No. 57: Derek Jeter

Have you ever really looked at the list of greatest players who did did not win an MVP award? You have some outliers in there like Eddie Murray and Wade Boggs, maybe. But look at the core group: Start with Mel Ott. After that, in no particular order, you have Al Kaline, Eddie Mathews, Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor. Among pitchers, you have Tom Seaver and Warren Spahn. Right up there is Derek Jeter.

What do these men have in common?

Well, here’s one thing: They were all HUGELY popular players, not only with the fans but with the baseball writers who vote for MVP. You could even say that they were media darlings. And yet the media consistently ignored them for their biggest baseball award.

How do you figure that? Derek Jeter has been called an overrated media creation so many times by so many people that he probably has grounds to have the phrase copyrighted and yet that very media has never voted him MVP. Not only that, his two best chances for MVP — 1998 and 2006 — he was beaten out by thoroughly uninspiring choices, Juan Gonzalez (his SECOND MVP award, for crying out loud) and Justin Morneau (huh?).

This cuts at something I’ve been thinking about a bit — kind of a “Zen and the Art of Baseball Maintenance” thought. I’ve been thinking a lot about the concepts of “overrated” and “underrated.” I’ve always thought of them as opposites, but I wonder if they are actually the SAME EXACT THING viewed from different angles.

Think about it. Call a player underrated enough times, he becomes overrated. Call a player overrated enough times, he becomes underrated. And, still, the two are intertwined even more tightly than that. If one person thinks a player is overrated, it is only because others celebrate him more than you think right (they think he’s underrated!). If you find a player underrated, it is only because other people don’t talk about him as much as you think they should (they find him overrated!).

Derek Jeter is the most overrated/underrated player of our time. This is in part because he has been a central figure on the essential team of the last 20 or so years, the New York Yankees. This is in part because he is such a charismatic figure and because he has so gracefully (and carefully) managed his image. But perhaps most, this is because Jeter’s value as a player has always felt at least partly unmeasurable. And the arguments about unmeasurable things can rage hot and rage forever.

Derek Jeter at first looked like perhaps the third-best young shortstop to come up in the mid-1990s. Alex Rodriguez came up in 1994. Jeter reached the big leagues in 1995. Nomar Garciaparra came up in 1996. And the other two had great seasons before Jeter did.

– A-Rod in 1996 led the league in hitting at .358 and with 54 doubles. He probably should have won the MVP award that year.

– Garciaparra in 1997 hit .306 with a league leading 206 hits, 11 triples, 30 homers and 122 runs scored.

Jeter’s contributions his first two years were steadier. This is one thing about Jeter that I’ve always admired — he really never had an extraordinary tool. All five of A-Rod’s tools were better. Nomah was a better hitter with more power he was probably better defensively. Jeter certainly was an outstanding hitter, but he did strike out a lot for a guy who never hit even 25 home runs (nine season with 100 or more Ks). He hit with some power, but not immense power. He didn’t have that good an arm (jump throws aside), and his range was always somewhat spotty (he was excellent at certain plays like the slow rollers and subpar at others) and he could run fast but he was no Kenny Lofton or Juan Pierre.

He was just someone who did everything well. His OPS+ going into the 1998 season was 101 — right at league average — and there was this sense that he would be that sort of player and that he was only being listed among the “Big Three” because he played for the Yankees.

In 1998, Jeter had his first great year — and it coincided with the Yankees winning 114 games and breezing to the World Series championship. Jeter hit .324, led the league in runs scored, banged 19 homers, stole 30 bases and played excellent defense by the same defensive numbers that would later turn on him. And how did people respond to Jeter’s fantastic season? Overrated. Underrated. He became perhaps the most talked about player in baseball. And he lost the MVP award to a clearly inferior Juan Gonzalez. It will be hard to explain to future generations how Derek Jeter, the leader of a 114-win team that is in the conversation with greatest ever, lost the MVP award to Juan Gonzalez. Jeter was praised endlessly for his leadership and the smart way he played. And he was not the starting shortstop in the All-Star Game (A-Rod) nor the Gold Glove winner (Omar Vizquel).

Overrated. Underrated.

In many ways, he was even better in 1999. His on-base percentage jumped 50 points, all the way up to .438. He led the league with 219 hits, scored 134 runs, drove in 100 RBIs for the only time in his career, hit 24 homers, stole 19 bases and was once again the star for a dominant Yankees team that lost just once in the postseason on their way to another World Series championship. And the response to Jeter was more or less the same. He finished SIXTH in the MVP race, did not start the All-Star Game, did not win any awards of note. And he was also the most glorified athlete in the biggest media market in America.

Overrated. Underrated.

And so it went throughout the most analyzed, discussed and argued about career of our age. I believe some things about Derek Jeter. I believe he was a fantastic hitter for a shortstop. Well, that’s obvious. For more than a decade, from 1998 to 2009, you could count on 150-plus games, a .310 to .320 average, a .380 on-base percentage, 30 doubles, 15 to 20 homers, 20 to 25 stolen bases, 110 to 120 runs scored. Some years he’d do a little better. Some years he’d do a little less. But it was always in that range, year after year after year.

One shortstop in baseball history has had at least 10 seasons with 100 runs created. That’s Derek Jeter. He had TWELVE of those seasons.

I also believe he was subpar defensively for much of his career if you take all of his defense into account. Every Jeter fan and critic knows the defensive numbers are hard on him — he has a negative defensive WAR every year from 1998 to 2008. Ultimate Zone Rating is, if anything, even tougher on him. John Dewan has been doing his Plus/Minus system since 2003 and over that time estimates that Jeter has made 180 fewer plays than an average shortstop would have made.

I believe there’s something to these numbers. I believe Jeter never moved well to his left and that this has continuously showed up in his low range numbers.

And here we get to the crux of things, I believe beyond all that Jeter was an extraordinarily alert and observant player, and that numerous times every year he made a good play based on this sense for the game and attention to detail. Unfortunately, I have no idea how often this came up — and this probably leads to the overrated/underrated quality of his game. People who don’t like Jeter would say that Jeter’s awareness it is already recorded in his numbers and it’s overstated. People who loved Derek Jeter would say that he made these sorts of winning plays all the time, in countless ways, and the numbers people simply won’t give him credit for it

Bill James wrote about this in the 2007 Bill James Handbook:

“Derek Jeter has a halo effect that would crush concrete. His teams win a lot of games, and he’s likable and polite and the media loves him, so any area of performance that is poorly documented or poorly understood — defense, base-running, clutch-hitting, leadership — the media will use as a rag to polish Derek Jeter’s trophies.”

I think Bill is right … and he’s might be wrong too. Some media types undoubtedly did blow Jeter’s so-called intangibles way out of proportion. Heck, this is why I invented the word Jeterate in the first place. The way people would go on and on about Jeter’s brilliance, his perfect record of throwing to the right base, his otherworldly skill for being in the right place at the right time, yeah, it could get absurd and it could wear on you.

But I do wonder if, on the other hand, the rest of us went too far the other way, completely discounting the small things he did. Jeter was never one of the fastest players of his generation and yet he was a fantastic base runner, stealing 79% of the bases he attempted and going first-to-third, second-to-home enough to be one of the 10 best base runners of the last 25 years. He was ever-present. Thirteen times he played 150 games or more in a season — only the indestructible Cal Ripken can match that.

And he did handle his fame and New York celebrity just about as well as anyone could. He was a pro’s pro who dealt with the media crush and the constant trappings as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. The Yankees clubhouse was always ultra-professional and predictable — there was none of the edge or grumpiness or frustration that you would see in other places. I have no idea if that did ANYTHING to help the Yankees win — I sort of doubt it — but it was obvious every time we were around the Yankees that they were businesslike, never too high or too low, and it was the doing of Derek Jeter.

Jeter is turning 40 in June and I feel pretty sure he’s done as a good baseball player. Though he has put up some surprising numbers — like the .316 batting average in 2012 — he really hasn’t been the great Derek Jeter since 2009. And it seems pretty far-fetched that he will ever be that again. Of course some will say that you should never bet against Jeter, and that may be so. But there’s another angle.

Every great player in history, every single one, reaches the end. Some look in the mirror, realize that the fastball is by them, and walk away. Some cling to the stage in the belief that tomorrow, yes tomorrow, they will wake up young again. Neither way is right, exactly, and neither way is wrong, They are both just human. Derek Jeter, more than any baseball player of his day I think, disciplined himself and pushed himself and got the most out of his talents. He wasn’t a perfect player, despite what some wanted to make him. But he wasn’t an overrated player either, despite what some shouted. He was the indispensable player of the time. I’m not sure how he will handle the end, but I believe this: Derek Jeter was just the best damn player he knew how to be. That’s not a bad thing to be.

216 thoughts on “No. 57: Derek Jeter

  1. Matt Williams (@Matt1J)

    I thought Jeter was overrated defensively until Nunez started replacreplacing him at SS. Jeter’s range may suck but he rarely makes an error on routine plays. Nunez would airmail balls into stands once or twice a week. I think in 10-20 years critics will appreciate his defense more.

    Reply
    1. Bill Caffrey

      If Nunez was airmailing two more balls per week, but getting to 7 more balls per week (just one more per day) wasn’t he playing better defense? He was keeping 5 more runners off base per week than Jeter (7 extra plays – the 2 extra errors).

      Btw, I have no idea if that’s what Nunez was actually doing, I’m just pointing out that, by far, range is more important to defensive success than hands. Better to get to 95 out of 100 balls and make 10 errors, than to get to 80 and make 0 errors. (In that scenario, the guy with the lousy fielding percentage allows 15 baserunners – 5 balls that he didn’t get to and 10 errors; the guy with the perfect fielding percentage allows 20 baserunners).

      Also, I apologize for explaining what 99% of the readers here know. But it never ceases to amaze me how frequently otherwise reasonably intelligent baseball fans tell me they’d prefer the guy that makes no errors on the balls hit to him then the guy with great range who makes a lot of errors.

      Reply
      1. Andrew Mearns

        Nunez had horrendous range last season, too. -11.4 FRAA, -40.7 UZR/150, -17.9 RngR, -2.3 dWAR… they all tell the same story about Nunez. Your point is understood about range’s importance, but Nunez isn’t a good example. He’s awful.

        Reply
        1. doncoffin64

          I was prepared to discover that MattWilliams was wrong. But…(all per 9 innings)

          Total
          Chances Putouts Assists Errors DP
          Nunez 24-26 3.90 1.26 2.40 0.23 0.49
          Jeter 24-26 4.23 1.56 2.56 0.11 0.56
          Jeter career 4.18 1.50 2.59 0.10 0.55

          Compared to the average shortstop (let alone the best), Jeter still comes up short. But if the best the Yankees can do is Nunez…well, Jeter would look pretty good.

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      2. Ian R.

        Counterpoint: The guy who makes the 10 errors may allow fewer baserunners overall, but if they’re throwing errors, the guys he lets on may get all the way to second base (not to mention the extra bases for anyone else who happened to be on base). There’s a legitimate argument that the 80-play guy did a better job than the 95-play guy, even if it’s not by the same margin that his fielding percentage would suggest.

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    2. John

      I remember watching a Yankee- Expos game (must have been 2000 or 2001). In consecutive innings, a ball hit up the middle was Pastadiving Jeter and then fielded by Orlando Cabrera standing up. As a huge Jeter fan and a Yankee fan, that was when I first thought to myself, ah, that’s what a good fielding shortstop can do.

      That said, Jeter was the best fielder on pop-ups and shallow flies I’ve ever seen. He masked Bernie Williams’ fading range in center field in the early 2000s and covered for the Ricky Ledees and Chad Curtises in spacious Yankee Stadium left field throughout the dynasty years.

      Reply
        1. Mr Furious

          Absolutely. The problem with the arguments about moving Jeter defensively is that the Yankees were usually a deep team without a lot of obvious holes to put him in, and you obviously weren’t going to bounce Jeter around the field. CF would have been perfect, but Williams had to stay in CF with his (lack of) arm. The best chance to have moved Jeter was when they signed A-Rod, but given the baggage of that particular situation, it was easy to see why it didn’t happen. Also, A-Rod was a far more capable 3B than Jeter could ever have been, so was it really a mistake?

          Reply
          1. John

            That, and Jeter’s bat so overplayed his peers at short (except Arod, Nomah and briefly Tejada) that Jeter at SS, Ledee/Strawberry/David Justice LF was of greater value than Jeter LF and whomever at SS.

  2. Andrew Mearns

    Good stuff, Joe. You make a good point on Juan Gonzalez’s theft of the ’98 AL MVP from Jeter that I hadn’t really thought about before; I was always thought him not winning in ’99 was worse though. If the writers decided that Pedro shouldn’t win for some reason (though they were oddly A-OK with Verlander taking the prize 12 years later), why give it to Ivan Rodriguez over Jeter? Hell, he only got one first-place vote in ’99. Weird.

    Jeter is probably the most divisive non-PED player of this generation, and his shoddy defense is a big reason why. I thought Ben Lindbergh put it best in his outstanding article at Grantland (http://grantland.com/features/the-tragedy-derek-jeter-defense/) about Jeter’s defense, It unfortunately took a while before the Yankees actually had a sit-down with Jeter about his range, and by the time they actually did late in his career, he could only generate one positive defensive season (’09) before his age prevented him from maintaining it. Maybe if the Yankees have that talk earlier in his career, Jeter’s defense is at least league-average and he has better numbers. Oh well. While Jeter’s ankle has made him a shadow of his former self, it will be an emotional time when he finally does leave the game that he’s been basically the face of for over a decade. Could very well be this year.

    Reply
      1. Which hunt?

