Starting with the publishing of Michael Lewis' "Moneyball", advanced baseball statistics have, for better or worse, changed the way we talk about baseball. Stats like OBP have become so ubiquitous that they now display them alongside venerable standbys like average and RBIs in a player's statline during ESPN telecasts. Words like VORP and ERA+ that used to be used to make fun of how ridiculous advanced statistics were are now used in serious discussions. These statistics were supposed to explode the old myths and orthodoxies about baseball and allow us to see the sport with new eyes.
Except now that these stats have come into the mainstream for a few years, the old orthodoxies have been replaced with new ones. And chief among these is the immutable statistical truth that Derek Jeter is one of the worst fielding shortstops of all time.
If you are new to this argument, you are probably saying, whaa? But what about his 3 Gold Glove Awards? What about the jump-throw
? The Flip
? The dive into the stands
? Baseball fans don't even need to click on the links. They already know what plays I'm talking about.
Stat nerds will counter with, what else, stats. Range factor. Fielding Win Shares. Fielding Runs. It is practically a rite of passage among baseball statisticians: if you want to be accepted into the fraternity, repeat after me: Derek Jeter sucks.
Except your stats disagree with what you can see with your eyes. Last night, Derek Jeter proved it again. In a one-run game against the Twins, with nobody out and Nick Punto on second base after a double, speedy Denard Span bounced a ball up the middle. Jeter ranged to his left and fielded the ball, but instead of throwing to first, he immediately whirled and fired the ball home. Huh? What?
Here's what happened: Jeter knew he couldn't through Span out because of his speed, but instead of making the throw anyway, or simply putting the ball in his pocket, he threw home. Why? Because of the runner on second. Either he saw out of the corner of his eye, or knew because he is awesome, he realized that Punto might try to take advantage of a throw to first and sneak home. Jeter fired to Posada, who then threw back to A-Rod at third, who tagged Punto out. Punto had indeed ranged too far off of third base.
Instead of first and third with nobody out, it was a man on first with one out. The Yankees went on to win the game. Where's your stat for that play, stat nerds? There isn't one, and there never will be. So stop pretending that you know better, or that your stats can tell us more about the game than we can learn by watching it. There's a reason that they play the games, nerds.
And that reason is Derek Jeter is awesome.