August 29, 2003

Joe Morgan says that wins are more important than ERA for a pitcher in determining the Cy Young award. While I would certainly agree that wins should be factored into the equation for starting pitchers, I think the emphasis he places on them is misguided. See also his chat wrap for his attempts to explain this further (in his answer to the first question and in the last paragraph).

It is interesting (and has been commented on a lot post-Moneyball) how past players typically put emphasis on things that statistical analysis suggests are insignificant (e.g., clutch hitting). Earlier in the season, on Baseball Tonight, when asked which of the game's young shortstops he would take if starting a team, Harold Reynolds said he would take Jeter over A-Rod because Jeter is a "character guy" and a "proven winner." Peter Gammons intimated that not only would he take A-Rod over Jeter, he would take Edgar Renteria over Jeter. Ouch.

posted by holden to baseball at 01:23 PM - 57 comments

I've long thought that Jeter was way overrated as a shortstop. He's a good player, but I don't put him in the same clase as A-Rod, Nomah, Miguel Tejada, or Renteria. He doesn't have very good range, his power numbers don't compare, and I don't care how amazing that play was that he made to get Giambi out two years ago in the playoffs (he was out of position btw), he just doesn't stack up to the others. But he wears pinstripes and gets payed a lot to do so, ergo he must be a great player.

posted by trox at 01:48 PM on August 29, 2003

I dunno - I think Jeter is a terrific shortstop, but no-one is as good as A-Rod. Renteria is having a great season, but Jeter is a guy who does all the little things well - moving runners over, having good at-bats - making ptchers work, and he has hit very well in the post-season. His D isn't a far cry from those other guys - if at all. He's probably over-paid, but who can you not say that about? I think his only real weakness is he hasn't near the power of those other guys - and his power swing is tailored to Yankee Stadium. I'd take A-Rod, Nomah, Jeter and Renteria in that order. Tejada has to prove that last year wan't a fluke in my book.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:09 PM on August 29, 2003

I'd take Eckstein over Jeter.

posted by corpse at 02:11 PM on August 29, 2003

I'd take Eckstein over Jeter. Sounds like corpse has suffered a head injury. Jeter isn't in the same class as ARod/Nomar, but he's a hell of a lot better than Eckstein. Weedy has them in the same order that I'd put them in right now, but it would be ARod (BIG space) Nomar (smaller space) Jeter Renteria

posted by grum@work at 02:23 PM on August 29, 2003

This year's stats, sorted by OPS. It looks like ARod (big gap) Nomar Renteria Jeter

posted by mbd1 at 03:08 PM on August 29, 2003

Oh boy, here we go again. Call me any name in the book, but I take Jeter and his jewelry over A-Rod and his wallet. The idea, people, is to create a winning team. Not to field MVP candidates.

posted by vito90 at 03:20 PM on August 29, 2003

Well, so much for getting a conversation going about wins vs. ERA. I think if you are looking to start a team from scratch and field a winning team, you would have to choose A-Rod. The fact that Jeter has jewelry and A-Rod does not is more a result of luck and teammates than anything else. With equal pitching and defense (and A-Rod is better than Jeter defensively, btw), a team of 9 A-Rods would destroy a team of 9 Jeters over the course of a season.

posted by holden at 03:42 PM on August 29, 2003

I take anything Joe Morgan says, turn it around and the reverse is usually what I believe to be true. That's exactly right about wins. There are so many instances of good pitchers on bad teams (Nolan Ryan and Walter Johnson spring to mind) who had at least a decent ERA who ended up screwed out of several wins a year when their noodle-bats teammates couldn't put up more than a tally or two. Sure, there's something to be said for a guy who goes deep into games and ensures the win as best he can, but a win is so subjective now with bullpens and pitch counts, I'd much rather pick up a guy with a sub-3.00 ERA with 12 wins than another guy who's at 4.00+ but won 16.