        Point taken. If we didn’t have a smoking gun, Andy Petite would be a non-PED guy due to his squeaky clean image.

        Why are Fred McGriff and Greg Maddux non-PED guys, and Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza PED guys? There is exactly the same amount of evidence of PED usage in all of their cases, zero. Why do some guys get a pass, and others get convicted in the court of suddenly over-vigilant writers? I think this era of whistling past the graveyard and casting of stones will look worse to history that the “PED era” if we don’t recognize the obvious; we don’t know what we don’t know, and rewriting baseball history to the tune of clean and dirty is ridiculous.

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        1. johnq11

          That’s not true that there is “exactly” the same amount of evidence. There’s enormous circumstantial evidence in both Piazza and Bagwell.

          Piazza for one has admitted to taking Andro. Piazza has also been accused of taking steroids by various people. There’s also circumstantial evidence in that Piazza was a 62nd round “please do me a favor” draft-pick and then went on to be one of the greatest offensive catchers in baseball history.

          Bagwell’s career made a drastic shift in power around 1994 and he did it in one of the worst hitter’s parks in baseball no less. Bagwell broke the single season Astrodome HR mark in 1994 in about 1/2 a season. I don’t think anyone had hit more than 17 HR in the Astrodome in a season and Bagwell did by the all star in 1994.

          Go back and check the sudden and rapid change in his HR/At Bat rate. Go back and look at his baseball cards from 1991-92 and compare them to his photos from the mid to late 1990′s.

          Bagwell had been a doubles gap type hitter with 15-20 HR power and then suddenly in 1994 he starts breaking all these Astro HR marks and becomes on the great sluggers in the game? He ties the single season Astro HR mark of 37 on August 1.

          He hit 53HR/1675 at bats from 1991-1993 for a HR rate of 3.16
          He hit 39HR/400 at bats in 1994 for a HR rate of 9.75.

          He more than tripled his HR rate in one season.

          He would have “tied” his pre 1994 career HR mark (53HR) which took 1675 at bats over 3 seasons in just “one” season had he gotten 543 at bats.

          Reply
          1. Which hunt?

            To be clear, the only evidence you site is Piazza’s admission of using Andro. Whispers, rumors and home runs don’t count as evidence. Neither does draft slotting.

          2. Mr Furious

            Andro was a perfectly legal-in-baseball, and over-the-counter supplement used openly by major leaguers. McGwire had a jar in his locker sitting right there for all to see…

          3. Which hunt?

            Mr. Furious is correct. So what you have provided is evidence that Piazza took a LEGAL supplement, and zero evidence of other PED use. Exactly the same amount of evidence that we have on Mr. Jeter and Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner.

          4. Randy Hill

            Bagwell hit 20 HR & 60 XBH in 535 ABs in 1993 (age 25). He hit 39 HR & 73 XBH in 400 ABs in 1994 (age 26), then fell all the way back to 21 HR & 60 XBH in 448 ABs in 1995 (age 27).

            Congratulations for cherry picking one of his career years, incorrectly assuming if he was able to play a complete season he’d be able to maintain the same rates (reversion to the mean says uh, no) and pointing out he was a great home run hitter who should own many of the Astrodome HR records.

            But you should also answer the question, why didn’t he take steroids in 1995 if they were so successful in 1994?

            Since your methods of steroid detection are so advanced and un-rebuttable, I used them to find another obvious PED user.

            Age 24 – 433 ABs, 16 HR
            Age 25 – 499 ABs, 39 HR
            Age 26 – 590 ABs, 61 HR

            Congratulations, you’ve just proven Roger Maris to be a PED user.

            Lastly, you forgot Piazza’s back acne, which is a much stronger actual “fact” than jealous competitors whispering (off the record, those cowards) that he “must have” been taking steroids. Obviously scouts never miss on players, especially a bad defensive first baseman with a decent bat who seemed unable to play any defensive position well, so steroids, steroids, steroids, steroids.

      2. David G

        I think that the main thing that Jeter got out of the media loving him so much was the fact that he was never accused of having taking steroids. I think that most people would agree with Pos’ last line that “Derek Jeter was just the best damn player he knew how to be.” Is that really true though if he never took steroids? Wouldn’t someone as competitive as Jeter have tried anything that wasn’t against the baseball rules to get better?

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      3. ksbeck76

        I think Andrew’s larger point is not necessarily that Jeter never used PEDs (who knows?) but that Jeter is divisive for non-PED reasons, unlike Bonds, Clemens, or A-Rod.

        Reply
  3. Michael Green

    Perhaps it’s because I’m a Dodger fan that I wouldn’t have objected in the least to having Jeter as my team’s shortstop for the past 18 seasons. And I have the funny feeling that most fans of other teams would say the same thing.

    Reply
    1. DjangoZ

      Agreed.

      He’s a very good player, but definitely not top 100 of all time, much less #57.

      It isn’t that hard to properly rate him. He doesn’t have to be over or under rated.

      Reply
    2. rich

      Well neither’s Roy Hobbs but what are you going to do? It’s Joe’s list, it’s a fabulous list, and it’s better that he does things his way I reckon.

      Reply
      1. Hov34

        Then it loses credibilty as a “list”. It should just be a collection of stories/blurbs about great players from the history of baseball. But to make it a “list” and then place Derek Jeter ahead of way better players makes the “list” part of this sort of a joke and this turns into just a collection of abstracts and stories of famous players, which I don’t have a problem with, just don’t call it “The 100 Greatest Baseball Players Ever”. Because Jeter aint one of them.

        Reply
        1. Andrew W.

          I know WAR isn’t everything, but Jeter ranks 88th all-time by career bWAR, including pitchers. I think this is a fairly appropriate ranking.

          Reply
  4. Chris

    I feel like there needs to be a column written sometime about the travesty that was the 2006 AL MVP voting. Forget Trout-vs.-Cabrera, at least Cabrera is a worthy winner. I can’t find one single reason why Justin Morneau won. David Ortiz, Jermaine Dye and Travis Hafner all posted OPS’s over 1.000 that season. You might think RBIs might blind voters, but Ortiz actually had more. Joe Mauer and Derek Jeter had comparable offensive seasons playing much more difficult defensive positions. If you wanted to vote for a Twin, Mauer and Santana were much better selections. Somehow the voters had the choice between three Twins, and chose the least valuable one. You couldn’t make this stuff up. There must have been a strong “Morneau is clutch” narrative that season.

    I’ve been no fan of Jeter’s throughout his career, and this is not a perfect analogy by any stretch, but it really is ridiculous that he’ll retire without an MVP trophy while Jimmy Rollins will not. I know I know, different leagues, Rollins had one really good season amidst weak contenders…still, these guys are contemporaries and one of them is an all-time great SS. And it’s not the one who won an MVP.

    Reply
    1. Ian R.

      Hafner and Ortiz got the DH bias. Mauer… well, recent MVP voters historically haven’t much liked catchers (other than Pudge in the incredibly weird 1999 voting). Santana was a pitcher.

      Part of Jeter’s problem was that, great as he was, he wasn’t even inarguably the best hitting shortstop in the league. Carlos Guillen actually had a higher OPS, and Miguel Tejada was right up there as well. That was a strange year all-around, really – there was nobody even resembling a clear MVP. Still no justification for giving it to Morneau, but the more options you give the writers, the greater the chance they’ll do something dumb.

      Reply
    2. Matt G

      Isn’t that the year that Hafner got injured and missed the last 4-6 weeks of the season? He was a favorite up until then, but the injury stopped his MVP hopes in its tracks.

      Reply
    3. Paul Zummo

      2006 was pretty bad all around. Don’t forget Ryan Howard winning over Albert Pujols and Carlos Beltran – both of whom were on playoff teams. Heck, Howard was not the MVP of his own team, but then again, Chase Utley made a career out of getting overlooked in MVP voting in favor of inferior teammates. I guess at least Howard had some of the gaudy numbers – homers and RBI – that attract voters. Morneau winning is just a mystery.

      Reply
  5. bl

    Now I’m just not sure if Jeter was great or just very good. Previously, as a Red Sox fan, I always just knew he sucked and NOMAAAAAAAAAAH! ; )

    Reply
  6. :-)

    You could make an argument about Jeter in 1998, but I wouldn’t say Gonzalez was “Clearly Inferior” and that “It will be hard to explain to future generations how Derek Jeter, the leader of a 114-win team that is in the conversation with greatest ever, lost the MVP award to Juan Gonzalez.”. That seems a bit dramatic.

    It is pretty easy to explain to future generations how Juan Gonzalez won the MVP. Batting average was about the same as Jeters, Jeter’s combined RBI and runs is 201. Gonzalez is 267. Gonzalez hit 47 HR, Jeter hit 19. Both had a great year, but given that the above stats were considered the most important at the time, I don’t think I would have a very hard time explaining to future generations how he won the MVP that year.

    Reply
    1. Patrick Bohn

      I think Joe’s comment was more in line with his original thesis: For a guy as beloved in the media as Jeter, the media certainly didn’t show him favortism in 1998 MVP voting. In fact, if anything, they didn’t give him the credit he was due.

      Besides, it’s not like Gonzalez’s season was anything special compared to power hitters. He hit 45 home runs, but that was tied for 3rd in the league, and two other guys hit 43 and 42. His 157 RBI led the league, but not by much. Purely by numbers, Albert Belle was a better choice if you’re picking a slugger, and it’s not hard to talk yourself into Griffey

      Reply
  7. maxabrams1704Max

    One thing that’s always bugged me about Jeter is that the people that were always driving him in, and really hitting in the heart of the lineup, are known as villains in New York and around the country. Giambi, Sheffield, Arod, etc. Jeter is an amazing player, but without those really difficult to find middle of the order players, the yankees wouldn’t be so good. Also, all those middle of the order folks are suspected of steroids, yet Jeter’s winning smile makes people not suspect a thing.

    Reply
  8. Fin Alyn

    Jeter 1998 OPS+ 127, 52 extra base hits

    Gonzalez 1998 OPS+ 149, 97 extra base hits

    Other than the fact Jeter played SS, and played it pretty well that year, explain how Gonzalez is “clearly inferior” to Jeter that year?
    Jeter’s season wasn’t even “clearly” better than Nomar’s for that year, or even A-Rods.

    In addition, Jeter’s 1999 was clearly better in every way than his 1998 season except for his defense was average instead of good. 1999 is the year where he should have won if he wins between 98 and 99. 2006 was just absurd. Jeter would have been a fine MVP that year. Darn sight better than Morneau.

    Reply
    1. Ian R.

      You just (partially) answered your own question. Jeter played SS. Gonzalez was an average-ish outfielder.

      Also, OPS+ is an incomplete way to analyze them because Jeter had much more of the OBP half of OPS, whereas Gonzalez’ season was built entirely on power. Hitting for power is important, but getting on base is much, much more important.

      Jeter was also a much better baserunner than Juan Gone.

      Reply
      1. Fin Alyn

        So because he played SS, Gonzalez was “clearly inferior”?

        Also, a .366 OBP vs. a .384 OBP is negligible over the course of a season. 260 vs 239 times on base with 25 more plate appearances. In the end, he got on base 13 more times if plate appearances are the same. So no, Gonzalez’ season wasn’t built all on power, and getting on base is more important, but not much much more. Gonzalez had 81 more total bases even with his fewer plate appearances and lower on base. That more than equals out stolen bases and base running in terms of MVP voting. Also, Texas was a station to station team. It didn’t matter if they had the god base runners or bad, they weren’t going anywhere.

        Reply
        1. Ian R.

          13 times on base is not a “negligible” difference over the course of a whole season. It’s a difference of multiple runs. When we’re talking about one player’s hitting, a difference of a few runs is quite significant.

          Texas was a station-to-station team precisely because they didn’t have good baserunners. If they did, they would have taken the extra base more often. They didn’t do it because they couldn’t do it.

          And yes, the fact that Jeter had a comparable offensive season while playing a much more difficult defensive position means he was clearly superior to Juan Gone. By WAR, it isn’t close – 7.5 wins for Jeter, 4.9 for Gonzalez. WAR isn’t perfect, but that difference is well outside the margin of error.

          Jeter wasn’t the best player in the league that year – that was A-Rod – but he was substantially better than the MVP winner.

          Reply
          1. Fin Alyn

            If 13 times is not a negligible difference, then 81 more total bases is a HUGE difference, and produces far more runs than if those 13 times on base all produced runs. No Texas was not a station to station team because of bad baserunners, but because they had a lineup full of great hitters, and guys who hit for power, so any out made through base running was very unproductive for them. You don’t ask slow guys to take an extra base when another productive hitter is coming up behind them.

  9. Geoff

    There were 47 players I identified as “locks” to be included on this list, but have yet to be named (see the Reggie Jackson comments), which leaves the following candidates for nine remaining spots:

    Ernie Banks
    Yogi Berra
    Rod Carew
    Gary Carter
    Bob Feller
    Chipper Jones
    Al Kaline
    Sandy Koufax
    Pop Lloyd
    Mike Piazza
    Pudge Rodriguez
    Pete Rose
    Carl Yastrzemski

    Of those, I would take nearly all of them over Jeter without a second thought. Lloyd and Pudge are almost certainly out, which leaves 11. I’d cut Koufax, too, but I’m guessing he makes it. I’m guessing that only one of Yogi, Carter, and Piazza makes this list. which seems crazy to me, as this would mean that a guy with a reasonable (or better) case as the second greatest catcher in the history of baseball won’t make the list, while the 8th-12th best SS (Jeter) is #57. Man, I would love to hear a convincing argument Derek Jeter was better than Robin Yount, since I don’t see it at all.

