Monday, July 11, 2011

Mr. 3000 Response (July 11)

I really hate what I had to do here...
This post is in response to Casey Richey’s earlier ‘Mr. 3000’ post. If you haven’t yet read it, please follow the link and do so. It’s extremely well written and an interesting take on Derek Jeter and his accomplishments.

Casey, as you can imagine, I nearly fell out of my chair when I read Mr. 3000. Part of that may have been because it was 8:00am and I’m a literal zombie until around noon, and part of it may have been because I immediately go into a fit of rage anytime I’m forced to recollect that abomination of a movie the late Bernie Mac unleashed on us all. Whatever the case may be, I was absolutely shocked at your take on Derek Jeter.

As you referenced in your post, I am, in fact, one of the foremost Yankee haters on planet Earth. This is slightly odd considering I couldn’t care less about baseball, but the fact remains nonetheless. In truth, I don’t really even hate them for “buying championships.” Actually, I almost respect them for it! How many professional franchises have been as fervent in re-investing their revenue back into the on field product? Obviously they have a huge revenue advantage in the first place, but if more franchises showed that type of commitment, sports would be a better place for us all.

No, I think I hate the Yankees simply because they win.  In conjunction with that, I think I hate Derek Jeter because he IS the Yankees. So, not surprisingly, it did my heart good to see you come down from your Yankee stronghold to take an honest look at your beloved Derek Jeter. Here’s the problem, I think you went too far…

Don’t get me wrong Casey; I agree with the majority of what you said. I agree that the abstract ideas of ‘integrity’ and ‘leadership’ are entirely overused and likely misplaced on Jeter. As you said, we’re talking about a guy who is as well known for his nightlife and his carousing as he is for anything he does in the clubhouse. The bigger question here is, how much ‘leadership’ is required to ‘guide’ a team full of guys like Mariano Rivera, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettite, Roger Clemens, etc? Why should Jeter get credit for ‘leading’ a collection of All-Stars and Hall of Famers to the World Series?  (Correct answer…he shouldn’t)

And Casey, I also agree with you on Jeter’s defensive capabilities. Thanks to the beauty of Saber metrics, we now know that Jeter is a HISTORICALLY overrated defensive short stop. You indicated he was probably an average defensive player…I suppose I can go with that, though his career -13.7 dWAR would lead me to believe he’s on the lower end of average. Still, the point remains – Jeter is NOT the type of defender his 5 Gold Gloves would suggest.

Now, here’s where our thoughts will diverge. In your zeal to be unbiased and accurate in your assessment of Derek Jeter, I fear you went too far and gave Jeter far too little credit for what he has accomplished. Yes, I know that sounds strange coming from one such as I. Believe me, I can’t believe this conversation is going this way either! It should be you writing this Jeter defense, not me! Still, I have to call it like I see it, and it’s a disservice to “your boy” Jeter to take anything away from him.

First and foremost, you essentially tip toed around one of Jeter’s most significant accomplishments, his dating history. I mean, look at this list and tell me you’re not impressed!

Mariah Carey – Jeter dated her before her career tanked and before she got fat
Lara Dutta – Former Miss Universe
Jordana Brewster – Model, terrible actress
Vanessa Minillo – I don’t think she’s actually done anything, but she’s really hot
Adriana Lima – Seriously, how does Marko Jaric end up with her?!?!?
Jessica Biel – Say what you will Casey, but she’s super hot
Minka Kelly – Please see Jordana Brewster description

Well done, Derrick, well done.

