Errors beget errors, and so Alexei was robbed

Alexei Ramirez unfairly lost out on the Gold Glove to Derek Jeter, but at least it provides a valuable lesson in the meaning of errors.

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
Alexei Ramirez 10.8 20 15 Jeter 6 0.989 Ramirez 768
Cliff Pennington 9.9 10 8 Izturis 9 0.985 Pennington 739
Cesar Izturis 5.1 2 2 Andrus 16 0.977 Andrus 659
Elvis Andrus 0.1 1 1 Ramirez 20 0.974 Izturis 603
Derek Jeter -4.7 -17 -13 Pennington 25 0.966 Jeter 553

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.
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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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sars

great piece. also, a great tweet from joe pawlikowski today which echoes something i tried to explain early on in the year; theoretically mo vaughn could lead the league in fielding percentage, playing shortstop. the statistic holds so little value over an entire season.
soxfan1…any thoughts? 🙂

joist

The Gold Gloves are so incredibly irrelevant to me at this point (though I’m still proud of Buehrle, he earned his on Opening Day) that my brother texted me that Jeter won another one and I didn’t even bat an eye. Nor did I make the association that Alexei should have won instead, because I already intuitively knew that he was the best defensive SS in the AL this year by most metrics.
On a related note, the Sox, and specifically Ozzie, deserve a ton of credit for sticking with him at SS, despite idiots like me calling for Beckham to replace him. Alexei was so much fun to watch this year. Imagine how much we would love him if his OBP could crack .280 before June.
Also, Dick Stockton is remarkably old.

mike

Great article once again, Jim. Alexei being snubbed solely based on his error total is sickening. If Jeter also wins the Silver Slugger, then I’m taking my disgust to the streets of Chicago and initiating a riot. And by streets of Chicago, I clearly mean Twitter.

fustercluck

Congratulations to Jeter, and by extension Yankees fans, on another laughingstock of a Gold Glove award. We White Sox fans will have to console ourselves by enjoying the best shortstop in the American League.

gnix

Though it sucks Alexei didn’t win the award, if I had to pick another player in the league who I’d want to win it, it would be Jeter.
The longer the Yankees trot him out at shortstop, the bigger a competitive disadvantage he is. The Yankees don’t have many of those, and even when they do (Burnett/Vazquez) they can usually just spend their way out of the hole. With Jeter, they don’t have that luxury because he’s a Yankee legend and 5-time Gold Glove winner, so he’ll most likely be their SS until he retires.

ricksch

You’d think the Gold Gloves would have some merit as the so-called experts get to vote on them. Instead, the seem to have as much legitimacy as the fan-voted All-Star game.
I don’t get Konerko to the D-backs. Whey the hell would he want to play for a team going nowhere? Also, much is made of the fact that his family lives there. Well, who the hell wants to remain in the Phoenix area over the summer? It’s a freakin’ furnace. Half the city empties out over the summer. Konerko has enough money to keep two residences and to rent his kids a clown or a magician every day if they need friends.

dalton

John Wayne Gacy, anyone?

ricksch

I say “clown” and you guys immediately think serial killer. I realize clowns can be pretty damn creepy, but not all of them are sick, relentless murderers.
Though if you had to do that job, how long would it take to lose your mind?

brent

Nice article, but you forgot two extremely important stats where Alexi just doesn’t match up:
Sleeping with Jessica Alba: Jeter (1); Ramirez (0)
Sleeping with Jessica Biel: Jeter (1); Ramirez (0)

knoxfire30

mariah carey, Jeter 1 Ramirez 0

sars

gross, man. mariah carey, jeter -1, ramirez 0

tdogg

Safe to assume Alexei loses (as do most guys) in a landslide here.

knoxfire30

I scratch my head that so many people out there could be so stupid and blind to the facts, but they never cease to amaze me.
This crap is absolutely ridiculous. Im in shock MB won his 2nd they must have made a mistake they picked the best fielder at his position.

sars

after jeter…all the other picks are kind of perfect…

tdogg

2ndbase is not perfect.

sars

you’re right, though no nearly as egregious as jeter over alexei.

winningugly

Jim, these are fantastic replays of Che. However, how could you possibly capture the intangible defense that Derek. Jeter. Himself. provides on and off the field?
Above metrics. Above Us. Certainly above Other Shortstops Not Playing On The East Coast And Not With 5 World Series Rings.

joist

Haha, Jim, that is a great find. If it were anybody other than Jeter’s agent I would just assume he was being ironic.

splitfingeredpujols

Newbie here (although I’ve read this blog for years) and I have a question…. are the alexei/che guevara t-shirts still available?