A few months ago, I wrote about how people were clamoring about how Derek Jeter was an improved fielder at short. What I wrote then was that if you compared his statistics with the previous season and other players, he was near the bottom in terms of plays made per nine innings. However, his team wasn’t allowing that many balls in play, so there was a chance that he might actually look better than his stats – but not enough to make him more than “good” – certainly not gold glove worthy.
And then today they announced the Gold Glove awards for the AL and, sure enough, Derek Jeter won another Gold Glove.
When I ran the numbers in August, Jeter had made 4.09 plays per nine innings. In the last two months, he actually got WORSE, finishing at 3.90 plays. Nobody with at least 200 innings in the field at shortstop had a lower range factor than Derek Jeter. Nobody.
The only thing Jeter excels at is not making errors. His strong arm helps him turn double plays. But he’s NOT mobile at short. He’s a left fielder now.
Let’s compare him with the guy that, at least at first glance, likely deserves the gold glove and that’s Elvis Andrus of Texas.
Andrus makes 4.86 plays per nine – nearly a full play a game more than Derek Jeter. Jeter made 14 fewer errors. What are you going to want at short? Someone who removes 136 hits a season, or someone who saves you 14 errors?
Let’s give Jeter every conceivable break. Or at least try. In terms of balls in play, the Rangers struck out fewer guys, allowed ten fewer homers, but walked or beaned fewer players, too. So, the Rangers had 4384 balls in play to the Yankees 4161. Jeter had fewer opportunities. However, Andrus had a chance in 15.74% of those batted balls, while Jeter was at 13.31%. Yes – Texas had more of a ground ball staff – but only barely (1.12:1 vs. 1.10:1) – so that wasn’t it either. There’s no way to make up that difference in terms of range.
Then you have the change in fortune. Who was more responsible for the Yankees winning? The two new starters and that wonderful first baseman? The catcher who returned to form or the DH who came back from multiple knee injuries to provide a seventh solid bat in the lineup? Or a shortstop who had a decent year with the bat, and that’s about it. Meanwhile, the Rangers got Michael Young out of the shortstop position and put in a young kid who REALLY covers ground and, despite the loss of their best hitter, made a run at the AL West title. More than anyone, Elvis Andrus helped turn around the Rangers. Wouldn’t you think?
There’s no doubt in my mind that Andrus at short is worth 30 to 40 defensive runs to the Rangers more than Jeter’s defensive value to the Yankees. Jeter, however, has the reputation and the glamour name. Elvis isn’t even the third most famous Elvis. And, as such, Derek Jeter won the award.