The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Open Thread: J-E-T-S
Wild Card Weekend Open Thread
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

I’m going to come out and say it right here, even though you probably already know this: Derek Jeter is a terrible defensive shortstop. I don’t care how many Gold Gloves he wins. I don’t care how many times he falls into the stands and cuts his face. I don’t care how many times he ends up between first base and home plate to cut off a terrible throw and backhand it to the catcher. While these plays were stellar, they don’t say anything about his everyday fielding ability. The fact is, his range has gone from mediocre to bad to worse. Since 2002 (when UZR was first recorded), he has had two seasons in the positive: 6.4 in 2009, and 0.9 in 2002. Every other year was in the negatives, the worst being a whopping -17.9 in 2007. That means that in that year, merely having Jeter at shortstop gave up nearly 18 runs to opposing teams.

But that’s all right. You know why? Because he can hit, and that’s not a very common trait among shortstops. Through 2000-2009, Jeter put up the best batting average of all shortstops with 500 plate appearances (.317), ranked second in WAR (47.5), and ranked third in wOBA and OPS behind Alex Rodriguez and Hanley Ramirez. Impressively enough, he managed to do all of this while posting a hideous -37.8 UZR. That’s even worse than Yuniesky Betancourt’s -32.4. Once you’re worse than Betancourt, you’re pretty bad. Maybe it’s even worth trading in that bat for someone who can actually move.

So, let’s swap out our relatively hard-hitting shortstop for one who deserves those Gold Gloves and see if there’s any team improvement. In the same time span, Omar Vizquel was the leading shortstop according UZR, posting an impressive 49.0 on the nose. He committed only 58 errors, a little over a third of Jeter’s total, 158. If Vizquel was the Yankees shortstop through the 00’s, he single-handedly would have stopped opponents from scoring 67 runs. Sounds pretty nice, don’t you think? In 2008, the Bombers lost 18 games by one run. Vizquel could have helped turn those games to wins, catapulted the team into the playoffs, and helped them win the World Series. Even better, the Yankees would still have 31 runs to put towards games in other years. It’s too bad you can’t just pick up runs and stick them wherever you need them.

It sounds nice so far, but now we have to take out Jeter’s offense – can’t have your cake and eat it too. Vizquel batted .270/.339/.370 and managed a wOBA of only .312, way under Jeter’s .374. Jeter also hit three home runs for every one of Vizquel’s, 161 to 44. Even if every one of those dingers was a solo shot, Jeter would still create more than enough runs to make up for the 67 he’s giving up out in the field. In the end, Vizquel racked up only 18.8 WAR, 28.7 less than Jeter. Even with his awesome glove, there’s just no way for Vizquel to make up for the hitting prowess he lacks. Despite Vizquel’s higher defensive capabilities, Jeter’s offense leads to far more wins. Even in Jeter’s rough 2010 season, he still managed to out-wOBA and out-WAR Vizquel while putting up a significantly worse UZR, though Vizquel spent most of his time at third base.

The captain isn’t the only player who’s shown that an above-average offense can make up for a subpar defense: Jorge Posada threw out only 28% of base runners in 100 games in 2009, but he also hit 22 home runs and managed to post a 125 OPS+ and 3.7 WAR. Not bad for a 37-year-old catcher, really. Gerald Laird, on the other hand, threw out an impressive 42% of base runners in 138 games, but only managed to post a 1.5 WAR due to his amazing noodle bat: .225/.306/.320, with a meager four homers and 65 OPS+.

The Yankees have never been interested in stocking up on great defenders (the team posted an abysmal -137 UZR in 2005), and they’ve proved before that it’s a perfectly fine strategy to use.  It’s predicted that Montero will follow in Posada’s footsteps as all-hit-no-catch backstop, and quite frankly, I’m perfectly fine with that. Players like Montero, Jeter and Posada show that the Yankees prefer to outfit the lineup with capable bats up and down, even from fielders you don’t expect to see offense from. It’s definitely worth the few extra bags that may be taken, because the result is the best run differential in baseball for two years in a row, and if all those extra runs means a dribbler gets by Jeter every so often, I’ll live with it just fine.

