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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

This man is 6-ft-7 in tall weighing 282 pounds and plays professionally for a NY team. Is he a power forward for the NY Knicks? Is he a tight end for the NY Giants? The answer is no to each of these questions. He is the starting right fielder for the NY Yankees and his name is Aaron Judge.

Reading a column written by Marchand, I discovered some really fascinating superstitions of Judge that I never noticed before. Moments before seeing his 1st pitch in a game Judge pops 2 pieces of Double Bubble sugar-free bubblegum in his mouth. Until he makes an out, he'll continue to chew it. If he picks up a hit in his first at-bat, it stays in. Another hit, and he keeps chewing. In fact, as long as his future at bats do not yield result in an out the gum stays in his mouth. So if he was to have 4 consecutive hits or walks in a 4-hour game he would still be chewing tasteless dried out pieces of gum. When he makes an out he will get rid of the old gum and replace it with 2 pieces of new gum. You could say each out sets him up for a fresh beginning. Judge started this superstition in college and has no plans on changing it.

Another unique judgeism is, after the 3rd out of an inning, he waits in front of the Yankee dugout for his fellow outfielders. There he offers words of encouragement and high-fives as they enter the dugout. Judge says. "If someone makes a good play or someone does something on defense, I want to be there and say, 'Hey man, nice play' or 'Good job.' If there is miscommunication in the outfield, it gives me a chance to grab them real quick and say something."

Could the Yankees have picked a better last name for PR purposes than the word judge. In fact, the Yankees have created the new Judge’s Chambers which accommodates 18 fans picked at random from other seats. The fans get to borrow a black judge's robe and keep a foam gavel that reads, "All rise!"  Judge, 25, has already been compared to Derek Jeter by his manager Joe Girardi. Girardi said," Back in Jeter's day, when the Yankees scored or got a big hit, Jeter was always the first out of the dugout to congratulate his teammates. It was a trademark No. 2 move.” Girardi continued, “That’s who he was; Derek was all about winning. I feel the same about Judge. It is very genuine. He is all about the team. His encouragement of players, helping guys, being upbeat all the time -- it is really kind of cool to witness." Girardi thinks Judge is a leader in his own way despite being a rookie -- something that might irk veterans if Judge weren't so respectful and earnest. His teammates notice that Judge is not trying to stick out, but rather help out.” He is a positive influence on his teammates," left fielder Brett Gardiner says. "He always has a positive attitude. He says different things to you every time [when he waits to go into the dugout] and different things to each person, like,  'Let’s go get some more runs.' 'Nice play." .

Judge credits his parents, who adopted him as a baby, for giving him his first lessons on putting team above self. He says he's been blessed with coaches who have done the same. Judge is accommodating in talking to the media, but he almost blushes when speaking about himself. The top-step move could be seen as grandstanding, if Judge didn’t act the right way. "It’s genuine," third baseman Chase Headley says. "He is not doing it to have somebody write about it or see it."

Offensively and defensively Judge backs up his leadership role. He is second in WAR, tied for first in HR, and 6th in OPS. Defensively being so tall and having a long-arm reach has enabled him to make catches in the outfield that would be impossible for others to make. Add to this a strong throwing arm and the Yankees have a 5-tool future superstar like Mike Trout.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Derek Jeter has manned the shortstop position for two decades. Jeter often referred to as “The Captain” represented Yankee royalty. His heir apparent named Didi Gregorious, acquired by way of trade from Arizona on December 5, was made a knight in his home island of Curacao in 2011. His knighthood was earned after performing well in an international baseball tournament.

When ranking the all-time Yankee greats there is no question after Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle Jeter ranks somewhere in the top ten with Yogi Berra, Don Mattingly, Bill Dickey, Whitey Ford, and of course Mariano Rivera.

In replacing a Yankee icon in the pressure filled environment of New York, Didi takes on one of the most intimidating jobs in baseball. Just ask Tino Martinez after he replaced Don Mattingly. It took Tino a few years to gain the acceptance of Yankee fans.