    Needless to say, my man Phil Niekro is totally going to get screwed. :-)

    Reply
    1. Pat

      Yount played nearly half his career games in the outfield and didn’t field shortstop after his age-28 season, so the compare/contrast isn’t perfect, and I’m guessing Jeter’s ability to play so long while fielding that position (cough cough) is probably part of Joe’s thinking. By black ink/gray ink, Jeter and Yount are about even (10/145 to Yount’s 14/120), and by Hall of Fame Standards (67 to 52), Jeter has the better case. But by the Hall of Fame Monitor, Jeter blows Yount out of the water—334 to 132, each being a fine resume for the Hall of Fame, but one of which being truly remarkable. This is largely driven by batting average, and Jeter’s ability to hit .300 while playing at shortstop—something Yount had trouble doing until he moved to the outfield—in addition to his triple-digit runs and post-season record, each driven by his ability to be a Yankee. But in terms of doing the sorts of things that historically have gotten players Hall credit—hitting .300, scoring 100 runs, winning Gold Gloves and playing for good teams—Jeter is really rather solid.

      Using B-Ref’s WAR, Jeter and Yount are about evenly matched. Of course, Jeter’s career OBP is about 40 points higher than Yount, his slugging is higher, too, and he’s stuck at shortstop this long (and believe me, he looks very stuck there), so it’s not really that hard to make the sabermetric case for Jeter over Yount.

      Reply
      1. Geoff

        Considering that one of the primary objectives of sabermetrics is to strip away context in evaluating players, I would say using HOf Standards/Monitor (not to mention raw SLG and OBP) are actually the NON-sabermetric cases for Jeter over Yount. Here are their neutralized career lines:

        Yount: .295/.352/.444
        Jeter: .307/.375/.439

        I think it’s fair to say that Jeter was a slightly better hitter, but I think Yount destroys him when it comes to defense. I don’t see how it’s more valuable to be a terrible defensive SS for 20 years than it is to be an above average/plus defender at SS for 11 years and an average defensive CF for 9.

        Reply
        1. ingres77

          Jeter wasn’t just a “slightly better hitter.” He was a better hitter, he was better at getting on base and moving around once he got there. Overall, he was the better offensive player, and it’s not really close.

          Total WAR
          Jeter: 71.6 (11,968 PA)
          Yount: 77.1 (12,249 PA)

          oWAR:
          Jeter: 94.1
          Yount: 82.3

          dWAR:
          Jeter: -9.2
          Yount: 5.8

          I wouldn’t say Yount “destroys” Jeter defensively. He was demonstrably better at short, but Yount’s defensive sagged quite a bit in the latter half of his career. Those years count, too.

          But, if Yount “destroys” Jeter defensively, then it’s fair to say that Jeter “destroys” Yount offensively.

          In sum, Yount comes out on top, but he did has the benefit of an extra 300 plate appearances. Jeter won’t make up that 6 WAR difference next season (clearly), but let’s assume for a minute that he comes back and plays most of a full season at an expected level. Say, 1.5 WAR. He sits at 73 WAR with roughly the same number of plate appearances.

          Over the course of a career, 4 WAR is well within the margin of error for the metric.

          It’s impossible to say one is better than the other. If people want to give benefit to one or the other based on intangibles, that makes perfect sense.

          Reply
      1. Geoff

        Really, I would. Considering Kaline was a better hitter, a better fielder, had a higher peak, and was worth an extra 20 wins over the course of his career, I’m not sure why you appear to be surprised by this.

        Reply
        1. ingres77

          If we’re going by WAR:

          oWAR
          Kaline: 78.1
          Jeter: 94.1

          Neutralized stats:
          Kaline: .302/.382/.486
          Jeter: .307/.375/.439

          And let’s not kid ourselves. Kaline wasn’t exactly a great fielder. He was quite a good fielder in his 20s, but was worth -6.1 dWAR after age 30. Compare that to the infamously horrid defense of Jeter (-9.2 career dWAR), and Kaline doesn’t look so rosey.

          Don’t misunderstand me, I’d rank Kaline above Jeter, but I don’t think it’s quite so obvious as you make it seem.

          Reply
          1. Geoff

            Um, if we’re “going by WAR,” why are you then using oWAR? This is like me comparing two pitchers “by xFIP,” then using strikeout rate instead of xFIP.

            I also don’t understand your case about Kaline not being good defensively, based on the fact that he wasn’t very good defensively in his 30′s. Neither was Andruw Jones, but it doesn’t change the fact that Jones was a probably the best defensive CF ever.

          2. Ian R.

            You can’t compare oWAR and dWAR across positions because they include a positional adjustment. Kaline is penalized for being a right fielder; Jeter gets credit for being a shortstop.

            In terms of batting runs, Kaline beats Jeter handily, 471 to 366. In terms of fielding runs, the gap is even bigger, with +152 for Kaline and -234 (!) for Jeter. Jeter, of course, has a huge advantage because of his positional adjustment (+130 versus -115), along with a small baserunning advantage (55 to 36), but that’s not enough to overcome Kaline’s better hitting and (position-relative) fielding.

            Jeter has a much higher oWAR because oWAR includes the positional adjustment without the fielding runs. In other words, Jeter gets a big advantage for being a shortstop, but he’s not penalized for fielding the position badly. Conversely, Kaline gets marked down for being a right fielder, but he doesn’t get credit for fielding the position well. It’s a deliberately cherry-picked comparison that favors lesser fielders at harder positions.

            If we actually go by WAR, it isn’t close: Kaline has 20 wins on Jeter. He was just better for a longer time.

            (By the way, Kaline wasn’t a bad fielder in his later days. By Fielding Runs, he was pretty much exactly average. Again, because of the positional adjustment, a league-average right fielder gets a negative dWAR.)

    2. Stuart

      Not sure where you get 8th-12th best shortstop. Wagner clearly 1, let’s give Cal 2 (though I think it is close) then it is Jeter vs. Vaughan for third. Even if you put Ozzie in there and count Banks and Yount as shortstops (not really legit in my view) then Jeter finishes seventh at absolute worst.

      Reply
        1. Stuart

          I should check before typing this but I think A-Rod will/has play(ed) more games at 3b than ss. If A-Rod played another few seasons at ss he clearly would have been #2 on the list (and the fact that he was moved to 3b for Jeter makes it a great irony).

          Reply
          1. Stuart

            Still, one more season and A-Rod plays more games at 3b than SS but of course who knows if he has one more season. Still, it is harder to rank A-Rod higher as a shortstop with more than 1000 fewer games at the position than Jeter.

          2. Which hunt?

            A-Rod was just so much better at being a shortstop that I’ll forgive him the 1000 games. He only moved to third to accommodate Jeter who really had nowhere else to go. Plus, you know, he was the far superior hitter.

      1. Pat

        I would guess he’s counting George Davis, Luke Appling, and Bill Dahlen ahead of him and counting Banks, Yount, and A-Rod as shortstops. Possibly Trammell, too—he’s got a higher JAWS score than Jeter (although that will likely change after this season).

        Reply
        1. Geoff

          Those guys are higher on the JAWS list, which at the very least means they’re in the argument.

          Btw, I wouldn’t care at all if 19th century (or at least pre-1893) players were excluded from this list. But having Old Hoss Radbourn on here and not including Davis is nonsensical. I realize that Davis would probably be overmatched in A-ball if he showed up at the park today, but so would Radbourn. Either you judge people relative to their peers or you don’t…I can’t see how you can have it both ways. And if you’re going to kill Davis (and others) for the eras in which they played, shouldn’t you do the same for say McGwire vs. Gehrig?

          Reply
      2. Geoff

        Honestly, it’s hard to take this seriously when you don’t include A-Rod. But considering Jeter is ranked 12th by JAWS among shortstops, it seems perfectly reasonable to posit that he’s the 8th-12th best shortstop. I would put him in the top-10, but it’s not obvious.

        Also, Vaughan vs. Jeter is a complete joke. If Vaughan had played for the Yankees he’d basically be thought of the way DiMaggio is today.

        Reply
  10. Pip

    I don’t understand what all the fuss about MVP is about. The second or third best player in any given year does not deserve an MVP, does he? Yet, if a player is the second best for 15 seasons, he’s undoubtedly a hall of famer, without ever having deserved an MVP.

    In my mind, Jeter has never had a slam dunk MVP year when he was far and away the best player in the league. He’s come close a couple times, yes, but I think Jeter never having won an MVP is unfortunate, but still justified.

    Reply
    1. Wilbur

      If one thing has been made clear in MVP debates throughout the years, it Is that a lot of people believe the MVP is not the award for “the best player”.

      Reply
  11. Andy

    If a time wins its division by 22 games you could argue that even a 12 WAR player made no difference and thu could not be the MVP

    Just sayin’

    Reply
    1. Geoff

      I’m “just sayin’” that this would be a totally irrational argument since (per the guidelines sent to MVP voters) team performance should not have any bearing on who wins the MVP award.

      Reply
      1. John Gale

        Um, the guidelines do not say what you say they do. Here’s what they actually say (taken from the voting FAQ on the BBWAA’s official Web site):

        “Dear Voter:

        There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

        The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:
        1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
        2. Number of games played.
        3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
        4. Former winners are eligible.
        5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

        You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.

        Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.”

        Ok, the key part there (for the purposes of this discussion) is the first paragraph. It says that voters are not required to consider team performance when making their decision (or to be more precise, it says the MVP doesn’t have to be on a playoff team). But it does not say that that are required *not* to consider team performance. Hell, it doesn’t even really discourage them from considering team success. It acknowledges that there is no “clear-cut”‘ criteria, and it’s up to each individual voter.

        So not only is it not against the rules to consider team success, the history of the award suggests that (for the most part), the voters do consider it and give it significant weight. And there’s enough ambiguity in there (“most valuable to his team,” “general character, disposition, loyalty and effort,” etc.) that voters can do basically whatever they want, as long as they’re not voting for guys hitting below the Mendoza Line.

        Look, if you think team performance shouldn’t matter, that’s fine. A lot of people (including I suspect the majority of the people reading this blog) agree with you. Unfortunately, most of the voters clearly don’t. And you can’t really say they’re wrong. You can say that you disagree with their criteria, but it’s still up to them in the end.

        Reply
        1. Geoff

          I didn’t say that it was “against the rules” to factor in team performance, just that it violated the stated guidelines for the award.

          You’re conveniently ignoring the key part of my argument, which is point #1 in the instructions: “Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.”

          So basically the voters are told that team performance shouldn’t be a determining factor (the opening paragraph), then told that the first determining factor in assessing “value” is a players offensive and defensive contributions. Sounds pretty straightforward to me.

          To the extent that #3 should be considered, I have no problem with doing so at the extremes, but given that it’s nearly impossible to objectively grade players in this areas I would tend to ignore them in most cases.

          Reply
      2. Andy

        Since the end of the strike there have been 40 MVP awards

        33 have gone to teams that qualified to the post season including all the last 10. This is well known and well understood. However there is an additional bias against really successful teams. Out of the 33 only 5 went to a team that had even a share of the best record in the League – Chipper in 1999, Kent in 2000, Ichiro in 2001, Tejada in 2002 and Pujols in 2007. That is out of the last

        If your team is doing so well it has the best record you’re unlikely to win the MVP.

        Not saying I agree with this but that is how the voters vote.

        And by the way there is a massive anti Yankee bias in these votes. The team has clearly been the best team over the last 20 years but out of 40 Cy Youngs and MVP’s they have received 2 MVP’s (both A-Rod) and 1 CY Young (Clemens) and I would argue those were won in spite of them being Yankees and maybe even because they were not “True Yankees”.

        3 out of 40 should be the average for any team in a 14 team league not the record for a team that qualified for 17 out 20 postseasons and has had the run away best record over the period. Put it this way : the Tigers have more MVP’s and Cy Youngs over the last 3 years than the Yankees have over 20…

        Reply
        1. Andy

          I was meaning to add that out of the last 22 MVP’s 1 (ONE!) has gone to a player on a team with the best record in the league – Pujols in 2005 (not 2007 which I mistyped above). Put another way out of the last 16 MVP’s 14 have gone to postseason teams and none to a player from the best team.

          Reply
        2. Ian R.

          The thing is, the Yankees haven’t had a slew of really great individual players in that time. Those late-90s teams were great because they had stars at just about every position rather than a few incredible superstars.

          If you’re going to claim that there’s an anti-Yankees bias in the award voting, you need to give examples of Yankees who deserved to win those awards but did not. Jeter in ’98 is such an example, I suppose, as he was the best position player on a playoff team – but then-Mariner A-Rod was the best player in the league. Jeter in ’06 might be an example as well, but he certainly wasn’t the clear winner – Morneau was a terrible choice, but Joe Mauer, David Ortiz and Carlos Guillen all had comparable seasons for teams that made the playoffs. I can’t offhand think of anyone else.

          Reply
          1. Ian R.

            Minor correction: Ortiz’ Red Sox didn’t actually make the playoffs in ’06 (they finished third in the division). Still, they were a contending team with a winning record, and Papi led the league in home runs and RBI. That’s a season that would win the MVP in a lot of years.

  12. Pat

    See, this is what I was talking about: You put Arky Vaughn at 73 and Jeter at 57?! Do you really think Jeter’s a better shortstop than Vaughn, let alone 16 spots better? Vaughn has 73.0 WAR across 14 seasons; Jeter’s 71.6 across 19. I don’t disagree that Jeter belongs in the top 100 (with Ripken and Wagner coming up, it looks like there will be 5 shortstops in the top 100, a total that seems a bit light more than it seems a bit heavy). But a placement this high seems like Jeteration, unless you think “getting drafted by the Yankees right before they go all dynasty-y” is an intangible sixth tool.

