2010 Derek Jeter Awards: Honoring Big Name Players With Terrible Gloves
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, for years one of the worst defensive shortstops in all of Major League Baseball, somehow managed to win his fifth Gold Glove on Tuesday afternoon despite having a truly horrendous season with the glove.
As if the anecdotes regarding Gold Glove misses in recent years—Mike Young 2008, Nate McLouth 2008, Rafael Palmeiro 1999—had not yet killed the reputation of the Gold Glove and any utility to be derived from the meaning of having won the award, we now have evidence at the most fundamental of levels that the Gold Glove is a laughable award.
Which is a shame, because there are certainly Gold Glovers who regularly deserve the award, such as other 2010 winners Scott Rolen, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn and Brandon Phillips, each of whom was announced as a 2010 Gold Glover in the National League on Wednesday.
In order to properly honor Derek Jeter and all his achievements with the glove, BaseballEvolution.com has decided to start its own set of fielding awards: the Derek Jeter Awards.
From this point forward, the Derek Jeter Awards will be given to the worst fielding big name player at each position in both the National League and the American League. In this way, we can take time to honor all of baseball’s biggest stars who, oh by the way, are terrible fielders.
In 2010, the American League Jeter for shortstop will go to Derek Jeter–even though technically it belongs to Yuniesky Betancourt–and hopefully we’ll never again see any overlap between the Gold Gloves and the Derek Jeters.
Let’s have a look.
Catcher, AL: Jorge Posada/Francisco Cervelli, New York Yankees
Having waged a week long debate with a reader about the merits of C.C. Sabathia's Cy Young candidacy—I was on the anti-Sabathia side of the debate—it pains me to say this, but:
When you have incredibly talented pitchers like C.C. Sabathia, Javier Vazquez, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes on your pitching staff, and they all vastly underachieve (seriously Burnett and Vazquez are infinitely better than they showed in 2010), then you know the problem isn't the pitchers.
It's the catchers.
In baseball-reference.com's Fielding Runs statistic, Jorge Posada finished at the bottom of the American League with a -10 fielding runs. Francisco Cervelli was second from the bottom at -9.
They also finished neck-and-neck in the caught-stealing department, with Posada throwing out a terrible 15 percent of runners and Cervelli catching 14 percent.
This ain't Dickey and Berra.
Catcher, NL: Ryan Doumit, Pittsburgh Pirates
This might be an organizational issue, because Pittsburgh features several players who are amongst the worst defenders at their position in the National League. Either the Pirates front office doesn't look at defense when it acquires players, or the Pirates farm system doesn't do nearly enough work developing their players' defense.
For his part, Doumit appears to be uniquely terrible. Only Brian McCann allowed more stolen bases in the NL in 2010, with 84 compared to Doumit's 79, but at least McCann threw out 30 percent of base runners. Doumit only nailed 12 percent.
Meanwhile, a reasonably talented pitching staff endured a terrible year.
First Base, AL: Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
Paul Konerko actually had a surprisingly good year turning the 3-6-3 double play. I don't know what that means, but it was a rare bright side for a guy with very little range, as evidenced by his plus-minus rating (the worst in baseball for first basemen), his range factor and his ultimate zone rating.
His -4 fielding runs actually put him in the same class as Miguel Cabrera, an abhorrent defender, but his defensive runs saved, a Baseball Info Solutions product, was the worst in baseball.
First Base, NL: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
Ryan Howard is one of the rare defenders who combines terrible range numbers and terrible fielding percentage.
Generally, when we see a low number of errors, we look to see if a guy has bad range, as this often shows us that he is making few errors because he is getting to few difficult to field balls.
But in 2010, Howard actually had the worst ultimate zone rating in the NL while also committing the most errors in all of baseball.
That's a $25 million player through 2016, Phillies fans.
Second Base, AL: Chone Figgins, Seattle Mariners
Not his fault—he's a perfectly decent third baseman whom the Seattle Mariners signed and promptly converted to second base.
Second Base, NL: Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers
I like Rickie Weeks. I really do. He played his college ball at Southern University in Baton Rouge, and being a Louisiana guy I root for him.
He had a huge year on offense, and finally played a full, wonderful season after suffering through injuries for years.
But he is a bad defensive player, and he does not help a struggling pitching staff with his glove.
In an ideal world, the Brewers would let Prince Fielder—overrated on both sides of the ball—walk, and convert Weeks to first base, where he'd probably be an asset.
Third Base, AL: Mike Young, Texas Rangers
A terrible defender at second base when Texas had Alex Rodriguez, he moved to shortstop when the Rangers acquired Alfonso Soriano for A-Rod, and actually won a Gold Glove despite a miserable season at shortstop in 2008 before moving to third base to make room for Elvis Andrus.