posted by wfrazerjr at 04:02 PM on August 29, 2003

As for the shortstop debate, Harold Reynolds is the dolt this time. "Character" does not win titles ask the early 70s Oakland A's and the late 70s Yankees about that. Good players in the right mixture, whether they get along or not, win titles. Jeter is a good player. He's not even in ARod's ballpark, though, and anyone who took Derek over Alex in an actual drafting situation would have to be tested for mental retardation. Right now, Renteria is a far better player than Jeter (steals bases, hits with a bit more power and is far superior defensively), and Tejada is back to his old self. Nomar wil always be #2, unless Renteria suddenly jacks 25 next season.

posted by wfrazerjr at 04:19 PM on August 29, 2003

The idea, people, is to create a winning team. Not to field MVP candidates. So it's your contention that a team comprised of the best player at each position for that year would not necessarily beat the Yankees?

posted by yerfatma at 04:56 PM on August 29, 2003

I'd much rather pick up a guy with a sub-3.00 ERA with 12 wins than another guy who's at 4.00+ but won 16. I think this is where Joe Morgan is coming from. Who should win the Cy Young: 16-8 with a 2.22 ERA or 24-8 with a 3.33 ERA? You gotta figure the 24-8 guy, even if he pitched all season with great run support, is going to win the Cy.

posted by cg1001a at 05:05 PM on August 29, 2003

I find it curious that some people prefer what's inferred by statistical analysis to the say-so of past players. These are flesh and blood athletes, not robots. There are intangibles. There is magic.

posted by cg1001a at 05:11 PM on August 29, 2003

There is stupidity. Is there any tangible facet of the game of baseball in which Derek Jeter is better than Alex Rodriguez? I can't think of any. Harold Reynolds must be suffering some long-term effects of a beaning.

posted by rcade at 05:19 PM on August 29, 2003

Sure the guy with more wins will win the CY - because the writers think the way Joe Morgan thinks. But that doesn't mean he should win it. Suppose both of those pitchers were on the same team, and you had to choose which of them to start in game 7 of the World Series. I can't justify picking the guy with a higher ERA but more wins. As to the intangibles - "character," "knowing how to win," and "clubhouse leadership" among them - such things probably exist in tiny amounts, but they are WAY overvalued, and are often applied ex post facto.

posted by mbd1 at 05:51 PM on August 29, 2003

none of this surprises me, because I've thought of Harold and Joe as giant idiots for years. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Yankee fan who likes Jeter, but he's nowhere near any of those other guys. And wins have more to do with your teammates, batters, bullpen etc... you can have a 2.50 ERA for the Tigers and still lose 20 games, or you can have a 5.00 ERA for the Red Sox with those bats and win 20 games. So the Sox pitcher would be better? Right.

posted by Bernreuther at 06:44 PM on August 29, 2003

Wins are a team stat; it's just plain silly to even try to assign them to one pitcher, who has no control over the offense, defense, or the rest of the staff. They don't give wins and losses to quarterbacks in the NFL, do they? As far as Jeter vs. Arod, talk about a mismatch. Arod has a chance to be the greatest player of all time and is already the 2nd greatest shortstop ever behind Honus Wagner. Jeter's a fine player, but Arod is in a different galaxy.

posted by spira at 10:29 PM on August 29, 2003

A-rod is far and away the most valuable player in baseball. Tejada is right behind Nomar, followed by Renteria and Jeter. Joe Morgon is an idiot. He says closers rely on starters, but then says Wins is the most important indicator of a pitcher's value. This is why he's never been a GM. But I think that the people at ESPN know that Morgan and Reynolds are not good baseball minds, they're entertainers. Even though the debate about Wins v. ERA or WHIP and Batting Average v. OBP/Slugging Percentage is all but over, it still makes for good televesion.

posted by djacobs at 01:32 PM on August 30, 2003

2nd greatest shortstop ever behind Honus Wagner. I'd say he's got 5 years or so before he approaches Ripken and Arky Vaughan.

