Derek Jeter, Offensive Shortstop

As you might have heard, Derek Jeter is set to take his final lap around the major leagues. I have always found Jeter fascinating, for many reasons. Obviously, he was the key defining link – along with Mariano Rivera – among the Yankees’ five World Series champion clubs over the last 20 years. He was the centerpiece of the simultaneously most beloved and hated franchise in the game. If at all possible, Jeter has been, quite paradoxically, one of the most overrated and underrated players in baseball throughout his career. There is no disputing Jeter’s status as one of the greats of his era, and as a certain first-time Hall of Famer, due to one simple fact – he is one of the premier offensive shortstops of all time.

Overrated? Some Jeter aficionados claim that he is one of the top 10 players of all time, and might even belong on a Mount Rushmore of the game’s legends. That is beyond the pale, based on a closer examination of the facts. Many believe that he should be the first guy to earn 100% of the Hall of Fame vote. While I would certainly vote for him on the first try, even with the current crowded ballot, why should he be more worthy of an honor that escaped Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, etc., not to mention the even brighter stars of a more recent vintage who have been tainted with the brush of steroids?

Underrated? There are those who point to his obvious defensive deficiencies and state that he gave back too big of a portion of the offensive value he provided. Just a singles hitter, some say. Amazingly, with the so-called New York media bias that has supposedly favored him, Jeter won exactly zero MVP awards. For all of his on-base prowess, he never won a batting or OBP title.

Today, let’s throw away the perceptions, the narratives, the championships, and for the most part, the defense, and focus on the words “offensive shortstop”. The offensive shortstop has been one of the single most rare and valuable commodities in the game, both today and in the past. Since 1901, there have been 2334 individual player-seasons that can be classified as regular shortstop seasons. Those 2334 seasons resulted in a cumulative slash line of .259-.317-.358, with an average OPS+ of 86.5. Only 605 (25.9%) of those seasons resulted in an OPS+ of 100 or better. Obviously, throughout most of the game’s history, offense has been a secondary consideration for the position – but the player who can both meet the defensive requirements of the position while also adding offensive punch adds massive value.

Only 62 players in the game’s history have been regular shortstops for 10 seasons or more. Only one player, Luis Aparicio with 18 seasons, tops Jeter’s mark of 17 years as a regular shortstop entering 2014. The vast majority of these 62 were well below average offensive players. For each of these shortstops, the number of cumulative standard deviations above or below league average for their seasons as a starting shortstop were measured. Only 14 of these 62 players had a positive combined cumulative total of standard deviations in OBP and SLG for their career. These players appear below:

OBP-SLG OPS+
LAST FIRST SS YRS AGE LAST REL OBP REL SLG SS OPS+ YRS > AVG YRS > AVG
Wagner Honus 15 42 22.93 30.72 151 14 14
Vaughan Arky 11 31 19.55 9.70 136 11 11
Jeter Derek 17 38 18.81 1.75 117 15 15
Cronin Joe 12 34 8.84 6.68 119 11 12
Larkin Barry 15 40 11.06 4.38 116 12 13
Stephens Vern 10 31 2.20 12.28 122 9 9
Appling Luke 16 42 16.44 -4.65 113 12 12
Boudreau Lou 10 31 8.84 3.65 120 8 9
Ripken Cal 15 35 3.18 7.98 118 9 12
Trammell Alan 16 36 7.14 1.53 110 8 8
Tejada Miguel 12 35 -1.37 4.37 112 9 9
Reese Pee Wee 14 37 8.35 -5.62 101 10 9
Yount Robin 11 28 -1.57 3.69 113 6 6
Wallace Bobby 12 38 1.47 -1.41 105 7 8

For each player, the following info is listed, from left to right: number of years as a regular shortstop, the age at which each played his last year as a regular shortstop, each player’s cumulative career total of standard deviations above/below league average in OBP and SLG compiled through his last year as a regular shortstop, his career OPS+ through his last season as a regular shortstop, and his number of seasons with positive combined standard deviations above league average OBP and SLG, and above 100 OPS+, respectively. For purposes of this exercise, only seasons dating back to 1901 were included in the seasonal count columns.