From what I can tell, Mike Young is a class guy, willing to do what he has to do for his team, he shows up year in and year out and is a great low-impact singles hitter.
But he is a bad defensive infielder, and that has remained as true at third base as it was at second base and shortstop.
Third Base, NL: David Wright, New York Mets
David Wright has become another one of those rare bad-range/lots-of-errors guys for the New York Mets.
In 2010, Wright had the worst ultimate zone rating in all of baseball, while also committing the most errors by a third baseman in all of baseball.
The explanation for this, though, is relatively simple: of his 20 errors at third base this year, 11 of them were throwing errors, tied for most in the league.
Shortstop, AL: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
The award is named after him, so we give it to him in honor of a terrible season.
Though Yuniesky Betancourt was worse.
Someone needs to write a book about Betancourt. Rarely has a player combined such terrible offense with such terrible defense.
Shortstop, NL: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
Hanley Ramirez made one of the most heads up plays I've ever seen a shortstop make this season.
I forget the occasion, the opponent, or the situation, but whoever was batting hit a long fly ball to left field that looked like it might be a home run. It got over the head of the left fielder, hit off the top of the wall, and then bounced back towards the infield, going over his head again.
The left fielder was now standing on the warning track, watching helplessly as the ball bounded away from him. But somehow, improbably, there was Ramirez, a good 100 feet into the outfield, where he played the carom perfectly and gunned out the runner at second base.
Knowing Han-Ram's reputation as a terrible fielder, I had two thoughts
a) He was so out of position as a shortstop that it actually put him in good position to make the play; and
b) He'd be a helluva left fielder.
Left Field, AL: Delmon Young, Minnesota Twins
Delmon Young also wins this year's Manny Ramirez Award, for the left fielder whose astonishing number of outfield assists makes him look pretty good, but really the outfield assist total is explained away by the fact that he is making plays on balls he should have caught in the first place.
Young led all left fielders with 12 outfield assists, but also finished at or near the bottom of the majors in most defensive metrics.
Left Field, NL: Carlos Lee, Houston Astros
Dollar for dollar the worst player in baseball in 2010, and perhaps in baseball history.
People give Manny Ramirez crap for quitting on his team. Manny Ramirez was Joe DiMaggio compared to the season Lee turned in.
He hit .247 with an on-base percentage under .300. He became only the 32nd player in baseball history to hit 24 home runs and yet post an OPS+ of 93 or worse. He took an abysmal 37 walks in 157 games while hitting into 20 double plays.
Meanwhile, on defense, he finished second behind only Alfonso Soriano in errors committed, while finishing last in fielding runs, defensive runs saved, Baseball Info Solutions' plus/minus rating, ultimate zone rating, and the defensive component of WAR.
Carlos Lee was an awful, awful player, and the Astros paid him $19 million for the privilege of his services in 2010.
Center Field, AL: Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays
Don't know what to say about this. Vernon Wells is generally regarded as a good defensive center fielder, elite even.
No one who is measuring defense in baseball in any meaningful way sees him as anything but the worst center fielder in the AL in 2010.
Wells, by the way, is the reason we have advanced defensive metrics. He made zero errors for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010.
Here's a little lesson for all you baseball fans out there: If a player plays more than 150 games and doesn't make a single error, nine times out of 10 this is a bad thing.
Center Field, NL: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
Right Field, AL: Carlos Quentin, Chicago White Sox
Carlos Quentin is an interesting case, because he only played in 104 games in right field in 2010, but he nevertheless dominated the American League, finishing distantly last in fielding runs, defensive runs saved, the plus/minus metric, and Fangraphs' ultimate zone rating.
Oh, and also in errors committed.
Right Field, NL: Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers
Potentially the most overrated player in baseball, Andre Ethier has yet to prove he can be a successful hitter without Manny Ramirez in the lineup, and his defense in right field has been atrocious, peaking in 2010.
Ethier is a classic bad range right fielder, with six outfield assists and only one error in 2010.
Just for the sake of comparison, the advanced defensive metrics seem to agree that Jay Bruce, Ichiro Suzuki, Justin Upton, Mike Stanton, Shin-Soo Choo and Jeff Francoeur were the elite defensive right fielders in baseball in 2010.
Not one of those players committed fewer than three errors during the 2010 season, but they all proved to be excellent fielders with great range and the ability to make plays.
Mike Stanton, by the way, was an animal, fielding 233 chances in only 98 games. For comparison's sake, J.D. Drew had 236 chances in 133 games, and Justin Upton had 270 chances in 128 games. Stanton is definitely an early contender for Gold Glove next season.
But that is a topic for another day.
Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is a co-founder of BaseballEvolution.com.