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AL Gold Glove: Does Derek Jeter Really Deserve His 5th More Than Yunel Escobar?

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees looks on during batting practice against the Texas Rangers in Game Six of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Nathan ColeCorrespondent INovember 11, 2010

The American League Gold Glove awards were announced on Tuesday and there were some old standards and a couple newer ones.  Ichiro Suzuki, that ever-consistent star for the Seattle Mariners, won his 10th Gold Glove award for his outfield prowess.

Sure to spark debate is Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees winning his fifth Gold Glove for his work in the 2010 season.  

It is often argued by followers of advanced baseball statistics that not only is Jeter not the top defensive shortstop, he is not even in the top echelon anymore.

This, of course, would be disputed by his teammates and various coaches and general managers who have seen him perform over the years, as he is held in the highest regard for both his play and his leadership.

But respecting his game and his historical contributions is one thing, and giving him the honour of the winning the top defensive prize is quite something else.

Granted, his traditional fielding statistics are impressive.  His six allowed errors were lowest among shortstops in the league and his .989 fielding percentage led the league as well.

As baseball acquires more and more statistics in the age of sabermetrics, it is argued that these prior categories don't properly reflect a fielder's prowess.  

It is argued that even though Jeter committed fewer errors than anyone else, it is only because his range didn't allow him to get to balls that other shortstops might have made a play on.

So if you were to nominate another shortstop to win in his stead, why not Yunel Escobar, the acrobatic new fielder for the Toronto Blue Jays?  His plays regularly made the highlight reels of sports shows across North America.

His errors committed and fielding percentage are average, but he led the league, along with former Blue Jay Alex Gonzalez, in double plays with 104.

Also, likely the most important of the new stats that have emerged is the UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), which is a complicated calculation that basically determines the fielder's effectiveness.  

With a 4.3 rating, Escobar is in the top third of shortstops in the league while Jeter, with a -4.7 rating, ranks in the bottom third.

So if you were to compare Jeter to Escobar, you could make the case that Escobar deserves the Gold Glove just as much as Jeter.

Many sports commentators have argued though that Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox actually deserved the Gold Glove.  His stats in sabermetrics are right at the top of the leaderboard, as are his ratings in scouting.

But it is his average traditional stats that drag him down and out of consideration for the award, which causes some to question the integrity of the award.

As Jeter enters next year at 36 years old, he will have plenty of challengers to his title. Whether he can maintain his status remains to be seen.

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