Is Derek Jeter the greatest offensive Shortstop of All-Time?

Hey, so I’m Scobarr. I’m a little new to this. I don’t really know how these things work, so bare with me here.

This is my first blog post ever, but it is more or less a direct response to a friend. We were arguing last week over who was the greatest Yankee of the 1995 to Present era, or as he put it, “dynasty”. At first he said Bernie Williams, then, he immediately revoked his response and decided to go with Derek Jeter.  I argued in favor of Mariano. After about 15 minutes of this, he changed his mind, and agreed that Mariano was the greatest Yankee of the past 20 years. He did, however, put an amendment on his concession saying that, although Rivera was the more dominant Yankee, Derek Jeter was still the best Shortstop of all time.

This is quite a lofty claim, and one I take tremendous offense to. I hate Derek Jeter. I loathe him. I detest him. I’m a die-hard Met fan and Yankee-hater, so of course, I hate the face of their franchise with a burning passion. To say something like this, he knew he better be right, or I’d give him hell. I have always thought that Derek Jeter is extremely overrated, that most of his fame comes outside statistics and raw natural talent, and I don’t think he is anywhere close to being considered one of the best Shortstops of all time, but I also could be wrong. So, I must remain objective, and look purely at raw statistics.

After saying that Jeter was the best shortstop of all time, I let out a very loud and obnoxious gasp, he countered with “Oh yeah, well, who’s better.” Half-jokingly I said “Rey Ordonez.” This made him pause, laugh, and once again change his original assertion. He responded, “Correction, Derek Jeter is the best offensive shortstop of all time.” This actually makes my point easier to prove. While it does take out defensive talents, it also takes out the “intangibles” that so many people like to attribute to Jeter. And thankfully there is no offensive category for “being a bi-racial angel”, but like I said, I could be wrong here. That’s what I’m trying to get at with this post. How good is Jeter compared to the all-time great Shortstops?

Derek Jeter’s stats as of 6/1/2012:
10,083 AB, 3,161 Hits, 1,798 Runs, 245 HR, 1,215 RBIs, 343 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG

And, for the sake of argument, let’s spread that out over a full/average season (550 AB).

So then an average season for Jeter would look like this:

550 AB, 172 H, 98 R, 13 HR, 66 RBI, 19 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG

Yeah, make no mistake about it, Jeter is clearly a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and a great ball-player. But best offensive shortstop of all time? I think we’ll still need a little bit more research here. I’ll be honest. When I first started doing my research, I was surprised. Jeter matches up a lot better against the all-time greats then I thought. There are only two SS with more hits than Jeter; Cal Ripken Jr. and Honus Wagner. He’s also (surprisingly) 6th all-time among shortstops in HR, 18th in SB, 8th in RBI, and 1st in Runs scored. Let’s see how  he compares to some of the all-time greats and current category leaders compare.

Barry Larkin
All-Time: 7937 AB, 1329 R, 2340 H, 198 HR, 960 RBI, 379 SB, .295 AVG, .371 OBP, .444 SLG

Cal Ripken Jr.
All-Time: 11551 AB, 1647 R, 3184 H, 431 HR, 1695 RBI, 36 SB, .276 AVG, .340 OBP, .447 SLG

Robin Yount
All-Time: 11008 AB, 1632 R, 3142 H, 251 HR, 1406 RBI, 271 SB, .285 AVG, .342. OBP, .430 SLG

Miguel Tejada
All-Time: 8278 AB, 1215 R, 2362 H, 304 HR, 1282 RBI, 84 SB, .285 AVG, .336 OBP, .457 SLG

As far as all-time totals go, Jeter is right up there with the best. Larkin only beats Jeter in SB and only by 64. Yount gets beat in every category except HR (+6) and RBIs (+191). Tejada beats Jeter in HR (+59), RBI (+67), and SLG (+.008), but gets destroyed in everything else. Ripken has Jeter beat in Hits by 23, HR by 186, and RBIs by 380. By the end of the season Jeter will easily surpass Ripken in hits, and by the end of his career, Jeter will probably surpass him in RBIs. The rest of Jeter’s category’s surely make up for the deficit in HRs (+151R, +307 SB, +.037 AVG, +.043 OBP, and +.002 .SLG). Although, admittedly, Ripken makes the best case for being a better offensive shortstop, I still think Jeter is better. Okay, so then, let’s see if we can find a more worthy adversary?