Measuring players’ offensive contributions using standard deviations above/below league average is a somewhat inexact science, but it does afford the ability to split production into its on-base and slugging components. It measures players relative to league average instead of replacement level, which makes it poor at measuring average players, but pretty good at measuring really good ones. In this case, it also successfully shows how high a bar it represents to A) be a regular shortstop for 10 or more years, and B) be a league average or better offensive performer.

Some observations about the list above – Honus Wagner is in a class by himself. This is a guy who just might be included on a Mount Rushmore of the game’s greats, and would have a 100% chance if a second mountain was annexed. Arky Vaughan is a very interesting case. The only lefthanded hitter on the list, he is clearly the second best hitter above on a per at bat basis. His OPS+ of 190 in 1935, with a .385-.491-.607 line, is the only season ever posted by another shortstop that wouldn’t look out of place in Wagner’s prime. After tearing apart the NL as a Pirate in the 1930’s, Vaughan went to Brooklyn, never got along with Leo Durocher, and was basically done as a shortstop at age 31. He then drowned at age 40, and has largely been forgotten. Jeter has Vaughan on longevity, but the latter was clearly a much better offensive player qualitatively.

The rest of the listed shortstops, with the exception of somewhat lesser threats Reese and Wallace – both Hall of Famers – were similarly productive on a per at-bat basis. This is where Jeter’s career bulk sets him apart. Vern Stephens‘ peak period occurred during wartime, and he barely met the 10-season minimum criteria. Robin Yount moved to center field after his age 28 season, and continued the offensive uptick in his game that had only recently begun. Lou Boudreau, like Vaughan and Stephens, hit the wall in his early thirties.

Alan Trammell and Barry Larkin‘s offensive profiles were similar to Jeter’s, but the former was a better than league average offensive performer in only half of his seasons, while the latter’s injury problems kept his counting numbers and number of regular shortstop seasons down. Joe Cronin, qualitatively, was very similar to Jeter, but had a much shorter career. Luke Appling had the career length, but wasn’t quite the equal with the bat of Jeter or most of the others on a per at bat basis.

One argument against Jeter that some will try to make is his lack of a particularly exceptional career peak. Let’s look at these 14 one more time, focusing on their three-year peak period:

LAST FIRST PEAK AGE PEAK YRS REL OBP REL SLG PEAK OPS+
Wagner Honus 33-35 07-09 7.02 10.24 190
Vaughan Arky 22-24 34-36 8.52 5.04 161
Yount Robin 26-28 82-84 3.44 4.25 147
Jeter Derek 24-26 98-00 4.98 2.13 136
Larkin Barry 27-29 91-93 3.90 2.78 133
Ripken Cal 22-24 83-85 2.66 3.92 138
Stephens Vern 22-24 43-45 1.55 4.98 134
Trammell Alan 28-30 86-88 3.08 3.25 138
Boudreau Lou 25-27 43-45 4.10 1.98 138
Appling Luke 28-30 35-37 5.40 0.11 121
Cronin Joe 31-33 38-40 3.03 2.46 128
Tejada Miguel 30-32 04-06 1.81 3.39 128
Reese Pee Wee 28-30 47-49 3.15 -0.18 111
Wallace Bobby 30-32 04-06 1.66 0.83 120

It turns out that Jeter’s peak period actually matches up almost equally as well as does his entire career with this group. Wagner and Vaughan are on another plane, and Yount’s offensive explosion in his last three years as a shortstop also outstrips Jeter, but his peak is as good or better than that of any of the others.

At this point, let’s revisit the term “offensive shortstop”. To be a truly exceptional offensive shortstop, by definition, you have to provide offense, and you have to be able to remain a shortstop. Ernie Banks was an exceptional offensive shortstop – for eight seasons. Then he moved to first base. Alex Rodriguez was an even better offensive shortstop for eight years – and then moved to third base, in deference to Jeter. At the time, many – including myself – thought the Yanks moved the wrong guy to third. In the short term, perhaps they did, but by 2010 at the very latest, it was clear that the Yanks were right.

While Rodriguez was becoming an increasingly stationary, one-dimensional player, Jeter had remained athletic enough to meet the demands of a full-time shortstop position, new-age defensive metrics notwithstanding. He remained a viable shortstop option, and as Jeff Sullivan’s excellent recent article on the topic stated, the worst defensive shortstops still provide value solely by their virtue of playing a very demanding defensive position.

