Another Year, Another Retirement Tour and Other Bullets

jeter wrigleyToday, in addition to being pitcher and catcher reporting day, is The Little Girl’s third birthday. I can scarcely remember my life without her in it.

  • This year’s retirement tours will outpace even last year’s Mariano Rivera love-fest: adding to Commissioner Bud Selig’s retirement, Derek Jeter has announced that 2014 will be his final season. Seeing how well things worked out for Rivera last year no doubt influenced Jeter’s decision, and he’s going to get lots and lots of love all year long, as did Rivera. Everyone who was asked said wonderful things about Jeter. I immediately thought about the two-game series the Yankees will play at Wrigley Field this year – May 20 and 21 – and how tickets to that short series will be very, very expensive. (I also think about how the Cubs are probably thinking, “Damnit, why couldn’t that have been a four-game series!?!?”) Who’s gonna hook me up with a bleacher ticket for face?
  • Yes, Jeter’s success has been overrated by virtue of playing on the grandest stage, and being a part of the Yankees’ financial renaissance that saw them make the playoffs pretty much every year of his career. But Jeter has genuinely been very consistently good for his career. Outside of last year’s injury-plagued affair, Jeter managed a sub-2 WAR just once in his career – 2011. Heck, in his 17 full seasons before 2013, he fell under 4.0 WAR just seven times, and five of those came in the last six seasons. Jeter’s career is fascinating for, among other things, the notion that if you can play passable defense at a higher-order defensive position – even if “passable” is frequently “bad” – with a great bat, the overall value to your team can be enormous. I also enjoy his career BABIP of .353, with his preternatural ability to square the ball up and to use all fields. How about this: did you know that Jeter stole 30 bases as recently as 2009?(!) I could go on. He really was quite good, and very unique.
  • Do you remember when Alex Rodriguez was traded to the New York Yankees? Ah, but do you remember the flurry of rumors that immediately preceded it, which had Rodriguez going to the Red Sox in a three-team trade involving the White Sox? It was the pre-Twitter days, but I remember the swirl of activity well. For those who don’t – or who want to re-live the craziness, which involved Cubs execs Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer – there’s a 30 for 30 short documentary on the trade that wasn’t over at Grantland.
  • How has the value of infield defense changed as the three true outcomes (homer, strikeout, walk) have increased as a portion of plate appearance results? Blake Murphy takes a look at the decreasing importance of infield defense … but then dives way, way more deeply into the numbers.
  • Patrick Mooney with five storylines heading into Spring Training, and, appropriately (and sadly), very few have anything to do with the Cubs’ on-field performance in 2014.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

39 responses to “Another Year, Another Retirement Tour and Other Bullets”

  1. Senor Cub

    Hooray…Sorri is coming back!

  2. CubFan Paul

    “Who’s gonna hook me up with a bleacher ticket for face?”

    You should add ‘value’ to that, face value.

    ..urban dictionary

  3. Blackhawks1963

    Derek Jeter is on the short list to include my all-time favorite players. Lifetime Yankee…captain of a dynasty team that won 5 World Series…3,300 hits and counting…just a great, great player…among the immortals in Yankee history…a list that includes Ruth, Gehrig, Dickey, DiMaggio, Ford, Berra, Mantle, Rivera, and others.

    My favorites of all time…

    1. George Brett
    2. Derek Jeter
    3. Paul Molitor
    4. Ryne Sandberg

  4. Jon

    Never got the “Jeter=overrated” angle myself……

    1. Myles

      Alan Trammell and Derek Jeter are the same caliber player. How one is an inner-ring HOF and the other is on the outside looking in will never make sense to me.

