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.

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?

    • Jeter's 2011 batting average when leading off an inning is .409, with an OBP of .447. If you want to call this a small sample size, consider that his career batting average leading off an inning is .337, close to 30 points above his overall career average.

      • I'd say that "leading off an inning" is a really miniscule sample in any event, and probably not worth very much at the margins. The issue with being a leadoff hitter is that they get the most plate appearances.

        • Good point. But the Yankees have been very successful in the first inning of games, and that IS significant so far this year. If you want to write off those first innings, then from the second inning on Jeter is not getting any more at bats than anyone else.

    • A better question is. Which do you think is more likely to cost Girardi his job in 2011? 1) Benching Nunez so Jeter can leadoff or 2) Benching Jeter so Nunez can bat 9th?

      • I don't think either of those scenarios is likely AT ALL to cost Girardi his job. No way he loses his job before his contract is up unless the team finishes out of the playoffs this year and next. Who would they be able to hire at this point who would be a better fit in the clubhouse and dealing with the veterans than Girardi? Maybe Mattingly, and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

        • Well it's true that the scenarios will not affect Girardi's job status, but what I was trying to get through was that while it may not be a great idea to hit Jeter at the top of the lineup (I'm not making any judgments on that. I'm bad with "what if" situations), a world where Jeter gets benched for Nunez, if both continues to hit like what they did this season, would help start a lot of unnecessary analysis and heated arguments.

    • One way this question would make sense is if both players were below replacement level and jeter only slightly less crappy than 'Nuney'. Another would be if Jeter was blocking plate appearances or someone entirely from the lineup who was producing like Granderson, whereas putting Nuney in the 9th spot would re insert this productive player back in or much higher in the lineup.

  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.

    • I think Gardner plays a better left field than Granderson does by a greater margin than Gardner over Grandy in CF. I think both have been stellar this season, why even contemplate that move while they are playing so well, even their defense (minus Nunez).

      And why on earth would Jeter have to bat 9th if he is not 1 or 2? I would still have him ahead of Russel Martin and Posada. I would with go Gardner, Grandy, Tex, A-Rod, Cano, Swisher, Jeter, Chavez, Martin against righties.

      Swisher, Grandy, Tex, A-Rod, Cano, Jeter, Jones, Gardner, Martin agaist lefties.

      This is all hypothetical so it would have to be talked about with Jeter first obviously but I think he might go for it once 3000 i out of the way, just to avoid the media storm.

  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.

    • 1) WAR compares you to a replacement level player, not an average player.

      2) He's only slightly below average in fielding and baserunning, so when you consider that and take the positional adjustment for shortstop, he still grades out as better than a replacement level player.

  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.

    • Yes, you do hope that, but once it's apparent the player is what he is, the salary becomes less important. It's the construction of the team. So while it may sounds strange to say it's not about the money on a site called "It's About the Money, Stupid," it's really about the deployment of the resources and how they fit together. Jeter still rates as a positive; what they're paying him does not determine the success of the team. Dollar bills don't play baseball. The Yankees biggest problem will come in the postseason, assuming they'll make it, which I believe they will. They do not have a strong number two to match up with the other teams' #2's, and they need a lefty in the pen. SS is not a problem once you embrace the idea that Jeter is no longer what he once was, and the team needs to compensate for that in other areas.