Why Derek Jeter Is One of the Best Defensive Shortstops of All Time

Derek Jeter is one of the best Defensive shortstops that ever played the game — evidenced by the ‘eye test’ of Major League Managers and former players who watched him play on a nightly basis, his 5 (five) Gold Gloves, and what the fans who watched every game, saw.

But there is a legion of propeller-hat stat nerds who use ‘modern statistics’ to label him the Worst defensive shortstop ever. What gives?

Here’s what gives:

Human Brain > Simplistic Statistical Formulas

The Computer Software industry has been trying to mimic the data processing and analytical capabilities of the human brain since its inception. Even today with Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, it is still admittedly light years away.

Yet the baseball world is skewered with analytic nerds who do not understand this. Instead they use latest statistical analytics as a weapon to judge players. These analytics are NOT Big Data, and are one-dimensional and rudimentary compared to what the human brain can process.

Latest defensive stats such as Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) are Filled with MASSIVE holes. They don’t, for example, take into account:

  • Time — the 4th element. The time in the game when the defensive play occurred — how important it was to the inning, how important it was to the game, how important the game was to the season; essentially the pressure of the play.
  • Conditions — was it a brilliant sunny day? Heavy winds? Rain falling? Wet turf? Freezing cold? What ballpark was it in — Coors Field? Tampa’s stadium with the roof?
  • Who the pitcher was, and how the pitcher was performing, and how the hitter does against that pitcher — which would effect how the defensive player was positioned. How important the play was to the pitcher — was he on the ropes? What was the score? How many runners on base? What Inning? How many pitches had the pitcher thrown that inning and in the game? Did the defensive play save your ace pitcher out of a jam enabling him to settle down and cruise from that point forward? See Graig Nettles saving Ron Guidry multiple times in the 1978 World Series. And again all of that combined with the various aspects of time (pressure) and conditions.
  • Who the batter was, how fast he is getting down the line, again in combination with time (pressure), conditions, and how well the pitcher was doing.

And on and on — literally hundreds of variables. To take all of that in, you would need to capture the video of all players a defensive player ever made but it goes beyond video — with time and pressure factored in.

To take all that in and process it is ultimate Big Data. Computers are LIGHT YEARS away from taking this information in (which would be a Massive data collection effort) and processing it.

But the Human Brain can.

McCarver & Girardi > UZR and DRS

When an educated Human Brain like Tim McCarver becomes broadcaster of the Yankees, and comes in admittedly not thinking much of Derek Jeter — that he had probably been NY-Hyped up — but then watches him every game for several years — and goes out of his way many times to say Derek Jeter is the best defensive shortstops he’s ever seen — that speaks volumes. McCarver is one of the great defensive catchers who spent his career watching multi-time Gold Glover Larry Bowa play shortstop, and watched all the other great big league defensive shortstops.

McCarver’s human brain processed all of the data above, and came to the same conclusion that Joe Girardi — another great defensive catcher who watched Jeter every day — did.

If your formula disagrees with the educated Human Brain analysis of Tim McCarver and Joe Girardi — then Change your formula! Don’t say your formula is right and they’re wrong — especially when your formula is one-dimensional and elementary.

Gold Glove = Educated Human Brain Analysis

The Gold Glove is a voting of educated Human Brains — major league managers — FAR more comprehensive an analysis than any rudimentary stat like Ulitmate Zone Rating (UZR) or Defensive Runs Scored (DRS).

What the Gold Glove is, is an incredibly massive data capture and sophisticated analysis of an educated Human Brain — the ‘eye test’ — then multiplied by the voting of Major League Managers with a Consensus algorithm applied.

Yes politics could come into play, as a manager might vote for his ballplayer. Or maybe a player is having an off year and a particular manager hasn’t seen it in the games he’s played against that player. But that is normalized by stats that the manager can look at (including the very basic stat of errors made and fielding pct, as well as DRS and UZR, etc) as well as their ‘eye test’, and then the normalization of the overall vote that creates a consensus.

