Thursday, March 6, 2014

This Jeter post goes out to all the STATS NERDS and HATERS out there

Hey!  I'm both!  Now let me warn you up front: use caution, everyone.  These takes are piping hot.  Salon's Allen Barra (who has also covered sports for the Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal; Greggggggggg approves) is here to drop some knowledge about the same topic covered in my last post: unanimity, and how stats nerds and haters need to get on board with the whole "Jeter deserves it" thing.

Shut up, stats nerds and haters: You’re wrong about Derek Jeter

Trollolololololololololololol.  Gotta hand it to him--if you want angry clicks, you need a good catchy headline.  And I know that most writers don't craft their own, but this one is so delightful that I'd suspect it was penned by Barra.  And if it wasn't, this post is dedicated to the editor who did write it, because that headline fucking rules.

Inflated steroids-era numbers might not show it, but the Yankees shortshop deserves to be a unanimous Hall of Famer

1) If you want to make the case that Jeter is the mostest bestest player evar, maybe don't call attention to the offense-friendly era that he played in.  Or if you do, make it clear that you think his numbers should be considered that much more impressive because of it, not that it is somehow dragging his numbers down.
2) I like that we're getting right to the good stuff up front: Jeter should be a unanimous HOFer, but not because of his numbers.  No no no.  Because of leadership.  And winning.  And of course, class.  Classy class class class.  Fuck class.  Identifying athletes other than those with Roberto Clemente-like track records of being a good person as "classy" is stupider than debating a player's level of "eliteness."  (Note: I don't think Barra uses the word "class" anywhere in this article.  But you fucking well know he's thinking it.)

To my knowledge, what the Baseball Hall of Fame did yesterday was unique: It tweeted the date for an induction ceremony for a still active player to be welcomed into Cooperstown. 

How long has the HOF had a Twitter account?  It's really not that interesting or impressive.  And I know I'm being nit picky and semanticy, so as to the more generic point that the HOF probably has very rarely announced the induction date for an active player via any medium, there are two obvious responses: 1) this is just another outcome of the attention-seeking behavior exhibited by the kind of player who announces his retirement before his final season starts, and 2) the cult of Jeter ballwashers creates outcomes like this, not the other way around.  If the baseball media world weren't full of 60 year old men who write Jeter at least two or three love letters per year, the HOF would not feel compelled to do this.

The date, if you want to make your reservations now, 

I do, so I can show up and boo him.

is July 26, 2020. (A player must be retired for five years before he goes on the ballot.) And if I were you, I wouldn’t wait.

"Hello, is this the Best Western in Cooperstown?  Yes, I'd like to make a reservation for July 26, 2020.  What?  Oh, OK.  I'll call back in late 2019 then.  Sorry for wasting your time."

Not only will Derek Jeter be a first ballot selection, he may well be what Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron weren’t – a unanimous choice. 

"May well" is about as correctly used in that sentence as it is in this one: "The United States government may well have carried out the 9/11 attacks."

If that happens, and I think there’s a very good chance that it will, 

I'm not sure whether to think of this as total delusion, or a clever sales pitch for something he knows is really really unlikely to happen, but slightly more likely if he can build some momentum for it.  The former is more fun, the latter is more pathetic.

it’s bound to stir up even more resentment toward Jeter than we’re seeing in the blizzard of stories that have already appeared since he announced Wednesday that 2014 would be his last year.

Either Barra reads this blog, or he's making a hilarious attempt to manufacture resentment towards this generation's most sportswriter-beloved athlete.  If any baseball writer did anything other than wash Jeter's balls in the aftermath of his announcement, I sure didn't see it.

If one had to synthesize most of the recent Jeter coverage under one headline, it would be: Is Derek Jeter a True Hall of Famer or Is He Overrated?

No, it would not.  It simply would not.  That discussion, which only takes place as an Around the Horn-ish lashback because of fucktards like Allen Barra who won't stop telling us about how Jeter cured polio and smallpox and invented the wheel, has made up about 2% of the Jeter discussion at any given point during the last ten years.  The other 98% has been garbage like this article.

Let’s deal with the first question. There isn’t any doubt that he is going to get into the Hall of Fame. Only nine players in the history of baseball have more hits than Jeter. He’s a 13-time All-Star with five World Series rings. And he’s tremendously popular. 


If you put down a deposit on a hotel room in Cooperstown for July 2020, it’s good as gold.

Why are you still talking about hotel rooms?

Those who have cast doubts about his HOF worthiness have always stressed the lack of bold numbers on his statistics page on

Ah, those who have cast doubts on the HOF worthiness of one of the most obvious HOFers of the past ten years.  All of those people.  Who you always read about in the, uh, well, usually they make their opinions known in, uh... yeah, they're out there.  They are definitely out there.

