It’s late in the afternoon and I’m aware it’s an incredibly easy target, and that by commenting and linking to it, I’m only doing what Mark Donatiello was probably hoping would happen when he wrote an article titled: Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees, and the Death of Sabermetrics. However, I’ve been a good boy this week, so please, just give me this one.

The column on how the Yankees shortstop is single handedly destroying sabermetrics, which graces The Faster Times website, begins like this:

Why has Jeter been able to defy expert opinion, including New York Yankees staff members, hitting like it’s 1999 to close the season? Does it mean the death of sabermetrics? I sure hope so.

Alright. This sounds like it should be a fair, balanced and unbiased approach to a somewhat contentious issue in baseball. Giddy up.

As one of the all-time clutch players in baseball history, it’s hard to say the pressure of 3,000 hits got to the all-time Yankees hits leader, but maybe it did.  Perhaps Derek Jeter just needed some rest.

Five things you should know:

  1. Derek Jeter’s career OPS is .833.
  2. In high leverage situations, Jeter’s OPS .827.
  3. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Jeter’s OPS is .842.
  4. In late and close games, Jeter’s OPS is .797.
  5. In tie games, Jeter’s OPS is .840.

Where exactly is the evidence for this clutchiness? Even his .850 career OPS in the playoffs is only marginally better than his regular season numbers.

All this despite the fact that his UZR, WAR, FIPP, DEUS, FISL, AWO, DKSL, and ELWIS are well below average for a Gold Glove shortstop – and yes, most of those are made up categories.  But do you know which ones?

Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned failed hypothetical question? To criticize something without at least an elementary grasp of what you’re criticizing goes beyond willful ignorance and into the sad and strange land of arrogant ignorance where people are so proud to not understand something that they boast about their inabilities. It’s the opposite of everything human beings should ascribe to.

Sabermetrics represent a cult of baseball analysts and fans, with too much time on their hands, that believe everything baseball can be explained through numbers.

Let’s ignore the fact that a professional engineer and unprofessional writer is taking time out of his presumably not-too-busy-schedule to criticize people “with too much time on their hands.” If anything, using statistics to form opinions reveals the enormous role that randomness and luck play in baseball. No one who follows advanced metrics believes that everything that happens on a baseball field can be explained or understood with numbers.

Sabermetrics argues that all outlying statistics aside, in-depth analysis can predict, more often than not, player production in a given situation.

Four things you should know:

  1. Derek Jeter has a .297 AVG, .355 OBP and a .389 SLG.
  2. Marcel forecasted: .283 AVG, .350 OBP and a .397 SLG.
  3. ZiPS forecasted: .280 AVG, .347 OBP and a .393 SLG.
  4. Fans forecasted: .289 AVG, .353 OBP and a .397 SLG.

Once again, there isn’t a single baseball nerd alive who believes that it’s possible to perfectly predict the outcome of any given situation in a baseball game. Intelligent baseball analysts think in likelihoods. They come to these likelihoods based on the entire history of events that lead up to those moments. And because they’re aware of that history, even outcomes that go against the proposed likelihood aren’t all that surprising.

Baseball is great because Kirk Gibson can hit a walk-off homer even though he can’t walk.

This is perhaps the boiled down anti-sabermetric sentiment that irks me the most. Just because one person’s ability to gain pleasure from a deeper understanding of something is severely limited, it doesn’t mean that everyone’s is. This isn’t a black or white, all or nothing scenario. You may want to sit down before I inform you that I am capable of enjoying both a statistical based understanding of a game that I love to watch and the drama that occurs in the enormous sample of events that baseball brings to its spectators.

The Oakland Athletics haven’t won a championship since MoneyBall.

Neither have the:

  • Angels,
  • Astros,
  • BlueJays,
  • Braves,
  • Brewers,
  • Cubs,
  • Diamondbacks,
  • Dodgers,
  • Indians,
  • Mariners,
  • Mets,
  • Nationals,
  • Orioles,
  • Padres,
  • Pirates,
  • Rangers,
  • Rays,
  • Reds,
  • Rockies,
  • Royals,
  • Tigers, or
  • Twins.

In fact, only seven teams have won the World Series since Moneyball was published, including the Boston Red Sox, a team that hired Bill freaking James as an analyst, who have won twice.

