Defense, IceBat

Gold Glove Nonsense

So…I was having a pretty good day, woke up, had some coffee, some class, relaxing before a midterm, midterm went well, excellent meal with my one and only, HIMYM, and then one of those naps where you don’t feel entirely groggy/sluggish after waking up (ie – the best kind). And then I turn my head to the daily baseball headlines and find that the Gold Glove Awards, an award for the best defenders in the game (or so you would like to think) for the AL were announced:

NEW YORK (AP)—Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki has won his 10th straight Gold Glove and New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has won his fifth overall…

I find it a little hard to believe that Derek Jeter was able to win this award, for the second time in a row. All the news sources point to his efficiency with only 6 errors over the year. Well what about those balls that he couldn’t possibly get to, considering his limited range (meaning he just can’t get to balls that are farther away the way other start shortstops can)? Those balls get scored as hits rather than “Balls Jeter couldn’t get to”.

Also, any advanced defensive metric out there these days answer many questions that can lead us toward comparing fielders. Like how much ground is a shortstop able to cover? Is this due to great timing/instinct or great footwork? How accurate is his arm? How many runs can he save over the course of the year? In any of these metrics, you will find Derek Jeter at the bottom of the list. Guaranteed.

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Playoffs

Postseason Play

It’s October already. Which means one thing: MLB playoffs! A lot of people like to predict who’s going to win, but that’s kinda boring to me (especially since a lot of the time, the commentators are completely wrong). What I am willing to discuss is what I think are the most important aspects of a team in order to get to the World Series. What makes the postseason so much different from the regular season? The most important difference is that the sample size (the amount of games played) shrinks from 162 to about less than 20 games. Obviously, that’s how it works in all playoff games, but it seems more important for baseball. Here it goes:

  • This point is somewhat taken from ‘Moneyball’. I’ve already expressed my opinion on pitcher’s volatility, but in the playoffs it seems like their variability in performance is utterly important to a team’s success. In all of baseball, the pitcher has the most control of a game. The Yankees might have the best offense this year on paper, but can they really match up against the best pitcher, on one of his good nights? I don’t think so. If a team is going to control the make up of a playoff series, they need their pitchers to either be in control (and are super super good), or are just on a really hot streak. So teams tend to have one or two for sure pitchers, with pitchers who could make or break a team’s chances. Luck’s on one team than the other perhaps? Back in the day, the A’s had three for sures, yet they couldn’t even get out of the first round (sigh). Shows how 2/3 won’t do, you need that coveted third win!!
  • Smallball is the strategy. The Angels did it a couple years back, so did the White Sox. What I mean about smallball is recognizing there will be no ‘big inning’; one run through advancing runners (no matter the cost) is more important than having to wish for a lucky home run. It’s evident you won’t get too many blowouts in the playoffs, there’s just too much on the line. Thus, smallball is used lots of time to sacrifice an out or two to advance a runner and bring him in via Sac Fly or something. This is an offense taking control of its own fate; once you get a single or double off a really good pitcher, it isn’t too hard to hit a sac fly off him. A pitcher isn’t going to give up much, thus an offense needs to make that hit meaningful. Out of 51 World Series games played in the past decade, only 14 have ended with a team winning by 4 or more.
  • What kills me is when people talk about a team’s offense being their focal point, and how it will carry them through the playoffs. For one thing, the sample size of the playoffs is so small, anything can happen! An offense can be just as good as they have been, or players can hit a cold streak. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez would know. They’re on the best offense this season, yet they have yet to prove themselves in the small sample sizes of the past three or four post seasons they’ve been in. You can also see how this is true since we often see a very random, usually a role player of a team be the one to win the series MVP award. In recent memory: Mike Lowell (2007 WS), David Eckstein (2006 WS), or Placido Polanco (2006 ALCS). So, don’t et your hopes up this season if you’re a Yankee fan and expecting their offense to get them through the playoffs, despite a mediocre pitching staff behind CC Sabathia. It. Just. might. Not. Happen.

There are two teams in the playoffs this year that seem to fit the mold I’ve just talked about. The Phillies have a solid pitching staff with 2.5 for sures (Hamels, Martinez and Happ each count as half for sures) with 2.5 other ‘if they get lucky streaks’ pitchers. Their offense has been solid all season, but if they don’t hit well, Charilie Manuel is always looking to win one run difference games. Boston also has solid pitching with Beckett and Lester being the essence of for sures. Their issue is they haven’t been very successful against two of the other AL playoff teams: the Yankees and Angels. That’s why I think the AL is a bit iffy in calling the winner, it’s all up for grabs since it seems each team has a huge gaping hole. The NL, the Phillies just look like the best of the best, with the Cards giving them a good run for their money. The Dodgers? Sorry…I don’t believe in teams who drag their feet to the playoffs.

