By all reasonable explanation, Alexei Ramirez should have won the American League Gold Glove at shortstop instead of Derek Jeter. The center column provides the only non-reputation-related reason why Jeter won his fifth Gold Glove, and the surrounding columns sandwich those numbers into irrelevance.
|UZR||+/-||Runs saved||Errors||Fielding %||Total chances|
We could wail and gnash teeth about this outcome, but I’d rather see it serve an example as we wage battle against errors as a decisive, comparative stat.
I don’t think errors are useless. When Wilson Betemit committed four errors in eight chances at third base in 2009, it was simple, direct and effective to say, “He botched every other play that came his way.” Errors also tell the story of a game, like when Andy Gonzalez made three errant throws in one inning against the Rangers in 2007. Even if there are inconsistencies in the way they’re applied, they help tell a story.
But the error may be the one stat that becomes less useful as the scope grows. If somebody asked you, “Derek Jeter committed six errors in 2010, and Alexei Ramirez committed 20. Which one would you rather have on your team?” Well, the only answer you could form from knowing just that fact is the absolute wrong one.
Plain and simple, Ramirez made waaaaaaaaaaaaay more plays — and because of the error stat (and, going a step further, fielding percentage), he effectively gets punished for having more chances to make errors.
If you looked at plays a shortstop couldn’t make — and not just the ones he didn’t make — Ramirez would still have 20-30 errors. But Jeter would have at least 50-60 of them, and that’s being kind considering Ramirez made 200 more plays over the course of the season. Jeter failed to turn scores of balls into outs, too — he just couldn’t even get a glove on the vast majority of them.
I’m mostly preaching to the choir here, but it’s important to apply this lesson to White Sox decisions. Ramirez was a lesser shortstop in 2009 — less aggressive turning two, and made more mental errors — and led many to wonder why he was playing short instead of Gordon Beckham.
Well, the Sox overlooked the errors, and paid attention to his range. He made more plays than the average shortstop to make the lapses forgivable, and their faith in Ramirez’s potential was fulfilled when he developed into an elite defender.
Maybe they also learned from the way they overreacted to Jose Valentin’s errors after the 2000 season. He made 36 of them, which any baseball fan would agree is a crapload. But he also made a ton of plays the average shortstop couldn’t make, and when you added his 25-homer bat to the mix, he had a rare set of talents for the position that made up for his one flaw.
Jerry Manuel did not feel comfortable with Valentin, and so the Sox moved him to third after the season. And it might have been the right decision if they had a guy like Beckham ready to replace him — an average-at-best fielder with a great bat for the position.
Instead, they brought in Royce “The Choice” Clayton to fix the error problem. Mission accomplished in that respect — he made only seven of them in 133 games in 2001. But he also got to far fewer grounders than Valentin, and on top of that, he carried a sweet .115 batting average into June. The Sox lost 3 WAR on the transition overall.
The history lesson doesn’t do Ramirez a whole lot of good in the present, unfortunately. There’s nothing he could have done. He out-fielded Jeter, he out-hit Jeter, and he even made more picturesque plays (he finished fifth on the Web Gems leaderboard).
He’s just not Jeter, and for that, we can be thankful. The voters may not learn anything from the results, but at least we can try.
Here are a dozen of my favorite Alexei Ramirez plays from 2010, from the most recent working backwards (click on date for video):
Sept. 27: Ramirez rounds off a ball well to his right and throws out Bill Hall at first.
Aug. 29: Ramirez ranges to his left, dives, flips to second with his glove and starts a 6-4-3 double play.
Aug. 24: Ramirez makes a lightning-quick transfer to throw out Luke Scott on a soaring chopper.
Aug. 15: Ramirez makes an over-the-shoulder catch so brilliant that Steve Stone, flying solo in the booth, assumed he didn’t make it.
July 28: Ramirez ranges deep in the hole to get a Justin Smoak grounder, then whips it across the diamond for the out. Nice job by Hawk Harrelson building the moment with “Watch this, watch this…”
July 22: Ramirez barehands a ball that ricocheted off Gavin Floyd’s leg and throws out Ichiro at first.
July 20: Ramirez impresses Omar Vizquel by having to retreat even deeper for this Jose Lopez grounder. It was an even more difficult rendition of a play he made the day before. Big smiles all around.
June 22: Ramirez knocks down a roped one-hopper from his knees to start a double play.
June 19: Ramirez makes an awesome diving catch on a Roger Bernadina liner.
May 2: Ramirez picks a bullet off the bat of Nick Johnson and starts a 6-4-3.
April 17: Ramirez makes a diving catch on an Asdrubal Cabrera liner up the middle. In the words of Dick Stockton, “Buwuaaaah!”
April 7: Ramirez gets behind the bag to make a leaping grab on a well-struck Travis Hafner liner.
Arizona Fall League:
- Peoria Saguaros 6, Peoria Javelinas 4
- Eduardo Escobar and Jared Mitchell both singled and struck out three times.
- Charles Leesman continued the theme by striking out the side and allowing a single in his scoreless inning of work.
- Anthony Carter ruined it. He only struck out two while allowing a single to close out the game.