Sabermetrics might be a good way of evaluating the usefulness of mid-level baseball talent, but it can never undermine the value of a baseball great – even if he is 37 years old.  It seemed like a great time to pick Jeter apart, but with this year’s resurgence baseball scouts and their numbers were once again proven wrong.

What resurgance is this, exactly? Derek Jeter’s declining non-advanced statistics this season include: walks, hits, doubles, home runs, runs, and even RBIs.

Sabermetrics should stick to evaluating the pinch-hit value of Miguel Cairo on a Tuesday night in Chicago with wind speeds under 12 MPH against a lefty pitcher in the 7th inning or later on an outside fastball in a 2-1 count.  This way, when they’re wrong, nobody will care.  Leave Derek Jeter alone, because Sabermetrics aren’t a credible way to evaluate talent and Derek Jeter is going to continue laughing all the way to the Hall of Fame.

Come on, we both know the sample size is far too small for a proper analysis of that.

While several straw man arguments are set up by the author here, the worst assumption made in this disasterpiece of an article is that somehow those in favour of using logic and reason to back their beliefs don’t like Derek Jeter. I really like Jeter. I think he’s a very good shortstop and a big part of multiple championship teams. There’s little question in my mind that he should go to the Hall of Fame when it’s time. And I’m not even a Yankees fan.

In summary, Mr. Donatiello’s argument has all of the nuance of this:

Comments (30)

  1. Jeez this guy is a freaking moron. Even using WAR, Jeter still ranks 55th all time in WAR. And 7th all time among SS. Hardly devalues his status as an all-time great.

  2. To add to my comment above, the only SS’s ahead of him in terms of WAR are Wagner, Rodriguez, Ripken, Davis, Appling, Dahlen.

  3. always enjoyable to see stupid people put in place – nicely done

    • The funny thing is, the only people who are stupid are the ones who read an article like Mark Donatiello’s and take it seriously. An article that is meant to make one ponder over-analyzation and go back to the old days where people just enjoyed life ironically was over-analyzed by the exact type of people of which Mark was makin fun. What’s even funnier is that you don’t realize you’re being ridiculed…

      • Sounds like post facto justification for why you wrote a pile of flaming garbage. (I know you wrote that comment, Mark, because you later updated your post to say the exact same thing.)

        “I was trolling you nerds the whole time!! Dance my puppets!!!”

        If the article was intended as some sort of commentary or satire about sabermetricians, you did a very, very poor job of it. You did an excellent job satirizing people who think sabermetrics is stupid, but it doesn’t look like that’s what you were aiming for….

  4. Parkes, Since when is it professional to bash somebody who’s going through a hard time?! Leave Jeter alone!!

    • Not to agree with this guy… but can you really dismiss how awful his start was? Didn’t everyone think that this sort of explosion in the second half was beyond his capabilities?

  5. Mr. Parkes – Please stop putting people like Mr. Donatiello in their places. As far as the logic of your arguments goes, well done. But you seem to forget that if Yankees fans are not idiotic, baseball is just not baseball.

  6. Evidence of his clutchness: See Alex Rodriguez’s playoff stats compared to his regular season numbers. to perform at the same level in the postseason, and let’s not forget his defensive plays, is evidence of his clutchness. In that many games he isn;t going to blow away his regular season stats, but he certainly could have choked like many “all stars” before hiim – Carlos Beltran, A-Rod, … buckner?

    • A-Rods postseason chokiness (is this the opposite of clutchness?) is legendary. His post season .396 wOBA compared to a career .408 is truly stunning. A-Rod is so bad under pressure that he can’t even choke properly.

  7. Congratulations Dustin Parkes, you have successfully proven to all readers of this article that humor is dead in the world. When a low-life writer takes this much time to rip apart a young man who writes for pure enjoyment, it makes me lose confidence in mankind itself. Do we really live in time where no one can enjoy a satirical parody? Anyone can criticize an article piece by piece if they truly wanted.
    For Example:
    “It’s the opposite of everything human beings should ascribe to.”
    Any dumbass who has ever picked up a pen knows that this sentence should not end in a preposition, but apparently baseball expert Dustin Parkes does not. Unfortunately, I have life I need to get back to and will not be able to further explain what a true idiot you are for writing this article… Once Agan, Congratulations.

