The Jeter Meter: Revival

It says something about the Yankees that Derek Jeter's resurgence has barely registered in the media. The fielding is what it is, but after a 3 for 3 night with 2 walks, he's at a fairly robust .297/.372/.474 for the year, and this after a weak start hampered by some aches and pains. Same old Captain. And now the Yanks are back in first place, albeit tied. (Not entirely unrelated, even if it isn't the primary factor.) Also resurgent: Chien-Ming Wang, who actually looked sharp in 2 innings last night, allowing no runs, no walks, and striking out 2. He's shaved 18 points off his era in his last two outings. He's down to 20.45. Next stop, 15.00! Onward, Warriors!

14 comments… add one

  • I’ll be very surprised if Jeter kept this up all season. But, consider what happened when the Rangers moved their defensively-challenged shortstop (gold gloves, be damned) for a much better defender. They went from one of the worst defenses in baseball to among the best. Shortstop defense is a big deal based on how many balls get hit their way. Sure, if Jeter can keep this up he’s a net positive. Time will tell.
    It was good to see Wang getting back to his old self. They really screwed up in bringing him back too soon. If he keeps this up, I think they should seriously consider trading him to an NL team with a decent infield defense. He still has significant value and could bring back a young OF or SS. Too bad that won’t happen.

    Rob May 28, 2009, 9:00 am
  • A team like the Diamondbacks could use him, and maybe Stephen Drew could be had considering the slump he has started in. Not sure how good his defense is though. That defense is used to playing with sinkerball pitchers.
    Jeter also has a 10-game hitting streak where he’s batting .353. He’s on my fantasy team, so go Jeets!

    Atheose May 28, 2009, 9:12 am
  • why sell low on wang with the team in playoff position and relief pitching the team weakness? he provides a good deal of flex, and he’s supercheap.

    YF May 28, 2009, 9:34 am
  • Jeter’s defense has actually been not bad this season and last. Maybe he fixed something, who knows, but his UZR/150 has been right around 0 since the start of 2008, which is huge considering where he was at before that.

    AndrewYF May 28, 2009, 10:06 am
  • Regarding Jeter’s defense: it has actually been right about league average this year (although you’d be hard pressed to see this discussed anywhere). Ultimate Zone Rating currently has him at -.01 (that’s .01 runs less than league average defensively, and projects to about -.04 runs for the year).
    Small sample, I know, but this is coming off a year where he posted a -0.5 for the entire 2008 campaign. It should also be noted that Girardi changed Jeter’s positioning int he field when he took over as manager.
    Much of Jeter’s reputation as an awful fielder comes from his final three years under Joe Torre, where he was abysmal with the glove, and posted (again, runs compared to league average according to UZR), -12.6 (2005), -7.2 (2006), and a catastrophic -16.7 in 2007. Put in perspective, Jeter’s D cost us in the neighborhood of 3 wins in’07.
    Prior to those three terrible years, Jeter’s D was never really good, but never that bad either. And if his D is around league average, he’s one of the most valuable shortstops in the league. If it plummets to his ’05-07 levels, he’s an average player at best.
    So if Girardi’s tacts HAVE made a real difference in his defensive performance that will last (conceding a normal decline slope) – and at this point they have worked for a year and a quarter now – then Yankee fans and Our Cap’n owe him or whoever it was his coaching staff that figured this out a HUGE debt of gratitude.

    Mark - YF May 28, 2009, 10:15 am
  • I love numbers more than most but I’ve seen Jeter not come close to balls three steps to either side this year. When’s the last time he made a play toward his left? And now he doesn’t even get into the whole for his jump throw (which has only ever made up for his lack of range and a weak arm). Where he’s “good” is that he doesn’t screw up the routine plays. But the Yankees still have an awful team defense and he’s the primary culprit. Jeter’s fine if he hits above .800 OPS. I just don’t think he’ll end up there.
    As for Wang, I don’t think it would be selling low on him. Teams know the talent is still there. I agree that he’s a plus in the pen. But that’s a waste of his value. If they don’t intend to sign him to a long-term deal (and all signs suggest they don’t), then they should be looking to trade him, the sooner the more they’ll get in return.