On a per at bat basis, Jeter has provided offensive at a level equal to the second or third best, depending on your feelings about Arky Vaughan, offensive player ever at his position. Who is the second best bat at very other position on the diamond? Inner circle Hall of Famers, that’s who. Even at the other more defensive-oriented positions, your second-best offensive second baseman would likely be Eddie Collins, your second-best offensive catcher might be Gabby Hartnett. In either case, those are clear Hall of Famers, regardless of their respective defensive prowess. This would also seem to help make a clear case for Mike Piazza‘s Hall of Fame candidacy, as a solid argument can be made that he is the very best offensive catcher of all time.

Let’s take away the barrier of defensive position now, and look at Jeter’s standing among all hitters. His combined number of career standard deviations above or below league average in OBP and SLG of 18.81 + 1.75 = 20.56 ranks him 136th of all time, with no adjustment for position. Of the 135 players ahead of him, only two have a lower SLG component – Rickey Henderson and Pete Rose. Henderson is a substantially better offensive player (39.09 + 1.36 = 40.45, #5 OBP component of all time, #36 overall) who provided solid defensive value farther toward the easy side of the defensive spectrum. As an all-around player, Henderson trumps Jeter. Rose (25.71 + 1.41 = 27.12, #77) played a bunch of positions at a league-averageish level, and spread his value over an amazing 23 seasons as a regular.

I would submit that Jeter was a better all-around player than Rose when all factors are taken into consideration. Only 50 players had a higher career OBP component than Jeter’s 18.81, and most of them are clear all-time greats with superior power, though they played “easier” defensive positions than Jeter. There is also a lesser number of players with a lower OBP component than Jeter whose power is so extreme that on an all-around basis they belong ahead of Jeter, regardless of defensive position. Without pitting these players against one other tournament-bracket style, I would estimate that 50 position players would possess more all-around value than Jeter, and wouldn’t you know that he ranks #45 in WAR according to Fangraphs, and #58 according to Baseball Reference.

Derek Jeter is going to the Hall of Fame the second he is eligible, and deservedly so. He doesn’t need the championships to buttress his argument. In fact, one could argue that he was the best player on at most two of those five teams, with the criminally underrated Bernie Williams and Rodriguez his strongest competition. Jeter was great because he established a high level of performance at a very young age at the position farthest to the difficult side of the defensive spectrum, and maintained both that level and that position for a very long time. That is historic stuff. He might not belong on Mount Rushmore, but he is an inner circle Hall of Famer, an all-time great that we were all privileged to watch play. May his last season be a healthy, above average one.




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87 Responses to “Derek Jeter, Offensive Shortstop”

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  1. Remus says:

    Here’s hoping whats-his-face loses his vote before Jeter’s turn to join the Hall of Fame comes, he, among others, deserves to be a 100% first ballot entry.

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    • Fardbart says:

      He does not deserve 100 percent, if those other guys didn’t get it.

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      • Sean C says:

        Oh, two wrongs make a right now?

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          Wait…are you suggesting that two wrongs don’t make a right?!

          Seriously, though, I think Mo should get 100%, but not Jeter. He only deserves 90+.

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        • Fardbart says:

          It’s not a matter of right or wrong. it’s a matter of the criteria for being unanimous being established: nobody has reached that level. And Jeter is certainly not the guy who should be the first.

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        • Kogoruhn says:

          I don’t understand how people can say that someone is “90% deserving” but not 100%. Who should leave him off their ballot? When you see a ballot without Jeter will you think “Well he didn’t deserve 100% so it’s ok”?

          Jeter is an obvious HoF player and I don’t see a way that I would say there are 10+ players more deserving then him on the same ballot so therefore deserves 100%

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        • Bearman says:

          I hope Jeter doesn’t get 100% because that vote could go to another deserving candidate on this extremely crowded ballet. Jeter will get in regardless, but someone else might not….. “cough Tim Raines cough”…

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          Yeah, I think that whoever doesn’t vote for Jeets on the first ballot is an idiot, but I also kind of want someone else to be the guy who gets 100%.

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        • Stat Genius says:

          If I had a vote there’s a lot of other guys with clocks ticking that I’d vote for over a lock like Jeter, Alan Trammell for instance.

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      • Josh says:

        Does it even matter whether or not he “deserves” 100% when there is no chance of him getting it?

