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7.02.2006

The False Hero

I watched ESPN's worthwhile show The Sports Reporters today while mourning the fact that the Devils resigned Patrik Elias and he wouldn't be going to my beloved Rangers. And today's panel consisted of the solid Bob Ryan, the littleknown Ian O'Connor and the most annoying man on the earth, Dan LeBatard. I can't stand him. He can't go a single half-hour without mentioning T.O. or that he, like Ricky Ledee, is hispanic with a French-sounding name.
Today, though, LeBatard made a nice point about Terrell Owens, noting that he received far more fanfare for his contractual greed than two other Philadelphia athletes received for their stranger actions. He talked about Phillies P Brett Myers, who allegedly punched his wife outside of Fenway Park and P Ugueth Urbina who is still sitting in a Venezuelan jail cell after allegedly attempting to set fire to his employees, who also claimed he tried to slice them with machetes. Interesting enough, I thought.
LeBatard also made another point that I knew as relevant about a false hero.
With Baseball Prospectus as my guide, I took a look at WARPs (Wins Above Replacement Level) for some players LeBatard got me thinking about. Click here for a more detailed explanation of WARP.
WARP is a counting statistic, meaning that the career WARP of a player like Jose Reyes (11.8), whose big league career is relatively young, will still be less than that of one of the worst position players in history (Neifi Perez, 27.2).
So here are my thoughts, taking the half-finished season of 2006 into account as well.

Player A: 12 seasons, 63.7 WARP
Player B: 13 seasons, 100.9 WARP
Player C: 15 seasons, 92.1 WARP
Player D: 11 seasons, 55.0 WARP
Player E: 10 seasons, 52.5 WARP
Player F: 14 seasons, 84.8 WARP
Player G: 15 seasons, 92.9 WARP
Player H: 12 seasons, 41.4 WARP

So what does this all mean exactly? Am I trying to play some sort of cruel trick on you with vile guessing games? No, not exactly.

I am using this as a method of writing off some crappy players. Or good players who are passed off as great by some biased media hype machine. If you hadn't guessed, player A, the false hero, is Derek Jeter. Player B, obviously, is the one who somehow has earned himself resounding boos at Yankee Stadium. He goes by A-Rod. At this point in time, I'd like to recall a conversation I had with my co-blogger.

dyslexia: what part of derek jeter is the best shortstop in baseball is so hard to understand
schuyla: uh no. miguel tejada... there are more.
trackcentipede65: uh no.
schuyla: vorp, my boy.
dyslexia: championships my boy,
dyslexia: championships!
dyslexia: how many gold gloves does tejada have?
dyslexia: how many rings?
dyslexia: how many teams has he captained?

The conversation will go on from there, with him reeling off meaningless "clutch" moments, dissing Miguel Tejada further, saying that Julio Franco was a first baseman his entire career, and just dismissing Baseball Prospectus on the whole.

dyslexia: dj is a 20/85 guy
dyslexia: but hes a shortstop
dyslexia: u dont need that much production

Once again, I hate to break the truth to you. I applaud your effort, but Derek Jeter has hit 20 homers 3 times in his 11 seasons. He has driven in 85 runs only once. And he did them together only once, in that 1999 season.

dyslexia: is miguel tejada a hof?
schuyla: hmmm
dyslexia: no hes not
dyslexia: derek jeter is

Does the hall of fame really matter? And moreover, what makes Jeter more likely to be in the Hall than Tejada who's only 11.2 wins short of Jeter's production with two fewer seasons under his belt? Maybe it's the rings, or whatever bullshit. I forgot to tell you: Miguel Tejada is player E. Then my associate goes on to discuss the merits of gold glove winners.