So who’s gonna win? I’ll ask IceBat next time I see him…

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Hitters

Is Derek Jeter worth $161 million?

derek-jeter

He has been known throughout his career as one of the most respectful, consistent baseball players of his era. Once known as the ‘big three’ shortstops with Alex Rodgriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, Jeter might be the only relevant player nowadays (with Garciaparra constantly injured and A-Rod with his name in the tabloids). It may be true he is a poster child for baseball, that his manner both on and off the field is the most desired by managers. Oh, and some consider him a meat head (i.e. Linda) or a cute guy with a nice butt (i.e. Hana). But the real question is, is Jeter worth the $161 million he has accumulated as salary for his services from the Yankees (and furthermore, is he worth the $189 million contract he received as a 26 year old)? Well, based on…:

Postseason Play

Jeter has appeared in 6 World Series, helping to win 4 of them and receiving MVP honors in the 2000 series. His career postseason numbers are very respectful as shown below:

G

123

PA

562

AB

495

R

85

H

153

2B

22

3B

3

HR

17

RBI

49

SB

16

CS

4

BB

51

K

96

AVG

.309

OBP

.377

SLG

.469

OPS

.846

But just because his statistics are favorable and the fact he was known as ‘Mr. November’ doesn’t tell the whole story. When people talk about postseason play, they regard players who do well under pressure as clutch players, that without them the team wouldn’t have been as successful. Jeter is one of those guys. The problem with weighting postseason play is that great playing ability might still be underperforming for a player, as is the case for Jeter. A statistic used known as Wins Probability Added shows that Jeter is at a -0.33 for his career in the postseason (from 2002-2007), while his WPA for his career during the same period is at a 13.85 clip .

What does this mean? Despite his great numbers in standard baseball statistics, it is evident after signing his huge contract he didn’t have much to offer the Yankees in the postseason. WPA doesn’t go far back enough to see how his play helped the Yankees to win the 4 world series rings, but this does show how he can’t be considered as Mr. November every postseason he is in. Fans give too much weight to a small sample such as 4 years, where players play only about 15 games max if they get to the World Series.

Defense

You might see Jeter make amazing looking plays in the field, but the truth of the matter is those plays would look like routine plays for top tier shortstops like Miguel Tejada in his prime. Jeter has been criticized for his small range and his footwork. His Ultimate Zone Rating (a statistic that sums the runs value a fielder adds to a team compared to an average replacement) has been consistently below average. Thus there is much skpeticism as to whether or not he deserves the numerous Gold Gloves (an award for elite defense) he has been awarded. Only starting this season has Jeter shown major improvement in fielding the toughest position in baseball.

Yankee Revenue

The Yankees, on average, receive about $300 million in revenue each season. Obviously, this figure changes each year, especially with this year’s arrival of the new palace Yankee Stadium. Over the past 10 years, the Yankees have received $81 million in extra revenue due to their post season success. How much of this can be credited to Jeter? As a ten time All-Star, it’s obvious New Yorkers come to see Jeter play day in and day out. In order to get to the playoffs, a team must have a solid regular season record. As I stated earlier, Jeter has a pretty high WPA for his career during the regular season. Thus, he can be attributed to both the economical success of the Yankees during the regular and post seasons. Merchandise and advertisement as the proud Yankee captain can also be credited to his name. Thus all said in done, it seems evident Jeter makes the Yankees a ton of money. He’s been on top of the boards almost every year in offensive statistics, as well as maintaining a leadership position in the world’s most scrutinized city, where tabloids can ruin your name (see Alex Rodriguez).

Say if Jeter was replaced by an average shortstop because they didn’t want to give him the money he ‘deserved’. New Yorkers would go mad and hang the owners of the Yankees, the Steinbrenner family. But what if the Yankees had an up and coming shortstop who had stellar defense and could hit on par with average major leaguers? Jeter has gaping holes in his fielding abilities, which makes his bat less of a threat. In 2005, the Yankees were the worst defense to have made it into the playoffs. With a cumulative UZR of -130, their offense made up for it with a sum of +139 runs added. It’s no wonder they’re called ‘the Bombers’, but with no fortified steel defense.

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