No Enthusiasm Curbed for Derek Jeter

UZR and like minded fielding statistics were almost mentioned by name on tonight’s Curb Your Enthusiasm when Larry David got into a fight with a stonemason about whether or not Derek Jeter sucks. Here’s a transcript of the phone conversation:

Stonemason: “That guy [Derek Jeter] sucks.”

Larry David: “Who sucks?”

Stonemason: “Derek Jeter, he’s the most overrated player in baseball.”

Larry David: “What did you say?”

Stonemason: “I can’t stand Derek Jeter, you know he’s the worst defensive shortstop in baseball statistically?”

Larry David: “Oh Bullshit! He’s a great clutch hitter, he’s a great clutch player!”

Stonemason: “There’s no way he deserves that kind of money he’s making.”

And then Larry David changes the subject.

Later in the episode, Larry David starts talking about the stonemason’s Jeter hating and says, “…starts telling me how Jeter’s overrated. What an ignorant moron. My God, please, give me a break. There’s not one person who has ever said that except this asshole, honestly.”

While the part about Jeter being one of the worst shortstops defensively is true, he has come pretty close to being worth what he’s paid, at least in a cumulative sense over the past 8 years.

In any case, it was fun to see fielding stats mentioned on Curb Your Enthusiasm, even if it wasn’t Larry David defending them.




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David Appelman is the creator of FanGraphs.


38 Responses to “No Enthusiasm Curbed for Derek Jeter”

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  1. Chris says:

    Is this now like the CNN show where they fact checked an SNL skit about Obama?

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  2. Tom B says:

    he’ll certainly be the worst shortstop with 5 rings. it’s really killing his team.

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  3. DSFC says:

    You’re wrong. The part about Jeter being one of the worst defensive shortstops WAS true. Not this season it’s not.

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  4. Kampfer says:

    Statistically, using three years data, he was a bad shortstop, but no way he was the worst. Yuni beat him by a mile. Yuni is the real king of bad defensive shortstop!

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  5. Sean says:

    Does range factor in vertical snares. He is 6’3. How many 6’3″ SS are there? Of course he is going to struggle with grounders. Did you see him gun the ball to home plate so that Posada could pick off (Tori Hunter, I think) @3B in the ALCS. That was one of the most amazing plays ive ever seen. Have you seen how he is coaching the pitchers to maintain the baserunners. Even in the bottom of the 9th the other night when they were losing he still has his head in the game till the very end. He loves baseball!

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    • BlackOps says:

      You praise Jeter like he’s god and justify his weaknesses; it’s okay to admit that Jeter was never the best fielder in the world. Nobody ever says he isn’t a good player…

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    • Terminator X says:

      Ugh the worst part is I’m not sure if this is satire or not.

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  6. Sean says:

    This site can do much better than this gossip crap.

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  7. The Typical Idiot Fan says:

    Sure, they’re mentioning statistical analysis on Curb Your Enthusiasm but they’re also dismissing and ridiculing it. Kind of a give and take thing.

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    • JohnF says:

      Not really. Larry’s viewpoint isn’t always presented as the correct one in the show. This one was left pretty open-ended.

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  8. Pinball1973 says:

    Great player? Duh! Over-rated? Tell me what the scale is, first. Over-paid? I’ll take another question if it’s not both loaded and utterly stupid. A good-fielding SS? Not before, and I must remain skeptical of the various formulas that say he suddenly IS this season. If he’s improved at this age, let7s se at least one more definitely positive season before believing it.

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  9. Nick says:

    It’s funny how five years ago, Jeter’s awful defense was completely outside of the public consciousness, and now that he’s actually improved, it’s become a cliche that he’s the “worst shortstop in baseball”.

    Maybe in 5 years Chase Utley will start winning undeserved MVPs?

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    • Rob in CT says:

      That’s the part that cracks me up. It FINALLY sunk in that Jeter was a bad SS, and now he’s actually not bad anymore (average in 2008, above-average in 2009). Hah.

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    • Irony at its finest says:

      The same people who do this are the same ones who shout “Jacoby is a top 2 CF! I WATCH HIM PLAY!!”. Advanced metrics amaze me the most by the way some pick and choose when to “believe” them…

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  10. Paul F. says:

    One fair definition of “overrated” would be “when popular opinion exceeds objective reality.”

