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Jeter’s Gold Glove Undeserved

November 22, 2010

Derek Jeter is not a good defensive shortstop.

The Gold Glove, America's favorite alliterative baseball award. That's right Silver Slugger (tripwatch.com)

Waiting for the screams of angry Yankee fans to subside

I’m sorry, but it’s true.  Jeter’s a great player, and I’d love for him to be on my team.  His career OPS of .837 is very good.  He does,  in fact, deserve a good amount of the praise he gets.  But the five gold gloves, including the brand new shiny one just given to him, are ridiculous.

“But wait!”, you say, “He led all shortstops in fielding percentage! And he only had 6 errors! That’s great!”.

Oh, how wrong you are my exclamatory friend.  The truth is that errors and fielding percentage aren’t that important, especially for a shortstop.  Skill at shortstop, like the outfield positions (and, well, every position to some extent) comes down mostly to range.

This is Jeter’s dirty little secret.  While he doesn’t make many mistakes and even wows us with flashy plays every now and then, he just doesn’t get to that many balls.  When you look at Total Zone Fielding Runs (an advanced stat with a lot of math that I don’t understand, but that basically takes how many plays a guy makes in his area, compares it to everyone else, and figures out how many runs that players defense was worth), Jeter is far from good, or even average.  A quick search on baseballreference.com (most managers know how to use Google, right?) reveals that Jeter’s play cost the Yankees approximately ten runs over the course of a season.  To put that in perspective, Alex Gonzalez was worth 12 runs for Atlanta and later Toronto.

Are tastefully unexaggerated fist pumps and fiery gazes part of Gold Glove criteria? (Antonelli/NYDailyNews)

When these stats are calculated into the defensive part of WAR (approximately how many wins a player was worth over your average AAA call-up), it shows that Jeter’s glove actually cost the yankees 1.1 games.

So can we please stop giving the guy awards for defense? Can’t we just stick with talking about his determination and leadership and how he’s a much better Yankee than A-Rod? Just do me a favor and think about it, ok?  We’ll talk next november.

P.S. A-Rod’s defense was actually worth 18 runs in the 10 years he played SS. I’m just saying…

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 22, 2010 11:47 pm

    I think this is a great example of how basic statistics do not tell the entire story. For any moderate fan looking at his statistics on a website, such as baseballreference.com, Jeter’s stats would definitely stand out. But, most people would not think about other factors, including his range.

    I agree that Jeter is a phenomenal baseball player and leader, but you have a strong argument in your post against him winning another Gold Glove award. With all these impossibly difficult and intricate calculations becoming a part of the game, I think it is difficult for even the most intelligent statisticians to understand each statistic.

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