But there's something else weird going on with Jeter's defensive numbers. If you look at rWAR's defensive component, Jeter never rates that well, but you can really break his career into three chunks:
- As a young player (through age 24) he's about a -4 per year defender, including a -14 rookie season
- In a five year stretch which should be his prime, he was about a -15 per year fielder from age 25 to 29
- From age 30 and up, he's averaged about a -5
It seems odd to think that he'd be a bit below average when he's still learning, then awful starting from when his offensive game peaked, and then a bit below average again into his 30's. Note also that while his TZ anti-peak is from 1999 to 2003, by UZR he jumps up to around average in 2002 and 2003. Odd.
Or is it? It's a litle funny that his TZ ratings plummeted at exactly the same time as Knoblock started having his throwing problems, continued through the Soriano years, and then improved after Soriano left. Is it coincidence that his worst defensive years coincided with famously bad defensive second base performances? It seems a stretch.
I can't be certain, but my guess is that there's something to do with how DP's are handled that's problematic within the TZ rating if there's a weak link in the DP chain.
Outside of his anti-prime, he seems to rate a bit below average defensively, with some average seasons surrounding the anti-prime (-3 and 2 in 1997 and 1998, 0.9 to -4 in 2002 to 2004) to suggest he might well have been about average in his prime, if my theory about bad second basemen is correct. Certainly not a valid gold glover, but I'm also not sure if he's the historic defensive liability as the raw numbers suggest.