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        • Jason B says:

          And on a related note, does it matter if he gets 100.0% or 75.0%, or anywhere in between?

          Not a bit. There are no distinctions, beyond “in the hall of fame” and “not in the hall of fame”.

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      • steve says:

        That’s an awful argument, but I agree that Jeter doesn’t deserve 100% of the vote.

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  2. tz says:

    Thanks for the article Tony.

    I wonder if one of the reasons why folks play down Jeter’s career offensive value is his early peak. His 1999 numbers are downright filthy, even when accounting for the offense of that era.

    I remember reacting similarly with Cal Ripken’s retirement, thinking that he was a stat “accumulator” when in fact he was an offensive terror early in his career, before settling into mere “well above average” mode for the balance.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Yeah, Cal’s first ten years were almost as good as Jeter’s offensively (equal wRC+, but Jeter’s steals put him over the top).

      The second ten are another story, though.

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    • Fardbart says:

      When he was “filthy” he was the 3rd best offensive SS in the AL.

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      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        He was the third best offensive SS in the AL in 1999? The year he lead all shortstops in “Off” and wRAA by over 5 runs?

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        • Fardbart says:

          Yes. He only came out ahead because he got more AB than better hitters like Arod and Nomar (better team offense and different spot in the lineup for getting AB)

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          So his better team offense and lineup spot is why he had a 20 point higher wRC+ than A-Rod that year?

          Is it also why he played in 20 more games than Nomar did?

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        • Fardbart says:

          Fine, if you think jeter was a better offensive player than Arod and Nomar at their respective peaks, then you win.

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          haha. Technically he was 3rd in wRC+ in ’99, losing to Nomar (wRC+ one point higher!) and one Edwin Diaz, shortstop for the Diamondbacks who played in 4 games and acquired 8 PAs. This is of course a gross misuse of leaderboards, however.

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        • tz says:

          The “Big Three” – yet another reason why Jeter’s offense can get overlooked, in spite of his Jeterness.

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        • When did I say he was a better hitter at his peak?

          He was just better in 1999.

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    • vince says:

      Cal was a much better player. A legitimate MVP candidate from time to time. Jeter could never make that claim.

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  3. Iron says:

    I guess part of the problem is the lack of any clear definition on what is meant by “inner circle”. If you mean one of the top 50ish position players of all time, ok, that’s not an unreasonable statement. I could understand the argument for that. As you tighten it up to top ten or top 20, top 30 etc. he begins to fall outside.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      I think of the inner circle as the Top 5 careers at each position, except DH, the Top 15 pitchers and Mariano Rivera.

      Jeter’s 4th or 5th at SS, for me, so I’d say he’s inner-circle.

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      • utley4ever says:

        what if the 3rd best 2nd baseman (for example) was as good as the 29th best catcher, should the 2nd baseman be inner circle, and not the catcher?

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  4. Cardinology says:

    Yeah, Jeets!

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  5. WormFace says:

    JETER, JETER, PUMPKIN EATER!

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    • The Rajah says:

      This article drips of a pro-Yankee diatribe. If the Mariners and Yankees pulled off a trade in the summer of 1994 that swapped A-Rod and Jeter, Yankees fans would be putting Rodriguez on Mount Rushmore and we would all be talking about the decent career that Jeter, the super-utility man, had.

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      • Matt W says:

        “Decent career” is a bit harsh, but I do believe if Jeter had played his entire career in a small to mid market his career would be viewed more in the terms of Craig Biggio than as an “inner circle” HOF.

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        • DNA+ says:

          It is actually the case that Yankees players are judged harder than small market players. Had Jeter played his entire career for the Mariners, he wouldn’t have spent an entire Hall of Fame career primarily hearing about the things he does wrong. …there is a reason Jeter never won an MVP, and its not because he was never deserving. It’s because he was a Yankee.

          Are there any borderline Yankees in the HOF besides the Veteran’s committee inclusion Phil Rizzutto? …on the other hand, there sure are a hell of a lot of Yankees who should be in the HOF that aren’t. Willie Randolph, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles. There is just a much higher bar for Yankees than there is for small market teams.

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        • Except for the fact that he was a much better hitter than Biggio…

          But yeah, a top 2 hitter at his position since Integration, and top 5 overall? Totally a mid-tier guy.

