Is Derek Jeter a first ballot Hall of Famer?
As a non-Yankees fan, it’s really easy to hate on Derek Jeter. The 2014 season will be his 20th, and final, Major League season. In two of the previous 19 seasons, he played fewer than 20 games. First was his debut season where he played 15 games and made only 51 plate appearances, and last year as he recovered from ankle and quadriceps injuries, he only logged 17 games and 73 plate appearances. Other than that, he averaged 151 games for 17 straight seasons. Over that stretch, he slashed .313/.382/.448 and averaged 110 R, 15 HR, 73 RBI and 20 SB. For e-i-g-h-t-e-e-n years. Sure, his defense has been overrated his whole career and his 5 Gold Gloves are a bit of joke, but that kind of production from a premium position is what front offices dream on in every 16 year old prospect.
While we can see all of the numbers and, as I look at them, I’m a little surprised at the quality of production he’s offered. Of course I know he’s been a top offensive shortstop his whole career, but my expectations for offensive value in a shortstop are pretty low. When you add in the leadership he has provided the Yankees over the years, his career becomes even more impressive.
Like most other statistics-minded baseball folks, terms like “leadership” and “chemistry” cause me to vomit in my mouth a little. There have been just as many totally dysfunctional clubhouses that have completely dominated on the field. Notably the Yankees teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s, termed the “Bronx Zoo”. Of course, the Yankees of the Jeter Era have seen their share of drama, but he has been a consistent leader and face of the Yankees. In 2003, George Steinbrenner named Jeter the first Yankee captain since Don Mattingly retired eight years earlier.
Ok, that’s enough of that soft, gushy stuff. Let’s get back to hard numbers like WAR. Jeter has amassed 71.6 WAR over his career which will eventually land him in Cooperstown. It’s interesting to note, however, that Jeter only led the Yankees in WAR 4 times. Three of those four seasons (1998, 1999, 2009), the Yankees won the World Series. The other season, 2006, the Yankees got bounced in the Divisional Series by the, eventual AL champs, Detroit Tigers. He averaged 4.4 WAR per 650 plate appearances over his career. Using Baseball-Reference.com’s WAR explanation, 5+ is an All Star level player. So, Derek Jeter was nearly an All Star caliber player, every single year of his 19 year career. That’s amazing.
We can’t really look at the Hall of Fame resumé without looking into Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system to see how Jeter stands up to Hall of Fame standards for shortstops, we see that he has a better JAWS score than 12 current Hall of Famers (since 1900) and only Bill Dahlen and Alan Trammel have better JAWS scores and are not in the Hall.
Like I said at the outset, I’d love to be able to slag him off, but Derek Jeter is a no doubt, first ballot Hall of Famer.