posted by djacobs at 01:35 PM on August 30, 2003

ARod surpassed Ripken long ago... My history must be slipping because I don't reallyknow anything about Vaughan, though.

posted by Bernreuther at 03:04 PM on August 30, 2003

from HOF Standards List: (average HOFer is a 50) Wagner 74 Ripken 58 Vaughan 52 ARod 46 HOF Monitor List: (>100 is a good possibility for HOF) Wagner 312 Ripken 236 ARod 167 Vaughan 116

posted by mbd1 at 04:15 PM on August 30, 2003

I don't buy those stats because even the 2nd one, which is used to more accurately assess current players, has a ton of cumulative stuff in there. At the end of his career, ARod will probably lead the list in both of those categories. Which still may not mean he's better than Wagner (though if he keeps it up, I think I'll be in his camp). Ripken beats him on longevity only. I'd be interested to see, say, the 1990 Cal measured in those 2 stats. That'd be a relatively even # of years (I forgot what year ARod started), and I bet Cal would trail.

posted by Bernreuther at 04:47 PM on August 30, 2003

I'd take Orlando Cabrera over Edgar Renteria and Derek Jeter. As always, les Expos never get the recognition.

posted by therev at 04:49 PM on August 30, 2003

I don't doubt that ARod's first 8 years were better than Cal's first 8 years. But longevity has to be considered in the best-of-all-time discussion.

posted by mbd1 at 05:40 PM on August 30, 2003

Is there any tangible facet of the game of baseball in which Derek Jeter is better than Alex Rodriguez? Choosing which team to play for?

posted by etagloh at 05:58 PM on August 30, 2003

true, I guess it just depends on how the question is asked. I think ARod is a better player than Cal ever was, and would take him over Cal's best season. To me, that makes him better. But yes, over the course of a whole career, Cal has done more. Jeter didn't choose his team, so he didn't do that right either :) I think he's a better baserunner... maybe.

posted by Bernreuther at 06:09 PM on August 30, 2003

As a Met fan I'm tempted to diss Jeter but since we're not even competitive and downright unwatchable the last couple of years, I've taken to heading out to Yankee Stadium on *occasion* to catch a couple of games. I love BP and Moneyball and all those things just like the next guy, it's enhanced my enjoyment of the game, but with that perspective in mind, I think Jeter is vastly under-rated. He's on par with ARod with his glove and more importantly, something that's been touched upon here, he's done what is asked of him. Whatever reasonable expectations Jeter's been give in his role on the Yankees, he's acheived. And that where the comparison to ARod comes into sharp contrast. Jeter will never put up those kinds of numbers but if he's there, where he's expected, year in and year out that's one less plug the Yankees have to fill on the *team*. And that's saying alot for a team like the Yankees, where no roster spot is safe. That and Joe Morgan is smoking crack.

posted by oliver_crunk at 11:38 PM on August 30, 2003

I'm a diehard Yankee fan but Jeter has been proven repeatedly to be one of the worst shortstops... not so much because he screws things up (only one bad year in that regard) but because he just doesn't have any range. But it's true that he's giving people what they expect, plus Mattingly-like leadership too. Tough to put a price tag on that (though I think that 18 mill is a tad much)

posted by Bernreuther at 01:15 AM on August 31, 2003

At the end of his career, ARod will probably lead the list in both of those categories. time warp to 1987: Bernreuther, I have a special introduction for you. I'd like you to meet some of my close friends: Mike Scott, Darry Strawberry and Doc Gooden. All HOFers, for sure, right? /time warp. Also remember that A-rods number are aided by the offensive explosion we're seeing in the game today. Ripken's numbers were nearly as gaudy in relative terms, and especially for a shortshop. You don't just look at the pure numbers - look at the value of a player relative to his peers, and especially his peers at the position. In 1987, there was no debate over who the best hitting shortstop was, it was Ripken by a far greater margin than A-rod over anybody today.