      1. udbrky

        Please show your work. They played the same length. Jeter had 1k more hits, 70 more HR. notsureifserious.jpg

        1. Myles

          These are not everything. They played in different eras. My the worst measure (FRAA), Trammell was an average shortstop defensively (by most measures, he is either very good or great). By the most charitable of measures, Jeter was routinely a bad defensive shortstop if not terrible. According to FRAA (and FanGraphs), Jeter cost his teams OVER 25 WINS ALONE with his glove. They have very similar OPS+ (Jeter leads, 118 to 111). They have very similar isolated power numbers (.130 to .134, Jeter leads again). The only certain advantage Jeter has is his preternatural ability to put the ball in play productively (.353 career BABIP); after that, Trammell was more patient and struck out less.

          If I had the choice between the two shortstops for their career, I probably take Jeter. But I think long and hard about it, and I definitely wouldn’t fault someone for going with Trammell instead.

          1. Myles

            Something else cool to note; Trammell best season is better than Jeter’s best. His 2nd best is better than Jeter’s second best. This goes on and on until about the 9th season. In fact, the more I look, the more I’m unsure if Trammell isn’t just straight-up beter than Jeter.

            1. DocPeterWimsey

              Trammel suffered the fate of most middle infielders: the bruising and battering of the position really caused his numbers to fall off in his early 30′s. Trammel frequently was playing with small nagging injuries as a result of his position. Trammel had only one season after his Age 29 season in which he played more than 130 games, although he was still good when healthy until he was 36.

              That is the big difference between Jeter and most middle infielders: Jeter didn’t break down. (So, never diving for balls was not lack of hustle: it was just smart!)

              1. Myles

                I can agree with this. Jeter had a longevity that is uncanny for the position. Trammell definitely did not have this, though he still played forever. That being said, Trammell still put up a better peak than more than half of the SS in the HOF, and certainly better than Jeter (though it’s close, I think it’s definitively Trammell).

                1. DocPeterWimsey

                  Oh, yeah, Trammel had a great peak. And he fell just a couple of years earlier than typical for a middle infielder, too. However, when you look at the great hitting middle infielders of the last quarter of a century, an awful lot of them (including Ryno) basically just fell off of the table in their early 30′s.

                  Indeed, we might be seeing something similar with Chase Utley: he’s had only one 130+ game season since his 20′s. Of course, Utley had the first part of his career truncated by injuries, too, whereas Trammel was a starter at 20.

        2. DarthHater

          Better to compare using a metric that is normalized for the league hitting environment and the ballpark hitting environment. One such stat is Baseball Prospectus’s “TAv,” which attempts to give proper weight to each batting-related event (like wOBA), but also normalizes to compensate for different hitting environments.

          Jeter’s career TAv is .287. Trammell’s career TAv is .278. Edge to Jeter, but not a huge edge. Throw in the arguments that Trammell was better defensively and you have yourself a legitimate conversation.

      2. Blackhawks1963

        Huh? Derek Jeter is a first ballot Hall of Famer with 7 American League pennants and 5 World Series Championships on his resume. To go along with 3,300 hits, an MVP award, a batting title, Gold Gloves, the “C” on the Pinstripes. Trammel was a very good player…in my view not a Hall of Fame player. And not in the transendental category of Jeter.

        People like to dump on Jeter because he’s the face of the Yankees. It’s the hatred for the Yankees that colors judgment of his career.

        1. Sandberg

          Championships and pennants have nothing to do with whether a player is HoF worthy. And “Transendental” is more BS that makes most non-Yankee fans call Jeter overrated.

    2. mjhurdle

      i think that, often times, Jeter was ‘over-rated’ by the media.
      That does not mean that Jeter was not great, but the media often made him out to be the greatest ever. Even yesterday I read something about how he was the greatest SS since Honus Wagner.
      I have always liked Jeter as a player, but the media did tend to build him up as maybe more than he was (which is understandable given his personality, the market he plays in, and his talent). Saying he was ‘over-rated’ is not an insult in this case, at least imo. He could be a top 10 SS of all time, and you could still make an argument that he was over-rated by the media, at times.