It Was Jeter’s Defense that Excited Fans

My eye test was this: having watched the Yankees fanatically since I was 11 yrs old in 1973, I watched a series of shortstops — some good defensively, some bad. From Fred Stanley (good) and Jim Mason (ok) thru Bucky Dent (considered excellent) to Roy Smalley (bad), Bobby Meacham (ugh), Alvaro Espinosa (pedestrian), Mike Gallego (ok), and finally an aging Tony Fernandez (good) — a young hot shot named Derek Jeter arrived on the scene in 1996.

I had seen my fair share of Yankee top prospects who didn’t pan out — in fact most didn’t. So I wasn’t expecting much from this Jeter kid.

Until the first game I saw him make this Phenomenal diving catch on a full sprint out to the outfield — the toughest play for an infielder. It was an early game in Jeter’s first season — one of his first games. I figuratively fell off my couch. Just the way he made the play you knew the Yanks had a Phenomenal defensive shortstop on their hands.

And Jeter didn’t disappoint. He spent his career showing:

  • Phenomenal range to his right — the patented snare-jump-throw to nail the runner from Deep in the hole;
  • Phenomenal range into the outfield — the full sprint into the outfield with back to the plate to catch a hard popup was also patented by him;
  • Excellent range coming in on the ball;
  • An INCREDIBLE ability to always be in the right place at the right time on the field. As evidenced by the famous relay to home play in the playoffs against Oakland.

Jeter’s range to his left, over 2nd base, was average. That was probably due to his 6’3″ height which made it more difficult to get down on grounders like shorter 5’11 infielders can. And that range to his left is what hurts his defensive stats.

But Major League Managers — using the advanced analysis capabilities of the educated Human Brain — saw what I saw, and voted Jeter 5 (FIVE) Gold Gloves during his career.

Jeter’s offense was also excellent — but I, like most fans, always reveled in Jeter’s Defense.

Viewpoint Influenced by Time — the 4th Element

Derek Jeter played shortstop through the age of 40. That in itself is herculean. Most great defensive shortstops have been moved out of the position to the outfield or elsewhere as they age. For example, Robin Yount. Not Jeter — Yankee management felt he was still good enough in the field at age 38 to 40 to keep him there.

There are some Yankee fans who only watched Jeter in his later years, age 37 on, when his range diminished. And so they will have a different view to all I’ve written above.

It’s like seeing an 83-year-old man raking leaves, and you think to yourself that poor bastard has always been 83 years old even though you know he hasn’t been. And in his mind he’s 35 years old while he’s raking.


With all of the above said, let’s look at the algorithm to calculate Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR).

From MLB.com: “UZR uses Baseball Info Solutions data to chart where each ball is hit. Say, for instance, a center fielder sprints to make a nice catch on a fly ball. Then, say data from BIS tells us that similar fly balls get caught 60 percent of the time. That center fielder gains, essentially, 0.4 bonus points for difficulty. If he can’t make the play, he loses 0.6 points. At the end of the day, that player’s overall score gets adjusted to the league average — and then that score gets adjusted for how many runs the once-adjusted score is worth.”

How full of MASSIVE holes does that all sound? Why .4 bonus points for difficulty for example? Why not .375 or .2? I’m sure if you dug into the calculation you’d see why .4 but do you think there’s a Massive assumption and Hole there? And that’s just tip of iceberg let alone not even considering Time, Pressure, or Conditions mentioned above.


Defensive Runs Saved is a similar infantile formula riddled with Holes.

From Wikipedia: “To calculate Defensive Runs Saved, for each ball hit, points are either added or subtracted to the fielder’s rating depending on whether or not they make the play. For example, if a ball hit to the center fielder is expected to be caught 30 percent of the time, and it is caught, the fielder gains 0.7 points. If the center fielder does not catch the ball, he loses 0.3 points.”

.3 points. That’s their Big Data.


  1. Ron Bills, I don’t know where you are getting Jeters career errors total from, but it isn’t 56 total. It’s 254 total in 20 year career.

