The devolution of Derek Jeter

Gary Sparago is a 50-year-old corporate bond analyst who works for an asset management company in midtown Manhattan. Although never a Yankees fan, he watched a lot of their games last summer and started to suspect that Derek Jeter’s overall performance was not as good as the hype would lead you to believe (before the ankle injury, remember how the media kept insisting that Jeter had found the Fountain of Youth?). After doing some research, Gary was startled at what he found and wanted to fully document his results.

So Gary contacted the Statistics department at Columbia and told them about his idea for an independent statistical analysis of Jeter. They put him in touch with an actual Yankee fan, Michael Agne, who is currently working on his PhD in statistics at Columbia. Gary and Michael met at night and on the weekends to conduct their research and thought that their results would be worth sharing with the sabermetric world. We agree.

So click on this link to download the PDF version of their article…

The Devolution of Derek Jeter

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Comments

  1. SonOfDaveRoberts said...

    Breaking news #1: Athletes decline as they age!
    Breaking news #2: Local media not totally objective!

    Has schadenfreude become so pervasive in our society that we are supposed to delight in the natural decline of an aging superstar just because local broadcasters gush about him?

  2. Carl said...

    Fascinating write-up. 

    As a Yankee and DJ fan, was glad to see he was and still is much better offensively than his SS contemporaries (approx 30%of current SS starters and 17% better than HoF SSs). 

    DJ’s defense has gone down hill, and I like the calculation of the stealth tax on the Yankee staff.  Woudl suggest calculating that tax however (and the adjusted BA shown on the next graph) based on only grounders and ignoring PO.  PO based on infield pop-ups can often be handled by anyone, and double play PO 4-6-3 are based on the range/arm of the 2B, not the SS. 

    Do the authors feel that should Jeter be moved to third (ala Ripken) his overall value to the team would improve as he would no longer lose 1+ win per season due to lack of range?  WOuld they expect his career to last longer?

  3. Mike Erickson said...

    Many points in this article are well thought out and substantiated. And let me state that I am a Red Sox fan, not a Yankee fan. It’s clear that his power is practically gone – he is basically a singles hitter as he maddeningly dumps single after single into right field. And the article shows he is slow and lacks range in the field.

    HOWEVER, this article conveniently glosses over his standard stats of Batting Avg and On-Base Pct. in order to make their point. The fact remains: Jeter BA was amongst the best in the game and certainly superior to those at his position DESPITE the natural decline that occurs at his age. A leadoff hitters job is to GET ON BASE! He does that – at a better rate than the others. So he doesn’t get many X-tra base hits or walk a ton like he used to. So he doesn’t go from 1st to third at the rate of others. BUT, you can’t STEAL FIRST BASE. You can’t go from first to third if you’re not ON first! While the other SS’s are faster (they BETTER be since their 10 yrs younger), they don’t get on base as frequently! That doesn’t count for much – according to this report.

    No person really believes Jeter’s getting better with age. That’s just an EXPRESSION to accentuate the fact they marvel at what he CAN still do. Yes, people gloss over his deficiencies he has now. His range and power has disappeared – no denying that. Yes people wax poetically about him. That’s because he’s been a winner (try disputing THAT); he’s been durable, consistent, and reliable; and he’s been the face of a franchise that’s been historically great (a fact that kills me being a Sox fan).

    Sabermetics are great for expanding our understanding of this game and for digging into the numbers we see every day. But please don’t let them obscure the marvel that is Derek Jeter – shortcomings and deficiencies included.

  4. Mike Erickson said...

    Final thoughts on Derek Jeter: the thesis is correct – he’s slow, can’t steal bases (doesn’t hardly even try anymore), can’t pull the ball (except for infrequent occasions), and is way overpaid (compared to his statisical value). And I can’t stand that constant habit of holding his hand up every time he steps in the batter’s box.

    But, their have been 2 players on the Yankees that have been a credit to the game with their class and professionalism both on the field, with the media, and down time with friends and family. They are Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Players like them don’t come around often, and when they do, we must revel in the greatness we see in them every day. As fans we have been enriched by watching them perform. So this is why we bristle at these type of articles. It’s not that many of the points aren’t valid and it’s true we like to ignore many things we really know deep down are happenning.

    But not to marvel at a player his age getting well over 200 hits in a season, is a mistake of major proportions. They used to say of Wade Boggs “ya, he hits over 300 every year … why doesn’t he hit more home runs”. Or to gloss over Ichrio’s numbers because he gets many of his hits by just pounding the ball into the ground, is wrong. Derek Jeter belongs in this game for as long as he wants to play it.

  5. Jim said...

    He never watched a game, and it shows.  What garbage.  Go back to ripping off investors.  Another example of sabrmetrics being very confining and totally with blinders on.  Disgusting!

  6. AJ Christopher said...

    From my perspective, the study would have been better if A-Rod would have been considered among Jeter’s HOF-caliber peers.  A-Rod and Ernie Banks both played 8 seasons at SS, before moving to another position for 9 additional seasons – so A-Rod belongs in there as much as Banks. 

    A-Rod’s inclusion would have dropped Jeter’s ranking in many categories, most-notably oWAR of 108 and dWAR of 11.8 in his 19 years. 