Arky Vaughan (1932-1948),

All-Time: 6622 AB, 1175 R, 2103 H, 96 HR, 926 RBI, 118 SB, .318 AVG, .406 OBP, .453 SLG

Although he played in a much different era (1932-1948), he also put up some crazy stats. Still, as far as all-time stats go, Jeter wrecks him. But then again Jeter does have about 3,500 ABs on Arky. So let’s see how they match up if we go off of an average season for both (rounding up at .5 for each category).

Average season for Jeter:  550 AB, 98 R, 172 H, 13 HR, 66 RBI, 19 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG
Average season for Arky: 550 AB, 98 R, 175 H, 8 HR, 77 RBIs, 10 SB, . 318 AVG, .406 OBP, .453 SLG

Runs scored is a wash (I think Jeter would have won by a fraction of a point if I didn’t round up), Jeter will have 5 more HR and 9 more steals than Arky. While Arky will get 3 more hits than Jeter, score 11 more RBIs, beat Jeter in AVG by .005, OBP by .023, and SLG by .004. So this contest is pretty much a wash. Jeter takes two very important categories in HR and SB, but Arky takes him in RBIs, AVG, and, by a wide margin, OBP. I’d give the slight edge to Arky on this one. Next up is another SS who, I think would have creamed Jeter, if they had played as many games as Jeter: Nomar Garciaparra.

Nomar All-Time: 5586 ABs, 927 R, 1747 H, 229 HR, 936 RBI, 95 SB, .313 AVG, .361 OBP, .521 SLG

Average season for Nomar: 550 AB, 91 R, 172 H, 23 HR, 92 RBI, 9 SB, .313 AVG, .361 OBP, .521 SLG
Average season for Jeter:  550 AB, 98 R, 172 H, 13 HR, 66 RBI, 19 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG

So in an average season they would record the same amount of hits, while Jeter would get 7 more Runs, 10 more SB, and +.022 OBP, and Nomar would get 10 more HR, 26 more RBIs, and .072 in SLG. This seems like pretty much of a wash. It would have been amazing to see what Nomar could have done had he stayed healthy. His first full season he had 30 HR, 22 SB, and hit .306 AVG. The next season he had 35 HR and hit .323. The season after that he had 27 and batted .357. In his prime, Nomar was one of the best. As far SS to SS comparison based on Average seasons, this one is pretty much a wash. It depends on if you’d prefer a SS with a better OBP who can get you steals, or one with some power who can get you some RBIs. Nomar gets +10 in HR, but Jeter gets +10 in SB. Jeter gets +7 in Runs, but Nomar gets +26 in RBI. It’s tough, but I’d give the edge to Nomar. Admittedly, however, I am biased.

Next brings us to the person I think is the actual #1 SS of all-time: Honus Wagner (you know, the guy from the baseball card).

Honus Wagner (1897-1917)

HW All-time: 10430 AB, 1736 R, 3415 H, 101 HR, 1732 RBI, 722 SB, .327 AVG, .391 OBP, .466 SLG
DJ All-Time: 10083 AB, 1798 Runs, 3161 Hits, 245 HR, 1215 RBIs, 343 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG

So, Jeter takes Honus in runs by 62 and HR by 144. But that is it. Those are the only two stats he takes. Honus beats Jeter in hits (254), RBI (517), SB (379), AVG (.014), OBP (.008), and SLG (.017). Honus does have 347 At-Bats on Jeter, so let’s take a look at a sample season and see what happens.

HW Average: 550 AB, 92 R, 180 H, 5 HR, 91 RBI, 38 SB, .327 AVG, .391 OBP, .466 SLG
DJ Average:  550 AB, 98 R, 172 H, 13 HR, 66 RBI, 19 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG

So in an average season Jeter would record about 6 more runs and get 8 more HR. Honus would get 8 more Hits, 25 more RBIs, 19 more SBs, and beat out Jeter by .014 in AVG, .008 in OBP, and .017 in SLG. Again, it’s a close call, but I’d have to go with Honus. The 6 runs Jeter would produce is negligible compared to the 25 RBIs Honus would produce. 38 SB is highly valuable, especially for someone with a near .400 OBP. But again, in Jeter’s defense, Honus hasn’t played since 1917.

So while I do think that Nomar and Vaughan are better offensive shortstops, it’s not Jeter’s fault they haven’t played as many games as he had. So, the only guy who is obviously statistically better than Jeter is Honus Wagner, a guy who retired from baseball in 1917? So, I guess, one could legitimately say that, Jeter is the best offensive shortstop since 1917. Wow! Oh my God! Ouch. It really hurt me to write that. But then again, the numbers, just simply, do not lie. Jeter really is one of the best offensive shortstops to have ever played the game. The best? I personally, don’t think so. But there is a very compelling argument to be made that he is. And even if he isn’t the top offensive SS of all-time, he is definitely in the top-5 and probably in the top-3.