Open Thread: J-E-T-S
Wild Card Weekend Open Thread
  • SamVa

    Eduardo Nunez can do both.


    But that was a nice point. Offense is also a little easier to support in an argument. Most people understand batting average a hell of a lot better than they do UZR etc.

    Nice post.

    • Gonzo

      Nunez can play defense?

      • pete

        Nunez can hit?

  • Matt Imbrogno

    It’s definitely worth the few extra bags that may be taken, because the result is the best run differential in baseball for two years in a row, and if all those extra runs means a dribbler gets by Jeter every so often, I’ll live with it just fine.

    To be fair, the Yankees have improved their defense in the last two years by adding Tex at first, Swisher in right, and allowing Gardner to get full playing time; this is, of course, not to mention Granderson.

    Granted, the infield defense may still be a little iffy, even though Rodriguez improved over ’09 and still has the best arm on the team and Cano’s defense passes the eye test, if not the metrics test. The outfield defense, though, has been greatly improved over the last the last two seasons and that should be acknowledged.

    On the overall point, though, yeah, the Yankees have been able to slug and strikeout guys through their bad defense. And, yes, I’ll always take Jeter over Vizquel.

    • Bernard

      For what it’s worth, the ‘metric test’ is an eye test. At the base level stats like +/- and UZR are computed by analysts watching every single play by a fielder and evaluating what balls a fielder does or doesn’t get to.

      • Matt Imbrogno

        That’s true; good observation, Bernard.

    • Diony

      Don´t forget they have Russel Martin now.

    • pete

      Re: Cano

      Am I the only person who thinks his defense is exactly on par with what the metrics say? He makes the occasional great play, and makes it look easy with his great arm, but a lot of grounders seem to trickle under his glove, too. I’ve watched a lot of Cano and a lot of Pedroia, and I do think there’s a pretty obvious discrepancy between the two on defense (and on offense, though in the opposite direction), and Pedroia’s not even a super-elite defender

      • bexarama

        TotalZone loves Cano, though. So the metrics say different things.

        • pete

          odd. I agree much more with UZR’s observation: he’s a mediocre defender overall

      • first name only male (formerly Mike R. – Retire 21)

        I won’t say you’re alone, but I’m not with you. I think Robbie demonstrates incredible range. My criticism of UZR is that it does not account for the positioning of the player when the ball is hit. I think Cano is the case study for the inconsistencies that exist with our current (limited) defensive metrics.

        • Big Apple

          i really don’t know a lot about UZR…but does it account for weather/rain, the pitcher, the pitch thrown, the count, baserunners and who they are?, the inning?

          i just don’t see how those things can be quantifiable (sp) into one be all, tell all stat.

      • Big Apple

        IMO, i think Cano has turned into a very good defensive player…he makes most of the routine plays and gets to a lot of balls and his arm is incredible…cano’s arm makes jeter’s defense better b/c he can easily turn two.

        as long as Cano continues to play the way he does…making everything look so damn routine both in the field anda the plate…he will have his naysayers.

        Pedrioa is a great player, but I think he gets extra points b/c of his size and the appearance that he puts every ounce of his body into every single play..makes it look like he’s trying so hard where Cano looks effortless.

  • Angelo

    Yup. Offense >> Defense

    Sadly, this will not stop people from wanting to kill Montero after his first passed ball.

  • Michael

    Really, Jeter is a “terrible” defensive shortstop? I’ll give you mediocre, but I think terrible is an overstatement. Ever seen Bobby Meacham play? Now that was terrible.

    • Doug

      depends on how you rate defense. he catches the balls hit to him, he doesn’t get to the balls that aren’t. to me, that makes him below average but not terrible.

    • Jerome S.

      It’s a year-by-year thing; some years he’s been average, other years he’s been absolutely terrible.

      • Ted Nelson

        One can probably argue that has a lot to do with sample size and his actual defensive ability does not change that significantly from season to season.

    • Bernard

      Of every SS with over 25 fWAR, Jeter has BY FAR the worst defense. Only 3 players rate as a -50 or worse in the fWAR computation (Toby Harrah [-97.0], mostly a 3B in his career, and Michael Young [-71.6] are the others) and Jeter’s is -113.4.