    As to the MVP’s, while Juan Gonzalez winning in ’98 was absurd, the rightful winner wasn’t Jeter, it was A-Rod. 2006 was deservedly Jeter’s (David Ortiz was a very close second).

    Re: fielding, there are players who are so good in the field that it’s said of them that “he makes it look easy.” Jeter’s particular talent (such as it is) in the field is that he makes it look hard. Try and count the number of highlight reels featuring a Jeter mid-air throw to first on a ball that a more competent shortstop would have gotten to, planted, and thrown to first without making a show of it—this was a weekly feature on ESPN for pretty much every week in baseball for a decade starting in 1998.

    And can I be one of the voices asking when the results of the Springsteen poll are coming out?

    Reply
    1. Bill Caffrey

      “You put Arky Vaughn at 73 and Jeter at 57?! Do you really think Jeter’s a better shortstop than Vaughn, let alone 16 spots better?”

      Feel free to argue that Vaughan was better than Jeter, but this is a misleading way of phrasing the question. Vaughan’s not ranked 16 spots better among shortstops. In fact, there are no pure shortstops in between Arky and Jeter on Joe’s list. There’s only Yount, who is a half SS/half CF hybrid.

      Reply
    2. Pat

      @Bill Caffrey, my mistake. What I was trying to get across is that, once Vaughn was put a #73, rating Jeter #72 would have been more defensible than rating him #71 or higher, etc. I didn’t mean to suggest there are sixteen shortstops between the two, but merely using the standardized metric of Joe’s list… if that makes sense.

      Ehh, I haven’t had coffee yet. I … no… words… good. (Which was also true when I wrote the original comment; hence your complaint.)

      Reply
  13. Toar Winter

    How can you properly evaluate Jeter’s place in the history of the game without mentioning his playoff performance? If there was a viable WAR-like stat for postseason, how would that affect his standing?

    Reply
    1. Pat

      Jeter’s got about one full season of post-season experience (158 games, 734 PA), where he hit .308/.374/.465, with 18 SB/5 CS. That’s pretty close to his 3.8 WAR season in 2005 (.309/.389/.450, 14 SB/5 CS), so… just add that to his totals.

      Jeter’s opportunities in this area are of course not driven by his own abilities but by his playing for the Yankees during the wild-card era. You could similarly argue that Jeter has more home runs in divisional series than either of Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron, but everyone would see through that.

      Reply
      1. Toar Winter

        I know nothing about calculating WAR, but I’m guessing what you suggest is mathematically untrue. There is no way that a regular-season replacement player is the same value as a postseason replacement player, and a win in the postseason is also worth more than a win in the regular season.

        One of you math guys back me up here.

        Reply
        1. Pat

          “One of you math guys back me up here.”

          *crickets chirping*

          You’re not going to get any support from the stats guys on this. I think what you’re getting at is that a win in October is much more valuable than one in April, from the perspective of a team’s chances of winning a World Series. (Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest player of all time: Tony Womack, for that ninth inning double in Game Seven in 2001.) And while that’s true, it doesn’t measure anything about a player’s contributions—it’s just the clutchiness argument writ large, which any reader of Joe Posnanski should know is not something the math guys take seriously.

          Reply
        2. vivaelpujols

          You’re correct about the first issue. The average pitcher and hitter in the postseason is better than in the regular season so it would figure that the replacement level is lower.

          Your second point is a subjective issue. It’s impossible to answer with math (unless you wanna calculate something like championship leverage index).

          Either way, I’d say Jeter gets an extra 5-6 WAR from the postseason.

          Reply
          1. Toar Winter

            Pretty sure I read right here that Bill James estimated that a postseason win was worth at least three times a regular season win, but what does he know.

          2. Pat

            Yeah. You read it in the comments. Go here:

            http://joeposnanski.com/joeblogs/talkin-postseason-stats/

            … and search for your own name. (Fun punchline! It’s also in service of your argument that Derek Jeter = teh roxxorz!)

            Can I also just make the arithmetic point that the higher replacement level in the player would make Jeter’s contributions there worth less, not more? Yeah he got some hits Yuniesky Betancourt wouldn’t have gotten, but Yuni ain’t playing in October—Miggy is. The heightened baseline shrinks the margin, it doesn’t expand it.

          3. Pat

            vivaelpujols, I’m not sure this makes sense. The average playoff player is better—but wins-above-average is a separate stat. The replacement level for a playoff team seemingly would be the same for any other team, since playoff teams that face an injury still have to go with whatever AAA talenty they have in their farm.

          4. vivaelpujols

            Pat, think about it like this. If you accept that the average player in the postseason is 10% better than the average guy in the regular season (due to only the best teams being in the postseason) than if Jeter were replaced with a replacement level player that guy would hit worse than he otherwise would because the level of competition is harder.

            BTW, replacement level is calculated as x runs below average. So this concept is already accounted for in the replacement level calculation.

          5. ingres77

            @Pat,

            You’re right that Miggy is playing in the postseason,not Yuniesky.

            But are we talking about the same Miguel Cabrera who has a .273/.365/.505 slashline?

            Overall, numbers tend to be muted in the postseason. Over 500 or 600 at bats, you can expect players to perform at or near career levels. But, from season to season, scoring is down.

            In an environment of run scarcity, a .308/.374/.465 line is worth quite a bit more. It’s the same logic that makes Mike Schmidt c.1980 worth more than Rafael Palmeiro c.1996.

            So it’s not necessarily true that Jeter’s contributions would be “worth less”. His numbers come out to about an average season for him, but considering the context, they are worth quite a bit more than they normally would be.

          6. Pat

            Toar, #*&@*(&!, you are so not getting it. Read the article you linked to: They’re not even talking about wins added; they are EXPLICITLY talking about the probability-of-winning-a-title added. (If you missed it, look for the part where they talk about “pennants added.” You know: All of it.)

            But let me spell this out: A win in the post-season is worth more than a win in the regular season because A WIN IN THE POST-SEASON IS MORE CORRELATED WITH A CHANCE OF WINNING A TITLE. Get that? So when people contrast the two, they are talking about measuring variables with different denominators. Not the chance of getting a hit, not the chance of scoring a run, not the chance of winning the game—the chance of winning a title. They’re playing the same game—they’re swinging the same bats, fielding the same grounders—but because their teams won 97 games earlier, these ones have much more leverage, World Series-wise. How on earth does that make a hit in October more revelatory than one in April about how good a player someone is? It just means he was playing on a better, more successful (and in Jeter’s case, more expensive) team!

            Think about this for three-tenths of a second. You’ll pretty easily figure out that the chance of anything a player does on winning the pennant is way less dependent on (a) how good or bad they are, than on (b) whether their team is in the playoffs. Let’s just think about Bob Feller and David Wells. That’s 2-15 in terms of playoff decisions, and 0-10 in terms of playoff wins.

            Do you seriously think that says anything about the comparative ability and contribution of those two players? Since you no doubt don’t, what the heck is different about Derek Jeter that somehow his hits are worth more?

            vivaelpujols, think about it like this: Jeter is the same guy in September as he is in October. The Yankees next-best replacement for him in September is the same guy (probably) as he is in October. So replacement level is the same—the Yankees don’t somehow get access to the Orioles’ farm system because it’s the playoffs. The WAR of the average player in the playoffs likely does rise above average WAR of all ballplayers, but for any individual player—no change.

            ingres77, I was arguing against a particularly insipid thought experiment and not making a point about the actual world. But your love for Derek Jeter is noted.

          7. vivaelpujols

            Pat, but Jeter maintained his regular season performance, while the average player got worse. You’re correct that replacement level relative to average is the same, but the absolute replacement level is lower than in the regular season.

  14. bellweather22

    This is an odd pick from the guy who wrote the “Pasta diving Jeter” blog not too long ago…. you know, ground ball pasta diving Jeter…. that was Joe Posnanski who wrote that. Then names him #57 greatest baseball player. The world has gone mad, I tell you!

    Reply
  15. Rick R

    What people talk about when they talk about Derek Jeter’s intangibles:

    People say there’s no such thing as clutch hitting. Maybe, maybe not. Derek Jeter’s career OPS is 828. His career OPS in the post-season is 838. So Derek Jeter hits a little better in the post-season than he does in the regular season. Remember though, that in the post-season, he is hitting against the best pitchers from the best teams. We should expect, if anything, his OPS to be lower. There are plenty of players who have shown up on this list (and will continue to show up on this list) who would kill to have their post-season record be as good as their regular season record. Jeter exceeds it, in as many post-season plate appearances as any player has ever had. Jeter has always been comfortable in the big moment. He even homered for his 3000 hit. Take that as you will.

    If Jeter has been a clutch hitter, he has been even more of a clutch fielder. He has made more game altering plays than any infielder I can remember. The flip-play in Oakland may have won the Yanks the Series. They had lost the first 2 games at home, and the A’s were about to strike first in an elimination game. A relay thrown home from right field was way off line, when Jeter came out of nowhere to cut it off and backflip it to the catcher for an out to save the day. The rally was thwarted, and the Yankees came back to win the series, and later the Championship.

    In the World Series against the Mets, Clemens beaned Piazza, then threw his shattered bat at him. Mets fans at Shea were screaming for blood. Clemens pitched well, but again the Mets were about to strike first, with Timo Perez at first and Todd Zeile at the plate. Zeile doubled off the top of the wall, but Perez thought it was a homer, and didn’t run hard right away. Again, there was going to be a play at the plate. The relay throw sailed inside the foul line, but Jeter, running towards the stands, snagged the errant throw and made a perfect strike to home plate to just nip Perez. If the Mets strike first and win Game 1, they would have huge momentum, but again, Jeter’s play nipped the rally, and the Yanks came back to win the game, and the championship.

    These weren’t just big plays, they were season saving plays. Championship winning plays. When he dove into the stands against the Red Sox, it was with two outs and the bases jammed against their hated rival. Jeter’s catch wasn’t just a great catch, it was a game-saving catch in the biggest moment of a big game. I have seen so many of these heady plays from Jeter it’s come almost to be expected when he picks a guy off making too wide a turn at third base. You can’t measure the impact of the enormous plays Jeter has made over the years in the most crucial situations. Plus, he makes all the routine plays, where a fielder makes his bread and butter. Until his legs gave out on him in recent years and he had no range at all, he was a guy I wanted to play shortstop for my team—for his defense.

    Then there’s his base-running. There have only been a handful of players who have changed the way a game is played. Jeter is one of them. He basically invented the practice of continuing to third after a steal of second when the infield is playing an extreme shift with the third baseman in the shortstop hole. It was this play that Johnny Damon copied in the World Series, giving props to Jeter for coming up with it. Brilliant, audacious winning baseball.

    You add to that his calming presence in the Yankees clubhouse, and the glamorous tone he sets off it, and Derek Jeter has been the consummate winner, the best player on the best team of his generation, with 5 World Series rings. His is this era’s DiMaggio. Sure, A-Rod has better stats, but if you could pick just one shortstop from that generation to be on your team, how could you not pick Jeter over A-Rod?

    Reply
    1. Pat

      Pokey Reese made the putout on an identical play in the July 1st game without needing to dive into the stands. One more entry in my “Jeter makes it look hard” file.

      Re: making all the routine plays, HAHAHAHAHAHA. A baseball writer—I think it was Bill James, but I can’t remember—once put it this way: Go to a game at Yankee stadium and watch the shortstops. You’ll see the visiting shortstop make multiple routine plays on balls identical to those that get by Jeter. Every single game. Thinking Derek Jeter is a good defensive shortstop is another way of saying you don’t know how to watch a baseball game.

      Re: five rings, yawn. So has Luis Sojo. You think that’s evidence of his greatness?

      Reply
      1. John Gale

        Come on, Pat, That’s like arguing that Derek Fisher was as good as Kobe. After all, they were both on those five title teams, right? There’s a big difference between being a Hall of Fame-caliber player who is the leader and/or best player of five champions and a guy who was basically along for the ride. I don’t even feel like looking that closely at this, so I’ll just go to their career WAR totals: Derek Jeter: 71.6. Luis Sojo 4.2. If you want to make arguments against Jeter, fine. But going after his five rings is not a good approach.

        Oh, and Rick, your arguments are well taken, but I just want to point out that Jeter’s famous flip against the A’s was in 2001. So it didn’t actually win them a championship, as they eventually lost the World Series to the Diamondbacks.

        Reply
        1. Pat

          “That’s like arguing that Derek Fisher was as good as Kobe.” Um, no it’s not. Arguing that a data point is not good evidence of X is not the same as arguing it is good evidence of not-X. The statement you were looking for would have looked something like, “Luis Sojo was as good as Jeter.” Which, you’ll kindly notice, wasn’t anything I or anyone else ever said. You don’t have to look closely at the two players’ records, but kindly look at a bit closer at the argument you’re trying to rebut.

          Reply
    2. Bill Caffrey

      Rick R, you make it sound like the Clemens bat-throwing incident happened in the same game as Timo getting thrown out at the plate. It didn’t. Clemens started Game 2.

      Reply
    3. Chris M

      Game 1 of the Subway Series was in the Bronx. And Timo Perez still owes every Mets fan about a thousand push-ups for not running that damn ball out.

      Reply
    4. Mike

      “Mets fans at Shea were screaming for blood”

      They may have been. But it would’ve been hard to hear them in the Bronx, where the game was actually being played.

      “If the Mets strike first and win Game 1, they would have huge momentum, but again, Jeter’s play nipped the rally, and the Yanks came back to win the game, and the championship”

      Yes, that was game 1, but it was Pettite, not Clemens, who pitched game 2.

      I’m a Mets fan, by the way, so I remember all of this. All too well. The best example to give would be game 4. Mets lost game 1 in excruciating fashion, came back to almost make a game of it in game 2, and then won game 3. Shea WAS screaming for blood as Bobby Jones took the mound to start what might’ve been a tying game 4.

