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February 23, 2006

Looking Ahead to 2006 - Shortstop
by SG

Derek Jeter is one of the most polarizing players in baseball. Scouts rave about his defense while defensive metrics ridicule it. Some Yankee fans and Tim McCarver laud him as clutch, others see that his performance in the postseason is not that dissimilar to his regular season performance. However, there's no doubt that he's a very good player and likely a first ballot Hall of Famer on his current trajectory, whether he is overrated or not.

It's tough to assess just how valuable Jeter is because of the fluctuations in his defensive ratings. While all the metrics showed him as bad from 2000-2003, lately he comes out as average or above in every metric but UZR. Since I trust UZR more than any other metric, I'm not sure what to think.

The one thing that is not in question is Jeter's value offensively as a shortstop. Combining an above average ability to get on base (career OBP of .389 vs. LgOBP of .335) with above average SLG ability (Career SLG of .450 vs. lgSLG of .431) and superior baserunning, in both stealing at an exceptional percentage and advancing on hits, Jeter is typically anywhere from 40 to 60 runs better than a replacement-level shortstop offensively.

According to the WARP formula I'm using here developed by Kyle at OBP for you, Jeter was worth 6.7 wins above a replacement shortstop last season.

So what's up in 2006?

In this table, RARP are the offensive runs above a replacement shortstop using a linear weights -based formula. FRARP is the defensive fielding runs above a replacement player.

ZiPS says Jeter will hit .299/.368/.442, with 18 HRs, and which would make him worth 45 runs more than a replacement shortstop.

Tango Tiger's Marcels predict a line of .298/.363/.449, with 17 HRs. A little lower in the OBP and a bit higher in power, but with a little less playing time, which would make him 40 runs above a replacement shortstop.

PECOTA is pretty close to Marcel, to the point where it also predicts Jeter being worth 40 runs over a replacement shortstop.

I don't have any unique insights to Jeter. He's so consistent he's almost boring. I hope he does not get sacrifice bunt happy with Johnny Damon in front of him, and also hope he can combine the spike in walk rate that he had in 2005 with the isolated power spike he had in 2004. Assuming he's at least close to his 2005 fielding rating in 2006, he should be worth anywhere from 5-7 WARP. The projection systems all seem to think he's going to be a little less valuable offensively next year, and I don't see any reason to doubt them. He'll still be good, but projects to be about 1.5 wins worse. I still hold out hope for another '99 season though.

So far, through catcher, 1B, 2B, and SS, I have the Yankee lineup as 1.5 wins better relative to last year.

I guess I should also mention some of the news coming out of spring training. From

Torre hasn't decided how to line up his sluggers in the middle of the batting order, but he does know that Giambi will join Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui in the 3-6 spots.

Way to go out on a limb Joe.
Tanyon Sturtze, who is a week or so behind the rest of the pitching staff after rehabbing his tired right shoulder all winter, threw off a mound for the first time Wednesday.

This really shouldn't be a concern, but if Sturtze can't go and Dotel's not ready, the Yankee setup corps is going to be a little thin. I hope Kyle Farnsworth can handle the workload.

To me, the most exciting story in camp so far has been Phil Hughes's first batting practice.

-"He throws hard, and he's just a baby -- 19 years old," said manager Joe Torre. "The thing that's unusual for a kid as young as he is, his curveball is really impressive. His stuff is very real."

-"That kid is going to be good; he reminds me of Rocket," Giambi said, making a comparison between Hughes and Roger Clemens. "He's young, but that fastball, it's late. I don't care what the radar gun says, it seems like it's on top of you. He's got good stuff."

-"He has the best arm in camp, no doubt about it. Better than all these guys," said Posada, pointing to a row of lockers which included Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera. "I don't care how old he is. He's unbelievable. It's effortless the way the ball comes out of his hand at 95-96. He's that impressive. He's the best prospect we've got. It's fun to see."

Maybe they should stop messing around with Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright and bring Hughes to The Show?