In all seriousness though, there are some baseball related things I wanted to respond to…you know, since we’re talking about a baseball player on a sports blog. First, I think it’s important not to underplay the idea of being ‘clutch.’ Don’t take this as a criticism of your comments, because I was happy you acknowledged Jeter’s many clutch plays. There was, however, one sentence I have to comment on. You said, “I still don’t know whether ‘clutch’ is a real attribute of an athlete, or if it is just a term to describe events that have transpired in the past…” As you alluded to, the concept of ‘clutch’ is severely overused and is often not relevant in its popular form. One may make a ‘clutch’ play, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a ‘clutch’ player. In fact, it’s almost impossible to accurately identify a ‘clutch’ player since the sample sizes are often too small. Still, the modern notion that ‘clutch’ does not exist is ridiculous. How do I know this? Because I play sports! No, I haven’t had to take a key three pointer in the NCAA Tournament, and I haven’t been standing at the plate in Game 7 of the World Series, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t faced big moments in my own little sports universe. As you can personally attest to Casey, I’ve taken many big shots in intramural and city league basketball games. I’ve had make or break at bats in several city league softball playoff games. Even more relevant, I’ve stood over plenty of important shots/putts in high school and college level golf tournaments. For those of us without professional sports talent, those games are our World Series. No matter what stat people tell you, there is something to facing down those big moments and being able to come through. Like Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Reggie Jackson, and Robert Horry; Derek Jeter was clutch. Somehow, someway, he always made the big play. The play that always sticks out to me was his random cut off play against Oakland to nail Jeremy Giambi at the plate. Why in the world was he even near the first base line??? He had no business being over there?! That’s just Jeter…and really, why should we be surprised?

Getting past the intangibles, I want to comment on how Jeter stacks up statistically. Perhaps I understood you wrong, but are you saying Jeter was just a good player who happened to play for a long time? Perhaps I misunderstood you, but that’s what I gleaned from your last paragraph. And, once again, thank to our good friend ‘Sabermetrics,’ we can accurately describe just how great Derek Jeter has been, specifically as an offensive player. Using VORP (Value over Replacement Player) to properly account for Jeter’s positional value, we see that Jeter is even better than I would originally have given him credit for. Of the 19 ‘modern era’ member of the 3000 hit club, only 3 have a higher career VORP than Jeter! And Jeter is still going!

                                          Seasons                  VORP
Willie Mays                        22                           1347.2
Hank Aaron                       23                           1227.8
Rickey Henderson              29,574 (or 29)        1040.2
Derek Jeter                        16.5                        891
George Brett                      21                           795.7
Pete Rose                          24                           782.2
Robin Yount                      20                           749.8
Cal Ripken                         21                           746.7
Wade Boggs                      18                           739.6
Craig Biggio                       20                           729.2
Paul Molitor                       21                           728.8
Dave Winfield                    22                           708.6
Carl Yastrzemski                23                           703.8
Tony Gwynn                      20                           648.7
Rafael Palmeiro                  20 (cheat)               618.6 (cheat)
Rod Carew                        19                           610.5
Roberto Clemente              18                           602.5
Eddie Murray                     21                           551.4
Lou Brock                          20                          547.8

Again, I’m not trying to tell you Derek Jeter is the fourth best player in the modern era! That would be ridiculous! However, the numbers are quite surprising in that Jeter has a significantly higher career VORP than such players as Cal Ripken, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn, etc. It really is amazing!

Even beyond sabermetric stats, Jeter stands in an incredibly significant historic place. Assuming Jeter isn’t assassinated by a collection of his former girlfriends, he’s on pace to be, perhaps, the greatest shortstop of all time.

Honus Wagner – 3420
Cal Ripken – 3184
Robin Yount - 3142
Derek Jeter – 3004

Jeter stands a fair shot at eventually surpassing Wagner for the most hits ever by a shortstop. (Note: Robin Yount only played the first 11 years of his career at SS before converting to CF)

Batting Average
Honus Wagner - .328
Arky Vaughan - .318
Derek Jeter - .313
Nomar Garciaparra - .313

Both Wagner and Vaughan played in a very different era and their averages are definitely inflated due to that. Even without disregarding them, Jeter is the most consistent hitting shortstop of the last half century!

Honus Wagner – 1739
Derek Jeter – 1727

Honus Wagner – 643
Derek Jeter – 481

Home Runs
Cal Ripken – 431
Robin Yount – 251
Derek Jeter – 237

Oh yeah, he also has 331 stolen bases!

Look, I’m not going to waste 10,000 words on these lists because I think the point is made. Derek Jeter, as much as I hate him and hope he goes away very soon, will go down as one of the greatest shortstops of all time, if not THE greatest. He will rank first or second among shortstops in several major statistical categories and he will be a sabermetric legend in the modern era.