      And Jeter took him deep leading off the game. I was watching at home, but I felt like I was punched in the gut. Can’t say I truly remember Shea going silent, but I’m sure it did. Yanks went on to win by a run.

      That was my “Jeter Moment.”

      Reply
    5. DjangoZ

      Wait a minute…his 3000th hit was a HR?!?

      I take back everything I ever said about Jeter being just a very good player. Clearly he hits to the moment, just like Morris pitched to the score, and should be regarded as one of the all time greats.

      Christ. I really wish I could gamble on a daily basis against people who make these kinds of arguments. At least the money would offset the annoyance at this kind of idiocy.

      Reply
      1. Mark Daniel

        Except in WS rings. Oh, and honesty, character, leadership, etc. Then again, those things are meaningless…

        Reply
    6. Geoff

      I love when people bring up the “diving into the stands” play as evidence of Jeter’s greatness. This is on the shortlist for most overrated play in baseball history. If you want to give Jeter credit for being willing to give up his body that way, sure, but the play itself was nothing special. If you actually watch the replay, you’ll see that Jeter takes two full strides before going into the stands, which means he would have been fine if he had slid instead of running through the ball. You see this play quite frequently, and shortstops almost always slide to make sure they don’t do what Jeter did.

      I’m not saying this was an easy play or anything, and Jeter has always been excellent at tracking popups, but I think it’s fair to say that a ML shortstop makes that play more than 30% of the time. Good, but not especially memorable of you take away the blood.

      Reply
  16. SB M

    “It will be hard to explain to future generations how Derek Jeter, the leader of a 114-win team that is in the conversation with greatest ever, lost the MVP award to Juan Gonzalez.”

    MVP voters have historically been obsessed with RBIs. That’s the whole explanation.

    Reply
  17. doncoffin64

    The conversation so far truly exemplifies the “Jeter is under-rated” / “Jeter is over-rated” argument. (Grin)

    Reply
    1. Pat

      Hah, very good point. It’s funny, for someone who’s never said anything controversial or even political, he’s a remarkably polarizing ballplayer.

      Then again, I’m a Red Sox fan. (Off topic, does anyone remember the SNL “Weekend Update” bit where Jeter debated a Red Sox fan in a “Point/Counterpoint” segment? The counterpoint was always “Jeter SUUUUUUX!”, and it was remarkably funny.)

      Reply
  18. fatmanhattan

    While there’s some merit to the underrated/overrated thesis, the idea that Jeter did poorly in awards voting relative to his play doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny.

    He won five Gold Gloves despite posting a negative dWAR* in four of those seasons; the year he wasn’t a defensive liability, 2009, he was only the fifth best SS in his DIVISION.

    While it’s true he never won the MVP award, WAR says he never should have. Yes, he more than once got beat out by inferior players, but he was never once the best player in the league. Further, he managed to finish in the top 10 in MVP voting 8 times, while only finishing in the top 10 in WAR 4 times. In 2003 he finished 21st in voting, 37th in WAR–just among position players; in 2012 he was 7th in voting, 66th in WAR, again, not including pitchers. If anything, he did far better in MVP voting than than he deserved.

    Of Jeter’s 13 All Star Game appearances, in only 8 of those seasons was he, by WAR, among the 3 best SS in the AL, meaning he was named to 5 ASG when there were plenty of guys having better seasons.

    The only award where Jeter underperformed was the Silver Slugger. He led AL SS in WAR in each of the 5 years (OK, he finished second one year by .1 WAR, but that’s meaningless) he won the SS, as well as 2 other seasons, 1999 and 2005, in which he was beaten out by A-Rod and Tejada, respectively.

    And yes, the idea that Derek Jeter was a better ballplayer than Arky Vaughn** is just insane.

    Whether its writers, coaches, fans or Joe Posnanski who are doing the voting, Jeter has far exceeded his talent level.

    *I know isn’t perfect, but it’s a good place to start

    **Do me a favor Joe, start a campaign the have Arky Vaughn’s number retired by the Pirates.

    Reply
    1. DjangoZ

      Thank you. This was well written and factually illustrates the point beautifully. Much better than Joe’s column today, which was noticeably careful to not include too many relevant numbers lest it undercuts Joe’s points.

      Reply
    2. ingres77

      Among position players, Jeter was the best player in the league in 1999, according to WAR. If we hold that the MVP is almost exclusively given to position players (and it almost exclusively is), then Jeter deserved the MVP in 1999 over Pudge (who actually won it) or Alomar (2nd in WAR), who was almost a full win behind Jeter.

      And that’s to say nothing of his other MVP-worthy seasons (2nd in the league in 98, 2006, 2009). People have justifiably won MVPs with worse seasons than those three.

      More broadly, you have a very narrow understanding and/or view of the difficulties with WAR. Even among proponents, it’s generally accepted that defense is the least reliable component of the metric. Fair minded people generally have little difficulty admitting that there may be something being missed. Does this mean Jeter is really a better fielder than WAR gives him credit for? No, not necessarily. Nor, in fact, do I even personally believe he is anything but a poor fielder, overall. My point, though, is that the defensive component is still a little shaky. Add this on top of the problems many people already have with WAR and sabermetrics, and your use of “WAR” to judge Jeter is a little disingenuous.

      The brilliance of Jeter isn’t his overall value – it’s his offensive contributions. And, the totality of his offense is among the best not only of his era, but of all time (his 94 oWAR is virtually tied with Jimmie Foxx for 20th of all time). Between 1997 and 2009, the only seasons he didn’t place in the top 10 in oWAR were 2003 (the year he dislocated his shoulder) and 2008. 7 straight years, followed immediately by another run of four years, with the connecting year (2003) being well above average, but limited to 119 games. It’s fair to say that from 1997-2007 he was one of the best hitters in his league. And, at times, was the best.

      oWAR 1997-2000
      Jeter: 28.2
      Arod: 27.9
      Nomar: 25.4
      Griffey: 25.2
      Bernie Williams: 25.1
      Manny: 23.8
      Edgar: 22.2
      Giambi: 21.1

      If you change the range to 1997-2001, Jeter is second behind Arod (34.8 and 37.1, respectively). No one else catches up.

      For a four or five year stretch, Jeter was every bit the offensive force Arod was. Over his career, he was on part with Jimmie Foxx.

      And here, on a blog for one of the most articular baseball writers on the planet, with a dedicated fanbase of intelligent and well-versed brilliant readers, we have people who think Jeter isn’t one of the 100 best players ever.

      I think Joe’s point is well illustrated.

      Reply
      1. Geoff

        Just so I understand correctly: defensive WAR was issues and isn’t as reliable as metric as offensive WAR, so you’re just going to ignore defense entirely when evaluating players.

        Do I have that right?

        Reply
          1. Geoff

            I’ve read your post, as well as your others. What I don’t understand is who exactly is making the case that Jeter wasn’t a great offensive player? There is no one who would be arguing against Jeter’s inclusion on this list if he was even an adequate defensive SS.

            The case against Jeter isn’t, “Intangibles are overrated.” It’s “Jeter sucked defensively, so much so that it weighed down his other contributions.” People like me might find the leadership/character stuff annoying, and not particularly informative, but I’ve never met anyone who thinks Jeter isn’t an inner-circle HOF because his leadership skills are overrated.

      2. fatmanhattan

        “If we hold that the MVP is almost exclusively given to position players (and it almost exclusively is)”

        It almost exclusively is in the NL, in the AL a pitcher wins it about once a decade, most recently in 2011.

        “And that’s to say nothing of his other MVP-worthy seasons (2nd in the league in 98, 2006, 2009). People have justifiably won MVPs with worse seasons than those three.”

        I never said he never had an “MVP-worthy season.” I was addressing Joe’s theory that Jeter fared poorly in awards voting relative to his talent, and the fact is that his vote totals have historically far exceeded what WAR tells it should be. According to B-Ref, he had exactly 1 MVP-worthy season, 1999, but I would argue that he was MVP-W in 1998 and 2009–really any season of 6+ WAR should put you in the conversation.

        You say that Jeter was 2nd in WAR in 2006, he was actually 10th in WAR, 7th among position players and 1st in oWAR–not sure it’s a typo or a brainfart (I’m very familiar with both), or maybe you don’t think defense should matter when voting for MVP, in which case you should stop reading because we will never agree.

        “More broadly, you have a very narrow understanding and/or view of the difficulties with WAR.”

        I take exception to this contention–I put an asterisk on my first mention of dWAR and acknowledged that it’s not perfect, but a good place to start. I understand rather well that defensive metrics remain shaky, but when every single system as well as Bill James, John Dewan, you and my eyes tell me that Jeter stinks in the field, I have to take it as fact. His 5 Gold Gloves are a joke.

        “your use of “WAR” to judge Jeter is a little disingenuous.”

        Again, I noted that it’s not perfect. I find it odd however that you call me disingenuous for using WAR and dWAR to look at Jeter, and then start throwing oWAR around as though it’s gospel. I think what you’re failing to understand about oWAR is that Jeter’s is inflated by a positional adjustment. You don’t seriously think that Jeter was as great an offensive player from 1997 to 2000 as Barry or A-Rod without a positional adjustment do you? During that span, Jeter had 432 more PA than Barry, but got on base only 93 more times and accumulated only 1 more total base, good for an OPS of .217. Without oWAR’s positional adjustment, Jeter’s offense goes from great to very good.

        “The brilliance of Jeter isn’t his overall value – it’s his offensive contributions.”
        When you’re ranking the 100 greatest ballplayers of all time, you have to take defense into account. At least Joe clearly did, as witnessed by his inclusion of Brooks Robinson.

        “virtually tied with Jimmie Foxx for 20th of all time”
        If you’re gonna call it a tie, give him 19th place all time.

        “And here, on a blog for one of the most articular baseball writers on the planet, with a dedicated fanbase of intelligent and well-versed brilliant readers, we have people who think Jeter isn’t one of the 100 best players ever.

        I think Joe’s point is well illustrated.”

        I was not taking exception with Joe’s ranking of Jeter (though I think he’s got him way to high), I was arguing against Joe’s theory that Jeter performed poorly in awards voting relative to his stats.

        Reply
        1. ingres77

          “You say that Jeter was 2nd in WAR in 2006, he was actually 10th in WAR, 7th among position players and 1st in oWAR–not sure it’s a typo or a brainfart (I’m very familiar with both), or maybe you don’t think defense should matter when voting for MVP, in which case you should stop reading because we will never agree.”

          Typo. I was referring to his oWAR numbers. Defense does matter, but I would argue that it’s only within the last few years that defensive metrics have become anything close to familiar among most voters. Jeter was still receiving Gold Gloves as late as 2010, for instance.

          My point was that his offensive value was so high, it’s not hard to understand how he could conceivably get *more* support for MVP than he has, historically. His WAR (but cumulative and oWAR) numbers support this view, I think.

          “I take exception to this contention–I put an asterisk on my first mention of dWAR and acknowledged that it’s not perfect, but a good place to start. I understand rather well that defensive metrics remain shaky, but when every single system as well as Bill James, John Dewan, you and my eyes tell me that Jeter stinks in the field, I have to take it as fact. His 5 Gold Gloves are a joke. ”

          (All numbers taken from Fangraphs)

          According to total zone, with the exception of the 1999-2003 era, his defense ranged from adequate to unremarkable, to below average. Overall, I’d say TZ indicates he was sub-par with a horrid stretch in the middle of his career.

          His DRS numbers rate him as consistently atrocious (in the strongest sense of the term) since 2002, with a brief outlier in 2009.

          UZR rates him as consistently below average, with three atrocious seasons (2005, 2007, 2012) and one good (again, 2009) since 2002.

          The fans scouting report lists him as below average every year since 2009.

          Considering positional adjustments, Fangraphs values him positively in 8 seasons, horrid (defined as less than -10) in four seasons, and “just below average” in the remaining 7.

          There isn’t much consistency, except to say that he has, on occasion, been absolutely horrible while at others being adequate.

          Overall, I personally rank him as below average, but recognize that he vacillates from one extreme to the other. These numbers (given their variance) don’t strike me as overly reliable.

          “Again, I noted that it’s not perfect. I find it odd however that you call me disingenuous for using WAR and dWAR to look at Jeter, and then start throwing oWAR around as though it’s gospel. I think what you’re failing to understand about oWAR is that Jeter’s is inflated by a positional adjustment. You don’t seriously think that Jeter was as great an offensive player from 1997 to 2000 as Barry or A-Rod without a positional adjustment do you? During that span, Jeter had 432 more PA than Barry, but got on base only 93 more times and accumulated only 1 more total base, good for an OPS of .217. Without oWAR’s positional adjustment, Jeter’s offense goes from great to very good.”

          Arod gets the same adjustment as Jeter, kiddo.

          I take issue with your use of WAR because the reason people value Jeter so highly is because of his offensive prowess – which is clouded by the defensive metrics of WAR. I separated the metric out so his brilliance can be displayed – not to so that his shortcomings can be ignored.

          And the plain and simple truth is that his brilliance is truly among the all time greats.

          “When you’re ranking the 100 greatest ballplayers of all time, you have to take defense into account. At least Joe clearly did, as witnessed by his inclusion of Brooks Robinson.”

          I’ve never said defense shouldn’t be considered.

          But how much should it be considered? How bad is Jeter, and how much should that take away from his brilliance in other areas? Those aren’t questions we can answer with numbers, because the numbers aren’t nearly consistent or reliable enough.

          I didn’t make Joe’s list, so I’m not qualified to justify his ranking.

          ““virtually tied with Jimmie Foxx for 20th of all time”
          If you’re gonna call it a tie, give him 19th place all time.”

