Zone Rating: 16th
That Manny! He’s just pathetic. Watching him patrol left field in Fenway is like watching Kevin Federline trying to rap. Some things are simply unsafe for the naked eye.
But things aren’t quite what they seem. A bit of truth after the jump.
Now, replace “Manny” with “Derek” and “left field in Fenway” with “the hole in the Bronx” and the mythology would turn to fact. This excellent article by John Weisman at SI.com sums up the new breed of defensive statistical analysis, using New York’s beloved (and oft-hagiographed) shortstop as his guinea pig. The verdict? Though he looks smooth to the naked eye, Derek measures out on the wrong side of average by most mathematical models. More specifically, most of the newfangled statistical systems rank him as one of the weakest defenders in the entire majors. Dave Pinto’s Probablistic Model of Range puts DJ as the 8th worst among Major League starters. Hardball Times’ “Range” measurement puts the Bronx Swordsman 25th. The lauded “UZR” rating puts Jeets 29th. Something called “plus/minus”, documented in “The Fielding Bible” by John Dewan has Derek at a pitiful 31st. The proponents of each system admit that there is limitation in using any one of these methods as a holy grail (some consider park effect, others type of ball hit, etc., some neither). At the same time, most of the gearheads documenting defense believe that there useful information within all these systems, and that considered together they paint a richer picture of any given players’ defensive capabilities. In this case, we are indebted to Mr. Weisman for leading us to the information that debunks one of our most peevish baseball myths, that of Derek Jeter as an accomplished fielder. This is something we’ve been saying all along, and we’re proud to know that objective science backs up our subjective (and admittedly biased) field observations.
Yankees fans, have at it in the comments. Show us the truthiness.