    • yeah he had 56 in one season not in total, but regardless he’s right these bs stats don’t mean jack when it comes down to all the factors.

    • Okay,True- it’s 254 total career errors for #2.
      That’s an Avg of 13 per year over 20 seasons… that’s pretty effin’ Good! That’s about One error per every 13/14 games! 👍
      JETER has a Career Fielding % of .976
      Ozzie Smith- .978
      Career Fielding percentage is the most important and accurate stat for a defensive position player. It’s too je equivalent of Batting Avg to a Hitter OR ERA to a Pitcher… He(JETER) is ranked 15th best defensive SS in MLB history! I’d put ’em,easily in the Top-Ten,but whatever!

    • Bob Mac: Yes,I stand corrected…
      It’s 254 career errors for #2. Still pretty good;
      20 seasons,13 per season,6 months to a season,2 per month,about 26 games in any given month leads to One error every 13 games?(On avg) Not 2 shabby- I’ve literally seen CAL & A-Roid make a couple of errors in a 3 game series ,in the Bronx vs. The Yankees👍

  2. After decades of reading sports articles and using the advanced analysis capabilities of my educated Human Brain, one thing is clear after reading this article: you’re a moron.

  3. Been watching Baseball since 1976(Not Just Yankee games…Baseball!) & Derek Jeter was the 2nd best defensive SS I’ve Ever seen play,after Ozzie Smith! Still makes me laugh when I se a SS attempting Jete’s signature ‘snaring the grounder in short L field,jump & throw’ play-They Just Cannot Do It & Jeter made that lay, effortlessly,like almost every other game! He was amazing @ Short…And has 56 total career errors! 20 seasons-56 errors
    Average of less than 3 errors per season!! Ripken made nearly 300 career errors! To the Delusional-Fantasy and world few who say He was a bad defender(LMAO), it’s basically same as saying MJ couldn’t dunk
    Gretzky didn’t know how to score a goal!
    Babe Ruth wasn’t a HR hitter! Noo-NO NO,Here in the Real World,Derek Jeter was an amazing SS-Google + watch the facts!! If He had Any MORE ‘Range’,The Yankees wouldn’t of needed the other 8 guys on the field! Bad defender’s Don’t & CAN’T make the infamous “Flip-Play” vs Oakland…Cannot go all the way to almost short L field,jump,throw & nab the runner @ First!(All while making It look easy,btw)…Again,Been watching Baseball since summer of ’76-Second best defensive SS, I’ve ever seen play,next to Ozzie Smith!

  4. I cringed whenever I read “Educated Human Brain”, as if writing it like that suddenly makes it superior compared to deep analytic. Advanced stats, if anything, tells far more than what the biased eye test could deduce. I’m a Yankee fan myself but as far as I’m concerned, Jeter had always been really bad at catching what other shortstop is capable of doing very easily, that’s why I think DRS is very approvable. Derek Jeter is the reason why I’m a Yankee fan, but it is downright pathetic to be delusional in defending something he’s suck at.

    • Human brain is way smarter than the most advanced defensive stats today — which are 2 dimensional at best. Jeter won 5 (FIVE) Gold Gloves for a reason. He was PHENOMENAL defensively up thru age 34 or so.
      You may have watched him in his later years when his range diminished.

      • Thank You! DJ was nothing shy of Amazing defensively! You,like Myself, Actually watched him Play!!
        The Delusional,live in Fantasy Land haters are kinda funny tho- Baseball knowledge Deficient- But funny.

      • Jeter won five gold gloves because he was the most popular player on the most popular team. By defensive metrics, he was the worst fielding SS in almost all of those years he won GG. It was a joke, the jump throw looked so great because other shortstops had better range and didn’t need to jump to make those throws. There’s a reason ‘past a diving Jeter’ is a well known phrase, it was commonplace throughout his career.

