Bob Harkins on some of the more shocking news of the season (so far):
- 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.
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?
Normal statistical fluctuation? Dumb luck?
Seriously, nobody would be more thrilled than I were Jeter to finish this season with decent defensive stats. I love to be surprised. But it's just too early to get worked up over this stuff. I really don't think it's the ballpark, or Jeter's diet. I might be inclined to think he's benefited from those new exercises, but considering that he'll turn 35 next week, and he's been so awful with the glove for so long, I think a healthy dose of skepticism is in order.
I'm pulling for him, though.