    • hogsmog

      Based on the metrics used in this post, yes, Jeter is terrible defensively. Now you could say something like “I think UZR is a bad metric,” and perhaps explain why it leads you to false conclusions, and that would be ok. But it sort of sounds like you’re saying “I think UZR is valid way to measure defensive prowess, but not for Derek Jeter,” which is totally non-scientific and wrong.

      I’m not a crazy Jeter hater, and I’m sorry if this comes off a little strong. But I think my #1 peeve is when people like advanced stats some of the time, but then want to toss out those advanced stats when they lead to nonintuitive or unfun conclusions. I feel like I see tons of “this player is underrated, but his saber peripherals are so good!”, but the people who say “that guy everyone loves is really just ok” get shit on.

      (Yeah I guess Michael I’m not even responding to you at this point, just ranting. No hard feelings?)

      • ZZ

        Actually based on the metric in this post it is difficult to characterize Jeter as a terrible defensive SS anyway.

        Let’s first just break down his average UZR per year. -42.4 divided by 9 gives you -4.7 on average per year. -4.7 is below average, but I can’t describe that as terrible.

        What about breaking his UZR down into 3 year samples. 2002-2004 gives you -3.8. 2005-2007 gives you -40.1. 2008-2010 gives you 1.4. Then taking a look at his UZR/150 it is -5.1.

        If we are restricting the analysis to UZR, I think the only way to fairly use terrible in reference to his defense is to say he was terrible from 2005-2007. Overall, even with just UZR I don’t see it.

        • Slugger27

          excellent post, agreed with everything you said.

          • pete


        • bexarama

          This is a very, very, very good post. Can’t say I ever looked at it this way.

          That said, that 2005-2007 period was where he started winning all those Gold Gloves. He first won in 2004 (almost undoubtedly for the jumping-into-the-stands play), and he won in 2005 and 2006 too. He didn’t win again until 2009, where there were better defensive SS but at least it wasn’t an embarrassment.

      • Big Apple

        i’m not that much into the new fangled stats…UZR being one of them…

        but what gets me is when someone will make a statement like “Jeter sucks” becuase one stat, his UZR, is poor and they ignore everything else that he does….(same is true for other players – just using Jeter as an example). Get rid of him b/c he sux at defense while ignoring offensive production and intangibles.

        There are very few perfect players in the history of the game that score at the top of every single statistical catgory…and of course we Yankee fans know that those players are all on the Red Sox with the exception of Casey Kelly

    • Mike K

      I’m sick of all these people proclaiming these nerdy sabermetrics numbers to justify their positions.The hell with sabermetrics.These are numbers some geek in his underwear in the basement of his parents house came up with because they never played a sport in their lives.

      • first name only male (formerly Mike R. – Retire 21)

        Parody or Reality?

      • Big Apple

        the nerds have over taken baseball…

      • Tom Zig

        The hell with all stats! Wins? Forget ’em. RBIs? Get lost. Runs? Who needs ’em.

        • Big Apple

          amen! the yanks won plenty of WS before and after Sabre metrics…what does it all mean, anyway!!

  • JAG

    The Betancourt comparison is a little unfair only b/c he was only playing for half of the given timeframe. In fact, I would have to consider it a major accomplishment by Yuniesky Betancourt that he managed to get to only -5.4 UZR behind Jeter in half as many years. That is truly an achievement in defensive ineptitude. I can only imagine how bad he’ll be after 10 full years. Honestly, its kind of amazing that he’s still a shortstop (although to be fair, his .272/.296/.393, which is merely bad at short, would be irredeemably awful at pretty much any other position, so yeah…).

    • Matt Imbrogno

      That is truly an achievement in defensive ineptitude

      Don’t know why, but this gave me a good chuckle. I guess “It’s funny ’cause it’s true” applies here.

      • Slugger27

        i think its cuz you like the word “ineptitude”

        at least thats what i liked about that sentence

    • Ted Nelson

      Yeah, I was going to say the same. UZR/150 would probably make more sense as a point of comparison.

