Saturday, September 11, 2010

Derek Jeter's Range

I am well aware of the stigma attached to fielding metrics. The flaws are plentiful, the available data has several holes, and the inability to trust said metrics without two to three seasons' worth of data seems rather inane. While I am far more willing to invest in UZR and DRS and the like than I am to trust my own eyes, I'm also loath to trust the numbers until play-by-play, hit F/X, and pitch F/X data is properly incorporated. With that in mind, I would like to try to demonstrate Jeter's defensive range (or lack thereof) with readily available, easily understood data.

Based on innings, Jeter has played the equivalent of 126 games at shortstop - that's good for seventh in Major League Baseball. From here, most would point to Jeter's league-leading fielding percentage as a means to demonstrate his defensive prowess ... and that isn't entirely without merit. In my mind, Jeter is very sure-handed, and he tends to make the play when he gets to the ball. That being said ... Jeter simply doesn't get to the ball all that much (relative to other shortstops).

As of the morning of 11 September, Jeter averages 3.8 total chances per defensive game. That is, he fields an average of 3.8 balls per game. Among shortstops with at least 100 games at the position, Jeter ranks 20th in chances per game ... out of twenty. Among shortstops with at least 500 innings at the position, Jeter ranks 31st in chances per game ... out of thirty-two.

This is certainly not a perfect measure of a shortstop's range. While I can say with confidence that Yankees pitchers generate a league-average amount of groundballs and a league-average amount of balls in play, I am unsure as to whether or not the number of those balls hit to the left are on-par with league-average. Robinson Cano does lead all second baseman in total chances, so perhaps more grounders are hit to the right ... at the same time, however, Cano's advanced metrics suggest that he's a fantastic fielder.

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