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Buster Olney doesn’t think Vizquel, Tejada, Nomar were shortstops

Feb 24, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

Buster Olney

Let the record show that I gave fair warning: I thought Buster Olney might adjust his lists from Monday’s ESPN Insider column after being presented with the glaring omissions. Alas, I was ignored.

The bulk of Olney’s column today was designed to point out how totally not overrated Derek Jeter is. He dives into the numbers to do this or, rather, had someone else dive into the numbers for him. That someone was Justin Havens of ESPN Stats & Information. And what we’re left with was these two lists, which are being presented as data for shortstops from 1995-2013.

Defensive WAR

1. Jack Wilson (20.7)
2. Rafael Furcal (14.3)
3. Jimmy Rollins (12.9)
4. Mike Bordick (12.8)
5. J.J. Hardy (12.5)
6. Troy Tulowitzki (11.9)
7. Royce Clayton (11.6)
8. Alex Gonzalez (10.4)
9. Rey Ordonez (10.1)

Derek Jeter — dead last at minus-9.2.

But when you weigh how good he was offensively … well, the scales are tipped pretty heavily in his direction in the 19 years he has played:

WAR among shortstops with at least 3,000 plate appearances in that time

1. Derek Jeter 71.5
2. Jimmy Rollins 42.0
3. Rafael Furcal 39.1
4. Jose Reyes 33.2
5. Troy Tulowitzki 32.3

Notice anyone missing? If you’re like me, you noticed several. Obviously, Alex Rodriguez isn’t there, even though he’s still played more games at shortstop than at third base. But that’s understandable; considering his time at DH, he’s now made just a tad less than 50 percent of his career appearances at shortstop.

But Omar Vizquel? Miguel Tejada? Nomar Garciaparra? All three of those guys should be on the bottom list. They would be there even if you just counted their time at shortstop and left out their appearances elsewhere. Of course, so would Rodriguez, using that standard (he totaled 63.7 WAR from 1995-2003 alone). But Olney’s list here isn’t using that standard; Jeter’s mark of 71.5 WAR above includes his time at DH.

(I love the plate appearances disclaimer, too, because if the Mike Trout of shortstops had managed to amass 40 WAR in 2,500 plate appearance, well, that’d just be a fluke, right?)

And the defense list? Vizquel accumulated 17.3 WAR on defense on defense after 1995 (28.4 in his career). Adam Everett was at 15.7. Clint Barmes 16.0 (WAR totals are from Baseball-reference, since that’s obviously the list Olney was using even if it wasn’t credited in the column). All kinds of guys are missing from that list. Apparently, those appearances they made at second base or third disqualified them.

Still, there are no disclaimers here from Olney. Nothing at all that explains why Vizquel, Tejada and Garciaparra weren’t included when no one would argue that they weren’t shortstops. And the whole point was to compare Jeter to other shortstops, even though I don’t see anyone actively trying to make a case for any of those guys over Jeter. Olney goes on to write this:

Jeter has almost 1,000 more hits in this timeframe than any other shortstop (Edgar Renteria, who began his career at just about the same time as Jeter, finished with 2,327 hits). Jeter has more than 600 more runs than any other shortstop in his era (Rollins is second, with 1,247). Alex Rodriguez has the most home runs for shortstops in this time, with 344; Jeter is second, with 256, and Jeter has 57 more homers than the rest of the field (Rollins, 199).

Now, this is just flat-out wrong. And it’s amazing that Olney, even though he was willing to blindly publish Havens’ lists, could write this paragraph without even thinking of Tejada et al. Tejada, not Jeter, has the second most homers of any shortstop during this era (291 of his 307 homers came as a shortstop). Olney is also cheating on his numbers. It makes only a small difference, but notice how he merely counts A-Rod’s homers as a shortstop here yet doesn’t subtract Jeter’s home runs (five) and runs scored (40) from his 58 games as a DH from his totals.