  • JGS

    Two things–Jeter ranked second in bWAR among shortstops only if you consider A-rod a shortstop from 2000-2009. He (Alex) only played 41% of his games at short. Pulling him out, Jeter is the top SS, a full 8.7 bWAR ahead of Tejada and 17.6 ahead of third-place Rollins.

    Secondly–the 2005 Yankees’ -137 team UZR is (by a comically tremendous margin) the worst team UZR in the stat’s nine-year history. No other team has ever had worse than a -72 in a single season. The Yankees have done that three times. In fact, here is the bottom five in combined team UZR since 2002:

    Colorado: -158.5
    Arizona: -164.6
    Florida: -174.7
    Pittsburgh: -188.9
    Yankees: -441.7

    Yet somehow the 2005 Yankees won 95 games and the division. Heck, they have also won the most games since 2002, by a lot. They’ve won 36 more games than second-place Boston, and 118 more than the Giants (and their MLB-best +297.7 UZR since 2002. They are 11th in wins.)

    Defense is important. It’s not as important as offense.

    • Ted Nelson

      Great points.

    • Zack

      Defense is important. It’s not as important as offense.

      Is it? Is 2 runs scored more valuable than 2 runs saved?

      • JGS

        No, but a player who has a great day at the plate can easily pick up several runs for his team with his bat. It’s harder to lose several runs in a single game with your glove. That’s why I take the elite hitter with the bad glove over the meh hitter with the elite glove, and why I would take Jeter’s career over Adrian Beltre’s despite this.

        • Zack

          OK, I’d probably agree. Guys get way more PA than TC in the field.

          • JGS

            And even if they got more TCs, a good percentage of those would be plays that even horrendous defenders make ten times out of ten–infield popups, grounders hit right at them, etc. The difference between a great defender and a bad one is that small percentage of plays that one makes and the other doesn’t. Being able to hit at a consistently high level >>>>>>>>>>> that.

    • pete

      Defense is important. It’s not as important reliable a consideration for building a team around as offense.


      • Big Apple

        especially in the AL East…

  • Rich

    Agree completely with everything you said. The problem now is that Jeter’s hitting is sinking down to where his fielding is. Three more years of decay does not look good for the Yankees shortstop position!!

    • Jerome S.

      eh, his offense is still better than that of most SS’s. He’ll have to sink down to some pretty nasty numbers before his WAR gets negative.

      • Matt Imbrogno

        If he hits like he did last year–essentially an average SS–then the bad defense becomes a big problem.

        • Slugger27

          he had 2.5 WAR last year, even with the bad offense. it’d be annoying, but not at all “a big problem”

          i’d imagine he could put up an identical season as last year both offensively and defensively and still be a top 6 SS in MLB

        • Ted Nelson

          That would be great if it was true, but it’s not.

          There are 30 MLB teams. Average would be 15.5th. By wOBA Jeter was the 8th best offensive SS (making him better than about 75% of starting SSs, not 50%). He was only 0.09 from 4th place Jose Reyes, and 0.20 from 15th place Jason Bartlett.

          • Ted Nelson

            Math fail, 15th…

            • Mister Delaware

              Weren’t you right the first time? Even number sample means no true middle means 15th/16th is the average. 15th would be the worst of the top half, 16th the best of the bottom half.

  • ken (O.R.)

    Actually comparing Jeter and Vaz isn’t fair at all. Everyone knew how that would come out.
    If he is compared to a good glove and hitter, that is much better. Of all the SS last year he rated 9th, you say 9th of 32…that ain’t bad! However, he was 9th out of 22 that qualified.
    Also, aren’t we more interested in his play for the next 3 years?
    Also, if one gives up a run…how many runs do you need to win the game? Two right! So preventing a run is very important, as well as producing a run. If Jeter gives up one run he would need 2 runs to compensate for them, so I think going one for one isn’t the way to figure it.

    • Matt Imbrogno

      If he is compared to a good glove and hitter, that is much better. Of all the SS last year he rated 9th, you say 9th of 32…that ain’t bad! However, he was 9th out of 22 that qualified.

      What are you using as your measurement here?