Schuyla: dj didn't deserve the gold gloves
Schuyla: they just give them to whoever
Schuyla: like bobby abreu won one
Schuyla: and he's not even like in the top 5 best right fielders in baseball
Dyslexia: and they dont give it to whoever
Dyslexia: they give it to whos established themselves as a premier defensive player

Okay. This one doesn't even make any sense to me. Derek Jeter won two gold gloves, in both 2004 and 2005. These, according to BP's FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average) were Jeter's two best years in the field (-3, 13) after he had cost his team 127(!) runs in the field over his career beforehand compared to an average shortstop. So first of all, dyslexia is just wrong about Jeter establishing himself as a premier defensive player. Secondly, the Yankees obviously made a mistake by keeping Jeter at SS instead of replacing him with an above-average defensive shortstop on their roster, one like, say Alex Rodriguez? He had benefited the Mariners and Angels with a FRAA of 63 over his career before moving to short for the Yanks.
So maybe Jeter's rather impressive FRAA of 13 did merit him a Gold Glove in 2005, as it was bested only by the outstanding glovework of Minnesota's Jason Bartlett in 2005. But, what does it really mean in the end?

What is all the Jeter fanfare about? Player C is a far less adored middle infielder who is otherwise known as Jeff Kent. If I asked Dyslexia, he'd probably say Kent wasn't hall of fame material when everyone knows that he holds the record for homers by a second baseman. Player D is an ex-shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra, who has experienced excruciating injury problems and yet is only 8.7 wins short of Jeter in one less season? And to think Nomar has accumulated fewer than 5,000 PA to Jeter's 7,000+! It makes nary an ounce of sense that Jeter will go down in history as a much better player than Garciaparra or Tejada, two players who have been far more successful than Jeter in shorter careers.

Player F is a player who I was just thinking about and my associate would probably say is not a Hall of Famer, save for his likely ascent to the 500-HR plateau. He's Manny being Manny, and in two more seasons than Jeter, he's been worth 21 more wins. That's something to think about when Manny and A-Rod have their contracts billed as some of the most exorbitant in professional sports. Jeter receives $189 MM over 10 years to produce far less than both of them. They get paid slightly more, but even by overpaying standards, Jeter's contract is glaringly worse.

Player G is a guy who starred for the Mets, and, according to the cold, hard numbers, was better than Derek Jeter. His name is Mike Piazza and he produced 92.9 wins over his career. This is far more than Jeter, and he did so in exactly the same number of plate appearances as the Yankee as of yesterday (7137). If he didn't have the record for HR by a catcher, my associate would probably claim he doesn't deserve that hallowed Hall either.

So what are Derek Jeter's credentials for admission? Well, he was a leader on those teams that won four championships. Then again, so were guys like Paul O'Neill and bible-thumpin' Chad Curtis, neither of whom are even close to great players. Jeter has a pretty good shot at reaching 3,000 hits as he reached 2,000 earlier this year in his age 32 season. Rodriguez is 19 hits away from that mark, in this, his age 30 season. But A-Rod's a better player than Jeter. That's already been established.

So let's take a less lofty target. Todd Zeile went on his chase for 2000 hits in that immortal 2004 Mets season. If Jeter retired today, he'd be a slightly more valuable player than Todd Zeile (WARP of 54.2), though it's safe to say that Jeter' s probably going to play for a while longer.

3,000 hits doesn't mean all that much though, considering a player who played 25 seasons as a starter (with the way medicine's going, it could happen) at 600 AB/season would need a mere 120 hits each year to reach the plateau. 120/600? You guessed it. The Mendoza line of a .200 career average. While no player has ever had that type of longevity, three thousand hits isn't all that impressive when you consider that it requires solely the ability to stay healthy, which Jeter has done, and the ability to hit a lot of singles, once again a Jeter hallmark. He's a career .461 slugger, a strong total from a shortstop, but still far short of career totals of guys like Garciapara, Rodriguez and Tejada. Of his 1,936 hits going into the season, 1,412 of them were singles. That would rank him 23rd in hits among active players, but 13th in singles. Call me a new age power man, but Jeter's a singles guy.

He's a career .314 hitter, but that number is far less impressive when you consider that Jeter has only recently learned how to take a walk, epitomized by his .386 career OBP.