  8. I’ve never listened to a person call so many other people ignorant as dustin does. you are one of the most ignorant people when it comes to statistics, yet you throw around stats as if you’ve proved everyone wrong. Do you not even comprehend that in the playoffs jeter would be facing the league’s best pitchers? So putting up similar numbers in the playoffs vs the regular season is a huge accomplishment and evidence of this so called “clutchiness”. Did you not consider that league ops has declined substantially this year? So his similar numbers this year are an even bigger accomplishment compared to his peer group.

    • Perfect. Thanks for the sentence by sentence critique, here’s my rebuttal. Exactly what this guy said… also.

      If you take the projections from the beginning of the season, youre ignoring the wave of criticism that Jeter faced before his DL stint and hot streak. How many times did we hear Jeter was done before the All Star break, and how often have you heard it since? Any analyst, ESPN or otherwise, was declaring Jeter’s career dead and Eduardo Nunez the better option at shortstop due largely to sabermetrics available at the time. Now that Jeter has REMARKABLY altered the direction of his season, very suddenly you revert to stats you would have been embarrassed to quote when he was hitting .240 – it’s sad. Unless you want to claim to be someone who thought Jeter would finish around .300 when he hit .250 the entire first half, if thats the case then kudos – you win.

      His playoff resume is impeccable and you CANNOT pretend to question his value in the clutch. What a joke that is.

      The Red Sox have the second highest pay roll in baseball on a pretty consistent basis. If you claim sabermetrics as the root of their success, hows that balance against the value of a top pay roll – the same way the Yankees won in 2009.

      Resurgence, as a term being applied to his second half, not his whole season when leveraged against his first few months’ body of work. Come on, is anyone really trying to argue that his season isn’t average? It’s only after an atrocious start that he’s been able to make it average by playing out of this world baseball. His second half is what defies the projections, not the sum of a crappy year + a hot second half.

      You’re right. I admittedly dont like the application of sabermetrics to baseball. I admit that quite openly. But as the comment above mine notes – you don’t quite know what youre talking about either.

      Cheers.

  9. I’ll gladly reply to anyone with an opinion on Twitter. A lot of what’s been said has been perfectly civilized and I’ve enjoyed reading it.

  10. Mark,

    The “wave of criticism” that Jeter received is irrelevant when considering that overall, the projections were correct within a very reasonable margin.

    The point about about clutch hitting that you are missing is that Jeter’s postseason mark (850 OPS) is very close to his career mark (833 OPS).

    There are many more subtleties that you are entirely missing, but instead of pointing them out, I am going to spend my night hoping that you get hired as a GM of an MLB team, and Anthopolous can literally (and figuratively) take advantage of you.

    Jake

    • Jake,

      His career numbers are attained equally against the 5th starter and the ace. His playoff numbers are against the best pitchers on the best teams in baseball. Therefore, his numbers being the same mean he’s a better performer in the playoffs because of the degree of difficulty being increased.

      Also, I’m not referring to preseason projections. Im referring to the millions of times we heard trending downward when he was hitting .250 and the fact that anyone who made a prediction to kick him while he was down was incredibly wrong. The preseason guys are great at what they do, its the bandwagon analysis that was shockingly incorrect. Im proposing that the mainstream value of sabermetrics are not what people are making it out to be, and that most of us know as little as I do, even if they pretend to know more.

      • Are you ignoring the fact that the pitchers that are the ‘aces’ as you say are facing the best line-ups in baseball? Much more pressure and stress pitching to them …

        If you’re going to hitch your horse to one side of an argument, have the wherewithal to recognize the other.

        As another point, much easier to remember a playoff at-bat the results in a big hit. Maybe this is affecting your opinion?

  11. How exactly is Jeter facing “the best pitchers in baseball” in the playoffs?. Just because a team makes the post-season, it doesn’t make their staff the best. Did Jeter face Felix in the playoffs last year? Or Roy? Or Wainwright?

    • You’re right. Everyone makes the playoffs with no pitching. Cliff Lee didnt lead the Rangers to the postseason along with top end young pitchers. You got it.

      • Jeter hit .231 last ALCS including an 0-4 with three K’s against this Lee gentleman you speak of. I will submit this one incident as proof that Jeter doesn’t produce in the postseason, similar to the way you’ve gobbed all over Jeter’s knob until he shot sabermetrics and you were able to proclaim them dead.

