December 5, 2006


The Bill James Handbook 2007 is out and, in addition to all the usual delights, there's a hilarious section on Derek Jeter's baserunning, which is not only below league average but compares unfavorably to that of David Ortiz.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 5, 2006 4:03 PM

I'll be interested to see what James has to say.

Absent access to statistics in re 1st to 3rd, 2nd to home, etc., I only have Jeter's stolen base % to go by. Last year he stole 34 bases and was caught stealing 5x -- an 87% success rate which is pretty darn good. For his career he's at 80%.

For comparison sake, Willie Wilson holds the AL career best % at 83. so Jeter's not that far behind, and is actually getting closer.

Like so much of Jeter's contributions, he's gotten much better on the bases as he's gotten more experience, after a terrible start to his career that dragged his sb % down.

The same applies of course to his fielding, which has compared very favorably over the past 4-5 seaons to that of lightfielding Beantown glove hero AGon. He started out dreadful, but has made himself into a slightly above avg defender of late.

All of which is to say, since Jeter seems to go from 1st to 3rd and 2nd to home often and easily, that James may well have jumped the shark here.

Either that or the maestro has really gotten his hate on with regard to Jetes, as so many in Boston have. I wonder which is more prevelent in NE, JDS or BDS?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 5, 2006 4:34 PM

Like all of Jeter's contributions, they're imaginary because he's a Yankee. He was 9-36 going first to third on singles; 10-23 scoring from second on singles; and 2-7 on doubles. All are below average.

Only five ss got lower defensive ratings: Bill Hall, Khalil Greene, Ronny Cedeno, Felope Lopez and Jose Reyes. 24 rated higher.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2006 4:53 PM

Just glancing at the list of those who stole more than 30 bases last year, only the inhuman Ichero, Dave Rbts, and Jimmy Rollins had a higher stolen base % last year. Yep, Jeter's definitely below avg.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 5, 2006 4:54 PM

Interesting that you've succumbed to the illusion that he's a good baserunner while the numbers tell the opposite story. It nicely illustrates Billy Beane's point in Moneyball that the eyes lie.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2006 4:58 PM

I haven't read James for about 20 years. I do remember that he was a terrific writer in his early handbooks. My Baptist wife hates bathroom reading, I'm sure there's something ungodly about it, but this is the perfect bathroom book to soak in the fecal clouds of many flushes.

Posted by: Palmcroft at December 5, 2006 5:08 PM

Um, the only stats I referred to were stolen bases, which put him at the very top of the league for the season, and within a shout of the AL career leader.

It's possible, but I find it difficult to believe that someone who's such a good basestealer could be poor in other aspects of baserunning. I suspect there are other circumstances in play.

The defensive stats remain a problem. BP says he's been at least avg if not better the past 3-4 seasons. There's wild flunctuations in the various defensive metrics.

Since BP is the best of the sabermetric lot from what I can see, I go with them. They gave Jetes a 105 RATE this past season, and a 107 the year before. That's well above avg.

In any case, it's a significant problem when there's such a wide discrepancy between the metrics.

The baserunning stats are eye-opening, but I'd like to see some more analysis, since we're talking relatively few chances over the course of a season. For example, it'd be difficult to go from 1st to 3rd if many of the singles were line drives to left. What are his career numbers?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 5, 2006 5:20 PM

Yeah, whenever he's on base there are linedrives... Classic!

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2006 5:43 PM

Um, how do you explain the basestealing numbers then?

Again, what are the career stats?

Line-drive hitting righties behind him in the lineup, a cautious 3rd base coach like Bowa generally has been, the fact that with the Yankee lineup there's no reason to risk outs on the bases, all of these could have affected the numbers last season.

I'll just assume that you either don't have the numbers for his career, or, that you do have them and they shoot down your case.

Meanwhile, if AGon was the fielder you thought he was (BP had him at a 96 RATE last season btw,way below Jeter tho above his terrible career avg)and the hitter you played up all last season, why are the Sawx letting him walk?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 5, 2006 6:19 PM

Another method of analyzing the baserunning stats would be, first, to check how many times Jeter failed to make it 1st to 3rd or 2nd to home b/c he was thrown out, and to compare that to the league avg, and then to the Yankee avg.

If the Yankees in general both didn't go 1st to 3rd or 2nd to home often, but rarely got thrown out, that would be evidence of caution on the basepaths that has nothing to do with a player's particular skill as a baserunner.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 5, 2006 6:27 PM

Jim in Chicago:

I'm predicting that you're right and that OJ will retort about how cautious baserunning is for sissies. Watch it happen.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 5, 2006 7:31 PM

The fact is, Jeter isn't even the best shortstop on the DamnYankees' roster, which says it all about the team and their "captain." (And what's this "captain" [expletive deleted], anyhow? Maybe his problem is that he wishes he were playing hockey.) If he cared so much about the team, he'd move to another position.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 5, 2006 8:29 PM