posted by djacobs at 09:18 AM on August 31, 2003

To the statsmobile! First seven full seasons, based on OPS+ (comparison of OPS (on-base plus slugging) to the league average): ARod (ages 20-26): 160, 119, 135, 133, 167, 164, 152 Ripken (ages 21-27): 115, 144, 145, 124, 122, 105, 128 Advantage: ARod And while this might be a golden age for shortstops, Ripken did have some competition for his position as well. I think these guys did pretty well back then.

posted by grum@work at 03:23 PM on August 31, 2003

Yeah, those guys were OK. So I was a little wrong. I'll just go ahead and admit Cal Ripken is my favorite baseball player outside of David Cone, and that no one will replace him in my heart. But of course, A-rod is great. I'm excited for the rest of his career.

posted by djacobs at 06:55 PM on August 31, 2003

No problem with that, djacobs. There are lots of players that I overvalue more than usual (Bartolo Colon, Jorge Posada, Frank Catalanotto). I still think Ripken, career-wise, is more valuable than ARod. But assuming a normal career path for ARod (including sliding over to 3B when he's 30+), I suspect that we'll be having the Ripken/ARod debate in the same way that people have the Bonds/Mays/Ruth/Williams debate today.

posted by grum@work at 07:10 PM on August 31, 2003

[Jeter]'s on par with ARod with his glove Sure. It's just that A-Rod's is attached to a body with range.

posted by yerfatma at 07:08 PM on September 01, 2003

Jeter gets no love here, apparently. I guess what it comes down to is that Jeter has proven that he is a wnner, and he contributes to team success much better then individual success. Ask his teammates if he's so damned overrated. This, to me is the problem with sports fans, they say they want winners not prima donnas, but then go running to the numbers when a player's value is debated. Jeter's value number wise is good - but maybe not as exceptional as others. He just wins.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:58 AM on September 02, 2003

weedy has it right in his 1st post. Jeter primary value is the peripheral offensive stuff. Anybody who has watched five Yankee games knows his value. Rodriguez is on his way to being the best baseball player ever, and outperforms Jeter in every phase of the game--except those peripheral offensive stats. But why should he? Given the choice of taking a smart at-bat, drawing a walk or moving a runner along, A-Rod is wise to choose to hit a 440 foot home run instead. As to pitchers, it's a non-issue. It's perfectly appropriate to give the Cy Young to the pitcher with the most wins. People who care about assessing the relative value of pitchers in a given season, just should be mindful that the Cy Young is neither instructive nor reflective of who is the best pitcher. This is really just the monthly Joe Morgan flogging, isn't it? Maybe we should make it a column...

posted by pastepotpete at 11:49 AM on September 02, 2003

If Jeter were the exact same player for the Orioles that he is for the Yankees, he doesn't get the "proven winner" tag. I'm not saying that he isn't partially responsible for the Yankees' success, but rather that he doesn't possess some mystical Midas Touch.

posted by mbd1 at 01:53 PM on September 02, 2003

This all but confirms it for me. Gagne win the NL Cy Young. Is his ERA higher than Smoltz? Yup, but Gagne has yet to blow a save(god willing) and has almost TWICE as many SO as Smoltz in only 8 more IP. And if Jason Schmidt ends up winning...
well, the fix is in. We will find out whether baseball truly values the closer.

posted by lilnemo at 02:39 PM on September 02, 2003

Gagne didn't blow a save, but the Braves beat up on him pretty badly earlier in the year. I'd agree that Smoltz's short stint on the DL removes him from the running this year as 60 saves is now out of reach. (I'd still rather have him on the mound than Gagne right now in a tight spot.)

posted by trox at 02:49 PM on September 02, 2003

A year ago I would have agreed with you trox. But it's no longer the "Gagne project". This is the real deal. I can see Smoltz as being the safe pick. He may have more control, but finesse isn't really the strong suit of your classic closer ( to my line of thinking at least). In the last inning I want someone who will really rip it past the batter. Truly unhittable. At 1.5 back in the wildcard, it's almost enough to get this L.A. fan to believe again.