What do we know about Didi as a baseball player? He is 24 years-old. Unlike Jeter, who came to the Yankees in 1996 as a fully ready shortstop and won Rookie of the Year honors in his first full season, Didi is a work in progress. On defense he has all the right tools. As a lefty batter, he hits well against righties but really struggles against lefties. In fact, he is one of the worst hitters in baseball against lefty pitchers. In his rookie season of 2013 in 103 games he batted .252 with 7 home runs, 28 RBI, and an OPS of .707. His difficulties against lefties brought his numbers down to an average of .226 with 6 home runs, 27 RBI and an OPS of .653 in 80 games in 2014. The good news is the Yankees have right-handed hitting Brendan Ryan, an excellent defensive shortstop to platoon with Didi; the bad news is Ryan is also a weak hitter.

Flash! The Yankees just traded starting second baseman Martin Prado to the Miami Marlins for starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi as part of a five-player deal. With the trade, the Yankees appear as if they will let prospects Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela fight it out to be the team's second baseman. Scouts believe in both of their bats, but there are questions about their gloves. Of course, the Yankees still have time to trade for a veteran second baseman. I am against this trade. I know the Yankees need starting pitching but losing a very good veteran defensive second baseman leaves Didi with another adjustment problem. The veteran Prado would have been a stabilizing force for Didi. Replacing Prado with a rookie second baseman leaves the Yankees with two question marks up the middle.

With the Marlins in 2014, Eovaldi pitched nearly 200 innings, finishing 6-14 with a 4.37 ERA. He started 33 games, 4th most in majors (good) and allowed 223 hits, most in the majors (bad). He gave up 0.631 home runs per 9 innings, 7th lowest in majors (good). His 97 earned runs was 4th most allowed in majors (bad) and his 14 losses was 4th most losses in majors (bad). Turning 25 in February with a fastball clocked in the upper 90s, his upside is great. Eovaldi will join the recently signed Chris Capuano to complete a shaky starting pitching rotation of Tanaka, Sabathia, Pineda, and Nova. This group enters with questions regarding Tanaka's and Nova's elbows, as well as Sabathia's knee. Coming off TJ surgery, Nova will not be available until late May. The Yankees may need Eovaldi to approach 200 innings again.

The trade also brings veteran first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones to the Yankees to backup Teixeira. This removes first base as an option for A-Rod. With Hendley slotted to be the regular third baseman, A-Rod will have to share his at bats as a DH with Carlos Beltran. I would not be surprised if A-Rod never appears in another regular season game with the Yankees. I smell a buyout for A-Rod coming soon.

Can you name another major leaguer, in the history of baseball, whose last name begins with Eo?


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

As a life-time Yankee fan I was very concerned about the weather for Jeter’s last home game at Yankee Stadium which was scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 25. Wednesday night’s weather forecast for Thursday called for afternoon and evening heavy rain. Would Jeter’s final home-game be cancelled? If cancelled would it be made up? It is well-known that if a game at the end of a season is meaningless (which this one would be) it would not be made up.

As you know Jeter’s retirement tour provided him with special gifts from each team when he made his final appearance at their stadiums. His gifts included  a $10,000 donation to his foundation from the Royals , a bench constructed of bats, balls and bases from the White Sox, customized cowboy boots and hat from the Astros, a 12-foot pinstriped paddleboard from the Angels, second base from the final game at the Metrodome in 2009 from the Twins, a No 2 Mosaic made of tiles from the New York subway from the Mets, a vacation at a Napa Valley vineyard from the Athletics, a custom pinstriped sea kayak from the Rays, a seat from the Kingdome site of his first hit from the Mariners, cowboy boots and an autographed photo from Game 3 of the 2001 World Series from the Rangers, a bucket of steamed clams and a Navy Admiral’s hat from the Orioles, a custom-made pinstriped Les Paul Gibson guitar from the Indians, a vacation in the Canadian Rockies from the Blue Jays, and a clubhouse massage machine from his Yankees. The gift from the Baseball Gods would follow.