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  6. Cool Lester Smooth says:

    Yup.

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  7. ErnestoSalvaderi says:

    “criminally underrated Bernie Williams”

    understating it

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Yeah, the man’s a Top 20 offensive CF of all time, and dropped off the ballot after his second year of eligibility.

      He was just as good as Jim Rice.

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      • ErnestoSalvaderi says:

        Exactly,
        He was the clean-up hitter on 4 WS winning teams.
        That also gets overlooked all of the time.

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      • Owen says:

        It is indeed ridiculous that he only lasted two years, but it’s even worse that Kenny Lofton only lasted one year. Unbelievable how little respect center fielders get from the HOF voters.

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        • Kiss my Go Nats says:

          I agree! Lofton was an unbelievable lead off hitter in his prime. One of the best all time primes easily. He was an all-time great base-runner, a dominating base stealer, and one who could hit for average and get on base at an elite level. I hope he makes the hall from the veterans committee because it would be one of the few times they would get it right.

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  8. Steve says:

    I demand an identically titled NotGraphs article.

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  9. Sleight of Hand Pro says:

    youre not kidding on Bernie. 95-02 was quite a run

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Yeah. How crazy is it that the dynasty team had 5 home-grown, borderline-or-better Hall of Famers?

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      • munchtime says:

        And that home-grown talent narrative always gets passed over in favor of the Yankee’s money narrative.

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        • chuckb says:

          The Yankees money allowed them to keep all those homegrown players when they hit free agency. The two narratives, therefore, in this case aren’t mutually exclusive. There’s truth in both.

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          Well, Bernie was the only one of five who qualified as a free agent before 2000. They signed him to a pretty big contract for the time, but slightly less than what the Red Sox offered.

          During the dynasty years, the payroll was more of a factor in their signing guys like Knoblauch, Boggs, Clemens, Stanton, Key, Cone, El Duque and Wells.

          Fun fact: The Orioles actually had a higher payroll than the Yankees in 1998.

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    • tz says:

      Bernie was a killer RHB from day one. Stats from his 93-96 seasons, while still rising on the aging curve:

      LHB: .268/.348/.406, with 29 HR in 1383 AB
      RHB: .341/.410/.595, with 42 HR in 706 AB

      If he had batted strictly right-handed from the outset, he might have developed into an offensive juggernaut, and a first-ballot HOFer.

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      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        He was an offensive juggernaut no matter how you slice it, and there’s no guarantee he’d have been as good against righties as a righty as he was against them as a lefty.

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        • tz says:

          True. But the key here is that he was a natural righty, taught to switch-hit as a minor-leaguer to take advantage of his speed. By the eye test, young Bernie looked like Dave Winfield as a RHB and more like Royce Clayton from the left side, so I see where the power portion of that split comes from. Still, we’d never know for sure how much better off he’d have been to just have a quicker learning curve as a full time RHB instead of learning 2 different swings.

          He definitely did finally click as an LHB through his juggernaut years.

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  10. LHPSU says:

    Comparing this to active shortstops who have a chance to join this list: Troy Tulowitzki has 5 out of 7 seasons with wRC+ of 100 or better (ignoring 2012). Hanley Ramirez actually has 7 out of 8, if you count both 2011 and 2013. Jose Reyes has 7 of 10/11. Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes are both 30 years old with ~37 career WAR. Tulo is a year younger with ~29 WAR. All three are prone to injuries. It would be interesting to see how their careers compare to these all-time greats, if they can stay relatively healthy and play for at least 5-6 more years.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Tulo actually has the exact same career wRC+ as Jeter does.

      Let’s see if he can keep it up.

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  11. Skip Along says:

    So let me get this straight, because Jeter was a singles-hitting below-average-defensive shortstop, Mike Piazza belongs in the HOF? Somehow that logic doesn’t add up.

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  12. Travis L says:

    Why did you use STD rather than the “Offensive runs” category on the FG player page?

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  13. Shamus Mcfitzy says:

    It was his defense that was offensive, amirite?

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  14. Helladecimal says:

    in what way do you mean ‘offensive’

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  15. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Jeter’s closest comp is Biggio, which is pretty good company as both have had HOF careers. But, I don’t see Jeter getting in with 100% of the vote either the first time he is eligible. The ballot also gets more and more crowded over the next 3-5 years with lots of guys making a good case for election.