          Jimmie Foxx is 20th with 94.4. Jeter is 21st with 94.1. I’m calling it a tie because, a)Jeter isn’t done, and b)over the course of 20 years, .3 is non-existent.

          “I was not taking exception with Joe’s ranking of Jeter (though I think he’s got him way to high), I was arguing against Joe’s theory that Jeter performed poorly in awards voting relative to his stats.”

          That was the “point” I was referring to. And, again, I think it’s well illustrated.

          Reply
          1. fatmanhattan

            “it’s only within the last few years that defensive metrics have become anything close to familiar among most voters”

            Whether the coaches who vote on the GG are aware of them or not (and I doubt they are), the fact remains that Jeter has won 5 more GG than he deserves.

            “My point was that his offensive value was so high, it’s not hard to understand how he could conceivably get *more* support for MVP than he has, historically. His WAR (but cumulative and oWAR) numbers support this view, I think.”

            Oh, I understand how it might happen, but that doesn’t make it right. He has historically received far more MVP votes than his numbers warrant, a contention which you seem to be agreeing with when you say

            “According to total zone…”
            That you would agree that he’s a bad defender and then argue that he’s at times been pretty good suggests to me… I don’t know what.

            “Arod gets the same adjustment as Jeter”
            You start arguing that Jeter was possibly the best hitter in baseball from 1997 to 2000, and when I offer stats that show that Bonds was clearly the superior offensive force, you ignore the evidence and point to A-Rod. Take away Jeter’s positional adjustment and just look at his raw offensive numbers, and he doesn’t crack the top 20 in baseball at that time, maybe not even the AL.

            And when you judge A-Rod and Jeter on the whole of their careers, rather than the four-year window that best suits your position, A-Rod bests him by 18.9 oWAR despite having 624 fewer PA.

            “I separated the metric (I assume you’re referring to oWAR) out so his brilliance can be displayed”
            I’m afraid it may be you has doesn’t quite get WAR/oWAR/dWAR. If player A and player B put up the exact same offensive numbers, but one plays SS and the other plays LF, the SS may be more valuable because his production is harder to find at that position, but it doesn’t make him a better hitter. Further, using oWAR to argue Jeter’s all-time greatness makes zero sense as it gives him credit for playing SS, but doesn’t take into account how poorly he did so. Why not just give David Ortiz the SS adjustment and call him an all-time great? Who cares if he woulda a below-average defender? We can’t possibly know how he would be, even if we witnessed it, because we couldn’t hope to measure it.

            “Jimmie Foxx is 20th with 94.4. Jeter is 21st with 94.1. I’m calling it a tie because, a)Jeter isn’t done, and b)over the course of 20 years, .3 is non-existent.”
            I agree that a difference that small is meaningless–I said as much in my original comment–but Foxx is 19th all time with 94.1 to Jeter’s 94.0.

            “But how much should it be considered? How bad is Jeter, and how much should that take away from his brilliance in other areas? Those aren’t questions we can answer with numbers, because the numbers aren’t nearly consistent or reliable enough.”

            If you honestly believe that we can’t possibly come close to measuring a player’s defense, then the entire premise of ranking all-time greats is reduced to ranking hitters.

            “That was the “point” I was referring to. And, again, I think it’s well illustrated.”
            Again, if you don’t believe we can approximate defensive value at all, and seem inclined to ignore it–which is in fact what you’re doing when you point to Jeter’s oWAR as proof that he was overlooked in MVP voting–there’s really no point in you taking an interest this discussion at all.

            “kiddo”
            I hope you aren’t this condescending in real life. Also, cherrypicking stats, moving the goal posts and ignoring data is no way to win an argument. None of this is to say that I have any hope of winning this one, because you came to this conversation with your opinions fully, if poorly, baked.

      3. Ian R.

        The MVP is “almost” exclusively given to position players. The thing is that in the 1999 AL, there was a pitcher, Pedro Martinez, who had a historically dominant season. If there was ever a year to give the MVP to a pitcher, that was it.

        Also, I hate to keep harping on this, but oWAR is a stat that’s tailor-made to make Jeter look as good as possible. It includes a positional adjustment but doesn’t include his actual defense at the position. The guy he’s tied with, Jimmie Foxx, takes a huge penalty for being a first baseman.

        Your argument for Jeter is basically “if he were an average shortstop, he’d be one of the 20 best players of all time.” That’s true. Unfortunately, in the real world, Jeter wasn’t an average shortstop. He was one of the worst fielding shortstops of all time.

        Jeter was never the best hitter in the league. That’s not what his oWAR means. It means he was the best hitter + positional adjustment in the league, and that’s the definition of a statistical cherry-pick.

        (By the way, I have no problem saying he’s #57 all-time. Just don’t make him out to be better than he was.)

        Reply
  19. Marcos Padilla

    I have to wonder if there isn’t an overrated/underrated parallel here with ARod. People used to think he was a nice guy, you know. And so, with Jeter, indeed he is charming and handsome-ish and intangibles and all that… and you could say smarmy (I might). TOO nice. Full of himself. Supermodels on each arm. Whether all that is ridiculous or accurate is irrelevant, it’s that we’re suspicious of those without visible fatal flaws, and discount them thusly. And pile on when we’re able, as with ARod – overpaid, then steroids. “See, I always knew he was an a$s!”. I heartily dislike Derek Jeter. And other than obligatory Yankee-hating, I simply cannot tangibly tell you why. And I think that’s it – he’s too damn nice. Makes me want to check my wallet – which is my own cynicism. The flip side of ye olde character clause. Overrated/underrated.

    Reply
    1. vivaelpujols

      If you ask casual fans about half will say that Jeter is better than ARod. That makes ARod supremely underrated, or Jeter overrated… whatever floats your boat.

      Reply
  20. Weebey

    The overrated/underrated thing is a neat hook for an article, but it’s false. Jeter is likely overrated even by most saber types, since there are good reasons to think that his defense was significantly worse than rWAR and fWAR say it is. See this thread for details: http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/derek_jeter_greatest_career_for_a_player_at_the_ss_position

    If these arguments about his defense are correct–and they seem very convincing to me–he is only a marginal hall of famer, and obviously doesn’t belong anywhere near this list.

    Reply
    1. DjangoZ

      Yeah, this was a clunker entry from Joe in an otherwise excellent series. I can’t help but feel that it mirrors Joe’s PED arguments.

      Joe has used thiughtful statistical analysis to make very good points in some of his columns. And then…in other columns like this he purposefully avoids the numbers that undercut his narrative case for someone.

      Oh well, we all have our blindspots. I just didn’t expect that Jeter and the leadership/clutchiness/wins myth would be Joe’s.

      Reply
  21. Weebey

    An interesting tidbit about Jeter’s postseason hitting: his overall line is a typically great jeterian 308/374/465 over 158 games, 734 PA (so essentially a full season.) And yet, looking at his context dependent stats, his win probability added was almost exactly average (.017), and his RE24 was only +2.34. In other words, even though his overall line was excellent, in terms of maximizing wins and/or runs his positive offense events were poorly distributed; more colloquially, his postseason hitting has been quite unclutch.

    Reply
    1. DjangoZ

      How dare you!

      They are lining up to saint the great Derek Jeter and you have the gall to mention this. It’s just so…crass.

      And it totally spoils the narrative.

      Reply
    2. invitro

      I have been looking for something more for playoff stats than what b-r has, and was gonna ask you where you got playoff WPA, until I looked at fangraphs. But they have -1.12 for WPA and 1.35 for RE24.

      Anyway, wow, that number (.017 or -1.12) seems incredibly low. How do you have an OPS of .838 and only 2.34 (or 1.35) for RE24? And I see ARod is -0.45 RE24!

      Well. Apparently I have something to learn about WPA/RE24.

      Reply
  22. EnzoHernandez11

    OK, I have to admit I’m pretty perplexed here. Sure, he’s a first ballot hall of famer, but 57th best ever to play the game? Seriously? Apparently, Joe Posnanski is a major believer in intangibles, because the tangibles sure don’t cut it. His OPS+ ties him with George Hendrick and Curtis Granderson, His rWAR puts him in good company, but that company mostly consists of players who have already been accounted for. His OBP ties him with David Ortiz. When you account for the Negro Leaguers who don’t appear on these lists, but are obviously better than Jeter, it’s hard to square his high ranking with any objective criteria.

    Yes, he’s underrated; some people here consider him a marginal HoF candidate, which he clearly isn’t. But mostly he’s overrated: he isn’t within sniffing distance of the top 60 men to ever play major league baseball.

    By the way, I love this series. Arguing about this sort of thing is what makes being a baseball fan more fun than any other sports fandom.

    Reply
    1. DjangoZ

      Why can’t we just put him in the HOF (which he deserves) and not in the top 100 players of all time (which he does not deserve) and properly rate him.

      Joe has gone meta with the over/under rated bit to sow confusion. The simple fact is that Joe has placed him far too high and for intangible reasons that Joe normally rails against. That is a contradiction that only Joe could explain. And it’s probably why he threw the over/under rated bit out there, because he knew he was doing something strange even for him.

      Reply
    2. ingres77

      George Hendrick: 34.6 oWAR
      Curtis Granderson: 32.1
      David Ortiz: 45.2
      Derek Jeter: 94.1

      Jeter was three times the player Hendrick was and Granderson is. Literally. He was three times as productive. OPS+ aside, he’s been twice the player Ortiz has been. And Jeter’s -9 dWAR is easily the worst among great shortstops, but it’s a damn sight better than Ortiz’s -17.

      Your comparisons are woefully inadequate.

      Jeter’s oWAR puts him among the 20 best players to ever play in the majors. Ever. Not only his prowess, but his longevity and consistency.

      Is 57 too high? I don’t know. Perhaps. But I can easily see how he’s rated higher than Robin Yount and Barry Larkin.

      Reply
      1. kehnn13

        Hard to call it a straw man when there was a comment above that said exactly that:

        “If these arguments about his defense are correct–and they seem very convincing to me–he is only a marginal hall of famer, and obviously doesn’t belong anywhere near this list.”

        Reply
  23. vivaelpujols

    “But I do wonder if, on the other hand, the rest of us went too far the other way, completely discounting the small things he did. Jeter was never one of the fastest players of his generation and yet he was a fantastic base runner, stealing 79% of the bases he attempted and going first-to-third, second-to-home enough to be one of the 10 best base runners of the last 25 years. He was ever-present. Thirteen times he played 150 games or more in a season — only the indestructible Cal Ripken can match that.”

    Um all of things are accounted for in advanced metrics such as WAR. If you wanna argue for leadership or whatever that’s fine, but Jeter is not underrated because of his durability or his base running.

    Reply
    1. ingres77

      I think Joe’s point is self-evident, but if you need numbers to explicate his meaning, I’ll help.

      Jeter’s oWAR is 94.1. His overall WAR is 71.6. So despite being the worst defensive shortstop (according to the metrics) to play the most games at the position, his WAR is still good enough for 10th all time. The only people who put up more oWAR than Jeter are Wagner and Arod.

      Jeter, in fact, is one of the 20 best players of all time going by oWAR, virtually tied with Jimmie Foxx (94.1 and 94.4, respectively). He’s better than Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, George Brett, Manny Ramirez, Rod Carew, Joe DiMaggio, and just about everyone else.

      Do you think of Jeter as one of the 20 best offensive players to ever live? I don’t. And I’m a Yankee fan.

      His defensive failings cause us to overlook all the wonderful things he does everywhere else in the game. Joe’s point, I think, is that looking at the -9 dWAR (no one thinks defensive metrics are flawless) causes us to overlook the +94 oWAR.

      Reply
      1. Ed

        Using oWAR that way is misleading.

        Jeter is only tied with Foxx because Foxx was a 1B and Jeter was a SS, and oWAR adjusts their numbers based on position. If you put Foxx in as a SS instead of a 1B (and I have no idea of the formula, so this is a complete guess), I think Foxx would have well over 100 oWAR and possibly in the 110s or 120s.

        Of course that’s somewhat misleading as well, since Foxx probably could not have played in the majors as a SS (although he did play 3B occasionally and even played SS a couple of times)… but considering Jeter was an atrocious defensive SS, he’s getting a huge benefit in oWAR just for suiting up at the position even while playing it terribly.

        Reply
      2. Ian R.

        Here’s a better way to make the argument you’re making (since oWAR doesn’t do it): Jeter is, per baseball-reference, 30th all-time in runs created. #29 is Paul Molitor. #31 is Al Kaline.

        I’m not sure if that number’s adjusted for his era, but still, 30th all-time is pretty impressive. I don’t think too many people think of him that way.

        (He’s nowhere near Jimme Foxx (#14), though.)

        Reply
      3. vivaelpujols

        Yeah Jeter’s value by the stats is super high, he’s not being underrated on top of that like Joe implies.

        Basically every single Jeter detractor is using WAR because that’s the only thing that shows hes not a god.

        Reply
  24. Pingback: Monday Medley | No Pun Intended

  25. James Whitney

    The one thing I remember most about Jeter, oddly enough, is from game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. The Red Sox were blowing out the Yankees, had won three straight games in excruciating fashion, and had a lead that seemed to me, even as a nervous Red Sox fan, to be a billion to one.
    The entire Yankees team at that point looked as if they had thrown in the towel and conceded the game and the series to the Red Sox—except for Jeter. Jeter was doing his damnedest to get his teammates back in the game, a role A-Rod should have played given Jeter’s seven thousand rings to A-Rod’s none. He seemed to be the only Yankee who cared.
    I realize that this may not even be a drop in the underrated/overrated argument, but that’s the image I will always have of him: a fierce competitor even when everyone around him had given up.