What a fantastic straw man this is.  How dare all these multitudes of people say Jeter isn't an HOFer!  What are they, blind?

In other words, he never led the league in many offensive categories. This is true. He only led the league in runs scored in 1998 and in hits in 1999 and 2012, and HOFers have usually topped the list in more stats than that.

See, this is where you bring up the steroid era, if you're desperately trying to pump Jeter's tires.  Somehow he misses the opportunity.

He was never quite a match for the top superstars of his era. Or as Ted Berg put it in USA Today (in a piece titled “Derek Jeter is the most fervently overrated shoo-in for the Hall of Fame”), “In terms of overall value to his teams, Jeter just doesn’t stack up to recent historic greats like Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds, and can’t quite match great contemporaries like Chipper Jones and Jeff Bagwell either.”

As to Bonds, Pujols and Jones, he is right.  As to Bagwell he is stretching it.  Also, here is the very first sentence of Berg's piece:

"Derek Jeter is a bona fide, first-ballot Hall of Famer."

So, yeah.  The guy that Barra has cast as excessively critical of Jeter happens to hold the same opinion that I do: Jeter goes in on the first ballot, and should.  Funny that.  It's almost like people who take shots at Jeter don't think Jeter sucks.  They're just sick of the Barras of the world and are trying to introduce a little reason and objectivity to the discussion.  How dare they.

This is also true, but not to the point. Jeter is a greater player than a Yankee shortstop of the 1940s and early 1950s, Phil Rizzuto, who is in the Hall of Fame. 

Rizzuto was elected by the Veterans Committee almost forty years after he retired.  He is also one of the worst players in the HOF.  If he played for literally any team other than the Yankees, he would have been forgotten about decades ago (putting aside his name's appearance in "Billy Madison").

Nobody said Rizzuto should not be inducted because “He doesn’t quite stack up with Ted Williams and Stan Musial.” 

No, but hopefully, when he was up for election by the writers, they said he should not be inducted because "He doesn't have the counting stats, doesn't have the rate stats, and frankly just wasn't all that great at baseball."

Like Rizzuto, Jeter is a shortstop, and shortstops (and second basemen and catchers) aren’t expected to put up the same numbers as slugging outfielders or first basemen because their position is so much more difficult to play.

Jeter's offensive numbers are the whole reason he's going in.  He's such a better hitter than Rizzuto was that it's hard to describe the gap between them without hyperbole.  Rizzuto had an OPS+ over 100 just three times in his career.  Jeter's has only been under 100 three times.  Even if Rizzuto hadn't missed three seasons serving in World War II, he probably would have just barely cleared 2000 hits.  Saying "Rizzuto deserves to be in because shortstops aren't held to the same offensive standards as other players" is missing the point by ten thousand miles.

For that matter, of the 23 shortstops in the Hall of Fame, Jeter is probably more worthy than all but three or four – Honus Wagner, for sure, probably Arky Vaughan, maybe Cal Ripken and Ernie Banks (who is officially listed as a first baseman, though he won back-to-back MVPs at shortstop).

Ripken and Banks are much better players than Jeter.  Robin Yount belongs on the "probably" list if we're going to count guys like Banks who spent ~50% of their career at SS, as do Luke Appling and Ozzie Smith.  Alan Trammel is about equally worthy as Jeter, but forgot to play for the Yankees, so he may never even make the HOF.

Not that Jeter was great at shortstop. 

He suuuuure wasn't.

I don’t trust any of the supposedly scientific measures of fielding ability, 

That is wise, defensive metrics are pretty suspect, but let's see if you can show any basic knowledge of what makes a good baseball player in explaining whatever it is you're about to explain.

but here are two that surely have some measure of validity: Jeter’s career fielding percentage, 

Your grade for knowledge of what makes a good baseball player came in.  F-minus.

going into the 2014 season, is .976, compared to the average for players at this position over the same period has been .972. 

Savvy move by Jeter to let all those hundreds of grounders that a non-shitty SS would have fielded and perhaps then made an error on trickle past his sort of outstretched glove over the years.

His range in the field has been four chances per nine innings while other shortstops over the same span averaged 4.5. 