      • Nice asinine reply there, really hammered Parkes’ point home there. His point was that you’re a retard, right?

  12. I can’t believe that this is even a discussion. Even with Jeter having the hot second half that he’s had, he’s quite obviously a total shade of his former self. We see this all the time with veteran guys.. they start slower and slower and eventually, they don’t start at all. Anyone who watched Frank Thomas on the A’s and Jays will know what I’m talking about… the same thing happened during the decline of players like Sheffield, Ortiz last season and even Chipper this year.

    The shock about Jeter in the first half was that he had have never been so goddawful for such a long period of time before, so people thought he was done. Obviously he’s not completely done, given what he’s done at the plate in the past two months but keep in mind that it’s just two months.. I haven’t heard anyone mention schedule (has he had more home games? who has he been hitting off? Is he getting more meatballs to hit because of his poor start, guys thinking they can just go right after him? I don’t know the answers but surely these things are relevant) and I haven’t heard anyone mention the fact that whether you’re using UZR, or just the old fashioned eye test, Jeter has become a world class liability at shortstop… a guy like Mr. Donatiello will romanticize that point and talk about leadership, experience and presence. These are all lovely notions but they speak to the fact that you can no longer actually discuss Derek Jeter catching a baseball and making a world class play. Those forays deep into the hole that used to be so commonplace rarely happen anymore because his range is simply gone. He makes less errors because he gets to less balls, so his ‘gold glove’ last year was a joke… that award is voted on by the players and was given out of respect (read: default) rather than by actually ability.

    As for Jeter’s clutchness, another thing that hasn’t been discussed is the fact that he came up on a bunch of loaded Yankees teams (for whom he admittedly starred) and was given chance after chance to prove that he was ‘clutch’. and yes he came through when it mattered, many times and that will cement his legend… but he also DIDN’T come through many times, it just didn’t matter because he had so many kicks at the can. And given the same opportunity, who says that Nomar or A-Rod or any other comparable shortstop wouldn’t have done the same things? by pure luck and opportunity, Jeter wound up in those situations on those given days and those things happened.. these things can’t be explained by statistics or anything else.

    Derek Jeter is a Hall of Fame player and if you look at his best seasons, sabermetrics support that. But saying that sabermetrics and aesthetic enjoyment of baseball are mutually exclusive is silly. If anything, sabermetrics allow for more involved and informed discussion about a game that we all love so much. If you love baseball, truly, how can you not want to figure out everything about it? and how can you attempt to deny the applicability and usefulness of a science that is basically data collection/analysis.. these things are proven constants and are simply tools used for evaluation. They are not be all and end all for anyone involved, least of all the people who use them.

  13. It’s amazing how many people like to wallow in being ignorant of things they don’t understand like Sabermetrics. This guy uses Derek Jeter to disprove Sabermetrics? Last time I checked, advanced statistics liked Derek Jeter just fine when it came to his hitting. The only part of Jeter’s game that advanced statistics have pointed out that he is lacking is in his defense. Even his own manager, Joe Torre, said in his book “The Yankee Years” that Jeter was not a great defensive shortstop when it came to range and that Jeter frequently cheated in his positioning to get to more balls. I don’t think Joe Torre was using UZR or any other advanced statistic when he mentioned that part of Jeter’s game.

    I don’t always agree with Parkes, but he was dead on with this article.

  14. the reason there is such a backlash against sabermatrics is #1 people failing to understand them, and #2 those who think they understand using them incorrectly and as the end all tell all stat..

    especially WAR, there are so many issues with defensive metrics at this point, especially in a one year time span. WAR stats cannot be used as the end all stat, its the best stat available, but its far far far from perfect.

  15. So a year removed – do you still think you’re right, dick? Leads the league in majors, defied projections… second highest fielding percentage in the AL… Last year you said the whole year was the only projection that counted, not the ones people made when Jeter was at the furthest depths of his unrecoverable slump. Does this year back me up at all? Or are his advanced statistics still so bad that he’s a detriment to the Yankees.

    Derek Jeter defies advanced statistics. I think I win this one, champ… like shooting a fish in a barrel that jumps out, takes your candy, and swims away.

  16. hits* not majors haha.

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