Monday, May 31, 2010

A simple formula

Here's how to calculate perception of Derek Jeter's defensive value:
  1. Take a reasonably objective measurement of Jeter's defensive value.
  2. Negate it.
  3. Report this result as Jeter's true defensive value.
Seriously, how else to explain this article? Here's the summary on ESPN's front page:
It's been on New York's mind for a while now. Derek Jeter is getting older -- and his defense has seen better days. Is it finally time to talk position switch?
Here's a slice of the article itself:
The recent stories and rumblings have harped once again on Jeter's range. The sabermetricians are out there again, taunting Jeter with their numbers.

The statistics say Jeter is still going to his right fine, but in the early part of the season, he was having more trouble going to his left.

Remember the recent Sunday night Mets game, in which two balls to his left rolled under his glove? Those helped lower his plus-minus rating, according to Baseball Info Solutions (which looks at how often balls in play are turned into outs), to minus-7 on balls hit to the left of the typical shortstop's spot.

He's since improved that to minus-3, a slight drop from last season. Going left has been an issue for Jeter before -- one he's improved upon greatly after posting ratings of minus-25, minus-10 and minus-14 from 2005 to 2007. The early struggles this year again raised questions.
Note the common trick of taking a small sample, making it even smaller, and then casually noting that once you add the data you removed back in, things don't look as extreme as you want them to, though none if it should matter at all anyway given the sample size involved. And let's just brush away the whole oh-by-the-way-his-defense-has-been-improving-for-the-last-couple-years thing. Classic. Also, is going to his left all that matters? Who cares about one facet of his defense? It's the whole package that matters.

Anyways, according to the UZR numbers at Fangraphs, Derek Jeter's defense has not seen better days. This is thus far Jeter's second best season defensively on a rate basis. Last year was his best. So why is it that now that defensive metrics are actually showing Jeter to be a net positive on defense the media have decided the time has come to bring up his defense as a negative? After all the years of praising his defense when the number showed it was not great, it's now time to make an issue out of it? What gives?

The answer, of course, is that it is driving the Derek Jeter contract story. The Captain's contract is up at the end of this year and he's not getting any younger. This is a legitimate story and a big question and concern for the Yankees. Still, I would prefer if the real reason, risk associated with aging, were driving the story and not a generic-yet-somehow-still-sensationalist take on how a shortstop normally ages. Jeter is not normal. Let's not simply break out the boilerplate aging story because we're too lazy to tell the real one.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Love your reasoning in this one.