Derek Jeter has been widely considered as the face of the New York Yankee franchise over the course of the past decade, and there’s no arguing the importance of the intangibles that he brings to the field every day. There isn’t another player on New York’s roster more deserving of the “Captain” label (certainly not looking in A-Rod’s direction in that regard). However, Yankee fans continue to dismiss the stone cold facts that tell us that Derek Jeter may be the most overrated defensive player in the league.
Sure, Jeter seems to annually hit around .300 (lifetime average of .316) and he is one of the more “baseball savvy” players in the league, but does that really out-weigh the defensive liability he has become? Jeter fans have become way too influenced by those highlights, you’ve seen them, the ones where he goes to his right to back hand a ball and jumps to throw out the base-runner at first. Or the infamous “diving into the stands” play against the Red Sox a couple years ago. But what people fail to realize, with those back handed plays to his right in particular, is that most of those are a product of his mediocre range at shortstop.
In the 2007 off-season, a group of scholars at the University of Pennsylvania created a statistical formula to determine the value of runs saved or cost to their team throughout an average season (using only stats from seasons in which the player had enough defensive opportunities to qualify). The formula is called the Spatial Aggregate Fielding Evaluation, or “SAFE” for short.
Of all the players plugged into the formula Derek Jeter ranked last not only among all shortstops in the league, but also dead last overall, giving him the distinction of being the worst fielder in the MLB. Derek Jeter scored a -13.81 runs/season. Ask most Jeter “apologists” if they believe he’s a better fielder than say, Jason Bartlett of the Rays, and they’ll scoff at the question. But when looking at Bartlett’s score of +9.37, maybe it’s the Bartlett fans who should be disgusted by the comparison.