Harold Reynolds, Still Drinking The Jeter Kool-Aid

Just a quick hit for you courtesy of Harold Reynolds, as interviewed by the New York Post.

Q: Is Derek Jeter as bad defensively as some would make him sound?

Yes. Absolutely. Harold?

It’s a bit of an overreaction.

No,  no it’s not.

Jeter has a career UZR/150 of -5.1 — meaning he costs his team more than five full runs a year, on average, versus a replacement-level shortstop. He’s also had some tragically bad seasons, like ’07, when he was -17.9. NEGATIVE SEVENTEEN POINT NINE.

He did win a Gold Glove.

Actually, he won five of them, and at best, you can say that he deserved one — in ’09, when he put up a surprisingly good — and totally out of line with his career numbers — 6.4 UZR. Even that was only fifth-best that season, but I’ll give him that Gold Glove because the guys who were significantly ahead of him all either changed leagues or committed a lot of errors.

Here are his UZRs in the other seasons he won Gold Gloves: -0.7, -14.9, -7.3, -4.7. But he’s Derek Jeter!  A True Yankee! A World Champion!

Fact: Gold Gloves are awards that are voted on by people and are often more of a contest of name recognition and error count than anything else. Aside from guys who are really known for their gloves, like Omar Vizquel, you almost universally have to be a good hitter to win a Gold Glove. Riddle me that.

He’s going to catch every ball hit to him.

Wow, he’s going to catch every ball that’s hit right to him? A Gold Glove isn’t enough! Is there some sort of Platinum Glove we can give guys who can successfully make routine plays?

What about balls hit to his left? His right? Popped up behind him? Don’t count? Alright.

The conventional wisdom on Jeter is that he doesn’t make a lot of errors, which means he’s a good defensive shortstop. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reason that Jeter doesn’t make a lot of errors is that he doesn’t get to a lot of balls that other guys would get to, so he doesn’t get as many chances to make difficult plays, which more commonly lead to errors. This also means that more balls hit in Jeter’s general direction go for hits.

When you get older, you are going to lose range, but you learn how to position yourself and that’s what I think those people are missing that don’t go into the range factor.

Actually, that does go into “the range factor.” I don’t know, Harold, if you’re talking about the actual statistic called range factor or defensive metrics in a broader sense, but let’s just make this clear once and for all: You are wrong.

Defensive statistics don’t measure how far to the left or right a player is capable of moving to make a play; they assign an expected area of the field to each fielder that an average player at his position is expected to cover and see how many of those balls he actually gets to. (Range factor itself is as simple as putouts + assists / games.)  If Jeter’ “knows how to position himself” and gets to balls because he anticipates that they’ll be hit closer to second or third or whatever, that would show up in fielding statistics. But it doesn’t! Why? Because Harold Reynolds is full of shit.

Also, can we stop fucking pretending that positioning is some sort of veteran skill? By and large, it falls to the manager and coaches to study opposing hitters’ tendencies and tell players where to play. I’d wager a pretty penny that Captain Intangible doesn’t come up with his positioning from at-bat to at-bat on his own.

Derek Jeter’s defense sucks. He is a well-below-average shortstop and has been so for nearly his entire career. Can we stop sucking his dick at some point?