    As a Red Sox fan I have often had to fight the impulse to underrate Jeter, but the fact remains he is an extraordinary baseball player, a pure hitter and fine athlete who has grown from an abysmal defensive shortstop to a serviceable (if poor) one at an age when most players see their defensive skills decline.

    Nevertheless, by the above definition, he is certainly “overrated” by popular measures. Over 1.6 million fans voted, and Jeter is the our Hank Aaron award winner for 2009. The best hitter in the American League. Amazing. Popular opinion again outpaces objective reality.

    The countdown to another Gold Glove continues….

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      Granted Mauer should have obviously won the Hank Aaron award, but a .390 wOBA from a SS is pretty amazing.

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      • Steve says:

        agreed. but i don’t think that’s the point of the award. it’s not “best position adjusted offensive player”, it’s just “best offensive player”.

        but on the other hand, not sure why anyone would get upset over things that are voted on by the fans. they’re just for fun.

        and given some of the MVP/Cy Young/HoF voting over the last decade, i’m not sure the fans do much worse than the writers.

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      • Steve says:

        to clarify, i’m not saying you, David, said any of those things. i’m more responding to the previous post, and you just gave me an intro.

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      • walkoffblast says:

        It is so amazing that two other (NL SS) managed to exceed it.

        Without knowing how bad Jeter’s defense actually was for all those years its hard to rate him exactly. One thing is sure, many people underrate his career not because they exclude clutch, grit and post season “accomplishments,” but because they do not look at his offense within the history of the shortstop position. The longevity of his batting contributions there is pretty impressive.

        On the flip side there is always a chunk of people making ridiculous claims about his currently being better than players he obvious is not at this point.

        Which camp has more? I have no idea but I would agree that the majority of people either over or under exaggerate his accomplishments which is interesting in and of itself.

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    • Joel C. says:

      On a year to year basis Jeter is overrated because he’s spoken of as the best or a top 3 player by the media when he seldom has been if at all. In fact most seasons he hasn’t been a top 10 position player in MLB.

      However from 1990-2010 who are the defining hitters who played during the “steroid era” and Jeter is no worse than 6th-8th so for that he is less overrated.

      Pujols, Bonds, A-Rod, ManRam, Griffey, Jeter, Thomas, Ichiro. Forgive me if I forgot someone obvious who belongs in that class.

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  11. HH says:

    Curb supposedly doesn’t have any written dialogue. The actors just wing it based on a rough sketch. So whoever the actor was must like his sabermetrics or Larry David has heard the argument and fed it to him.

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  12. Curb and Baseball says:

    I’ve never seen as many idiots try to come up with good arguments on a retarded topic. Jeter is nowhere near the “worst” shortstop in baseball. That guy doesn’t lead his team to a 3-1 lead in the World Series. As Leon Black would say, Jeter’s gonna get up in that ass… wipe his feet off in the ass…”

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  13. HH says:

    Worst defensive SS, Curbie. He’s considered one of the best SS overall. He just doesn’t cover much ground.

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  14. Eric R says:

    Using the baseballprojections WAR data through 2008, Jeter ranks 11th in the five years from 2004-2008 and 8th-13th are all within 1 win of each other [1 win total for the five years], so you could pretty easily call them all tied.

    Anyways- if you were to say, “TZ is pretty solid and I’m OK with it, except for Jeter where it is complete bullshit.” Then if you call Jeter average [add 21 runs to his total RAR, then he’in a tie for sixth, with 4th-7th all within 1 win.

    If you were to say that TZ is even worse than that; it says Jeter was -21 runs in those five years, but he was really +21 runs, then he’s 4th and within 1 win of Ichiro! for 3rd.

    Whether he’s really between 8th and 13th or 4th-7th or 3rd-4th over a five year period does it really make that much of a difference? with 750 roster spots we’re talking about the top 98th percentile among active MLBers.

    And just to throw it out there, if you want to adjust his TZ to put him above A-Rod at #2, you need to take him from -21 runs to +79 runs and that would make him the most valuable defensive player in the time period [Pujols is the actual leader at +77 runs].

