Derek Jeter enjoying a funny moment while working on his...

Derek Jeter enjoying a funny moment while working on his fielding skills. (Feb. 22, 2012) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Best defense

John Dewan is well-known in baseball circles as a defense statistical guru. The president of Baseball Info Solutions, which services about half of the 30 major-league teams, Dewan relies on a constantly improving system of video analysis to produce his defensive ratings and projections.

You can't go wrong in the open market discussing Derek Jeter's defense, and Dewan's latest book, "The Fielding Bible Volume III" -- co-written with Ben Jedlovec -- features an essay titled "Jeter vs. Ryan." This argues that Seattle's Brendan Ryan was the best shortstop in baseball last year and Jeter was the worst.

The news isn't all bad for Jeter, however. Dewan projects that Jeter, who'll turn 38 in June, will enjoy a defensive improvement this season. Based on a calculation incorporating Jeter's defensive numbers from the previous three seasons and his projected playing time for 2012, the same system used for everyone, Dewan projects Jeter to cost the Yankees six runs with his defense. That's considerably better than last year's minus-15 rating.

Jeter's range hurts his standing in these ratings, but it isn't only his range. Dewan said in a recent interview: "[Jeter] has a good arm. It's not major-league shortstop-caliber. That jump throw that he makes, it looks great. And when he makes the play, it's fantastic. But that compensates for his arm. He's able to release the ball a little quicker, but not doing what other shortstops will do, which is plant and throw and gun.

"The ball actually gets to the base faster when you plant and throw and gun. [Jeter] doesn't have the arm to do that. I don't know if he ever did.''

The Mets, Dewan added, attained "addition by subtraction" on the defensive side by losing Jose Reyes to Miami. Reyes cost the Mets 13 runs with his glove last year; replacement Ruben Tejada is projected to be responsible for only one run against the Mets' ledger.

The best defensive player in New York? That's easy. Yankees leftfielder Brett Gardner saved 23 runs last year. Given that 10 runs equals a win or loss, depending on which side of the ledger, that means Gardner helped the Yankees win two-plus games before he even picked up his bat.

Point of no return

Bobby Valentine is managing the Red Sox after nine years away from the major leagues. Davey Johnson, under whom Valentine coached for the 1984 and '85 Mets, is managing the Nationals, taking over last June after a 10½-year respite.

So when I had the occasion to speak with Tom Kelly last week, I felt compelled to ask the former Twins manager if he'd like to come back.

"I've had some opportunities, but I'm not interested," said Kelly, who stepped down after the 2001 season, finishing a run of 16½ years. "I had grown tired of the travel, and I like what I do now."

What he does now is serve as a jack-of-all-trades for the Twins. He scouts, he teaches, and in spring training, he serves as a valued set of eyes and ears at Minnesota's camp in Fort Myers.

Keep an eye on Kelly, though, if only because, at 61, he's pretty young for a longtime retiree. And because enough teams are open to bringing aboard a manager who has been out of commission for a while.

Special event

On May 19 at Manhattan's Central Park, the Long Island Bombers will take on a team from WFAN in a game of beep baseball, a version of baseball tailored to players with vision disabilities. The Bombers are a team of blind and visually impaired players.

The event is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Sapolin, the disabilities commissioner for New York City who died in November at 41. I had the privilege of knowing Matt, a great guy.

People interested in getting more information about the game can contact Matthew Puvogel at 516-398-5445 or 212-788-8948.

Pop quiz

According to the 1989 film "Back to the Future Part II," which team wins the 2015 World Series?


Three more impactful spring training injuries

1. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals. Could miss months with nerve irritation.

2. Joba Chamberlain, Yankees. His serious right ankle injury could sideline him for the entire season and beyond.

3. Joakim Soria, Royals. Tommy John surgery means we'll see him in 2013.

Three top remaining free agents

1. Roy Oswalt. He's setting himself up for a nice half-season payday.

2. Johnny Damon. Amazing he's unemployed, given how much he helped Tampa Bay last year.

3. Vladimir Guerrero. He's reportedly considering an offer from Japan.

Quote of the week

"Now I can smile again."

-- Fred Wilpon, Mets principal owner, after settling his lawsuit by Madoff trustee Irving Picard.

Pop quiz answer

The Cubs. Thanks to Newsday's Norm Cohen for the suggestion.

From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book. Credit: Newsday Staff

Elisa DiStefano kick-starts summer with the Fun Book show From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book.


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