That's a good metric, but you sadly haven't processed how colossal that gap is.  First note: that's all other shortstops, not HOF-worth shortstops.  Ripken's RF/9 was 4.7.  The Brewers moved Yount off of SS as he entered his 30s, but while he was there his RF/9 was 5.1.  Banks was at 5.0.  Ozzie Smith's was 5.2 (yes, he's the greatest defensive SS of all time so not the most fair comparison, but I'm going for context here geez lighten up).  Second note: let's see, a difference between Jeter and an average shortstop of 0.5 chances per 9 means roughly one per two games or roughly... let's see here... fucking EIGHTYISH per season.  That's horrendous.  The average SS during the mid 90s through today makes somewhere between 70 and 80 (depending on games played) more outs per year than Jeter.  That's a huge deal.  What conclusion can we draw from that horrible number and his mediocre fielding percentage (while ignoring that fielding percentage is a nearly worthless stat).

I’d say that on the whole this indicates that Jeter was an average fielding shortstop, 

/Price is Right loser horn

perhaps a tad below average. 

He's a ghastly shortstop.  Has been pretty much his entire career.  Has no range.  Has a mediocre arm.  Good thing he kept his spot at the most important defensive position on the field when the Yankees traded for Fish Fillet-Rod (4.62 RF/9 as a SS, .977 fielding percentage).  That's leadership.

But he hit and ran the bases well enough for the Yankees to keep him there 

In spite of themselves, because they knew he'd throw a shit fit if they asked him to move to LF or somewhere else where he wouldn't hurt his team so much.

regardless of his defensive deficiencies.

Yeah, potato, poh-tah-toe.

In any event, he isn’t going into the Hall of Fame because of his fielding – he’s going in because of his hitting and base running.

Truest sentence in this whole article.  I couldn't agree more.  Unfortunately, his excellent offense and very bad defense combine to make him just a regular great player, not a "This guy deserves an honor that Ruth, Aaron, etc. didn't get" player.

Let’s save time and compare Jeter to a hitter who everyone acknowledges as a legitimate Hall of Famer – or at least they would if Pete Rose hadn’t tarted betting on baseball games.

This should be good.

Jeter’s career batting average is .312 to Rose’s .303, and even if Derek played another five seasons to match Pete’s 24 years, and his skills declined over that time as Rose’s did late in his career, Jeter would still end up with a higher batting average.

You know what, I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt on that because the next few things you're about to say are so much dumber, but I'm not even sure if that's true.  Jeter's high batting average has always been bolstered by his ability to rack up infield hits.  I'm not saying that pejoratively, like "HAW HAW HE SUX CAN'T EVEN HIT BALL OUT OF INFIELD," I'm just stating it as a fact.  And it's a fact that matters, because if he played five more seasons, he wouldn't just lose batspeed.  He'd lose a lot of foot speed.  If he played five more seasons, I could see him perhaps getting to 4000 hits, if he stayed perfectly healthy, but I could also see his batting average dropping at least ten points during that time.  And losing ten points even if you're a player who doesn't rely on infield hits isn't that hard to do.  Frank Thomas lost seven points off his career average in his last five seasons.  Barry Larkin lost five.  Craig Biggio (who I'm using because holy smokes, he'd better get elected next year) lost seven.  And those guys were playing in their late 30s, not their early 40s.  But enough of this sort of dumb stuff.  Let's get to the REALLY dumb stuff.

Jeter has a higher on-base percentage than Rose, .381 to .375, 

Adjusted for park and era, Rose was better.

and had a considerably better slugging percentage, .446 to .409.

Adjusted for park and era, Jeter was just a little better.  Rose has the overall OPS+ advantage, 118 to 117.

When you combine these two numbers into the stat beloved by so many analysts, 

In 1998.

on-base plus slugging, Jeter has an even bigger edge, .828 to .784.

Repeat my point from above.

He has been a better power hitter than Rose with 256 home runs, 90 more than the Hit King, in around 3,600 fewer at-bats. And Derek is a far better base runner and stealer, 348 of 448 bases for a success rate of nearly 79 percent, while Pete was a base-stealing liability with 189 steals in 347 attempts for just 54.5 percent. And, if you want to throw in fielding, whatever shortcomings Jeter has had with a glove, he was better than Rose, who was never more than adequate at any of the several positions he played.

This is all idiotic for oh so many reasons, but let's throw Gamblin' Pete a bone here: early in his career, he was a better 2B than Jeter is a SS.  And he actually got pretty good in the outfield for a brief period in his early 30s.  He played 30,000 innings and racked up -14 dWAR, but had the disadvantage of switching positions several times during his career; Jeter has played 22,000 at the same position and has racked up -9 dWAR.  It's basically a push, unless you want to give negative points for players who have undeserved Gold Gloves, in which case Rose collects more negative points than Jeter.  But whatever.

But has Jeter been overrated by fans and an adoring press? 

Best non-rhetorical rhetorical question ever.