Thursday morning came as advertised. It was cloudy with light rain. This Thursday was the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and my wife and I went to our synagogue to attend services. Returning home it still was cloudy with light rain. It remained cloudy through most of the afternoon. Finally by late afternoon the sun popped out and from this point on there was no more rain.

The baseball Gods had spoken. Jeter’s final home-game would be played. At 7 pm the game with the Orioles began. The 39-year old Kuroda gave up two solo home runs in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first, serenaded by a sell-out Yankee Stadium, he took his place in the batter’s box. Sure enough he connected and sent a towering fly ball to left center which looked like a home run but wound up bouncing off the wall for a double. He then scored the first Yankee run. Going into the ninth inning the Yankees were winning 5 to 2. Enter the Yankee closer, Mariano’s successor, David Robertson. Unbelievable, the dependable Robertson blew the save by giving up two home runs. Going into the bottom of the ninth the score was tied at 5 all and Jeter was scheduled to bat second. Accompanied to the plate by the last in-game use of Bob Sheppard's voice, Jeter jumped on the first pitch delivered by Evan Meek, using his Jeterian inside out swing to single through the right-side of the infield, sending pinch-runner Antoan Richardson diving home safely from second base. As Jeter watched the play he celebrated near first base, pumping both fists in the air before being mobbed by his teammates in an ecstatic celebration.

"What can you say? It created another Jeter moment," Robertson said. "As much as I wished I wouldn't have created it, I'm glad it happened." Mariano Rivera added the comment that Robertson was his best setup man and it was only fitting that he would setup Derek’s game-winning hit.

Yes, I believe the Baseball Gods must have intervened. For Robertson to have blown a three-run lead in the ninth inning to having Jeter be put in the position to deliver the walk-off hit in his last at bat at Yankee Stadium, how could you believe otherwise.

Jeter announced that Thursday marked his last game playing shortstop, though he plans to bat this weekend as a designated hitter or pinch-hitter out of respect to the Red Sox and their fans.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

My guest-blogger Emily Su is a student in my Baseball and Statistics class.

On March 6th, my boyfriend Kevin, a life-long Yankee fan, and I traveled to sunny Tampa, Florida to see something only true baseball fans will go out of their way to see, MLB Spring Training. We were there to see the Yankees play at Steinbrenner Field. Kevin had gone to Spring Training several years ago in hopes of seeing his idol, Mr. Derek Jeter. As an amateur spring training-goer, he didn’t realize he had bought tickets for a split-schedule game. Meaning, Mr. Jeter was playing at an away game. This time we were a little smarter. We had talked about going to see some Spring Training games during our spring break but we hesitated planning it because our spring break fell on different weeks. But once Jeter announced his retirement, we knew we had to go. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea. Usually Spring Training tickets aren’t more than $30 for the best seats. This time around, each game was sold out and we were forced to buy $115 tickets from StubHub. How outrageous! Oh well, what is going to stop a Yankee fan from seeing his idol? Nothing! So we packed up our bags and balls and headed to see a game against the Detroit Tigers on March 7th, and a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on March 9th.

Our biggest goal was to get player autographs as they practiced before the game.  Spring Training provides fans their best chance of getting autographs. At Steinbrenner Field, it was either a hit or miss. The players would either warm up on the practice field that fans had access to, or warm up on the main playing field. If we waited out by one of the fields what if Jeter, Beltran, and Ellsbury were warming up on the other field? We decided on the practice field and arrived there 3 hours before the game started. You heard me… 3 hours! We were there along with other die-hard fans with our arms all jammed through the holes in the fence especially for autograph signing. We stood out in the chilly Tampa night for 2 hours before any players even came out. Ichiro Suzuki comes running out first, followed by some backup players. I ended up with the autograph of backup catcher Austin Romine. We were disappointed that none of the big name players came out. The fans around me were chatting about how all they wanted was Mark Teixeira’s autograph and how he rarely ever signs. A woman, who went to Yankees Spring Training for 10 years in a row, commented she had everyone’s autographs, but not Teixeira’s. At that point, I was satisfied with Austin Romine’s autograph. Walking to the gates, we saw someone practicing hitting off a tee as hitting coach Kevin Long watched. It was Mark Teixeira! . After he hit, he came to the side of the fence and signed autographs for more than 20 people. He was very nice and down to earth. I felt so lucky to get an autograph from someone who is known to not sign often. It really was pure luck and being at the right place at the right time. Once we got into the game, we watched Derek Jeter warm up. It was very neat to see Derek Jeter play side-by-side with Miguel Cabrera, who we consider the best player in present baseball right now. The Yankees won the game on a walk-off balk!

