Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Contemplating Derek Jeter, Part II

It's been what, two-plus weeks, and I'm still wrapping my little brain around the fact that Derek Jeter got yet another Gold Glove.

Six errors in 2010,
eight in 2009. There's
more to defense than
avoiding errors, but
that counts too.
That's five. Only four shortstops have won more, which is a bit less impressive than it sounds, since the Gold Gloves started in 1957. So shortstops like Marty Marion, Phil Rizzuto, Honus Wagner, Leo Durocher and Dave "Beauty" Bancroft -- all regarded as superb glovemen -- have none.

Still, five is more than guys like Davy Concepcion, Ozzie Guillen, Alan Trammell and Barry Larkin won, and perhaps the weirdest thing about Jeter's Gold Gloves is that he didn't win any when he was in his 20s -- and was at least somewhat agile in the field.

Explanations I've devised and discarded:

The voters aren't paying attention. The voters are the managers and coaches; I daresay they pay more attention to baseball than I do, and I'm fairly obsessive. They may not take the vote with a great deal of seriousness, but this is not a willfully ignorant voting pool.

It's a plot to build Jeter's ego and make it more difficult for the Yankees to move him to a less demanding position. If the voters were all Red Sox employees, this might be plausible. Reality says you can't concoct a 70-person conspiracy and keep it a secret.

What I suspect is happening here:

1) The voters are divided. The specifics of the voting aren't released, but assume that there 70 AL votes (14 teams and five votes on average from each). There might be 25 votes for Jeter, 20 for Elvis Andrus, a dozen for Alexi Ramirez, five or six for Jason Bartlett, one or two apiece for Erick Aybar and Cesar Izturis and Asrubal Cabrera and J.J. Hardy ... you can win a Gold Glove, or the governorship of Minnesota, even if a majority wouldn't vote for you if you were unopposed. All you need is a hard-core base and a divided electorate.

2) Some of the voters are as much attuned to the mental aspects of defense as the physical. They'd agree that Andrus has more range than Jeter, but vote for Jeter on the basis that Jeter's aware of what baserunners might try to score from second on an infield hit, that Jeter knows where the cutoff man's supposed to be, that Jeter knows that this outfielder's throws tend to sail to the right or left ...

The Gold Glove voting isn't well designed, and screwups are a regular occurrence. One career Gold Glove for Jeter is plausible; five represents, in my view, multiple screwups.  

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