I’m sure most of this was just sloppiness and that Olney didn’t intentionally leave these guys out with the idea of improving Jeter’s case. But since he apparently isn’t interested in fixing it, I’d say he deserves to take a little heat.

  1. spudchukar - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:12 PM

    Nomar and Tejada I could overlook, but not Vizquel.

    • dan1111 - Feb 25, 2014 at 2:05 AM

      Why? All three had very similar careers in terms of value, though they provided it in different ways. And all three spent the vast majority of their time at short.

      • spudchukar - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:33 AM

        Vizquel is a legitimate HOF candidate, neither Garciaparra or Tejada should ever be considered.

      • drewsylvania - Feb 25, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        You made me spudchuk all over my keyboard.

      • bolweevils2 - Feb 25, 2014 at 1:52 PM

        OK Spud, I’ll bite. Why is Vizquel a legit HOF candidate and not the other two?

    • bigmeechy74 - Feb 25, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      Vizquel is the worst one out of the 3

  2. larrymahnken - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    If you only take A-Rod’s years from 1994-2003, he’s 61.5 oWAR and 8.8 dWAR. But it’s only in 1400 fewer games.

  3. themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:21 PM

    Goodness me. And people give these bloggers lip for their posts? Olney’s a journalist!

    • senioreditor2 - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:56 PM

      He’s hardly a journalist.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 24, 2014 at 7:02 PM

        Huh. Good one. There is this wikipedia entry –

        “Robert Stanbury “Buster” Olney III (born February 17, 1964) is an American columnist for ESPN…Olney is one of about 575 voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame.”

        Sadly, it looks like he is a journalist and, until he’s un-accredited as such, he’ll just have to put up with being caned for his lousy work in this publication.

      • asimonetti88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 7:10 PM

        On a completely unrelated side note, NOT BUSTER OLNEY is an entertaining follow on Twitter.

    • paperlions - Feb 25, 2014 at 7:39 AM

      Well, yeah. He’s a journalist/reporter. He knows a lot of people in the game and he obviously loves baseball….but he’s never been good at constructing an argument based on data. His approach is similar to most narrative-driven approaches instead of question-driven approaches in the media. I guarantee he set out to prove that Jeter is not overrated and asked for data to show it, including parameters that would exclude players that provided a lot of value at SS but also played other positions and excluding portions of players careers that did not overlap with Jeter’s, which is not a suitable data set to make one’s point. That is the approach of a journalist, whereas an analyst would have simply sought to answer the question “How does Jeter compare to other SS of this era?”, assimilated the necessary CAREER data for all relevant players, and made the comparison.

      Yes, both approaches have narratives, but one uses the data to craft the narrative, the other assumes the narrative and cherry picks data to prove a point regardless of the facts.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 25, 2014 at 8:27 AM

        Well said. I do not know this guy well, so it nice to know who he is and what he’s up to.

      • forsch31 - Feb 25, 2014 at 12:43 PM

        Olney *was* a journalist/reporter. He’s been mostly a columnist and analyst since 2001, and that’s a different animal. Columnists never have had a good track record with facts, especially since (a) they’re writing their opinion and (b) when they use facts, they tend to use the ones that support their arguments, just like everybody else.

        And yes, bloggers are essentially columnists without a newspaper host. That’s the problem with the new media; it’s mostly soapboxing with very little actual beat reporting. It’s the difference between what Derrick Goold does and what Joe Strauss does (and why Strauss is doing what he does now).

      • paperlions - Feb 25, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        That’s fair…I guess I still think of him as “reporterish” because he does have a lot of contacts in the game and he often solicits opinions on things that are happening that he writes about….but yeah, they are opinion columns, not reports, sadly, he seems to try to justify his opinion rather that see if his opinion is justified and adjust accordingly…which, believe it or not, some people do.