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  15. Eric R says:

    Using an eight-year period he ranked 12th [+/- 1.6 wins, 10th-13th]; zero out his TZ only and he jumps 5th [5th-6th]. To, again, get in front of A-Rod for 2nd he would need to go from -64 runs to +113 runs; which again would be the best in the period behind, again, Pujols at +99 runs.

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  16. PhD Brian says:

    I am a Yankee hater, but Jeter’s numbers defensively are hugely improved this season. He was far from the bad defender he has been in the past! However, I think there are two primary factors helping this: He is in a brand new park with a slightly more predictable surface. He went from a bad defensive to a great defensive first basemen. The first most likely matters more than the second, but both have got to help. Not one of the defensive statistics I know take park effects into account. I have no idea why. An old park with an old surface is going to bounce the ball differently than a turf surface or even a newer grass surface with a better engineered grass. Plus where signs are located, the location of the fans, what color the fans are typically wearing, wall paint, ads, air temperature, air currents in the stadium, and air pressure will all each have small affects that are probably significant on a ball and how easy it is to catch. So I’ll bet going from old Yankee stadium to the new Yankee stadium had an affect on all the Yankee players defensive skills and in most cases actually helped them.

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    • Tom B says:

      i don’t see how the park matters, jeter isn’t missing balls he gets to…

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    • Chris says:

      “Plus where signs are located, the location of the fans, what color the fans are typically wearing, wall paint, ads, air temperature, air currents in the stadium, and air pressure will all each have small affects that are probably significant on a ball and how easy it is to catch.”

      Intuitively, a new ballpark doesn’t seem likely to account for Jeter’s improvement. Are there home/away fielding splits that suggest a new ballpark effect contributing to this improvement?

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  17. CJ says:

    Curb Your Enthusiasm is one of my favorite shows…but I DVR’d it last night because of the World Series. Now I know something to look forward to when I watch it.

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  18. Alireza says:

    Cal Ripken, Jr. was a much better defensive SS and is 6’4″. Alex Rodriguez is 6’3″ and both was and likely is a better defensive SS. In fact, Jeter and A-Hole probably should swap positions given their relative skill sets.

    Anyway, Jeter’s defense isn’t the worst ever, and he has taken steps to improve it, but he just never deserved to be anywhere near a gold glove. His offense, on the other hand, is spectacular.

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  19. Logan says:

    I don’t get this back-and-forth argument on whether or not Jeter’s offense and positional adjustment compensate for his lack of range. That’s the whole reason WAR was created. DJ has compiled 40 wins above replacement through 8 years of data (2002-2009). That’s 5 a season, and he’s probably compiled similar or greater numbers in the pre-WAR era. five-win/year x fifteen years = one of the best players of an era. There’s no real way around it.

    (And I hate the Yankees, btw).

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  20. Jesse says:

    Just a quick note to everyone who says Jeter was average defensively in 2008, his Plus/Minus was -12 (tied for fourth worst in MLB) and his TotalZone+ifDP was -5. He was average by UZR, but far below average by Plus/Minus and below average by TZ.

    Since he graded out above average by UZR this season, I’m interested to see how he does in the other ratings, my guess is that he was probably closer to average or slightly below.

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  21. Sean says:

    Jeter bashing is a perfect example of statheads gone awry. Stats are an imperfect way to try to take something that is imperfect and make it perfect. It NEVER works. How many of the esteemed statheads have ever gone to watch 30 games of Spring Training or Arizona Fall League? Its like that situation where that one writer (wont name him) was shut out of the Baseball Writers of America or whatever its called, with the reason being that he NEVER went to the ballpark, yet he thought he knew everything there is to know about baseball. That is why statheads are wrong, and it was cool to hear Tim McCarver call you all out on national television. Statheads like to think to themselves as being smarter than everyone when actually its the exact opposite. Stats are just a partial reflection of what takes place on the field. Baseball is not just a game of numbers. The bottom line is that it doesnt matter how good you are, and it doesnt matter how well you rate players, it will ALWAYS fail you because a player is only as good as the opportunity that is given to him. That is what most of you need to learn. Jeter was given the opportunity to Captain the Yankees from the SS position from a young age and he has handled it perfectly. Jeter is God, and if you got shit to say about that lets hear it? He will be playing another 5-10 years and he will have more hits than Pete Rose, so there you go.

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