posted by lilnemo at 03:33 PM on September 02, 2003

Uh, folks, I hate the Cubs, but if Chicago makes the playoffs, Mark Prior is your NL Cy Young Award winner. Back on point does anyone believe the Yankees would not have won the same number of championships with, say, Edgar Renteria as their SS? Miguel Tejada? C'mon, be realistic. Jeter's good but he's not God.

posted by wfrazerjr at 04:16 PM on September 02, 2003

If the Cubs make the playoffs Prior has an argument for the NL Cy Young Award. But MLB is loathe to give rookies the hardware. Hell look what almost happened at the All-Stars! No Dontrelle? Are you crazy?! Comparing closers to starters is hard as it is, especially when trying to quantify saves in relation to wins. Yet, Gagne has a lower ERA, and more SO/IP. How valuable breaking the Cubs drought is to the rest of the league will be an interesting point of contention.

posted by lilnemo at 04:42 PM on September 02, 2003

Jason Schmidt for Cy Young.

posted by billsaysthis at 06:09 PM on September 02, 2003

A couple of points: 1) This guy is a "proven winner" too. And this guy too. But that doesn't make them better than their actual skills (or individual results). It just means they have helped contribute to a TEAM winning a TEAM championship. 2) I'd have a hard time voting for a guy with about 80IP when there are a couple of better choices who are contributing more to their teams success than Gagne. I think that most managers/GMs will take 175-200IP of 2.50 ERA over only 80IP of sub-2 .00 era. but as a counter point, form of measurement shows that Gagne IS contributing more than any other pitcher (although that lead might disappear before the end of the season). 3) I'm a rookie? And it's not like it would be surprising for a "new" (or even "rookie") pitcher to win a Cy Young Award.

posted by grum@work at 06:34 PM on September 02, 2003

This, to me is the problem with sports fans, they say they want winners not prima donnas, but then go running to the numbers when a player's value is debated. Yeah, but we can't help it. Comparing [great] players is one of the most fun things about being a sports fan. Jeter will always get props (and a place in the HOF) for being on those Yankee championship teams.

posted by cg1001a at 07:46 PM on September 02, 2003

Using our argument of "winners," how about this? Bob Meusel played in six World Series in the 1920s for the Yankees, winning three. Of course, he had a couple guys named Ruth and Gehrig helping him out. Because he has three rings and pretty good stats, does that make him better than this guy? He played for the stinking Browns for most of his career and got to smell the hindquarters of the National League. But he goes to Detroit in 1934 and makes it to the Series. Is he suddenly a "winner?" The bottom line is this: Jeter deserves some credit for being a pretty good shortstop. He deserves some credit for the Yankees' run in the last eight years. I even wouldn't mind having him on my team. That is, if my team didn't have a better shortstop already.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:17 PM on September 02, 2003

grum, I too check that site for up to date Win Shares. I broke out my copy of the book and it looks like 1/2 of all MVPs were within 2 WS of the league lead. He didn't run the numbers for Cy Young winners, but he does speculate that it would be better correlation than the MVP vote, on account of there usually being less viable Cy Young candidates.

posted by mbd1 at 10:04 PM on September 02, 2003

Good arguments all around guys, thanks.

posted by vito90 at 10:51 PM on September 02, 2003

what a thread! i know dick about baseball, still don't, but i might be able to fake it now.

posted by garfield at 08:29 AM on September 03, 2003

I'll take the miniscule ERA and grace under much pressure and fire over raw power any day. Raw power, such as Gagne's is impressive to watch indeed. But who would I rather have on the mound with a 1-run lead in the ninth in the seventh game of the world series--one of the winningest pitchers in post season history or someone who hasn't even pitched in the postseason. I'll stick with Smoltz (and the miniscule ERA). He's not so bad a ripping it by batters either, regularly hitting 98 on the gun. Follow that with a changeup and watch the batter's knees buckle.