      • Matt Imbrogno

        Wait, hold on. I’m confusing myself. Disregard.

        • ken (O.R.)

          check it out Matt.
          I agree with one of the post above, he said something like; Jeters bat is not as good (2010) as it once was, if it continues bad news for the Yanks.
          By the way Nunez is better with the glove, range and bat…right now…if Jeter has a repeat of 2010, don’t you think?

          • Joe Pawlikowski

            Nunez could only dream of putting up Jeter’s 2010 numbers.

  • Monteroisdinero

    And last year Vizquel played third is his early 40’s. Something else we have to look forward to.

    Montero will hopefully hit more than Posada and catch/defend better than everyone thinks. These are not unlikely scenarios.

    • Xstar7

      I hope so

    • Gonzo

      Depends on your timeframe.

      • Monteroisdinero

        Jesus is well ahead of Jorge’s timeframe and hasn’t even had a major league ab! After seeing him a few times in Scranton I am so excited about his potential. His bat speed and power is tops and his defense was better than I thought it would be. But back to Jeter-it will be interesting to see what KLong can do with his swing/mechanics.

    • Mike Axisa

      He can still play shortstop, but he played third because a) the ChiSox had no competent third baseman (and still don’t), and b) Alexei Ramirez was the best shortstop in the AL last year.

      • Monteroisdinero

        True enough but Alex will be playing 3rd in his 40’s don’t you agree? When he isn’t DHing.

    • Mister Delaware

      “Montero will hopefully hit more than Posada and catch/defend better than everyone thinks. These are not unlikely scenarios.”

      Right. Catchers w/ 3,000+ career PAs, Posada is 15th all-time in wOBA (and only 4 above him played in the last 1/2 century, Piazza, Mauer, Tenace, Yogi).

      • Ted Nelson

        The handle “Monteroisdinero” might hint at a little bias…

  • steve (different one)

    Vizquel batted .270/.339/.370

    this line looks awfully familiar….the problem is that this is how Jeter might hit going forward, but he’s still going to field like Jeter.

    • bonestock94

      Thats what I was thinking of reading the whole article. Hope its just an exception rather than the trend going forward.

      • Ted Nelson

        As long as he doesn’t continue to trend downward, just remains at his 2010 level, he’s still a valuable player. Certainly anything is possible, but I would not expect a straight downward trend from 2009 to the end of his career.

        • OldYanksFan

          Yup… valuable. I’d say worth about $8m/yr.

  • Mike HC

    Jeter’s D has always been better than all the new defensive stats have given him credit for. He has not been gold glove worthy, but he is simply not terrible. Just my opinion and I know there are 1,000 defensive metrics that say otherwise and seemingly a new one comes out every year.

    • Slugger27

      i agree with u. im as much of a stat-head as anyone, and believe the numbers tell 99% of the story. but with jeter, it seems narrative has exaggerated what exactly the numbers are saying. ZZ said it best in a post above.

      the numbers say jeter is a below avg defensive SS, but the blogging community seems to want to penalize him more just because hes an iconic legend playing for the yankees. if he was an everyday joe playing for the indians, ppl would say “hes below average, but not awful”

      the reason his total UZRs are so low is because he’s remarkably healthy and plays 150 games every year, allowing him to slowly accumulate negative UZR totals by posting a -5 (on average) every season. -5 on average every season really isnt that bad. but again, because hes a legend, plays on the yankees, and has won some GGs he probably didnt deserve, his criticism becomes exaggerated.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    What I wonder is if the Yankees will go with offense or defense for Jeter’s replacement in 3 years. So even with Jeter’s face of the franchise captain status what would have happened if Jeter was a free agent in a class with someone like Hanley or Tulo? Do you still resign him?

    • JAG

      As a SS? Not if you can actually sign Hanley or Tulo. Although, Tulowitzki is an exceptional case since he’s likely to still be an above average SS in 3 years, where Hanley seems to be transitioning to an A-Rod like move to 3rd. If Hanley is still a superior SS to Jeter, then you can maybe justify signing Jeter to a smaller deal as a DH or something, but I don’t see you you can justify signing the team icon rather than a different, strictly superior player at the same position.

