We are well aware that we are not the first statisticalanalysts to question Derek Jeter’s defense at shortstop. Others before us have argued that Jeter was not a good shortstop, and yet he has won the Gold Glove the last couple of years, the Yankees certainly have won several baseball games with Jeter at short, and he is among the biggest stars in baseball.
Asked about Derek Jeter’s defense on a radio show in New York one year ago, I answered as honestly as I could: I don’t know. I know that there are Yankee fans and network TV analysts who believe that he is a brilliant defensive shortstop; I know that there are statistical analysts who think he’s an awful shortstop. I don’t know what the truth is. You’ve seen him more than I have; you know more about it than I do.
I am instinctively skeptical. I don’t tend to believe what the experts tell me, just because they are experts; I don’t tend to believe what the statistical analysts tell me, just because they are statistical analysts. I take a perverse pride in being the last person to be convinced that Pete Rose bet on baseball, and I fully intend to be the last person to be convinced that Barry Bonds uses Rogaine. I am willing to listen, I am willing to be convinced, but I want to see the evidence.
So John Dewan brought me the printouts from his defensive analysis, and he explained what he had done. John’s henchmen at Baseball Info Solutions had watched video from every major league game, and had recorded every ball off the bat by the direction in which it was hit (the vector) the type of hit (groundball, flyball, line-drive, popup, mob hit, etc.) and by how hard the ball was hit (softly hit, medium, hard hit). Given every vector and every type of hit, they assigned a percentage probability that the ball would result in an out, and then they had analyzed the outcomes to determine who was best at turning hit balls into outs. One of their conclusions was that Derek Jeter was probably the least effective defensive player in the major leagues, at any position.