    3. FullCountTommy

      Jeter is one of the best hitting shortstops of all-time, but his defense is what is grossly overrated. The guy is a sub-par defender who has 5 gold gloves, explain that one

      1. Eternal Pessimist

        ^^^^

    4. DocPeterWimsey

      What galls people about Jeter is that he is deified for things that he was not. The gall is doubling because the mythical Jeter detracts from what the real Jeter was, which is a stathead’s dream middle infielder.

      The most obvious myth is the one that Jeter was a great fielder. He wasn’t: because of his very poor range (which started poor and basically got worse), he cost the Yankees a lot of runs with his glove over the years. They were never scored errors, so the old-schoolers don’t see it: but the runs scored from singles counted just as much. (It’s been estimated that Jeter cost the Yanks over 200 runs in his career: but as that is about 1 win per season, the statheads say “big whoop.”)

      The reality, however, is that Jeter was creating so many more runs with his bat than the other teams’ shortstops that it more than made up for the singles he allowed. The fact that he was able to play a demanding position without hurting himself (at least until the 2012 playoffs: and that was a play on which an OFer could have been hurt) meant that he was able to keep that plus bat in the skill position for nearly 20 years.

      Another myth is “Captain Clutch.” Yes, Jeter’s “clutch” stats look really good. So good, in fact, that they look just as good as his non-clutch stats. Jeter was not especially good in the clutch: he was especially good all of the time. You can ditto this for his post-season stats: he basically had a Derek Jeter season in post-season. Again, the reality is that he was just a good hitter: and despite what old-schoolers want to believe, good is good.

      Then there is the “character” myth. Jeter was the Captain, the first off of the bench to applaud a big hit, quick with the intense but subdued fist-pumps, etc. However, he was also the first off of the bench in the weight room. Part of the reason why playing SS did not wear him down the way that it did comparable hitters is that Jeter rarely dove for balls. Jeter also strongly resisted moving off of SS even in situations where it would have been a net-gain for the team.

      So, in a way, what the Jeter detractors really have been criticizing is the apotheosized Jeter: it simply never existed. The real Derek Jeter, however, was a great player for all the reasons that his hagiographers don’t ever consider about baseball.

      1. Blackhawks1963

        Look at what Jeter did in the postseason throughout his career. Mind boggling. And definition of a superstar. Jeter is one of the immortals of the game in my estimation.

        1. Kyle

          It looks an awful lot like what he did in the regular season.

          1. DocPeterWimsey

            Indeed, and that’s the point that people like don’t get. Jeter played basically a full season in post-season. Moreover, Jeter played a disproportionate number of those games during the peak of his career. So, his final numbers look shockingly like (gasp!) a Derek Jeter season.

            1. DarthHater

              Mind = Boggled :-P

            2. Norm

              I agree for the most part, but, the pitching is a wee bit better in the post season than in the regular season.

              1. DocPeterWimsey

                True, but Jeter’s numbers actually are a wee bit lower than his regular season numbers when you weight them by his career trajectory. Remember, he played a big proportion of his post-season games early in his career. Through his age 30 season (2004), Jeter played in 22 post-season series over 9 years, which included 110 and 506 PA. Since then, the Yankees have played in 11 post-season series over 9 years, with 48 games and getting Jeter 228 PAs.

                So, about 70% of Jeter’s PAs came when he was 30 or younger. However, only 52% of his career PAs came when he was 30 or younger. Jeter was a 0.840 OPS batter up to age 30; he has been an 0.810 hitter since then.

                So, if Jeter’s post-season performances had been identical to his regular season performances, then his overall numbers would be a bit better than his career averages. The fact that they are a little bit worse probably reflects the fact that he was facing better than average pitching.

              2. DocPeterWimsey

                Here is a good way to summarize it. After 2004 (Jeter’s Age 30 season), his career post-season OPS was 0.015 lower than his career regular season OPS.

                After 2013, Jeter’s post-season OPS was 0.009 higher than his career regular season OPS. It is not that Jeter has “turned it on” in post-season in recent years: his performance actually has declined. However, the Yanks have been eliminated in the first round or even missed post-season completely in most of those years. So, Jeter’s post-season stats have been nowhere near as badly affected by his decline as his regular season stats have simply because he’s not getting to put up declined performance in the LCS and WS any more.

