I guess none of us should be surprised that the Boston Red Sox hype machine/cheerleading squad out of Bristol has published yet another piece claiming that Derek Jeter is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
That group of tools lost any sense of objectivity on the matter many, many years ago.
Once the Red Sox captured the title in 2004, it was like any and all sense of a need to be impartial was ripped away, and they have done nothing but sit there in the background screaming, “Get him a body bag Johnny!!” ever since.
So today’s latest salvo on that front finds Mark Simon of ESPN New York lamenting on the future Hall of Famer’s “penchant for making outs” and his lack of a respectable offensive winning percentage.
First, let me deal with the former before I touch on the latter.
Undoubtedly, Derek Jeter is having an off-year by his standards. That cannot be denied. But to paint a picture like all he does is “make outs” is laughable, if not borderline criminal from someone that claims to be a sportswriter.
A .260 average, over 100 runs scored, 15-plus steals and 70ish RBI is nothing to sneeze at out of the leadoff spot. The man has contributed and contributed greatly to his team’s record, which is, by the way, the best in baseball.
I would strongly suspect that his prolific pace for recording outs has more to do with the fact that he shows up every day, plays in a lineup that turns over at a far greater rate than any other lineup in baseball (leading to Jeter having almost 100 more ABs than your average MLB leadoff hitter) and has seen his average/OBP decline from the norm.
Throw in the fact that Major League Baseball is having somewhat of a pitching renaissence and, my friends, you have yourself a recipe for racking up a large number of outs in a season.
Because of his age, we should all be realistic and understand that he is not the player he once was. But does that mean he is a bum that has no place on a team, let alone a winning one?
The second “layer” to this thinly veiled, pathetic attempt at a hatchet piece involves yet another Bill James “stat du jour,” known as offensive winning percentage (OWP).
That stat estimates what the win percentage of a player’s team would be if that player occupied every spot in the lineup, and the team had league-average pitching and defensive skill.
Now, in an effort to be as impartial and objective as I can possibly be (something Mr. Simon failed at miserably), I must first declare that I am a stat geek through and through. Always have been, always will be.
But statistics can at times be inaccurate and, more often, be misconstrued.
The only offensive winning percentages that should be deemed important when looking at Mr. Jeter’s should be those of his peers. More specifically those who play his position.
Since Mr. Simon was either too lazy or too stupid to provide that information, I figured I would take a stab at it.
I chased down the OWP of the shortstops for every American League team (and a couple National League teams, to boot) in playoff contention:
Derek Jeter, NYY, .460
Jason Bartlett, TB, .418
Marco Scutaro, Bos, .450
Alexei Ramirez, CHW, .467
Elvis Andrus, Tex, ..443
J.J. Hardy, Min, .427
Jimmy Rollins, Phi, .449
Orlando Cabrera, Cin, .372
Miguel Tejada, SD, .432
Juan Uribe, SF, .448
Akex Gonzalez, Atl, .503
One quick look shows that his numbers have been far from out of line for his position. In fact, the only SS that even remotely pulled away from the pack was Mr. Gonzalez, thanks in large part to the 17 home runs he mashed prior to the All-Star break.
He has since fallen back to earth and only hit four dingers, as his OWP has plummeted in the second half by some forty points already.
I won’t argue that Jeter is the player he once was. I would be a fool to do so. But he is STILL in the top five in every major category for shortstops across the league. Average, on-base-percentage, homeruns, runs, runs-batted-in, stolen bases.
Every other one of his peers is deficient in at least one of these categories, failing to join him in that “top five” club.
I won’t get dragged into a debate over how much money he is worth in his new contract, because it is a moot point. The Yankees will pay him, and that will be that.
They can afford to, and he is the face of the franchise. Unlike with other organizations, that means something to the Yankees, and they are willing to open the checkbook for it. They won’t give him a deal like his last one, and they may even play hardball along the way. But in the end this deal will get done.
But I will sit here and tell you that the man is still a viable alternative at SS on a winning team.
One day that will change.
But that day is not today.