        • Seems You,like the Other haters are leaving out Thee Most important defensive metric:Career Fielding %…Derek Jeter’s is .976(the avg is .951) The great Honus Wagner has a .940 & Greats like Ernie Banks & Pee-Wee Reese are just as poor! BTW,Career Fielding % is to fielding what a hitter’s batting avg is to hitting.And,It was opposing baseball managers who voted on all his 5 Gold Glove Awards- Guys who Actually watched The Great “Der-EK Jee-Tuh,Numbaa Twooo” make phenomenal play after phenomenal play against their team on a Regular!
          And,Yeah every once in a great while,a ball would get by an Aging Derek Jeter(When he hit his late 30’s…37ish?) But,before that!-Not Very many EVER got by Him! It was sad to see from ’bout 2010 on:Derek Jeter becoming just an ordinary,solid,Only as good as the average SS in baseball kind of Shortstop…from ’96-’09,He was nothing Short of Phenomenal in the field!…Again,.976 Career Fielding % for The Great JETER(.951 is the average) He ranks #43 out of the 300 greatest defensive SS to ever play the game list.For Me, who’s been watching Baseball(Religiously),since summer of ’76,DJ is the 2nd Best Defensive SS I have Ever seen play the position,After the great Ozzie Smith!… But? I Actually watched Derek Jeter play!! His “D” was Actually what I,like most Yankee fans,enjoyed & admired even more than his hitting!!

          • “Career Fielding % is to fielding what a hitter’s batting avg is to hitting”

            So almost useless lol. Batting avg is a TERRIBLE metric of success at the plate

          • Fielding percentage only takes into account the % of plays made on balls that a player gets to. On twenty balls hit you could get to 10 balls and make the put out on all 10, and then let another 10 get by you without an attempt on them and have a 1.000 fielding percentage. Meanwhile a player that gets to all 20 but doesn’t get the put out on 2 would have a .900 fielding percentage. Essentially fielding percentage can penalize players with superior range.

        • Other SS’S could NOT make the iconic ‘Jump-Throw’ play,hence the reason No other SS did it!
          AND,’OH WHAT A PLAY BY” just before JETER’s name is Actually the Truth phrase,when You Don’t Suffer from a bad case of ‘SOUR GRAPES’! Note: a 12 year old Tigers fan asked on FB;”If JETER was such a poor defensive SS,Then why is there a whole lot more footage of him making Amazing Defensive plays & hardly any of him making an error?!”…Out Of The Mouth Of Babes!

    • Maybe in Ur Delusional Fantasy World! LMAO…
      But,In the Real World?,Jeter was nothing shy of Phenomenal at SS! Looks like Ya should of Actually watched The Great JETER play! Saying He was a bad defender is Exactly like saying Micheal Jordan couldn’t Dunk to save his Life- Just want Ya to get an Idea of what U sound like to Those of US who are NOT Baseball Knowledge deficient,bruh….
      56 career errors over 20 seasons=average of Less than 3 errors per season.Ripken has close to 300 career errors! Errors are Most important statistic of Any fielder!!

    • .976 carer fielding %(.951 is considered avg.)
      He ranks #43 on a list of 300 Best Defensive SS’s to Ever play the game! By comparison- The Great Honus Wagner’s CFP was .940 Pee-Wee Reese & Ernie Banks fielding was Atrocious as well,When compared to JETER! BTW,Career Fielding Percentage (@ Any Fielding POS.) Is WHAT ACTUALLY defines how good or bad a player was, Defensively! AGAIN: DEREK Jee-Tuh .976(.951 is a erage!) He was a Phenomenal Defensive SS-If Ya Actually Ever watched Him Play.

  5. Jimmy Bosch, you just made an utter fool of yourself with your post. I’ll leave it at that since I feel everyone has the right to say what they think and or believe, even if it is made up. (fake news)

  6. Please stop. You’re like Donald Trump screaming that he won the 2020 election. Jeter was a good SS for his first 5 years. After that he got worse and worse until he was a near statue his last 5 years. According to the stats, he cost his team more defensive runs than ANY player at ANY position in the history of organized professional baseball.

  7. Jeter was strong on tag plays, straddled the base and kept the tag on the base runner. He was also very strong on outfield relays as evidenced in the World Series against the Mets.

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