                1. Ricky

                  Cool info, thanks!

        2. Jon

          Would you say he played the game the “right way”

          And in terms of his HOF chances, 0% chance he doesn’t make it right?

  5. CubChymyst

    Jeter passable but great defense at short with a great bat makes me immediately think of Baez. As long as he can cut down the errors and adjust to the league, his bat at short would provide a lot of surplus value. With the 2014 season the Baez/Castro situation is one thing I will following. My guess is Baez ends up at 3rd if Alcantara puts up a good year at 2B in AAA.

    1. Chad

      What if Olt can stick at 3B or Bryant? I personally would love to see Bryant in the OF with Olt at 3B because the glove is supposedly much better. Baez at SS and Alcantara at 2B. That would leave room to move Castro. I think you see Baez at 2B this year just to see if he can handle ML pitching.

      1. CubChymyst

        I think the FO looks for away to keep a few lefties in the line up. Alcantara working out would be a great way to get a lefty in the line up so I think he has first crack at 2nd base. They probably want to keep Baez in the infield so he ends up at SS (if Castro doesn’t rebound) or 3rd. The only way I see Bryant at 3rd is if one of Baez and Castro gets traded and Olt doesn’t work out. I’ve said a trade of Castro is good for the Cubs, but a trade of Baez would also be good for the Cubs. If the FO trades Baez that likely means Castro has rebounded, 2nd and 3rd got locked up by other prospects and a TOR type pitcher would hopefully be coming back in the trade.

        1. CubFan Paul

          “Alcantara working out…I think he has first crack at 2nd base”

          If he doesn’t get off to a fast start in Iowa, they’ll probably leave him there for a bit to work on his switch hitting

        2. Eternal Pessimist

          I would like to see them place Barney at ss and move Castro to 2nd this year. I realize Castro’s bat doesn’t play as well at 2nd, but we could demo Barney’s skills at SS and increase his value for a mid-season trade. Barney’s great defense will save more runs at SS than at 2nd and make his poor bat less relevant.

          Then we bring up Baez and plug him into SS while actively shopping Castro (unless he is raking) as someone will need a competent SS (I think Castro’s last year puts him into the competent defensive range).

      2. CubFan Paul

        “That would leave room to move Castro”

        Or move Alcantara, Castro, or Baez to CF.

    2. DocPeterWimsey

      Jeter is another player who contradicts the “adjust to the league” myth, at least insofar as Baez’s deficiencies are concerned. Jeter had plus pitch recognition and contact skills as a minor leaguer: he didn’t “learn” them at MLB. He walked over 10% of the time while K’ing only 13% of the time. In MLB, he walked 9% of the time while K’ing 14% of the time: and as his BB:K ratio has gone down recently (like most older players, Jeter has had to speed up his swing), he basically simply continued.

      Jeter never showed anything like Baez’s miLB power. Indeed, Jeter showed very little power in miLB. Of course, MLB was playing with a much bouncier ball during most of Jeter’s career than early-mid 1990′s miLB was, but it also reflected Jeter simply gaining more power with age. It seems improbable that Baez is going to gain all that much more power!

  6. NorthSideIrish

    Happy Birthday to the Little Girl! Mine’s five now and depending on the day it’s either “I can’t believe it’s already been five years” or “I can’t believe it’s only been five years”…

  7. waittilthisyear

    ah, the first time you have used my biggest writing pet peeve, Brett. Unique means one of a kind, thus something can’t be more unique than anything else. I’m sorry, I’ll see myself out…

    1. Edwin

      That’s almost as good as when a team leads the league in intangibles.

  8. Diehardthefirst

    He should have retired 3 yrs ago- bet he’s on DL before All Star game

    1. DocPeterWimsey

      but.. but….. Belly Fire?!?!?!

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