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 MLB.tv (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.