  4. mikhelb - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:27 PM

    oooh Pouliot you’re a prime example of the state of this generation of sports ‘journalism’, writing columns about those who write columns instead of doing field work. At times it seems a lot of cry-babies like you are constantly searching the web for articles where somethibg ‘good’ is said about Jeter or any other Yankee to constantly throw feces at those columnists.

    I like so many others, am inclined towards SABRMetrics because well, I’ve worked with stats for over 20 years now and unlike other I do recognize that fielding metrics are far from perfect and at most they need to be taken as a vague idea and not what actually seem to show. Until we get our hands on FieldFX that is… ‘ooh but current fielding metrics relies in people watching games’ … so? millions upon millions watch games and have divergent points of view but are not taken into account because human perception tends to be flawed.

    So… take a deep breath, pick up a book of ‘stats for beginneers’ and learn what is it that makes fiemding metrics unreliable. ‘Til then: tatá.

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:47 PM

      Tuck it back in your trousers, my son. You’re peeing on the wrong fence. The fault here is Olney’s. He’s published an article with incorrect an inconsistent information. It matters not one bit that it is about Derek Jeter. It matters only that the data presented is incomplete, the numbers cited and their relationship to actual known history are wrong, and the overall conclusion is based on these pillars of mis-information.

      It is Buster Olney you should be upset with.

    • Tim OShenko - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:54 PM

      Um, I’m not sure you actually read this post. Pouliot only makes mention of defensive WAR, to show how Olney’s list excluded quite a few high-ranking shortstops. Also, he certainly did not say anything to take down Jeter (unless mentioning Tejada’s greater home run totals counts as a slam).

      Reread the post, carefully this time. The whole point is that Olney (or the person doing his “field work” for him) failed to include many prominent shortstops of the Jeter era, in an article meant to compare shortstops of the Jeter era. Seems like the kind of glaring oversight that should be called out.

    • Sign Ahead - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:54 PM

      Playground taunts? Check.
      Ironic quotation marks? Check.
      Unverifiable claims of expertise? Check
      Hints of a vast anti-Jeter conspiracy? Check.
      Unfortunate typos? Check.
      Faux-playful sign-off? Check

      Forget spring training. That’s some mid-season trolling right there. Your spot on the roster is secure.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:38 PM

      I like so many others, am inclined towards SABRMetrics because well, I’ve worked with stats for over 20 years now and unlike other I do recognize that fielding metrics are far from perfect and at most they need to be taken as a vague idea and not what actually seem to show. Until we get our hands on FieldFX that is… ‘ooh but current fielding metrics relies in people watching games’ … so? millions upon millions watch games and have divergent points of view but are not taken into account because human perception tends to be flawed.

      We’re never going to get field f/x data. It was a programming error that lead us to getting pitch f/x, and they decided not to change it to keep the information public. Millions of people may watch the games, but that doesn’t mean they know what to look for. There’s an enormous difference between Joe Casual Fan and a stringer for gameday.

  5. barrybondsisthealltimehomerunking - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    That’s interesting, because the last 6 years I don’t really consider Jeter a SS either.

    • tuberippin - Feb 25, 2014 at 2:28 AM

      “Soft grounder between third and shortstop… past the diving Jeter!”

  6. scatterbrian - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:47 PM

    The plate appearance disclaimer is also unnecessary because WAR is essentially a counting stat.

  7. conjecture101 - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    Rey Ordonez not being #1 on the first list proves defensive metrics are meaningless.

    • drewsylvania - Feb 25, 2014 at 12:32 PM


  8. tfbuckfutter - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:54 PM

    It’s not a true defense of Jeter and his defensive prowess unless you count the time he went into the stands against the Red Sox to catch a foul ball, and the playoff game where he made a PICTURE-PERFECT relay throw to get Jeremy Giambi at home plate.

    Those two instances were worth more defensive wins than anything this Nomar Vizqeda quy you’re talking about could ever mustard.