    Reply
    1. Pat

      “The entire Yankees team at that point looked as if they had thrown in the towel and conceded the game and the series to the Red Sox—except for Jeter.”

      AND THAT’S WHY THE YANKEES WON THAT GAME.

      Oh, I’m sorry. You were on your way to making the point why any of this doesn’t-show-up-in-the-statistics-but-shows-you-what-kind-of-guy-he-is b.s. matters?

      Reply
      1. James Whitney

        Wow, chill out. Why are you so angry at Jeter that you insist on attacking me for an argument I specifically disclaim but you assumed I would make anyway? Aren’t there enough people upstream actually making that argument for you?

        That’s just the memory I’ll carry with me of Jeter. I figured there were enough posts debating his skill.

        Reply
    2. bellweather22

      Jeter hit .200 in that ALCS and had one extra base hit. In game 7, he went 1 for 4. So what made you think he was trying so hard to get the Yankees back in it? Did he scrunch up his face or smear his eye black around? I think hitting the ball more often may have helped more than whatever it was that you think he was doing.

      Reply
      1. James Whitney

        There was a television shot of the Yankee dugout where Jeter was yelling at his teammates and otherwise making the sort of movements I associate with a person trying to get his dejected teammates (who looked hopeless) to care about the outcome of the game. He was the only person in the dugout who seemed to care.

        Once again (since it seems that I wasn’t crystal clear on this the first go around), I fully believe that any “grit”, “enthusiasm”, “work ethic” or other similar psychological state Jeter displayed is fully represented by the statistics of his performance. I do not think he was a better player because he seemed to care more about the outcome of this particular game.

        I do think it made him more watchable, more likable, and more interesting to root against. But I suppose you aren’t interested in that.

        Reply
        1. Pat

          Watchable and likeable? Depends on which laundry you root for. A similar show of enthusiasm by a Red Sox in 2007—Kevin Youkilis pumping his fist from the dugout after Ramirez, Lowell, Drew, and Varitek hit consecutive home runs off Chase Wright—wound up on the ESPN bumper reel of sports moments and was played at least daily for the rest of the season. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Youkilis was probably the most hated Red Sox among Yankee fans thereafter (or possibly second to Schilling).

          The Jeter moment I’ll remember was from Game 7 in 2003. The Fox broadcasters really did have an excellent producer then, who knew just to mike the Stadium crowd and not let Buck or whoever speak when the moment spoke for itself, and when Pedro Martinez left the mound, all you heard at home was the thunder of jeers from the Yankees’ home crowd, the entire duration of Martinez’s long walk. When Boone hit the game-winning home run,* the cameras went naturally to Jeter, who gave his trademark fist pump as he leapt out of the dugout, any words he could have said being buried under the roar of the crowd.

          I don’t know nothing before that had done it, but that’s my defining image of Jeter, the one that means I’ll hate him forever—truly hate him, as in if in retirement from baseball he discovers a cure for the kind of cancer I personally have, I’ll still think of him first in the broadcast of that g.d. game.

          * I guess I can do a Poz-note, right? Although it’s now referred to as a “walk-off hit,” apparently the original expression referred only to a “walk-off” loss, never to a walk-off win, as it indicated the losing team “walked off” the field (there being nothing to run for).

          Reply
    3. Rick R

      One of the things I’ll always remember is the play on which he broke his ankle. Even though he was in agonizing pain, he made sure to roll the ball to Cano to prevent the runners from advancing before he doubled over. He always doing whatever he could to win the game—always.

      Reply
        1. gcuzz

          Wow. The douchy-ness is staggering in this thread. Where did Rick in his post mention anything about what another player would do? Or imply that no other player would have done the same thing? He was simply telling what he personally remembered about that particular play, limiting his recollections about what he admired Jeter for doing on that one play. How dare he?

          Reply
          1. Geoff

            I took it to be another example of Jeter’s heroic leadership and grittiness, which seems reasonable since Rick R. had written a long post on Jeter’s otherworldly intangibles. I found this comment silly because his actions on that particular play were exactly the actions I’d expect of *any* Major League player in a similar situation.

            There are examples nearly every day of players getting hurt, then doing what they can to complete the particular play on which they were injured. You see it when guys pull hamstrings running to first, when OFers crash into a wall, etc.

            It’s obviously fine for Rick to have fond memories of Jeter, but that play doesn’t serve to illustrate that Jeter went above and beyond what would be expected of a professional baseball player faced with a similar situation.

  26. Lawhamel

    Lots of haters on here today. I have to think it’s because it’s Jeter – a singularly polarizing figure. Believe me, I hate him as a Red Sox fan, but I tend to think of him as the modern-day Pete Rose. A winner (I know that even using such phraseology will bring venom from the statistically inclined, but it’s how I see it); and a guy you hate if he’s on your opponent and love if he’s on your team. Not very numbers-based analysis there, I know and I know the defensive metrics kill him, but I agree with the Dodger fan above; there are about 30 teams that would have been just fine plugging Jeter in at SS for the last 18 years or so. I have no problem with him on this list, rather here is where the inclusion of Ron Santo, Lou Whitaker, Craig Biggio and some others are going to continue to make me scratch my head when you look at the remaining players. Will be tough to shoehorn all of them into 56 more spots . . .

    Reply
    1. John Gale

      Yeah, I agree. I knew Jeter was polarizing, but I didn’t expect his entry to have *by far* the most comments to date. There’s over 190 so far, which means 200+ is a distinct possibility. The only other entry with even 100 comments is the Frank Thomas/Jeff Bagwell double entry. But of course, that’s two players, so the average per player is below 100. And yeah, bad defense or not, I agree with your assessment. My Cleveland Indians had an excellent defensive shortstop in Omar Vizquel, but I would have traded him in a heartbeat for Jeter. 57th might be too high, but I don’t have a real problem with it.

      Reply
  27. tim

    I hate the fact that people rag on gonzos maps the rangers in 96 made the playoffs for the first time in team history. They played in a minor league stadium until 94 and aside from online presence the ranger fans had nothing to cheer for years and then despite missing 29 games gonzo came in and carried that team to the playoffs. He was an rib machine and say rbis are overrated all you like the object is to score runs and rbis reflect that in the box score. All in saying is i grew up near Dallas and when that 96 team finally made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history…we’ll it made this kid nearly cry..one of my favorite childhood moments….and upon hearing that myfavorite player won vp gave the rangers validity. I finally was rooting for a real team rather than the step child they always were.. steroids aside lol

    Reply
    1. ingres77

      Pudge was the MVP of that 98 team, not Juan Gonzalez. And Jeter was better than both of them, so……

      The 96 year was even worse.

      Pudge – 6.1 WAR
      Gonzo – 3.8
      Griffey – 9.6
      Arod – 9.3
      Mariano Rivera – 5.0

      Rivera had more WAR than Juan Gonzalez in 1996, to say nothing of Arod and Griffey.

      Gonzo shouldn’t have sniffed the MVP.

      Reply
  28. tombando

    There’s Jeterate and there’s Garveyed. You don’t wanna suddenly Garvey Jeter just because of his UZR or whatever. He wasn’t Ozzie w/ the glove but he did pretty good just the same.

    Reply
    1. vivaelpujols

      I mean you can claim Jeter was an ok defender if you ignore UZR and basically all other metrics (besides errors). But that’s kind of dumb, right? Can I say that Ichiro was actually a shit defender just because I feel like it?

      Reply
    1. Stephen

      I interpreted that line to mean that neither Boggs nor Murray was a “hugely popular player” — not that they weren’t great hitters.

      Reply
      1. johnq11

        Stephen,

        Oh, o.k. that makes more sense because his wording is a bit odd. He starts out saying: “Have you ever really looked at the list of greatest players who did did not win an MVP award? You have some outliers in there like Eddie Murray and Wade Boggs,” That would give the impression that Joe thinks Eddie Murray and Wade Boggs are “outlier” in terms of being a great player.

        I don’t remember Boggs having a contemptuous relationship with the media. I remember he had all that trouble with the Margo Adams affair but I remember the media were just reporting what was going on in that situation.

        Joe could have added Johnny Mize, O. Smith, Jim Thome, Alan Trammell, Luke Appling, Lou Whitaker, Bobby Grich, Ron Santo, Roberto Alomar, Adrian Beltre, Scott Rolen, Gary Carter, Duke Snider, Tim Raines, Carlton Fisk, Edgar Martinez and Manny Ramirez.

        Reply
  29. ingres77

    I reply knowing half-expecting you to be a troll, but I’ll bite.

    There are roughly 160 position players in the Hall of Fame. I don’t think it would be terribly hard to find 60+ players who Jeter is better than, but I’ll stick to the shortstops.

    Excluding the Negro League players (without deeper analysis, it’s virtually impossible to compare them), Jeter has more WAR than all but Honus Wagner, Arky Vaughan, George Davis, Robin Yount, and Cal Ripken. Put another way, when Jeter gets inducted, his career will have been better than all but a pre-1900 player, two pre-integration players, a guy who spent half his career in the outfield, and another who spent a good portion of his career at third.

    As things currently stand, he’s played more than 2500 games at short. Ripken played 2300, and Yount played less than 1500.

    More specifically, the only people who’ve spent any time at short who have more oWAR than Jeter are Alex Rodriguez and Honus Wagner. So, a guy who isn’t likely to see the Hall any time soon, and another who started his career before balls were counted as strikes.

    I don’t recall you making this post under Robin Yount’s and Barry Larkin’s articles, but maybe you did. Derek Jeter was better than either. If they are top 100 players, then so is Jeter.

    Reply
    1. Hov34

      So the problem is that oWAR gives too much credit for “just” playing the position of SS. Because if the Yankees had had the balls to move Jeter to 3rd, 2nd or 1st base (where he belonged) when ARod joined the Yankees we wouldn’t be having this conversation and Jeter would be the “marginal HOF candidate” he is. But he was/is a Yankee Short Stop so, 1st ballot HOF here we come.

      Reply
  30. George

    The 2006 MVP race was about picking the best RBI man from a team that made the postseason (NYY, MIN, OAK, DET), and also wasn’t a DH. The criteria was stupidly simplistic.

    Reply
    1. johnq11

      George,

      Yeah, you’re spot on. Morneau was just a terrible selection. The irony also was that he wasn’t even the MVP of his “team.” Mauer or Santana were much more deserving of the award that year.

      Reply
  31. Steve

    I like Jeter and don’t have a problem with his placement in the top 100, but the Yankees announcers sometimes damn him with faint praise. When the Yankees had Nunez playing shortstop last year, with Jeter out with an ankle injury, a ball went through Nunez’s legs one day. The announcer was plainly disgusted and said something like this: “We all know that Jeter has been criticized for his so-called lack of range at shortstop. But the one thing you can count on with Jeter, is that when balls are hit straight at him, he makes the play every time.”

    Reply
  32. johnq11

    Jeter is such an odd and unique player. He never was a good defensive SS yet the Yankees kept him there because he was a great hitter and they had a great defensive 3b in Brosius and then Ventura, then they actually played a SS (A-Rod) at third base. Jeter probably should have been switched to 3b early in his career.

    Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a player that was so awful as a middle of the field (C, SS, 2b, CF) defensive player yet was allowed to continue his career at an important defensive spot. Usually these guys are always moved to an easier position. I guess Jeter didn’t appear to be that bad because he fielding the balls hit directly to him quite well, it’s just that he had no range.

    Juan Samuel was allowed to play 2b and Cf even though he was pretty atrocious. I guess Michael Young is a contemporary player that was kept at SS even though he wasn’t very good.

    Reply
    1. Mr Furious

      Agreed. The window to move Jeter was when A-Rod joined the team, and it didn’t happen. I think it’s fair to knock Jeter some for that fact, but before that, Jeter was still in his prime and bolstered by very good third basemen to make up for his lack of range.

      I think (and I said this as the 2013 season wound down) that the Yankees are insane to leave Jeter at SS any longer. He cannot play the position effectively anymore given his age and recent injury history, and they really ought to sign a guy like Stephen Drew to play SS and move Jeter. Not sure if Jeter has the arm to be great at third, but I think it hides him better than the middle of the infield, and protects him better from injury.

      Reply
      1. johnq11

        Those 1990′s-early 2000′s Yankees were really an odd team in that they had great offensive players up the middle: Jeter, Posada, B. Williams, and Knoblauch, yet they we were pretty poor do downright awful defensively up the middle. Then they had some good to great defenders on the corners: Brosius, T. Martinez, P. O’Neil yet they were kind of average in terms of offense overall at 3b, 1b, Rf and Lf. Left Field was like a revolving door on those teams. Usually great teams have strong offense at the corners and strong defense up the middle.

        Reply
      2. johnq11

        Furious,

        Yeah the logical thing would have been to move Jeter to CF like Robin Yount plus they had a big need as B. Williams was at the end of his career. Then they could have put A-Rod at SS. That would have made the most sense.

        It’s tough with iconic players like Jeter. The Reds did a somewhat similar thing when they didn’t move Griffey jr. out of CF or when they didn’t move Barry Larkin from SS.

        Reply
        1. Mr Furious

          Yeah, the Yanks and the home-grown core of Jeter, Bernie, Posada, Pettitte, Rivera, etc presented the problem of needing to juggle multiple iconic players to really maximize defense and it was easier to surround them (figuratively and literally) with better defensive players on the corners and keep everyone comfortable. Joe Torre gets credited for managing those teams and all the egos, etc and this particular situation was probably a fair portion of that success…

          Your point about the Yanks success despite the inverse of a “good” defensive alignment is one I never really thought of as a total picture—the individual player’s flaws were always apparent, but they were really a terrible defensive team all the way up the middle most of the time…

          Reply
  33. Mr Furious

    Regarding for Jeter’s lack of MVPs, I think he was a victim of his own and his teams’ successes. I’m sure in many instances when it was a close call between voting for Jeter or another candidate (ie: Gonzales) it was easy for the voter to a) penalize Jeter for playing on a stacked Yankee team vs. the other player having the appearance of “carrying his team.” And, b) justify said vote because Jeter would surely win his MVPs another year…

    Unfortunately for Jeter that year never came.

