• Jul

    Why Derek Jeter is the Greatest

    by DrungoHazewood


    I had typed up a lengthy response comparing Ghandi, Lincoln, and Chuck Norris unfavorably to the great Jeter, but I thought better of it.

    Jeter is currently tied for 57th in career rWAR with Harry Heilmann, the great Tigers outfielder of the 1920s. Half a win ahead of Raffy, about even with Frank Thomas, Adrian Beltre, and Jim Thome. Despite a skepticism about recent/active players all of those guys will go into the Hall and have very strong cases. 

    Among players with 1000+ games at shortstop Jeter is 10th in rWAR. HOF SS's range from 40 rWAR (Rizzuto) to 131 (Wagner), so Jeter is just in the top half.

    It's interesting to think what his career might have been like in another city or cities. Arky Vaughn has almost exactly the same career value, and he was really underappreciated in his time, had to wait for the Vet's Committee to put him in many years after he retired. Alan Trammell has almost exactly the same value, but without the fawning media hype and constant play for 20 years on ESPN, and he's going to have to wait a long while to get in to Cooperstown. But Ernie Banks is in the same range and he waltzed into the Hall, so did Larkin and Ozzie and Robin Yount. 

    In fact, Yount might be Jeter's best comp. Yount had to move off short in mid-career, played a very long time, but of course spent his career in the anti-NY in Milwaukee. That's probably something like what Jeter's career would have been if he'd been drafted by the Mariners or Royals and didn't get that over-the-top, almost cartoonish portrayal in the NY media.

    Jeter does have the lowest fielding runs total in history (by almost 50 runs) by bb-ref's figuring. Now, that's not the same as saying he's the worst fielder ever. Combine the positional adjustment with the fielding runs and he's nowhere close, although he's still about -100 runs in (defense + positional value). It does make for an unusual combination of skills. If he, for example, had managed to be an average defender at an average position like 2B/3B/RF his career could have been about 10 wins to the better. In (defense + position) Cal was actually a full Phil Rizzuto career better than Jeter (40+ wins), but Jeter was almost 20 wins better with the bat.

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