  9. eagles512 - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    What an embarrassment. He’s become a joke of a writer.

  10. detectivejimmymcnulty - Feb 24, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    I had insider but canceled it after the one year was up. By the way, any of you that do have it call and say you want to cancel if you’re close to the renewal date and they’ll give you a discount to stay. Those who don’t have it you can find anything that’s insider related on websites like this.

  11. deadeyedesign23 - Feb 24, 2014 at 7:34 PM

    How about we talk about how stupid it is to use the timeframe for the data as “Jeter’s career” which would exclude statistics from other shortstops of the same era who began playing slightly before or after him. So in essence you get to cut out 60% of Cal Ripken’s career because the only time baseball ever mattered are the years Jeter played.

    • tfbuckfutter - Feb 24, 2014 at 7:55 PM

      For comparison I don’t have a problem with it.

      If Cal was still good enough during Jeter’s career, for however long they overlapped, he would qualify (although that particular comparison is kind of silly because Ripken’s last year as a SS was Jeter’s rookie year….so it’s cutting out 93% of his career as a shortstop)….

      I don’t actually see how else you would compare the eras. I get your point, but I think it’s better to disqualify Cal’s pre-Jeter-era career than to suggest that competition in the late 90s-now is directly comparable to the competition from the early-80s to the mid-90s.

      Ozzie Smith played his last season in 1996. Should he have been counted too?

      • tfbuckfutter - Feb 24, 2014 at 7:57 PM

        Although, for the record, Ozzie Smith’s dWAR of 0.6 in 1996 does rank considerably better than Jeter’s total career dWAR of -9.2

      • tfbuckfutter - Feb 24, 2014 at 7:59 PM

        Oh….and Ripken’s 1.4 dWAR in 1996 alone was also worth more than Jeter’s entire career as a fielder.

      • Kevin S. - Feb 24, 2014 at 9:28 PM

        I like sticking a five-year buffer on either side of a guy’s career. It’s not scientific, but it eliminates cherry-picking and cuts down on players from different eras who barely overlapped.

      • tfbuckfutter - Feb 24, 2014 at 9:31 PM

        I agree that is a somewhat better method.

        Also, I am really basking in the realization that technically I’m a more valuable defensive shortstop than Derek Jeter.

      • paperlions - Feb 25, 2014 at 7:43 AM

        The better approach is to use Jeter’s career as the basis to select players whose career’s overlapped substantially with his, then use the CAREER data for those players. If you are doing a career comparison, you MUST use the career data for all of the players….even if those players played more that SS because defensive value is already adjusted for position.

  12. happytwinsfan - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:21 PM

    although alex rodrigeuz is between pol pot and adolph hitler as the worst human being ever, it is not understandable to put him aside in the discussion as to who was the best shortstop of this era. bear in mind that had he been purchased by anyone other then the yankees he would have stayed at shortstop at least another 6 or 8 years. by every measure i know of he was either the best shortstop ever or the best since honus wagner. alex rodriguez, barry bonds and ken griffey jr were the ty cobb, honus wagner, babe ruth, or ted williams, joe dimaggio, bob feller, or the willie mays, mickey mantle, hank aaron of our time. we should appreciate that even if some of them were pretty grunchy as human beings.

  13. nolasoxfan2012 - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:47 PM

    Oh, if only Nomar’s body hadn’t completely fallen apart. From 1997-2003 (while missing virtually all of the 2001 season), he put up 41 WAR to Jeter’s 37.3.

  14. musketmaniac - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    jumping Jack Wilson no.1. I remember when he hit around .280 one year. he looked like a dominant player that year

  15. Bob - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    I’ve called Olney “Mr. Yankee” for years because about every other post is related to the Yankees, past or present. The way he covers them, it’s as if he’s a fan. And no way a fanboy is gonna let anyone tear down his precious Jeter.

  16. dinofrank60 - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    This is the fallout you get from the advanced metrics explosion.

