesn’t stack up. Walsh attacks Yuniesky Betancourt and his 21 errors in 2008, but when the Yanks play the Mariners, or when I watch the M’s on (usually when Felix pitches), I’m always impressed by how quickly Betancourt gets behind the bag at second to make plays Jeter could only dream of.

Oh, and about that line that made me laugh the most: I lied. This one was by far the best knee-slapper in the article:

However, the 1997 season is a different story. That summer stands out as Jeter cost his team three contests during a season in which the Yanks missed the post season by only two games.

So this “research” and “analysis” comes from a guy who can’t even go to Baseball Reference and see that the Yankees did, in fact, make the playoffs in 1997. They did lose the division to Baltimore by two games, but they won the Wild Card by 12 freaking games. So that’s two counts of shoddy research by Walsh.

Look, I’m not here to say that if you think Derek Jeter plays solid defense, you’re an idiot. I am saying, however, that if you choose to make this statement you’re entering a shootout. Bringing a knife to the battle probably isn’t the best strategy.

A look into the world of pro scouting
Open Thread: Edwar on the shelf
  • A.D.

    Betancourt does have a pretty shit-tastic UZR/150.

    Otherwise this article is written by someone who would love calling A-Rod unclutch, CC a terrible “big game” pitcher in the playoffs, and Hughes a big game stud from his post season success

    • Joseph P.

      Perhaps his weakness is range to his right. He’s great making plays up the middle.

      • Ed

        Yuniesky, please take two steps to your right.

        Derek, please take two steps to your left.

        If problems persist, consider taking a step back.

  • btour99

    LOL @ Yanks not making playoffs in 97.

    Even if you weren’t around or paying attention to the Yankees or baseball back in ’97, the way the MSM hammered home the fact that the Yankees missed the playoffs in 2008 for the first time in 13 years should have stopped Walsh from completing that sentence.

    Just wow!

  • John

    there are some stupid people out there…

  • A.D.

    So Derek Jeter is a better fielder because his pitching staff was able to pick him up on his errors later in his career….great logic.

  • Matt ’09

    Wow, this guy lost all of his credibility….haha.

  • GG

    The fall of ’97 was the first time of many that I can remember Manny Ramirez making me very sad.

    • GG

      Looking at his stats Im very suprized. he had a very lousy DS before ripping up the ALCS. That ALDS was one for the ages.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    Great graphic.

  • Zack

    Who cares? If we had Reyes/Hanley we would complain about his errors, if we had Tejada/Young it would be his range.
    How many elite defensive SS who can handle a bat are out there? 5? maybe 10? and how many teams are out there?
    Lets trade Jeter for Jason Barlett and he’ll lead us to a ring right?

    Manny Ramirez sucks in LF so the Red Sox so should Boston have traded him 5 years ago?

    • Joseph P.

      That graphic applies to you. This is not saying we should dump Jeter because he plays poor defense. Why do people insist on reading things that aren’t there?

      • Zack

        We all know Jeter isnt elite defensively, and those who point to his gold gloves we wont count them; this topic is so stupid.
        It’s like complaining that Joba’s change up isnt equal to Santana’s change up.

  • Frank

    I think it’s A-Rod’s fault.

    • Phil in LA

      I blame the schools.

      • Frank

        Where were the parents?

  • RobC

    No, no, no Jeter is good defensivley
    I just that the people who think he is not need to come watch the games. John Sterling himself said so on YES.

  • Andrew

    Damn. You’re really that eager to bash the best SS in Yankees history? I don’t know if you have a personal beef with Walsh or what, but c’mon, you’re a Yankees fan, right?

    • Joseph P.

      I have no personal beef with Waslh, other than him writing a flimsy article.

      You can be a Yanks fan and recognize that Jeter doesn’t play good defense. It’s not bashing him. It’s pointing out a fact. He more than makes up for it with his bat, so it’s not the end of the world that he plays SS. He just has terrible range.

  • Andrew

    I think there are enough people out there who rant about Jeter’s inability to play defense. Sucks to think Yankee fans are adding to that. Enjoy the blog and all, though.

  • Elle

    Thanks for a clear-sighted (and funny!) look at this. I hope in the next few years a good SS prospect comes along and Jeter can move somewhere where his weak defense is less of an issue.

  • Andrew

    My point is that as a Yankees fan, I’m not going to get worked up over an article that is complimentary of Jeter – even if it is slightly off base. Don’t know why anyone here would take that personally.

    • Rob in CT

      General stupidity. Some people find it irritating.