      • CS Yankee

        If Hanley was a Yankee and gave up on a ball (like he has done), I wonder what would happen to him with the fans and media…could he still adjust or would it eat him up?

        There was probably 10,000 fans and a second-tier station with (a likely) blackout in Florida watching that garbage versus 50,000/5,000,000/4 papers and ESPN-style bashing to the world if that happened in NYC.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    Or Devils advocate, Culver somehow grows into a Starlin Castro like prospect and shoots up the system in 2 years, do you tell Jeter to take a hike?

    • Slugger27

      it would be a cold day in hell before jeter gets kicked to the curb while still under contract

      • JAG

        Agreed. Although I suspect if Culver has a meteoric rise and turns into a prospect with a far superior ceiling to what he has now, they may move Jeter to 3rd and have A-Rod DH (which will likely be better for him and his health anyway).

    • The Real JobaWockeeZ

      We might as well hope for the media to not make dumb shit articles about the upcoming 2011 season.

      Culver is a mini Jose Igelsias with a similar bat and good defense. Except Culver isn’t anywhere near the level of Jose though. And some think Jose’s defense might not even be enough to stick.

      • The Real JobaWockeeZ

        …dumb shit articles about the Red Sox. Forgot to clarify.

    • pete

      That’d be a lovely problem to have, but I don’t see it coming true. I don’t see Culver making the majors until 2014, if he ever does (not saying he won’t, just that my understanding of his talent is pretty much nil; I just know that he’s reeeaallllly young and reeaaaally raw)

  • bexarama

    The 2005 Yankees’ UZR still makes me laugh.

    • David Lee Roth

      So does Sidney Ponson.

  • Katie

    Great post. I was starting to think that maybe Jeter wasn’t living up to all the hype…but I guess I was wrong.

    • Slugger27

      you were, jeter is awesome


  • CS Yankee

    Solid article…seems like your sticking with the core in your first two posts.

    Other things (maybe) worth pointing out;
    1) Bringing Posada into the Jeter-D is exact. Sada has been weak with the block but your “…only 28% of baserunners…in 2009″…well, 28% is actually really good for the pros I believe. His real issue is that he is one of the worst blockers in the dirt, throws away a pitch for the rest of the game because the P can’t locate it early & has to be the worst baserunner playing today.
    2) I believe Omar Vizquel is the best fielding SS of all time…I have seen Ozzie, Cal, etc. but they seem weak when compared to Omar. Your fielding comparison to the greatest makes solid sense as well as your comparison to Betancourt (who has to be Posada-like with the gloove) for the low-mark. This is where these metrics are flawed because they have no weight to fielding percentages, only subjective “that was x feet from him, he should of had that”. Jeter plays a deeper SS (i feel) than most, which helps with his reaction but means more real estate to cover and I think this hurts him more than it helps for balls that are hit slightly off their projections as he sets up to the batter tendenancies & perhaps even pitch selection.

    3) Guys like Elvis & Nunez have that great range but aren’t as consistant with the throws…Jeter’s throws when off are low but in the same zip code. Giambi couldn’t cover or pick squat, Teix’ is real basic and doesn’t miss many bad throws…so, in 2005 we had Giambi, Sheff’ and other stiffs at 1B versus now having an elite 1B. Teix’ can’t cover a 10′ throw off and some of those younger guys don’t know when to ‘eat” the ball versus throwing it off balance or too late. Jeter deserves credit for this and the metrics aren’t defined for this yet, and if/when they do we need to realize it is subjective.

    4) Should point out that only the Royals would employ Betancourt…he can’t hit and doesn’t even field the throw-down worth a darn. Omar has been passed around like a cheap bottle of wine as well which is strange because his bat is fine but has the best D…wonder if that is about the money, age or chemistry? 25 teams would kill for Jeter, most wouldn’t kick the tires today on the other two.

    Good job…much better than the Mo-random post.

  • Kiersten

    Good article Hannah, enjoyed it.

  • J Vig

    Offense vs UZR is not a relevant argument. Offense can be compiled against average to below average pitching. UZR is not subject to the same variables. Therefore a macro view of runs created vs runs saved is a flawed comparison.