    People who don’t know what they’re talking about run their mouths about it. Trying to sound like they know what they’re talking about.

  17. j2m1958 - Feb 25, 2014 at 7:28 AM

    Let’s get honest about wins above replacement, for most of the guys on both lists it is obvious their WAR was not high enough, because they haven’t won a thing. Way to play .500 ball.

  18. louhudson23 - Feb 25, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    Oh,,,wow,,,I stumbled onto an Excel circle jerk….so who wins…last or first??

  19. pachucocadaver - Feb 25, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    I don’t care about the numbers, if you watched baseball in the ’90s and early ’00s you had Ripken, Visquel, Nomar, and Alex, in the American League; any one of them would have been considered better shortstops than Jeter was and is. Jeter was fortunate to be a part of the Yankee teams that were the best in the game at the time. Let’s not forget that he wouldn’t move over so that the best shortstop in the game would play his natural position. Making a case for Jeter to be the “best of all time” based on statistics is absurd. Anyone hear of Honus Wagner? Luis Aparicio? Ozzie Smith? Oh that’s right, we can rig the numbers to make a persuasive case for anything in baseball to fit our argument.

    • loungefly74 - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      Jeter was a hackuva SS. anf yeah, he benefitted playing/leading some great Yankee teams. He deserves the recognition.

      but i really agree with “we can rig the numbers to make a persuasive case for anything in baseball to fit our argument.” bam! thank you.

    • Luis Torres - Feb 26, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      I think you made a lot of good points pachucocadaver. One thing to keep in mind is that while you can rig the numbers to make any point you want, it’s always possible to prove that somebody did that. That’s beauty of facts. They can be proven or disproven.

      I’m reminded of a few months ago when MLB network cherry picked a few stats to show that Brandon Phillips is just as good as Joe Morgan was. It was shamefully dishonest and deceitful. If you were, to say, compare their respective Baseball Reference pages you would see that Morgan was far, far superior to Phillips.

  20. dexterismyhero - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    I vote Bobby Wine!!!!

  21. nomoreliesfortoday - Feb 25, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    I’m so bored with the Jeter is over-rated nonsense.

  22. Luis Torres - Feb 26, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    I was kind of surprised at Buster when I read his piece. IMHO he’s one of the best non-analytical writers. The thing with non-analytical writers, whether your want to classify them as journalists or reporters or whatever, is that they don’t know how to make an argument. They draw a conclusion before consulting the facts, and cherry pick those facts that support their argument. They’re not even above flat out lying to prove their point, as Pouliot just illustrated. Their approach to analysis would flunk them out of a basic research methodology class.

    You’re supposed to be objective, see what the facts say, and draw a conclusion based on that. The vast majority of the BBWAA prefers to maintain their perceptions and describe baseball the way they want it to be, as opposed to the way it is. Confront one of them with a logical, fact-based driven argument to counter them, and they either ignore you, or counter with childish, ad hominem attacks. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except that these are the people who vote on awards and the Hall of Fame. That made sense once upon a time. Now with Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and really the internet in general, we have access to a wealth of baseball information. This allows Joe Shmoe to be able to analyze baseball far better than any journalist who thinks his insider access makes his stuff superior.

    Anybody can come up with a narrative. Anybody can come up with vague, undefined statements that are neither verfiable nor falsifiable. These things don’t require any talent or intelligence whatsoever. It’s frustrating that the BBWAA is made up of these types of people, people who either can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction, or worse yet, don’t care to. There are also far too many fans who just eat it all up, and they can be just as bad as the BBWAA. Confirmation bias sucks.

    I recently started a baseball blog, and part of it is to make fun of articles like the one Olney wrote. (But not this exact one. Pouliot did a fine job of that himself.)

  23. deepstblu - Feb 27, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    Not a Yankee fan.
    Derek Jeter? Hall of Famer.
    There can be no doubt.

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