The next game against the Rays was packed. Since Steinbrenner Field is located in Tampa, the whole game was sold out with half the fans being Rays fans and the other half Yankees fans. This time we were prepared with several clean balls to sign, fresh ball-point pens, and plastic bags to preserve the signed balls. After they warmed up, some of the team signed stuff, but not Mr. Jeter. I got the autographs of relief pitchers Shawn Kelly and Adam Warren. The game ended tied in the 10th inning. There is not a bad seat in Steinbrenner Field which is just as beautiful as Yankee Stadium. I will definitely be returning to Tampa next year for Spring Training.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man


In my previous blog I decided to focus on Derek Jeter’s hitting and base-running statistics. I created Table 1 below which I called the Sum of Ranks Table. This table compared Derek Jeter to the 22 Hall of Fame shortstops who played at least 1500 games. The statistics I chose are the regular season career statistics of batting average (AVG), on-base percentage (OBP), slugging percentage (SLG), on-base plus slugging (OPS), number of hits (Hits), number of home-runs (HR), number of runs-batted-in (RBI), number of runs scored (Runs), and number of stolen bases (SB). Each player received a rank of 1 to 23 (1 being the highest and 23 being the lowest) for each statistic. The ranks of the 9 statistics were then summed for each player (the best possible sum would be 9*1 = 9 and the worst possible sum would be 9*23 = 207. Table 1 below has two columns; the column called SR is the sum of the ranks for the player and the column called FR is the player’s final rank.

A reader of this blog sent me an email asking the question: How would Bill James rank Derek Jeter against all Hall of Fame shortstops? For those of you unfamiliar with the name Bill James, his baseball formulas form the underpinnings for the book “Moneyball”. One method of answering this question is to apply Bill James’s Hall of Fame Standard Test to Jeter and the 22 Hall of Fame shortstops.Table 2 below ranks these 23 players using Bill James’s Hall of Fame Standard (HOF STD) Test. James’s HOF STD Test awards points based on certain batting and base-running statistics. Some examples of how points are awarded are: a player is awarded one point for each 150 hits above 1500, a player is awarded one point for each 100 stolen bases, and a player is awarded one point for each 200 home runs. You can read the complete list of how points are awarded in my book “Sandlot Stats” on pages 261-262. For the HOF STD Test the higher a player scores the higher his ranking. In Table 2 the column called HOF STD gives a player’s total points and the column called FR gives his final rank.

Some of my observations in comparing these two tables are:

  • Both tables rank Wagner one and Jeter two.
  • The same 8 players fill ranks 3-10 in both tables but not in the same order.
  • In Table 1 the difference between Rank 3 and Rank 10 is only 13 points; in Table 2 the difference between Rank 3 and Rank 10 is only 12 points.
  • In Table 1 the difference between Jeter’s Rank and Rank 3 is 29 points; In Table 2 the difference between Jeter’s Rank and Rank 3 is 9 points.

Side by Side Comparision of Two Evalualtions of Derek Jeter

 

Both tables show that Honus Wagner is clearly number 1 and Derek Jeter is clearly number 2. This is evidence that when people discuss the greatness of Jeter they need not preface it by emphasizing his intangibles. Derek Jeter’s statistics alone say that he probably is the second greatest offensive shortstop of all-time. One may argue that my study is too limited since I only included Hall of Fame shortstops. I would welcome anybody to compare Jeter to all shortstops that played in at least 1500 games. To be considered a shortstop that player should have played a majority of his games at shortstop. Of course this would disqualify such players as Alex Rodriguez, who after returning from his suspension will eventually play more games at DH and third base than at shortstop.


 


 
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