Perhaps the mythical idea of The Captain is ridiculous, and perhaps his ‘clutch’ ability is a bit overblown (.148 in the ’01 World Series!), but Derek Jeter is not overhyped. He is billed as one of the greatest shortstops of all time, and his career supports that notion. Casey, I hope you understand how awful this makes me feel. This is seriously the last thing I wanted to write. When I started Boris Diaw Time, I promised to be completely open and honest about the way things are, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Jeter is great, not just good. I’m sure you’re as shocked to read my post as I was to read yours. I will now go buy a replica Derek Jeter jersey and repeatedly throw up on it.


  1. Derek Jeter is a bi-racial angel!

  2. (Trying to think of an appropriate comment...)

  3. hahahaha "the Other Guys" classic. This is the greatest couple weeks ever Jon!! As I pointed out to you the other day on the phone, you've stated Mike Dunleavy is a "good player" and Derek Jeter is a "great player." Oh the universe works in mysterious ways. Soon Duke will be the greatest program ever, and Tom Brady will be the sexiest luckiest man alive. OK well that last is already true no arguments are possible, but you get my point!!!!!!!!

  4. YOU KNOW I LOVE TOM BRADY!!! And I didn't actually call the modern iteration of Mike Dunleavy good! Just poorly worded...and a huge mistake...AND DUKE SUCKS!!!

  5. I do argue somewhat that CORP is an unfair statistic, since a terrible replacement will significantly inflate its value. That being said, I haven't researched his (or the other guys') replacements- I just know he has been painted as the nyc messiah nearly since joining the club, and I haven't seen the yanks pursue a ss prospect since.

  6. No, VORP is not an unfair statistic. It is a highly valued and respected measure of value in the Sabermetric world. To say it's unfair or overvalued is incorrect. The generic 'replacement player' isn't a value represented by an actual player, but the expected value from a replacement level player at a given position. In Jeter's case, VORP measures the additional value the Yankees receive from having Jeter play shortstop over a below average, minor league level 'replacement' shortstop.

  7. Yeah, sorry Bloomy - VORP is an unbiased independent variable with robust reproducibility. Like many sabermetric stats, its name is somewhat misleading in that its method of calculation has nothing to do with actually measuring someone else. It's like calculating QB rating but calling it "estimated career wins," to give you some familiar perspective.

  8. Jon, now that I've actually read this... WOW!!! I had a heart attack, as well! About the leadership thing, you are correct that it really doesn't take much to have to lead the all-star Yankees now. But I will remind you that there was a time when he played with the likes of Scott Brosius, Ricky Ledee, and Chuck Knoblauch (how much leadership does it take to get your 2B to turn a double play without fumbling the ball or throwing it into the stands?). They needed a leader more in that era. Anyway, it sounds like my closing paragraph in the article may have been a little understated, so let me say it: Jeter is great! As you noted, I did have to be careful not to overstate, as I am in love with Derek Jeter (as is your wife, FYI).

  9. Apparently Jeter's leadership wasn't enough to overcome Knoblauch's throwing problem! Seriously though, I understand what you're saying, but Jeter wasn't really the leader on those early teams. He was a rookie on the 1996 World Series team! It's easy to forget now after a decade and a half of signing the AL All-Star team, but the '96 team was loaded with savvy veterans. Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, Mariano Duncan, Joe Girardi, Ruben Sierra, Cecil Fielder, Tim Raines, Bernie Williams, Wade Boggs, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Kenny Rogers, Jimmy Key, David Cone, Bob Wickman, John Wetteland...I mean, they were loaded with veteran leaders!

  10. Thanks for the insight. I haven't really delved into the world of sabermetrics yet, so I was taking VORP at face value, which would be unfair.

  11. You get to be the grumpy old baseball person then!

  12. In review, can we use the term, "robust reproducibility" much more often? I laugh a little more ever time I think about it.

  13. I had forgotten aboutRuben Sierra! Also, you have to take into account that Darryl Strawberry didn't spend much of his time on the field... or the bench... or the clubhouse......