    It also raises the question again (academic at this point) of whether the Yankees would’ve been better served if Jeter had moved to 3rd for A-Rod in view of superior defense?  Jeter was already 2 years older than A-Rod and had accumulated -2.2 dWar as SS, whereas A-Rod in 10 years as SS (age 28) had accumulated dWAR of 8.8.  Reinforces the conclusion that the decision to shift A-Rod to 3B was more marketing-driven and ego-coddling than solid baseball.

    ps.. Orioles fan here – I don’t particularly like either A-Rod or Jeter.  Just speaking my mind.

  7. Jon L. said...

    I enjoyed reading this, as I love reading about Derek Jeter, and there’s a lot of great information, especially the graphs comparing him to the 3-year means of HOF shortstops.  However, I don’t believe the information here comes as a surprise to the Yankees or their informed fans.

    We know what we got from Jeter last year:  A regular shortstop and leadoff hitter who hits tons of singles, and sprinkles in enough walks and extra-base hits to be an offensive contributor.  Sure, his range at short is poor, and all year he looked like he was in pain when he ran the bases – heck, his face has aged too.  Still, he’s such a good singles hitter at such an important position that he was still, by most metrics, an above-average Major League regular.

  8. Jason H said...

    Dreadful analysis.

    The hypothesis the authors claim to be testing is that Jeter found the fountain of youth in 2012 after his two poor years in 2010 and 2011. To test that hypothesis you have to compare 2012 to his career from 1996-2009.  One thing you certainly can NOT do is average his good 2012 with the two bad years in 2010 and 2011.

    Of course Jeter will look bad if you average his supposed comeback year with his supposed decline years. It is clear that the authors chose their desired outcome prior to beginning the study, then looked for ways to justify their conclusion. For example, had the authors chosen to use 4 year rolling averages instead of 3, the results would look quite a bit different, since Jeter had a career year in 2009.

  9. yourAnerdPal said...

    Listen I’m not impressed with your facny graphs in fact I think they are rediculous. The fact that you have nothing else better to do than try to prove that derek jeter is a 38 year old man and is declining in his baseball skill level is sad. He can still play the game at a higher level than some kids 10 year hi junior and his presence in the club house alone makes him a valuable asset in itself. I don care about your little WRA graphs when your not even telling me the guy your replacing him with and I dont want to know about a .320 win pctg guy who’s just based off of predictions and more silly graphs. the facts are the facts if last year he had 219 hits,.316 ba and 99 runs that is a fantastic season. it doesnt matter what he did the year before or the one before that the fact is that he was better last year and in fact better than a lot of shortstops younger than him so your point is nonsense and since you said your not a yankees fan which means you probably not a basball fan in general if thats the team you choose to watch all last season, then you should just stick to something you know because clearly, you trying to prove how old DJ is sad for you.

  10. carl said...

    This is a question on WAR, which is illustrated very nicely in the attached document:
    1) What is the difference between oWAR + dWAR that does not equal WAR?  For example, Jeter’s career oWAR in Table 3.2 is 91.5 and his dWAR is -8.7.  I would expect his WAR to therefore be 82.8.  However his career WAR is 69.3, a huge difference of 13.5 wins.

    Please explain (high level is fine) the additional adjustments that must be made.

  11. YourAnerdPal said...

    No other adjustments are needed, just dont do a studie about the obvious. Give credit for a great season at his age snd move on. This studie has nothing to do with individual seasons you combing info to get an average. Last season he was very good bottom line.

  12. Michael said...

    Carl,

    dWAR + oWAR does not equal WAR because each of them counts the positional adjustment (based on playing SS as opposed to, say, 1b), so adding them would be double counting.

  13. TR said...

    My eyeballs are still spinning, who is this replacement player? where did he play? does not the strategy change when one player is replaced? How many trades where made because player A had great stats in a particular ball park. How many times did that 12-10 pitcher with a low ERA go to a team with a high powered offense? Yes Derek Jeter received more press because he played for the Yankees, would Joe Dimaggio have been JOE DIMAGGIO if he had played in St Louis? Well he would have hit more home runs, it’s hard to say if he would be in as many world series, but at worst he would be look at Stan Musial is. Hey Ralph Kiner didn’t do bad with the movie starlets playing in Pittsburgh, with the help of part owner Bing Crosby so if Joe had played on the Indians Bob Hope could have helped Joe out on that front.

  14. carl said...

    Michael,

    Thank you for explaining the difference, and it makes sense.  Looking at Table 3.2 again, I see that Concepcion had a difference of 13.9 wins and Ozzie had 14.9 few wins, which makes me think the SS positional adjustment is around 14 – 14.5 wins.  The other players listed either got to switch positions (Banks, Ripken, Yount) or to DH (Trammel, Campaneris) which would make estimating the SS positional adjustment more challenging.

  15. TR said...

    Could you please explain in the convoluted statistic known as WAR, exactly who are we replacing the player with? For which games? I always use the barometer to compare “clutch” as a comparison of comparing Reggie Jackson and Dave WInfield. I take these two player because this is the era when I watched a lot of baseball. WInfield had the higher numbers and was the better defensive outfielder, however no one can argue that Jackson was a player who could carry a team.

  16. studes said...

    At Baseball Reference, a replacement player is generally pegged around a .320 winning percentage.  A little better than the 1962 Mets.

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