    Rob May 28, 2009, 10:38 am
  • Jeter is God. That is all.
    No way we trade Wang. He looked fantastic last night. He doesn’t need to be an “ace” anymore so slotted in as the 3rd pitcher, he is perfect.
    Things are looking good in the Bronx right now!!!

    krueg May 28, 2009, 11:01 am
  • Rob: those are some pretty anecdotal observations. To my eye it seems like Jeter gets to A LOT more balls up the middle since being repositioned. But if there’s one iron-clad instance in baseball of “don’t trust what your eyes tell you” it’s in evaluating a defender’s performance. The difference between an excellent defender and a poor one is maybe a play per game – it’s really, really hard for the casual or even die hard observer to recognize without objective measurement.

    Mark - YF May 28, 2009, 11:11 am
  • Oh and the Yanks’s s as a whole has been below average but not terrible this year. They rank 17th out of the 30 teams. I was surprised to see the Red Sox D has been really bad this year (24th in MLB), and the outfield is a big culprit (in addition to their own black hole at SS)- Ellsbury and Drew are about average, and Bay is terrible.

    Mark - YF May 28, 2009, 11:29 am
  • I can buy that his positioning is improved. But the problem with the defensive stats is they conflict. UZR says Jeter is about average. The Fielding Bible has him well below. So then I just have to trust what I’ve seen. And there it’s about range. Jeter literally can’t move more than two steps to either side to field a ball.

    Rob May 28, 2009, 11:34 am
  • The Yankees simply do not have ‘awful’ team defense. Melky and Gardner are fantastic in CF, Swisher is around average, Damon below average. Tex is slightly below average at 1B (although he’s made some fantastic plays lately), Cano is well above average, Jeter around average, and Alex below average. The Yankees are a quite average defensive team, which is fantastic considering where they’ve been at the past few years.
    The Red Sox defense has been pretty awful, and the eyes as well as the numbers bear that out.

    AndrewYF May 28, 2009, 12:03 pm
  • Well, UZR seems to be the most widely accepted fielding system at the moment.
    Love Bill James (although the FB was written by Dewan with “assistance” from James), but I like Ultimate Zone Rating a lot more than the system he employs he employs in the Fielding Bible. In James’ own words, he acknowledges some of the shortcomings of his system:
    Also it should be mentioned that there have been several computational errors in the original Fielding Bible – although they may have been corrected for the 2009 version, I’m not sure. But fielding statisticians like Dave Gassko have noted that the strength of the Fielding Bible is in the amount of information it contains and how that information is presented, not in the conclusions it reaches about individual players’ defensive performance.
    Anyway, a long way of saying that UZR seems to be currently the most widely accepted defensive measurement among fielding statisticians – it also takes into account things like Double Play Runs, Outfield Arm, ExpectedOuts, and Error Runs that were not compiled into the original Fielding Bible formula (although understand this may have changed – haven’t checked out the 2009 edition yet.

    Mark - YF May 28, 2009, 12:47 pm
  • Reviewing that, I’m selling the Fielding Bible a bit short. Their Plus/Minus system is arguably co-leader along with UZR for most trusted defensive metric, and apparently it has been improved upon with each edition. I personally still think UZR is tops for a variety of reasons, but a strong argument could be made for either one.

    Mark - YF May 28, 2009, 1:34 pm
  • “But the Yankees still have an awful team defense and he’s the primary culprit.”
    Wow.
    The Yanks are basically average. UZR bears this out, as does Defensive Efficiency (the Yankees have turned 69.6% of balls in play into outs, which ranks 12th in the majors). It’s still pretty early, so that could certainly change. I would expect Posada to cost them a few runs with his D (but provide more with his bat).
    They’re not great, but they’ve clawed their way back to acceptable after years of suckage. With the hitting and the pitching (provided health), that should be just fine.

    Rob in CT May 29, 2009, 11:32 am

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