So what more is there to say about Derek Jeter? He's a very good player, who led his team to four championships in his first five years. He's captained teams to division titles for a while now. He's managed to be healthy and consistent throughout his career. He gets a lot of hits. He's a very poor defensive shortstop who makes flashy plays but would be extraneous for other shortstops given his limited range and arm. His defense has cost his team 117 runs in the field. His power is nice, but in an era of offensive shortstops, it's certainly not the cream of the crop. And while he ages and his athleticism deteriorates, Jeter will be allowed to become even more of a wreck in the field at shortstop, as the Yankees won't damage the captain's pride by moving him elsewhere, even if they have one or more better defensive shortstops on the roster.

And part of me knows why. Jeter is a marketing gimmick, with his good looks and hustle. Jeter sells tons of stuff at Yankee Stadium, more so than say Cristian Guzman might. Jeter's production would also be pretty weak if he were moved to the outfield or third base, like was earlier suggested. Having to put his hitting for average skills up against Ichiro and his hitting for power skills up against Soriano and Beltran might not look so good.

LeBatard's fellow guest Bob Ryan made an incorrect point. He said that the difference between Player A and Player B is equal to the difference between Player A and Player H. The difference between the WARPs of Jeter and A-Rod is 37.2 in Rodriguez' favor. The difference between the WARPs of Jeter and Player H is 22.3 in Jeter's favor. Ryan actually had the wrong idea.

A-Rod is nearly two times better than Jeter as Jeter is better than Player H.

Player H is Kansas City Royals 2B Mark Grudzielanek.

2 comments:

T said...

Good Points on Jeter, one of the most overrated and overpaid players ever. With the Yankee All Star Team, they should win the championship every year. Team full of Sellouts. But that's another topic.

Schuyla' said...

1. Defensively? Sure. His FRAR was 5 in 2005. Frenchy's was 8 in half a season. And you don't need to give a gold glove to a right fielder. All three can be center fielders. In that case, look at
Beltran, Carlos (FRAR of 23)
Floyd, Cliff (FRAR of 23)
Bradley, Milton (FRAR of 15)
Drew, J.D. (FRAR of 6)
Giles, Brian (FRAR of 11)
Klesko, Ryan (FRAR of 7)
Green, Shawn (FRAR of 17)
Gonzalez, Luis (FRAR of 13)
Alou, Moises (FRAR of 6)
Winn, Randy (FRAR of 33)
Ellison, Jason (FRAR of 16)
Sullivan, Cory (FRAR of 9)
Hawpe, Brad (FRAR of 8)
Taguchi, So (FRAR of 11)
Taveras, Willy (FRAR of 30)
Lee, Carlos (FRAR of 7)
Clark, Brady (FRAR of 30)
Jenkins, Geoff (FRAR of 20)
Burnitz, Jeromy (FRAR of 24)
Patterson, Corey (FRAR of 13)
Bay, Jason (FRAR of 16)
Redman, Tike (FRAR of 8)
Lawton, Matt (FRAR of 18)
Johnson, Kelly (FRAR of 15)
Langerhans, Ryan (FRAR of 10)
Lofton, Kenny (FRAR of 16)
Michaels, Jason (FRAR of 21)
Church, Ryan (FRAR of 10)
Wilkerson, Brad (FRAR of 15)
Guillen, Jose (FRAR of 9).

And don't forget Jones, Andruw (FRAR of 14) and Edmonds, Jim (FRAR of 32) who did win the others.

2. jose canseco did win an MVP (see: 1988, you fool)

3. jeff kent holds the record for most homers by a second baseman for career. alex rodriguez holds the record for home runs by a shortstop. both single-season and career. idiot. rich aurilia? wtf? he had 37 homers in the most roided season in history. arod kinda hit 52 that year. i think aurilia's single-season record is NL-only, on account of arod. and he's not even close to the career record, so don't even try. sorry if the wording was unclear.

so let me just offer you the opportunity to delete your prior comment based on the idea of how wrong it was.