Though, there is a reason for this. Prior to the birth of A-Rod, Nomar, Tejada, and Jeter, Shortstops have been known as small scrappy guys who played great defense. You could tolerate their meager 5HR a year and their .250AVG, because their glove made up for it. Then, all of a sudden you had SSs hitting .300+ and having 30HR seasons. This trend has continued more or less. Look at some of the new younger Shortstops entering the fold; Hanley Ramirez (currently playing 3B), Jose Reyes, and Troy Tulowitzki. At the time of this article Jeter is only 23 days away from turning 38. He has been tearing it up this season, so who knows how many more he has left in the tank. Perhaps 2 more, maybe 4. Yet, guys like Hanley (28), Reyes (28), and Tulowitzki (27) are putting up comparable numbers and could end up giving Jeter a run for his money. Let’s take a look.

Hanley Ramirez Average:  550 AB, 101 R, 167 H, 22 HR, 73 RBI, 35 SB, .304 AVG, .377 OBP, .506 SLG
Jeter Average:  550 AB, 98 R, 172 H, 13 HR, 66 RBI, 19 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG

Troy Tulowitzki Average: 550 AB, 92 R, 161 H, 25 HR, 92 RBI, 10 SB, .292 AVG, .364 OBP, .504 SLG
Jeter Average:  550 AB, 98 R, 172 H, 13 HR, 66 RBI, 19 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG

Jose Reyes Average: 550 AB, 90 R, 160 H, 10 HR, 51 RBI, 45 SB, .291 AVG, .341 OBP, .437 SLG
Jeter Average:  550 AB, 98 R, 172 H, 13 HR, 66 RBI, 19 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG

So even if Jeter is one of the top 3 best offensive shortstops of all-time, who knows how long he’ll be there.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Imagine if A-Rod had never moved over to third base. These are his numbers in comparison to Jeter:

A-Rod All-Time: 9388 AB, 1851 Runs, 2828 Hits, 637 HR, 1914 RBIs, 311 SB, .301 AVG, .386 OBP, .564 SLG
Jeter All-Time: 10083 AB, 1798 Runs, 3161 Hits, 245 HR, 1215 RBIs, 343 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG

A-Rod Average: 550 AB, 108 R, 166 H, 37 HR, 112 RBI, 18 SB, .301 AVG, .386 OBP, .564 SLG
Jeter Average: 550 AB, 98 R, 172 H, 13 HR, 66 RBI, 19 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG

I think it’s fairly obvious who’d win that battle. Lucky break for Jeter, I guess. One could also throw in Ernie Banks, who split time as Shortstop and 1B in there.

Ernie Banks All-Time: 9421 AB, 1305 R, 2583 H, 512 HR, 1636 RBI, 50 SB, .274 AVG, .330 OBP, .500 SLG
Jeter All-Time: 10083 AB, 1798 Runs, 3161 Hits, 245 HR, 1215 RBIs, 343 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG

Ernie Banks Average: 550 AB, 76 R, 150 H, 30 HR, 96 RBI, 3 SB, .274 AVG, .330 OBP, .500 SLG
Jeter Average: 550 AB, 98 R, 172 H, 13 HR, 66 RBI, 19 SB, .313 AVG, .383 OBP, .449 SLG

Conclusion: So yeah, is Jeter the best offensive shortstop of all-time? Well, it depends. If you go off of the value of each At Bat, guys like Arky and Nomar are (arguably) better. If you go off of all-time stats, only one is definitively better; Honus Wagner. Jeter is (in my opinion) the second best offensive Shortstop to ever play the game and the best since the 1920s, but that is only because Ernie Banks and Alex Rodriquez spent the majority of their time at other positions. If they had Jeter might be the 4th best of all-time. Had Nomar and Arky played as many games as Jeter, he’d probably be 6th best. If Hanley goes back to SS, keeps up his current average stats, and plays as many games as Jeter, then at the end of his career Jeter would probably only be the 7th best of all time. However, this is only speaking hypothetically, and I am, obviously, not giving Jeter enough due credit here. Is Jeter the best offensive shortstop of all time? No. That would be Honus Wagner. But Jeter is damned close. I would say, the second best (and a very close second best) offensive Shortstop of all-time. And in all likelihood, it’ll likely stay that way for the next 10-20 years.

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