    • Tank the Frank

      I disagree. There are only two ways a positional player can have an effect on a game; offense and defense. Runs created (offense) and runs saved (defense). It’s only natural to compare the two when talking about a player’s value, regardless of how the stats are compiled or the variables involved.

  • Hughesus Christo

    For some reason, I don’t think MLB teams use UZR at all… because it sucks. They probably have some proprietary system of defensive analysis that sucks much less.

  • hogan

    this story has been written 44850973 times. Write something else. Thank you.

    • Jimmy McNulty

      Yeah, except there’s a growing section of stat heads that are convinced that players like Franklin Gutierrez are worth two to three wins on defense, and players like Derek Jeter cost their team as much more than a win on the other side of the ball. I think it stands to reason that in a somewhat uneventful offseason where the Yankees plan to field several mediocre defensive players that this piece should be revisited.

  • Dave M

    “I’m going to come out and say it right here, even though you probably already know this: Derek Jeter is a terrible defensive shortstop.”

    Don’t you think terrible is a bit extreme. I know he’s not great, but come on, really? If you said that Dave M is terrible shortstop, I’d be more inclined to agree with you. I don’t really care too much about defensive numbers, especially since the Yanks usually have mostly fly ball pitchers. From actually watching the games, I’d say he’s average or a little below average. He does some things well. Others, like going to his left, not so well.

  • Jimmy McNulty

    Good piece, good comments.

  • hstuda

    Jeter is not a terrible defensive shortstop. You can marginalize Gold Gloves and reputation all you want, but if Jeter were truly “terrible,” he would fail most everyone’s “sight” test and likely not have achieved a reputation as a good defender in the first place. More accurately, he’s a player whose defense has likely been overrated a great deal because of his athletic gracefulness and flare for the dramatic. And now, legions of stat-crunchers have gone nuts in the other direction — severely overstating his limitations — seemingly to try to right the wrong of him having receiving undeserved praise.

    • Baseball

      Thank you hstuda.

      This is the problem with the stat head internet community.

      Jeter has been so overrated by the media and fans that it left him open to severe criticism so much that his skills and value are underrated.

  • MikeD

    I’m more in the Keith Law camp here, who says he judges players first visually and scouting, and then with stats. It’s not one or the other, but he still more on the scouting side first when it comes to rating defense. Taking into accound defensive efficiency, Jeter is a better shortstop than some of the metrics suggest, although by that I’m not suggesting he’s a good defensive SS (he’s not), but he’s probably a little better than credited, and during some of his best years might even be slightly above average.

    The theme of the post is correct. The best defense is a strong offense, so hopefully Jeter’s bat bounces back some in 2011.

  • RTO3

    All I can say, is … I’ll take Jeter (pre-2010)and count my blessings every day. Even in 2010, he was a better player than most SS.
    I wonder how many of these people who decide which balls should be fielded and which shouldn’t when their compiling their UZR stats, actually played SS at any level above little league. The nerds should stick with Playstation, Xbox, or Wii.

  • Baseball

    By the way I agree with the posters who stated “terrible” is the wrong word.

    If he was truly terrible in the strictest sense of the word, his error rate would be high and he would not make the occasional spectacular play.

    I remember when people would attack Cal Ripken’s defense as well.

    It’s so tiring.

  • alwaysnineteen

    In the vein of constructive criticism, I’d try to avoid such extreme terms, more of a ‘writing’ thing than a ‘baseball’ thing, but I think it merits being mentioned anyway. Jeter isn’t a terrible shortstop, but maybe I’d give you mediocre. (As someone mentioned above, I think some of this criticism stems from the fact that he is, essentially, overrated.) I also wouldn’t call him ‘hard-hitting,’ I don’t envision running out bloop singles when I hear the term ‘hard-hitting.’

    Don’t get me wrong though- interesting piece and I look forward to reading more.

  • Pologround

    One MORE thing about Jeter’s offense declining precipitously: while it WAS pedestrian in 2010, wasn’t it awesome in 2009 and even above average in 2008?!? (The excellence–for the most part–before then goes without saying.) I’m not sure I see the steep declining trend.