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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Soderholm-Difatte: Derek Jeter in Shortstop Perspective

By the year 2000, even though he had been a full-time regular for only as long as Jeter (since 1996), there were already advocates for A-Rod staking a claim to being perhaps the best player ever once the final chapter of his career was written.  Little did anyone know then that so many chapters in A-Rod’s epic saga would be sordid and career-diminishing.  And Nomar was the model of consistency at better than an All-Star level of performance from 1997 to 2003, averaging between 6.1 and 7.4 wins above replacement every year, not including an injury-ravaged 2001 season that limited him to 21 games.  Thereafter, of course, Garciaparra’s Hall of Fame trajectory nose-dived with injury after injury, making him a virtually forgotten afterthought in the once-vivid debate over who was the best shortstop in the game–A-Rod, Nomar, or Derek?  Both Rodriguez and Garciaparra were not only better all-around shortstops based on performance, but their presence on an otherwise average major league team for an entire season would have made more difference to that team’s winning percentage than Jeter (see the 162W/L% column under “Player Value” on their player pages in Baseball-reference.com).  Maybe so, but Jeter is the one with all the championship rings . . . five of them.  A-Rod has one.  Nomar has none.

Going back to more recent Hall of Fame shortstops, the Brewers’ Robin Yount (from 1980-84), the Cardinals’ Ozzie Smith (1985-89), the Orioles’ Cal Ripken, Jr., and the Reds’ Barry Larkin (both from 1988-92) all had better five-best consecutive years than Jeter based on the WAR metric for player value. All four also had more seasons in their career than Jeter where their player value exceeded an All-Star level of performance on the field–Smith 10 times, including eight times in nine years between 1984 and 1992; Ripken eight times in nine years between 1983 and 1991, with MVP awards at both bookends; Larkin eight times; and Yount seven times, although two of his were after he switched to the outfield.  All four were much better defensive shortstops than Jeter.  And three of the four were elected into the Hall of Fame their first time on the ballot; Larkin had to wait until his third year of eligibility to break the 75 % vote barrier.

None of the four, however, has more than one World Series ring, and only Ozzie (with three appearances) played in more than one World Series.  Jeter, meanwhile, has five World Series rings in seven trips to the Fall Classic–and is working towards six in eight in this, his final season–and the “Captain” hit .353 or better in four of those five Yankee triumphs.  His batting average in 38 World Series games is .323, brought that low only because of the .148 he hit in the 2001 Series, which the Yankees lost on a pop fly single just beyond Jeter’s reach over a drawn-in infield.

While it’s hard to go against Honus Wagner as the greatest shortstop of all time, there will be significant temptation to proclaim Derek Jeter as the best shortstop in American League history.

Thanks to Grub.

Repoz Posted: March 02, 2014 at 07:04 AM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics, yankees

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   1. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 02, 2014 at 08:54 AM (#4664780)
While it’s hard to go against Honus Wagner as the greatest shortstop of all time, there will be significant temptation to proclaim Derek Jeter as the best shortstop in American League history.

What's the going price these days for the BTF Ulcer Surgery concession?
   2. kcgard2 Posted: March 02, 2014 at 09:11 AM (#4664782)
This thing is all over the place. At one moment he is comparing shortstops on career and 5-year peak WAR value and marginal win value based on overall team strength, and in the next moment he is comparing them on World Series batting average and team WS appearances.
   3. BDC Posted: March 02, 2014 at 09:17 AM (#4664783)
Who is this Derek Jeter that the article speaks of?
   4. jdennis Posted: March 02, 2014 at 10:27 AM (#4664797)
Let me show this compelling evidence that Jeter was not as good of a shortstop as A-Rod, peak Nomar, Ozzie, Cal, or Barry. Then let me cancel all of that and say Jeter was better than everyone except someone I didn't compare him to, Wagner. After that, let me say his true comparisons are players at other positions, Rose and Biggio, without any evidence.
   5. Scott Ross Posted: March 02, 2014 at 10:56 AM (#4664808)
All these guys were better than Jeter, but Jeter was on better teams, so Jeter was better. Got it?
   6. Yastrzemski in left. Posted: March 02, 2014 at 11:46 AM (#4664834)
@4. Excellent recap. Or should I say re-crap.
   7. Baldrick Posted: March 02, 2014 at 12:12 PM (#4664847)
Pass
   8. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 02, 2014 at 12:19 PM (#4664853)
What I wanna know is what the hell kind of a name is Soderholm-Difatte?
   9. BDC Posted: March 02, 2014 at 12:29 PM (#4664862)
what the hell kind of a name is Soderholm-Difatte

Alliance between a family of Renaissance condottieri and a clan of Minnesota Twins utility infielders.
   10. Howie Menckel Posted: March 02, 2014 at 01:37 PM (#4664905)

"His batting average in 38 World Series games is .323, brought that low only because of the .148 he hit in the 2001 Series."

"His batting average in 38 World Series games is .323, brought that high only because of the .409 he hit in the 2009 Series."

   11. I Am Not a Number Posted: March 02, 2014 at 02:07 PM (#4664918)
Check out the author's CV. Not quite what I was expecting.
   12. Jose Molina wants a nickname like "A-Rod" Posted: March 02, 2014 at 02:08 PM (#4664919)
ctr!
   13. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: March 02, 2014 at 07:01 PM (#4665036)
Mr. Soderholm-Difatte, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.

I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: March 02, 2014 at 07:28 PM (#4665057)
let me say his true comparisons are players at other positions, Rose and Biggio

At least somebody is reading my posts. :-)
   15. JE (Jason) Posted: March 02, 2014 at 07:29 PM (#4665059)
Check out the author's CV. Not quite what I was expecting.

Perhaps it partially explains decades of CIA intelligence failures?
   16. bjhanke Posted: March 03, 2014 at 05:04 AM (#4665209)
BDC - Heh.

So, Derek Jeter, and presumably any other player who played for the Yanks during Jeter's tenure, even as backup catchers, is a better shortstop (or player) than he would otherwise be because the Yankees have more money than anyone else? Is that the conclusion in TFA?

Walt - I read your posts. You just get cranky because I like them. :-) Well, I like them because you remind me of my favorite grad school professor, Dr. Lawrence J. Ross (a Shakespeare specialist, now, unlike you, deceased), who also got cranky when people didn't put in enough work to understand him. - Brock Hanke
   17. villageidiom Posted: March 03, 2014 at 07:04 AM (#4665217)
Maybe so, but Jeter is the one with all the championship rings . . . five of them.  A-Rod has one.  Nomar has none.
Nomar did receive one for 2004.

I think it is fairly safe to say that if you swapped the career path of Jeter with that of A-Rod - that is, A-Rod is a career Yankees SS while Jeter plays for the Mariners, Rangers, and eventually 3B for the Yankees, A-Rod would have 5 rings and Jeter one. World Championships are a team thing, and there's no reason to think A-Rod would have cost the Yankees any of the championships had he been in Jeter's place all along.

Oh, wait, I am taking the argument seriously. Never mind.

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