posted by trox at 08:39 AM on September 03, 2003

Why are we still placing so damn much importance on closers? Does anyone really believe the Braves wouldn't be going to the playoffs if John Smoltz was having a down year? Has Eric Gagne lifted the Dodgers to the top of his division? Closers simply work with what they are given by the most important members of a baseball team the starting rotation. And don't give me this happy horseshit either. Isn't it possible that the Red Sox improved because they added a good arm to their bullpen, not because they acquired the "magic" closer? Saying that Kim was the savior overlooks simple addition and the law averages turning around to some extent for the Boston bullpen. Does having a good closer help? Yes. Does it make you a pennant-winning team? Hell no.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:01 AM on September 03, 2003

Take Gagne off the Dodgers, and you've got a fourth place team in the division. Period. He's 47 for 47 for crying out loud!

posted by lilnemo at 12:10 PM on September 03, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO 84 53 .613 - LOS ANGELES 72 65 .526 12 /sigh I was wondering when we were going to get to this. I'm not saying Gagne isn't special. He is. But 12 games out doesn't make you all that valuable, does it? I just don't think you win the MVP award unless you 1) make a very significant contribution to a winner or 2) have a season that no one else has ever had for a loser. /sigh Let the argument commence.

posted by wfrazerjr at 02:55 PM on September 03, 2003

I just don't think you win the MVP award unless you 1) make a very significant contribution to a winner or 2) have a season that no one else has ever had for a loser.
I'm hoping for #1 but I'll settle for #2.

posted by lilnemo at 02:59 PM on September 03, 2003

wfraserjr - Speaketh the truth. Closer is still in my mind the most overrated position in baseball - hey it's great that Gagne's doing so well - but you only pitch 60 innings and every time your handed a lead when you do, then sorry - Starting pitching is sooooooo much more important. That said, I could see him winning the Cy Young, by virtue of having no one in the NL really showing anyone something in the pitching numbers (though Jason Schmidt is having a hell of a year - just doesn't seem to get any wins).

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 03:40 PM on September 03, 2003

Wfrazerjr - Uno momento porpavour - So what makes a winner then? - becuase if you don't think a guy leading off or batting second (the most underrated spot in the lineup, in my book) isn't a total fucking cog in the machine that wins championships like they own it, then we'll have to disagree. It's called proven track record when it counts - in the playoffs. Jeter is total clutch. From playoff game winning homers, to game saving D - shit you've seen the highlights. It's not automatic - see Dave Winfield, Giambi, Tino Martinez, and Barry Bonds before last year. Debating whether or not this guy would do just as well becuase "It's the Yankees" or some shit, ain't doing it for me - total speculation. Jeter - been there, done it. Consistently. He MAKES them win - not just along for the ride. Also - what if he wins the batting title this year? He very easily could. Now I sound like I'm in love with him. I just think Jeter bashing is passive-aggressive Yankee bashing, and he's a guy I'd want on my team regardless.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 03:53 PM on September 03, 2003

Trox - Smoltz is more a raw power guy than Gagne - his demeanor would suggest otherwise but that's the truth. Gagne's strength is that he has 4 pitches that range from 97 to 67 - fastball, slider, change and curve - and he throws them all for strikes. Smoltz dares you to hit it - you know what's coming. Gagne turns you into a pretzel becuase you're just guessing.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 03:58 PM on September 03, 2003

I agree with ya Weedy. I think the fact that Gagne looks like a Grizzly bear and Smoltz looks like a very intense english professor makes everyone think Gagne is a raw power guy. I wouldn't want to piss either of them off.

posted by lilnemo at 04:08 PM on September 03, 2003

I have no beef with the Yankees or Jeter in particular. I'm just sick of hearing about his ass bring elevated well beyond his abilities. He's a good shortstop, that's all, nothing more, a cog in the machine, as you said, of a greater team than himself. At least he's got more of a reason to be in the Hall than this guy.

posted by wfrazerjr at 06:05 PM on September 03, 2003

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