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  16. pft says:

    If you want to talk about his offense as a SS whats with the arbitrary cut off of 10 years at SS (conveniently ruling out Arod) and focus on longevity counting stats.

    He is arguably the 4th best offensive SS of his era. Nomar, Arod, Hanley Ramirez were all better, albeit for shorter periods of time. His best offensive season at SS was 24th all time. His arbitrary 5 yr peak was about 11th

    His best 5 yr stretch he had a 129 OPS+. Arods was 153. Nomar 138. Hanley Ramirez 136. Troy Tulowitzki 133, Ernie banks 149, Robin Yount 139, Honus wagner 185, Lou Boudreau 139, Barry Larkin 132, Arky 150,

    Alan Trammel 127 and Cal Ripken Jr 128, Vern Stephens 128 were close behind

    Jeters a HOF’er, buts lets not exaggerate his offensive exploits.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      It’s probably because people tend to use stats that show how much offensive value a player produced over his career when they want to find out how valuable a player was offensively over his career.

      It’s just one of those things, I guess.

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      • Iron says:

        Would you rather have a player who produces 2 WAR per year for 20 years or 8 WAR per year for 5 years?

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        • nd says:

          Can I get both?

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        • …how is that relevant? At all? Those two players have the same career value. Neither Nomar nor Hanley is close to Jeter in that category.

          I’d rather a guy who produced 4-5 WAR a year for 16 years than one who produced 5-6 WAR for 6 years, though, and I don’t think that’s a question that reasonable people can disagree on.

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  17. Chet Manly says:

    I’ve noticed that one of Jeter’s most consistently under-appreciated skills has been his remarkable durability at a physically demanding position. It seems to be overlooked by the same crowd who view Ripken’s streak as merely a gimmick, downplaying (or outright ignoring) the advantage provided when an excellent hitter is able to take the field pretty much (or in Cal’s case, literally) every day, an especially valuable skill at the SS position. Tony mentions DJ’s consistency and ability to remain at SS in his column, but what really made that valuable was the fact that he maintained his level of production while only missing significant time in 3 of his 18 seasons in the bigs.

    While I hesitate to paint with a broad brush, it does seem like there are quite a few sabermetrically-inclined fans who almost dismiss counting numbers in favor of rate stats (perhaps due to the stigma associated with RBIs, Runs, and the like). But take for example the above exchange about Jeter and Nomar’s respective 1999 campaigns: while it’s true that Nomar was technically a “better hitter” and edged Jeter in wRC+ by 1, he only played in 135 games that year, as opposed to Jeter’s 158. As a result, Jeter’s raw wRC dwarfed Nomar’s that year (152 to 125).

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    • pft says:

      I will credit Jeter for his durability and counting stats. That is the main reason he is a HOF.er.

      While it is true Nomar was not very durable, which is why he is not in any HOF discussions, in his peak he outproduced Jeter in both rate stats and counting stats in terms of runs produced. While you cherry picked 1999, from 1996-2003 Nomar had more Batting Runs than Jeter despite playing 270 fewer games

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      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        From 1998-2002, which was, conveniently enough, the “Best Five Year Stretch” for each player, Jeter produced more runs on offense.

        The only stretches of more than two years in which Nomar beats Jeter are 1997-1999 and 1997-2000. Then Nomar missed the 2001 season and never made up the gap in career offensive value.

        Hanley was worth exactly 6 more runs in his Five Year Stretch from 2006-2010 than Jeter was from 1998-2002. Of Jeter’s stretch, only 2002 included UBR numbers.

        If you eliminate UBR numbers, Jeter comes out 4.5 runs ahead. If you keep Jeter’s year and Hanley’s best year, Jeter comes out 2.7 ahead.

        It’s essentially a wash between the two, thanks to Jeter’s extra 150 PA.

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      • DNA+ says:

        Nomar is not in HOF discussions because he is not close to being a HOFer. He was a player that had a handful of very good, steroid-fueled, years.

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  18. pft says:

    “the worst defensive shortstops still provide value solely by their virtue of playing a very demanding defensive position. ”

    There is a reason league average defense is the same as replacement level defense. Defensive players are a dime a dozen. Hitters are pretty rare. If Jeter played 3B, LF or 1B for example, someone gets his spot at SS.