If you check my Wikipedia page – and I’m not advising you to since just about everything on it is wrong – you’ll find reference to a Deadspin story back in 2009 titled “Jesus Is the Derek Jeter of Christianity.” The author (unnamed) says that I “think Derek Jeter should win the MVP despite the pesky fact that Joe Mauer is a better candidate …”

Here's the Deadspin piece, written by one of those other FJM guys (who was unnamed then, but I believe has since revealed himself--notice Barra's not too subtle dig at this UNNAMED internet cretin trying to point out that Barra knows exactly jack shit about baseball).  Barra's argument basically comes down to "Well, Mauer has played better this year, but Jeter is Jeter winning leadership calm eyes."

Five years after the fact is probably a little late to say this, but lighten up, Deadspin. I never said Joe Mauer was a better MVP candidate than Jeter. 

Actually you sort of did, and if you didn't, you should have.

What I said was that most of Mauer’s statistics 

All of Mauer's statistics other than R and SB, and certainly all of the statistics that mean the most; specifically OBP and SLG.

were better and that “the case for Mr. Jeter” – the Wall Street Journal makes you refer to men who are living as “Mr.” – “as American League MVP is made by more subjective arguments.”

This is what I referred to way back at the beginning of the post.  Here it comes.  CLASS (or other words that mean class).

Come on, are you going to tell me that Derek Jeter wasn’t a great teammate and that he didn’t contribute to his team in ways that don’t necessarily show up in a box score? Except maybe in the “win” category?


After all, the Yankees did win the American League pennant and the World Series that year.

With Jeter starting at every position and even pitching to himself, like Bugs Bunny!

And really, why would Jeter need special arguments to be an MVP in a year when he hit .334 with 18 home runs, 212 hits, 107 runs scored, 30 stolen bases and an OBA of .406?

Because Mauer's numbers were significantly better in all (well, both) of those statistics that are actually very meaningful?

Have some of us overrated him a bit? A bit, maybe, 

Don't admit it!  It's a slippery slope from here to asking if he belongs in the HOF at all!  Allen, nooooo!

but we’ll happily bear that cross. See you in Cooperstown in 2020.

But I don't have a hotel room!  Can I sleep on the floor of yours?

This is a repeat of what happened in that last article I posted about.  So I'll post the awesome comment left there by an Anonymous: "I'll admit it. When I started reading that article, I thought there was no way Jeter deserved a unanimous vote. But he convinced me. Jeter does deserve to be a first ballot HOFer."  That's pretty fucking good.

If you know Allen Barra, do me a favor and let him know he's a fucking idiot. 


Venezuelan Beaver Cheese said...

Conveniently omitted in the Jeter-Rose comparison is that Rose, unlike Jeter, actually switched positions (left field to third base) to allow young George Foster into the lineup.

Chris W said...

Also conveniently omitted is that Pete Rose's HOF argument doesn't rest on his career AVG/OBP/SLG line, it rests on the fact that he played long enough to get over 4000 hits, thereby dragging down his career AVG/OBP/SLG line. It'd be like comparing Warren Spahn's career ERA/WHIP/K/9 to Roy Oswalt's

Chris W said...

For example--Derek Jeter played for 19 years. If you take the first 19 years of Rose's career, you get a career line of .310/.380/.426 in a much lower run environment than Jeter, giving Rose a 124 OPS+ to Jeter's 116

Anonymous said...

2 things

1. This guy has to work for the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, right?

2. Pete was a base-stealing liability with 189 steals in 347 attempts for just 54.5 percent.

why in god's name was this man attempting so many stolen bases???!!! those are HORRENDOUS numbers!

Anon said...

If you want to call him an idiot, just post it in the comments to the article. He doesn't take criticism lightly. Hilariously, the last article he wrote for Salon was a whinefest about Super Bowl-hype.

What these idiots don't seem to get is that a hall of fame electorate comprised of stats geeks would be MOST likely to elect the guy unanimously. It's "Vote with your heart" nitwits like Barra who are going to cast stupid protest ballots for moronic reasons. I'm going to laugh like a motherfucker when a stats geek HATER like Murray Chass fucks up the unanimous coronation because somebody told him once he thought Jete's balls were little smaller than when he first started playing.

Anon said...

He's also the same fucking idiot who agreed wholeheartedly with Limbaugh's assertion that people only liked Donovan McNabb because he's black. He was just sayin' what we were all thinking: He's the black Brad Johnson!

Alex said...

Barra writes for Salon. Home of
noted 'business and economics' writer (or did until recently) philosophy major never had a real job Matt 'Sadbeard' Yglesias.

In short, what did you expect?

Chris W said...

Barra's such a weird guy. In the mid-90's he was a champion of Bill James, OPS, and range factor. It looks like his ideas have simply not evolved at all beyond that point

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