Derek Jeter is better than Eduardo Nunez

This is a bit…lacking in perspective. Derek Jeter is not the Derek Jeter of old, to be sure, but he’s not yet a player with a negative value. Before being put on the DL he’d accumulated a total of 0.5 fWAR in 2011, which, while stellar, is still a net contribution to the Yankees. The only way he could be hurting them is if he were taking a spot that should go to a better player, and he’s not doing that (unless you want to game out a hypothetical Jose Reyes acquisition, but that’s too complicated for this argument). So unless you think Eduardo Nunez is a better starting shortstop than Derek Jeter these days, then leaving some of the finer points aside, Jeter is still a valuable asset for the Yankees.

But based on the rest of Steve’s post, apparently that’s exactly what he thinks. To which I can only respond, are we watching the same Eduardo Nunez? I mean, Derek Jeter hasn’t been good by any means (Fangraphs calculates his defense and base-running to both be below league average, to go along with a wRC+ of 83, meaning he’s been below league average in every aspect of the game) but Nunez has undoubtedly been even worse. His wRC+ is less than Jeter’s, and he’s cost the Yankees roughly 4 times as many runs in the field as Jeter has, thank to 9 errors from the shortstop position. You’ll never see me writing poems about Jeter’s phenomenal defense, but compared to Nunez he actually deserves all of those Gold Gloves. On the whole, Nunez actuall has hurt the Yankees (-0.4 fWAR) and the difference between Jeter and Nunez is almost a full win in the Captain’s favor.

That’s not to say I’m totally sanguine about the Derek Jeter Situation, as readers of this site are well aware. But my concerns lie more with the Yankees’ front office and their decision making than with Jeter. Jeter is a professional baseball player, and I don’t hold him out to any standard I wouldn’t hold anyone else to, nor do I expect him to act in a way I wouldn’t expect Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, or anyone else to act. I am, however, annoyed/worried that the Yankees needlessly caved in and drastically overpaid Jeter in both years and dollars in his last contract, and even moreso that, for whatever reason, the idea of just moving Jeter down in the starting lineup against right-handed starters is a complete non-starter in the organization.

But again, even if you assume Jeter is acting “unseemly” here, I don’t necessarily fault him for that. He’s a human being and a professional and he’s going to act like one. I didn’t fault Jorge Posada when he essentially blew his lid and asked out of the lineup against the Red Sox last month, because I could understand the emotional end of it and didn’t think it was a big deal in the grand scheme of things. And hey, Jorge’s hitting now, and seems to have accepted a platoon role in the lineup. Similarly, I don’t blame Jeter for wanting to get every penny he could in his new contract, nor do I blame him for not wanting to be moved out of the top of the order (now, if he’s actually going to cause open warfare in the clubhouse over it, that’s a different matter entirely, but there’s no actual evidence for that right now, which makes it not worth discussing or assuming). No, I’m upset with the organization for not acting in a rational manner, and letting nostalgia get in the way of good business.

And absent some pretty drastic change, you certainly won’t see me arguing that Eduardo Nunez is a better shortstop than Derek Jeter in the near future.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

19 thoughts on “Derek Jeter is better than Eduardo Nunez

  1. I couldn't agree more about the fielding. The defense of Jeter's Gold Glove was that he always made the play on the balls he got to. Watching Nunez boot so many of those sure makes you appreciate the little things.

  2. Here's an intriguing question, though: who's more valuable (or, who does less to hurt the team): Jeter batting 1st or Nunez batting 9th?

  3. Excellent points, Brien. I hadn't seen Steve's new post until reading your column today. Interesting, since my post is highlighted in his post. Of course, I'm a fan of Steve's, otherwise I wouldn't even both to comment, but I do think he is off base on this one.

    Jeter's not leaving the line-up, not do I think he should at this time. A more interesting question is how much is Jeter costing the Yankees batting 1st as opposed to 9th. I think one attempted study (I can't rememer where) suggested it would only mean few runs. Is that worth the chaos right now? Perhaps a more interesting question concerns Gardner and Granderson. While Granderson is solid in CF, Gardner has been off-the-charts good. Would the Yankees save more runs by flipping Gardner and Granderson than they would by batting Gardner 1st and Jeter 9th? No one seems to find that question as interesting, probably because it doesn't involve Jeter.

  4. No. I didn't say it too clearly. I was wondering which move would be more of a net positive to the Yankees. Having Gardner bat 1st and Jeter bat 9th, or have Gardner play CF and Granderson play LF. The first scenario might lead to some additional runs (although I'm not sure how much based on all the studies around line-up order, plus considering Jeter has very good numbers leading off games and innings). The second scenario would lead to runs saved by putting the superior defender in CF and moving the weaker (although still good OFer) to left. Both would be a net positive. I'm wondering which would be more of a net positive. Everyone is focused on the batting order, but no one seems to wonder why Gardner is in left.

  5. Gardner should lead off against right handed pitchers, with Jeter batting ninth. Jeter should lead off against left handed pitchers, with Gardner batting ninth. Jeter is still decent against left handers, plus it kind of throws a bone to him. Granderson should stay batting second against right handers, maybe even against both, depending upon how he is going.

    Jeter should be given some days off. He is the last guy on the team, given his age, that you would want doing the "iron man" thing.

    Even though Gardner could be spectacular in Center, there is no reason to make a switch. The outfield defense has been a major positive, so leave it alone.

  6. Brien, what would you say are the biggest flaws with sabermetrics? Particularly, UZR.

  7. Something else. You would kind of hope a guy making $17,000,000 per year on a long-term contract is a touch better than a guy making $475,000.