"What do you call a slow roller to Derek Jeter's left?"
"Single up the middle!"
At worst, it's one of the best kept 'non-secrets' in Major League baseball. Commentators, players, managers and fans alike all ignore the glaring fact. Indeed they do worse, they laud the player for something he isn't. Watch Fox, ESPN or YES's coverage of the player and you would think you were watching a combination of Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel.
Let me preface this with a disclaimer of sorts. I am a Red Sox fan (I'm Cormac, I have been a Sox fan for 22 years and I am starting to come to terms with life...'') however I have to admit to a grudging respect for Derek Jeter. He plays with class, is respectful of opponents and seems to really enjoy the game, above and beyond his pay check.
Here's the problem though. Derek 'by the dive of' Jeter is not a good Major League shortstop. He is, statistically, a bad player at that position. His defensive statistics are below average, or, in layman's terms, bad. Pretty much everyone knows this, the facts are there for all to see. However ESPN, FOX and the YES network refer to Jeter as a superior defensive players. The latter media outlets greasy adulation of the kid is somewhat understandable, but what defense do Fox, ESPN and other non-Yankee-owned media entities have for their gratuitous, sycophantic behaviour towards Jeter?
Even New Yorks fans have their doubts about their captains defensive abilities.
''Jeter was the best SS in the game last year, when considering the whole package. Defensively though, he's no better than average, probably a bit below average, and in past years has been way below average.''
Jeter's defensive inefficiencies are not a new phenomenon. Among AL shortstops who qualified, Jeter ranked dead last in Range Factor (putouts + assists divided by innings) in 2001, 2002 AND 2003. That's last, behind every other AL shortstop. That is not good. In fact, some might go as far as to say that is bad. Furthermore, among those same AL shortstops who qualified, Jeter ranked dead last in Zone Rating in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
The evidence against Jeter's ridiculous status as a Gold Glove shortstop is almost overwhelming, unless you simply stick your head in the sand emu style to avoid it like the guys in Fox, ESPN and YES. The book The Fielding Bible by John Dewan contains an essay by Bill James which analyzes the available evidence and suggests that Derek Jeter could be the worst defensive shortstop of all time. He concludes, "Giving [Jeter] every possible break on the unknowns, he is still going to emerge as a below average defensive shortstop." That isn't the only source on record with that opinion. The conclusion of the analysis done by 'Baseball Info Solutions', was that Derek Jeter "was probably the most ineffective defensive player in the major leagues, at any position."
Strong words, softly spoken. So, according to the people that put time and effort into actually looking at Jeter's defence, and ignoring the flashy 'jump shots' and flips and concentrate on the every day duties of a Major League shortstop, Derek Jeter is not only below average, he is awful.
So, where on earth have these Gold Gloves come from?
Rawlings Gold Glove AL Award winners
- 2004 Derek Jeter New York Yankees
- 2005 Derek Jeter New York Yankees
- 2006 Derek Jeter New York Yankees
I am confused. Statistically, Jeter, year in year out, delivers some of the worst individual fielding performances at shortstop. He is consistently at the lower half or, worse, bottom of all fielding statistical categories. Yankee fans openly talk about Jeter having zero range to his left and if you google the phrase '..past the diving Jeter...' you get over 79,000 hits.
Take for example Jeter's 'Gold Glove' winning 2004 season. Check out some of his defensive statistics for that season
- 1. Range Factor: 8th (out of 11)
- 2. Zone Rating: 6th (out of 11)
- 3. Fielding Percentage: 4th (out of 11)
- 4. Fielding Win Shares: 4th (out of 11)
- 5. Fielding Runs Above Replacement: 5th (out of 11)
- 6. Ultimate Zone Rating: 8th (out of 11)
Next time you hear a commentator exclaim "Past a diving Jeter!" just note it down mentally, and recall it when you hear that Jeter has won the 2007 Gold Glove at shortstop. Then go bang your head off the wall for a while. Life is, sometimes, just stupid, and stupid people make stupid decisions and there's nothing we can do about it. Giving Derek Jeter a gold glove ahead of some of the incredible defensive shortstops on show is just stupid. Even the Yankee fans think so!
''Look, there's no denying that Jeter is a way-above-average hitting shortstop and a below-average fielding shortstop. He has been serviceable, and even improved a little over the past few years (although Gold Gloves are a joke). Despite the fact that he has been great for us for a long time, there will come the day when we have to move him somewhere because his fielding at SS will become a liability.''
I started with a disclaimer and I will finish with one. Jeter is a likable player. He works hard, seems pretty loyal and strikes the viewer as a pretty stand up guy. Heck, his mother is Irish for God sake, what's not to like? Actually, Derek, are you busy next summer? Around August? The Irish baseball team could probably fit you in to their next European Championship run. Maybe not at shortstop though.
Anyway, this isn't a random verbal assault on Jeter, this is a plea to those who pick the Gold Gloves and those who write about it. Do your damn job right and call this one as it is. Jeter is not a Gold Glove caliber defensive player. Rise above the sycophantic desire to crown the Yankee captain and pick someone who actually deserves the title.