The New York Yankees had the best defense in baseball last season. They made the fewest errors and, despite a shaky pitching staff going down the stretch, the team did not beat itself by making miscues.
Validation of that fact came on Tuesday when three of the Yankees four infielders won Gold Gloves. Congratulations to Robinson Cano for winning his first at second base. In my mind, it was long overdue. (More about that later).
Mark Teixeira collected his second in a row as a Yankee and his fourth overall. There is no doubt Teixeira is in a class by himself in range, agility and glovework at first base. I am not sure if anyone could argue with his skills around the bag.
However, just like the flu the usual attacks on Derek Jeter have begun despite the fact the 36-year-old captain won his fifth Gold Glove award at shortstop. I find it astounding how people claim to have more knowledge than managers and coaches who vote the award.
Bill James (now there is an unbiased source) started all this in the sabermetric world and now he is got his minions spouting the gospel of range factor and error quotients. This makes for lots of fun if you love advanced geometry and you have nothing better to do with your time.
I am sure all you baseball fans wake every morning to check on your favorite player’s zone rating!
You don’t? Well, neither do I. Until these so-called measures are accepted by the baseball world and the coaches and managers who vote the Rawlings award each year, it will continue to go to the player “they” deem the best. Not the sabermetricians.
Fact: Derek Jeter made a total of six errors in 2010. It was the lowest total of any shortstop. It also came on a total of 553 chances. It would seem to me if I was looking at a shortstop and just based my decision on the basis of range I would be short-sighted.
Jose Offerman had great range when he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Marvelous range. His problem is that the ball did not always stay in his glove and he made erratic throws to first base.
So on the basis of range factor and zone ratings I should give Offerman a Gold Glove despite the fact he makes 33 errors? Come on!
I have read a blog rant by Dave Brown of Big League Stew say that Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox and Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers were more deserving of winning the award.
Ramirez made 20 errors in 768 chances and had a fielding percentage of .974. Andrus committed 16 errors in 659 chances for a fielding percentage of .976. Jeter’s fielding percentage was .988.
Getting to more balls does not make you a better shortstop if you are making that many errors in the process. Ask any manager who wants to win a crucial game: Do you want a flashy range roving infielder who makes a fair amount of errors or would you rather have a solid range guy who hardly ever makes an error?
I guarantee you that most managers would say the latter. Hence, the reason Jeter should win. Period.
I did not hear these sabermetricians screaming like stuck pigs when Cano has been overlooked for his fielding prowess the past six seasons. I am sure his range factors and zone ratings have been off the charts.
But he has been losing Gold Glove after Gold Glove to the likes of Placido Polanco and Dustin Pedroia. Or maybe the reason they did not go to bat (or should it be go to glove?) for Cano is because he is a Yankee?
Could the reason behind all this chirping and harping on Jeter have something to do with the fact that he is a Yankee?
I feel some of it does. After all, James spent the better part of a decade trying to tear him down to make his beloved Red Sox look better. He keeps inventing measures that try to make the Red Sox better each year. I guess his slide-rule and computer hiccuped in 2010.
Most sabermetric measures showed the Red Sox had a brittle team that could break down in 2010. I guess the master missed that fact. He never warned Theo Epstein anyway. But he still collected a paycheck.
The fact remains that the Yankees go into the 2011 season with the best defense in baseball. They have an infield that now boasts 12 Gold Gloves among all its infielders (Alex Rodriguez won two Gold Gloves at shortstop).
They also have an decent outfield with Brett Gardner sparkling in left. Curtis Granderson still lacks instincts on tracking flies and NIck Swisher is slow and has an erratic arm at times. But they are not exactly error machines either. So the only real weak spot on defense is behind the plate where Jorge Posada and Francisco Cervelli made a number of throwing errors.
In fact, if you took away the errors the pitchers and catchers made in 2010, the Yankees would likely have set an all-time fielding record last season.
Oh, but I am sure the Rangers or White Sox must be No. 1 according to the sabermetricians because they handled more chances. Yeah, I handle 750 chances and make 25 errors and I can say I am better than a guy who handled 600 and made four errors.
Try to sell that to the managers and coaches. I am sure they will soon see the “error” of their ways.
THE LEE WATCH
The fact that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is on his way to meet with free-agent left-hander Cliff Lee should have the baseball world quaking in its boots. This is a huge step towards the Yankees landing Lee and at any price. There is no doubt the Yankees have the desire to sign Lee. They also have the means to sign him. No other team can match those two attributes. The Rangers only hope now is that Lee stays for less money and honors loyalty. That is a slim hope with CC Sabathia ready to welcome his old friend into the Yankee fold.