    Also, why is position adjustment for defense based on PA and not fielding opportunities? Jeter gets a bit of an advantage because he batted 1st or 2nd on very good hitting teams and had more PA than a cleanup hitter who played for a poor hitting team,

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  19. Dane says:

    The sad thing about the list is the fact that ARod would have had 10+ years as a shortstop had Jeter not refused to move off the position.

    From 1994-2003, here are their stats:

    Jeter: 5523 PA, 1546 H, 239 2B, 41 3B, 127 HR, 178 SB, 926 R, 615 RBI, .317/.389/.462, 132 E, 612 DP, -103 Total Zone Defensive Runs Saved

    Rodriguez: 5687 PA, 1535 H, 285 2B, 22 3B, 345 HR, 117 SB, 1009 R, 990 RBI, .308/.382/.581, 131 E, 852 DP, +18 Total Zone Defensive Runs Saved

    The metrics paint a picture of ARod being the clearly superior defensive SS when the Yankees acquired him after the 2003 season. They also show an offensive player who made contact as often as Jeter, but with a 25% higher power output. PED usage shouldn’t play into this argument, since that views the situation out of the 2004 context. When the Yankees acquired ARod, he clearly should have been the SS. The reason Jeter stayed at SS was a combination of three things:

    1) Jeter knew that his celebrity value would drop with a move to third.
    2) Jeter knew that he might not be able to play third, at all.
    3) The Yankees assumed ARod would eventually be too big to play SS, so they preempted that event by moving ARod to third prematurely.

    It’s entirely possible that the Yankees would have kept Jeter for his entire career at third, but it doesn’t seem likely that Jeter would have been willing to hang out in ARod’s shadow.

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    • DNA+ says:

      Aside from the fact that Total Zone is primarily nonsense, the Yankees obviously made the correct choice keeping Jeter at short. Arod’s body wasn’t up to it, and Jeter’s was. I can’t understand why people insist on punishing Jeter for something that obviously turned out to be the correct decision.

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      • Huh? says:

        “the Yankees obviously made the correct choice keeping Jeter at short.”

        Because anytime you can have historically bad defense at a position, you GOTTA do it, amirite?!

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          No, because A-Rod rapidly broke down physically while playing a much less demanding position. If he was playing short every day, it would have happened that much sooner.

          Moving A-Rod to third definitely resulted in their getting more out of their investment in him than they would have had he stayed at SS.

          Also, are you going to address the whole “bigger defensive difference between A-Rod and Jeter at third than at SS” question?

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        • DNA+ says:

          Yeah, the Yankees obviously suffered by having an historically great shortstop playing shortstop all those years. Imagine how much better they could have been without an inner circle Hall of Famer at the position.

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    • Dean Travis says:

      Not much of a shadow anymore, is it?

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    • Or they decided that there was a bigger difference between the two’s expected production at 3B than their expected value at SS, especially considering that the pressure on A-Rod’s steroid riddled joints and ligaments needed to be minimized in order to maximize his offensive value.

      A-Rod would have broken down much earlier if he had stayed at SS.

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  20. Brian says:

    Half the people ranting about Jeter’s defense only do so because some else told them that Jeter’s defense was really bad. Watching him year after on play-off teams, he didn’t seem so horrible. It’s not like he was fumbling the ball all over the place.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      No one complains about his surehandedness. If he got to a ball, he almost always got the out.

      The issue is that he didn’t get to very many balls, over his career.

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    • Dan says:

      Yeah, because he couldn’t reach the ball in order to fumble it.

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  21. bpdelia says:

    I honestly don’t understand how there is still any controversy. Here is yet another article pointing out that jeter produced historically fantastic offense. That he did this and stayed insanely durable.

    That he was good enough to stay at the position for EIGHTEEN YEARS. That even after taking his disastrously poor range into account his wonderful sure handedness, his quick release and accurate arm plus excellent base running and get bat made keeping him at short stop completely justifiable.

    The numbers are the numbers. Jeter is an all time great at the games most difficult position.

    The whole point of sabermetrics is to use data to understand player value

    Players accumulate value in different ways.

    We can see jeter was a poor fielder and, wow!, even with that he was basically the third best short stop in the history of the game.

    There is no controversy. He is what he is and what he was is somewhere between the second and fourth best player at his position of all time.

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