    Reply
  34. Mr Furious

    I also think Jeter is overrated overall, but still a fantastic player, and I don’t have a problem with him being in the Top 100, but I think #57 is to high… But it’s hard to really take much of a stance on individual placements until the countdown is finished.

    As a Sox fan, I can comfortably say that Nomar had a better peak, but Jeter (obviously) had a better career, and I always respected and feared Jeter as an opponent. His patented inside-out dunk hit into RF, or cheap Yankee Stadium home run to right was the scariest potential outcome late in a game if he was up in a key spot—and I would rather have any other hitter in the Yankee lineup up in those spots, than Jeter.

    Reply
  35. Richard

    American Heritage Monthly used to have an annual feature called “Overrated – Underrated”, in which historians and authors would write on a subject, giving an example of something both overrated and underrated in their topic. A few times, the writers picked the same thing to be both over- and under- rated. I believe it was Ornette Coleman who was described as both an over- and underrated jazz musician, because while he wasn’t as good as his fans claimed, he was still better than his critics said.

    I suspect that’s the case with Derek Jeter. His fans overlook his poor defensive skills, but his critics overlook the impressive level of consistency he displays at the plate.

    Reply
  36. Steve

    Anyone suggesting that the Yankees could move Jeter to third base have no idea what the NYC media is like. Jeter is such a beloved icon in New York that his move to third base would be like the Pope changing religions, or the President having a sex change. It would be the news of the week, front page of the Daily News and the New York Post, and if Jeter failed at third base you’d never hear the end of it. He will play shortstop until he retires. To his credit, he will not embarrass himself. Once he realizes he is now a .264 hitter, that will be the end.

    Reply
    1. Mr Furious

      Jeter himself could nullify that in an instant by standing up and volunteering to move for the benefit of the team. The same media and fans would gush at his selfless, team-first attitude. It only results in an outcry if he’s forced to move.

      That’s why I think Jeter deserves some criticism and tarnish on his team-first, whatever-it-takes-to-win legend, because he hasn’t helped the Yankees remedy this situation. There’s a word for that…Hmmm, what is it?… Oh, yeah—selfish.

      Reply
      1. Carl

        Missed before, w A-Roid banned for a year and a great defensive SS on the roster, it would be great for Jeter to come out and say, “After talking to management, I think it’s time to move to 3B, just like I saw Cal Ripken do in my youth.”

        He does that and Derek will be the #1 baby name in NYC for the next decade.

        Reply
  37. Mr Furious

    The fact is, if Jeter (and the Yankees) are realistic, Derek Jeter should probably only play one more season and get his Mariano Rivera farewell tour. And it’s hard to begrudge him, at this point, the chance to do that at shortstop.

    Reply
  38. mark

    If Derek Jeter were the defensive back who caught the tipped pass at the end of the Seahawks/49ers game, nobody would know who Richard Sherman is.
    PS: I love Jeter and think this spot is about right for him.

    Reply
  39. Ian R.

    You can’t compare oWAR and dWAR across positions because they include a positional adjustment. Kaline is penalized for being a right fielder; Jeter gets credit for being a shortstop.

    In terms of batting runs, Kaline beats Jeter handily, 471 to 366. In terms of fielding runs, the gap is even bigger, with +152 for Kaline and -234 (!) for Jeter. Jeter, of course, has a huge advantage because of his positional adjustment (+130 versus -115), along with a small baserunning advantage (55 to 36), but that’s not enough to overcome Kaline’s better hitting and (position-relative) fielding.

    Jeter has a much higher oWAR because oWAR includes the positional adjustment without the fielding runs. In other words, Jeter gets a big advantage for being a shortstop, but he’s not penalized for fielding the position badly. Conversely, Kaline gets marked down for being a right fielder, but he doesn’t get credit for fielding the position well. It’s a deliberately cherry-picked comparison that favors lesser fielders at harder positions.

    If we actually go by WAR, it isn’t close: Kaline has 20 wins on Jeter. He was just better for a longer time.

    (By the way, Kaline wasn’t a bad fielder in his later days. By Fielding Runs, he was pretty much exactly average. Again, because of the positional adjustment, a league-average right fielder gets a negative dWAR.)

    Reply
    1. ingres77

      Your point is well-made about the positional adjustment, though I don’t entirely agree with it.

      The inherent value in having a shortstop (even a poor-fielding one) who can hit like Jeter is higher than a right fielder who can hit like Kaline. It’s the precise reason why there’s a positional adjustment.

      But, you are correct. In my haste, I overlooked RAR. I should’ve used that to illustrate my point. Using Fangraphs, Jeter ranks 44th in RAR, 10 slots behind Kaline, 4 behind Griffey, and ahead of Clemente, Arky Vaughan, Frank Thomas, Pete Rose, and many other greats.

      My point isn’t to illustrate that Derek Jeter was a better player than Al Kaline, as I clearly state multiple times throughout this thread – his defensive worth isn’t really in question (by me, at least). He’s not a good fielding shortstop. That’s part of his overall value.

      My point is that what he’s done, offensively, is historically significant. And, I think, often gets overlooked given his defensive struggles. When you put it in context, it’s pretty remarkable.

      This is why, I think, Joe has him ranked so highly.

      Reply
      1. Ian R.

        I understand the purpose of the positional adjustment – it’s to account for the increased difficulty of playing a position further to the left on the defensive spectrum. The trouble is, Jeter played that position badly – he didn’t just struggle, he was historically bad.

        By oWAR, Jeter is comparable to Jimmie Foxx. By total WAR, he’s comparable to Rafael Palmeiro, which seems about right (ignoring PEDs for the moment). There’s no more value in getting your offense from a horrible-fielding shortstop than in getting it from an average first baseman. Yes, playing Jeter at short opens up first base for another slugger, but on the other hand, playing Palmeiro at first opens up short for a better fielder.

        Reply
  40. zack

    Jeter had a very good case in ’99 and ’06. It’s kind of strange that Joe is arguing for 1998, and he makes it sound as if Jeter was the only good candidate that season. Alex Rodriguez in Seattle played the same position and had a better season than Jeter had (Alex went 40/40 and led the league in hits). Yes, his team finished 3rd, but Posnanski has argued in the past that team results shouldn’t matter (see: Trout vs. Cabrera) so his inconsistency is kind of puzzling.

    Reply
    1. Andy

      Jeter had 7.5 vs A-rod’s 8.5 in 1998 and I think Joe has previously said that within a certain distance (1 WAR?) it becomes necessary to look at other aspects than those measured by WAR. Overall team success is probably on the list of those things. Leadership is another. Derek Jeter was 1998 considered the leader of the most successful team in baseball history (if you include the postseason which doesn’t count towards the MVP). I think ranking Jeter ahead of A-Rod makes sense but I would not have been upset about the reverse outcome.

      I do not subscribe to the idea that an MVP has to be from a team making the postseason. That said something like A-rod’s 2003 award just seems wrong – if your team is 24 games out of the wild card and finished last in the division by 6 games how valuable were really the 8.5 WAR you provided? This was a debate when Zach Greinke won the CY Young but the CY Young I believe is meant to go to the best pitcher so the CY Young is different than the MVP.

      back to 2003 – If you finish 3-4 games out of it you contributed a lot to keeping your team in the race and that is valuable… But 24 games out?

      Of course there was no good alternatives to A-Rod – Nomar, Boone, Posada and Delgado were all around 6 WAR. So not within the WAR distance Joe (I think) has mentioned before.

      I don’t think A-rod really deserved it but no one got robbed.

      Of course the 1998 Yankees won the division by 22 games and made the post season by 26 games so as I jokingly mentioned before Jeter’s 7.5 made no difference what so ever. They would have won it with or without him unless you attribute at least 14.5 games to his intangibles . However that just seems plain wrong – his contribution counted and contributed to an historically unique level of success

      Reply
      1. Ian R.

        A point that makes your argument a little stronger: In 1998, the Yankees WERE the most successful team in baseball history, even if you just look at the regular season. Their 114 wins were an all-time record.

        It just so happens that the Mariners broke that record three years later.

        Reply
  41. KB

    For grins I decided to compare Jeter’s career with another noted middle infielder who played in roughly the same era, and who is getting little HoF love. Jeter, in 2602 career games is a career .828 OPS (117 OPS+), averaged 16 HR, 53 XBH, 206 hits and 117 runs per every 162 games. His career DWar is -9.2, career Rtot is -154.

    Player number 2 played in 2311 career games, had career OPS of .855 (123 OPS+), 69 XBH, 27 HR, 107 RBI, 93 runs scored, and 173 hits per every 162 games. Player B also has career DWar of -0.7 and Rtot of -1 at his primary position, -6 when you add in the 157 games he played at 3B.

    Based on those numbers, pretty hard to say Jeter is the 57th best of all-time against a guy will certainly not be on the list at all, Jeff Kent.

    Reply
    1. bellweather22

      Good comparison since Jeter actually has a much worse dWAR than Kent, despite the positional adjustment….. And the fact that nobody ever called Kent a good fielder. Just shows how skewed the media and some fans are when rating Jeters career.

      Reply
    2. mark

      Well now we’re cherry picking. Sure:- use WAR to establish that Jeter is worse than Kent on defense, but avoid all reference to comprehensive WAR when analyzing offense.

      Career WAR: Jeter 71.6 Kent 55.2 (this incorporates Kent’s advantage on defense)

      And it’s not just Jeter compiling or that Jeter has 2 more years in his career. In the last three years of Jeter’s career his WAR is only a combined 2.4, so even if you cut Jeter’s career off so he’s one season short of Kent, his WAR, including defense, is substantially higher.

      Jeter simply had more peak seasons.

      WAR seasons 3 or better Jeter 14 Kent 9
      WAR seasons 4 or better Jeter 8 Kent 5
      WAR seasons 5 or better Jeter 5 Kent 3
      WAR seasons 6 or better Jeter 3 Kent 2
      WAR seasons 7 or better Jeter 2 Kent 2
      WAR seasons 8 or better Jeter 1 Kent 0

      Seasons below 3 WAR Jeter 5 Kent 8 (including seasons split among 2 teams)

      I’m not getting into a fight over the validity of WAR, but to use it for defense and then cherry pick preferred stats for offense is wrong.

      Reply
  42. Stephen

    Based on Joe’s explanations, I don’t know why there is such a heated debate on Jeter’s ranking at number 57, other than the irrational love-hate that comes with him.

    According to Fangraphs, Jeter has 73.8 WAR, which is number 45 all-time among position players. That should translate to about 70 to 75 on the list when pitchers are included.

    Now, Jeter’s defense (without positional adjustment) is fourth worst all-time at -138.8 runs. As Joe mentioned, maybe we should give Jeter a bit more credit on his defense. Therefore, let’s assume that Jeter is only the 30th worst defender, which is historically bad, but not as bad as it gets. This is an arbitrary and generous assumption, but still a decent “what if” exercise.

    With the above assumption, Jeter would get about 50 more runs and a WAR total close to 79, placing him among the top-40 position players and top-60 when you include the pitchers. Given that, a ranking at number 57 is not too unreasonable.

    There are good arguments to be made that the above assumption is overly kind or that Jeter should have been moved to another position years ago, which would significantly reduce his value. Maybe the Yankees thought that Jeter would be a bad defender anywhere and shortstop is the best way to get the most out of him. A-Rod was considerably better at short, but maybe the Yankees wanted to limit the wear and tear on their best power hitter.

    Anyway, the Yankees allowed Jeter to stay at shortstop, and, at the end of the day, it all turned out fine.

    Reply
  43. Hov34

    Just an FYI Jeter has generated the most comments so far. Probably because he’s so “overrated” ;)

    Here are the top 5 so far:

    Jeter 201
    Thomas/Bagwell 161
    Eddie Murray 92
    Reggie Jackson 90
    Brooks Robinson 84

    Reply
  44. KB

    For the whole “you cherry-picked data on the Jeter vs Kent argument,” well of course I did. Everyone, including Joe does it when making their “why so and so does/does not belong in the HoF argument.” I think my favorite one was the “Jack Morris belongs in the HoF because he pitched into the ninth inning more often than anyone of his generation,” argument. But I digress. My point was not to argue Jeff Kent was better than Jeter. In fact I personally believe Jeter belongs in the Hall and Kent does not. However, my point was to break apart the conventional wisdom which holds that Jeter is a first ballot, near unanimous HoF player and Jeff Kent is lucky he’s getting a second year on the ballot. My point was to show the difference between Jeter and Kent is not that great and it’s funny how being this generation’s perceived Joe DiMaggio as the face of the Yankees distorts the narrative. Jeter is a Hall lock with 3300 career hits and counting, but he was not that much better a player than Jeff Kent to venerate one so much and dismiss the other so casually.

    Reply
    1. Ian R.

      Uh. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Joe CALL OUT the Morris argument you mentioned as a cherry-pick? He’s never argued that Jack Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame.

      Reply
  45. manuel

    what if Jeter 2014 plays one of his(the) best seasons ever. great def. and offense. leading the yankees to his last world series? would that bring ihm up a few more place in your list?

    Reply
    1. Geoff

      I’m sure it would.

      Of course, it’s more likely that Rebel Wilson earns a Derek Jeter gift basket than all of those things happen.

      Reply

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