Derek Jeter's flip play against Oakland in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS is considered one of the greatest plays in baseball history. The underlying notion is that if Jeter had not intercepted the ball and flipped it to Posada, Giambi would have been safe.

Contrary to what I've read on various forums that have discussed the play though, the video shows that the throw from the right-fielder was not off target and the ball had not slowed to a crawl by the time Jeter intervened. I suspect that if Jeter had not intercepted the ball and taken the time to flip it, the ball would have gotten to Posada earlier, Giambi still would have been out, and the play would not have been as close as it was.

Has there ever been any analysis done on this play? I know that ESPN sometimes does a "Sport Science" segment for certain notable plays. I would be interested in knowing the direction and speed of the ball just before Jeter intercepted it, and the speed of the ball after he flipped it.

  • 1
    Not a downvoter, but people may simply be downvoting because you're pretty far off on your assumptions, and you don't provide any real evidence other than "I suspect".
    – Joe
    Feb 1, 2017 at 18:36

1 Answer 1


I think you are making faulty assumptions here, to the point that it's not likely someone would've done such an analysis for the reason you state. Without the flip, that ball dies a sad death, well, sad for Yankees fans, anyway.

The ball in the video clearly is slowing significantly - the one hop it takes before the flip only goes maybe 18" up, and anyone who's played baseball knows that the ball isn't going to bounce a lot more after that. It also lost a lot of its horizontal momentum, so it's not a sure thing it ever goes to Posada.

Second, if the ball does make it there, it's going to be in a poor catching location. It will be near the ground, meaning he'll have only the foot to tag without making a significant motion; it will also be on the first base side of the bag, while the runner is obviously on the third base side of the bag, meaning extra distance for Posada to catch it. As it stands, the flip from Jeter was nearly perfectly placed to make an ideal tag - Posada's motion was into the runner and more importantly into the leg, not the foot.

  • The ball had bounced on the dirt, not on the grass, so I don't think it would have lost that much speed. Also, Shane Spencer was several feet in foul territory when he threw the ball, and the ball was angling towards the third base side since it was traveling along the first base path. An overhead camera angle, if available, would also be helpful. Feb 1, 2017 at 18:45
  • It wasn't going to be on the 3rd base side because it was starting in right field, so it was on the first base side of the plate. It would have had to pass through Giambi to get to the third base side. Unless it was going far faster than it was, it wasn't going to get to Posada before some part of Giambi got in its path.
    – Joe
    Feb 1, 2017 at 19:16
  • And I think you're just not being realistic here. The ball had already lost a ton of speed. I agree it would be nice to see a "sports science" piece on it, but I think it's so far from possible that it's just not something anybody would do.
    – Joe
    Feb 1, 2017 at 19:18

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