Say what? Jeter not so bad at defense

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I hope you’re sitting down for this, because I’m going to share a notion that might shock you right out of your Snuggie.

No, it’s not that Jose Canseco is suing MLB. Or that Congress is now setting its sights on Sammy Sosa. Those two nuggets wouldn’t even surprise this guy.

No, what I’m going to point out is so shocking, you might question everything you thought you knew about baseball:

DEREK JETER IS NOT SUCH A BAD DEFENDER ANYMORE.

That’s right, he’s not. In fact, at the age of 34 (35 in 9 days, don’t
forget to send a card), Jeter is putting together his finest defensive
season since they’ve been keeping advanced defensive metrics.



Looking at two fielding stats, range runs and UZR, Jeter has improved immensely since 2005, when he contributed to one of the worst defensive teams to ever make the playoffs.

Here is how Jeter’s numbers stack up since that season:

Range runs (Number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls in his vicinity)

2005: -17.1
2006: -7.1
2007: -16.0
2008: -3.2
2009 (through 60 games): 0.6

Ultimate zone rating
(Number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs,
outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined)

2005: -14.3
2006: -6.8
2007: -15.3
2008: -0.5
2009 (through 60 games): 1.6

The improvement clearly started last season, when Jeter rededicated himself to defense, employing “exercises designed to improve his lateral quickness and first-step explosiveness.”

So how has Jeter gone from being among the worst defensive shortstops in baseball to a slightly above-average one?

Is it something simple like these exercises he’s doing? His diet? The fact that no one wants to hit the ball on the ground at the new Yankee Stadium?

I wonder what Jerod Morris thinks? That last one was a joke, folks.

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

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Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.