Posted February 12, 2014

Derek Jeter a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famer

Derek Jeter, Hall of Fame, JAWS, New York Yankees
Derek Jeter, Yankees

Though his defense cut into his overall value, Derek Jeter’s skill at the plate made him one of the most accomplished hitters of all-time as measured by offensive WAR. (Frank Franklin/AP)

Derek Jeter plans to hang up his spikes after the 2014 season. The Yankee legend’s announcement of his intentions on Wednesday virtually guarantees that he will be at the head of the class for the 2020 Hall of Fame induction, for his credentials are overwhelming.

Even if he’s unable to rebound to anything close to his 2012 form after missing nearly all of the 2013 season, Jeter has already done more than enough to guarantee a first-ballot election, likely with more than 95 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Beyond his 13 All-Star appearances and five Gold Gloves (oh, we’ll get to those), his 3,316 hits place him 10th on the all-time list, and he needs just four to surpass Paul Molitor for ninth place. If he plays regularly, he should be able to climb all the way to sixth, surpassing Carl Yastrzemski (3,419), Honus Wagner (3,420) and Cap Anson (3,435; via the Elias Sports Bureau, Major League Baseball and the Hall recognize only 3,081 hits for him).

Jeter also has a realistic shot at moving into the top 10 in runs scored; his 1,876 rank 13th, and he can vault over Tris Speaker (1,882), Lou Gehrig (1,888) and Alex Rodriguez (1,919) if he stays healthy. He’s 16th in times on base (4,527) and could realistically climb to 13th (Mel Ott, 4,648) with regular duty.

Helped by the addition of the wild card and the third tier of playoffs, Jeter has been a key part of 16 playoff teams, seven pennant winners and five world champions. Along the way, he’s claimed a few major postseason records, and by a country mile at that. His 158 games played are 33 more than former teammate Jorge Posada, the next closest player. He outdistances another former teammate, Bernie Williams, by staggering margins in plate appearances (734 to 545), hits (200 to 128), times on base (271 to 202), total bases (302 to 223, with Manny Ramirez tying Williams) and runs (111 to 83). Meanwhile, despite never being particularly known for his power (not that his 256 career homers are anything to sneeze at), his 20 postseason homers rank third behind Ramirez (29) and Williams (22). Beyond simply compiling, over the course of nearly a full season of extra play, Jeter has more or less matched his regular season performance (.312/.381/.446 career) with a sizzling .308/.374/.465 postseason line, all of that coming against high-caliber competition.

Turning to the advanced metrics via my JAWS system for comparing Hall of Fame candidates, Jeter’s 71.6 career Wins Above Replacement ranks 10th all-time among shortstops, a list that includes several (Rodriguez, Cal Ripken, George Davis, Robin Yount, Luke Appling, Arky Vaughan) who moved to other positions later in their careers; they’re classified as shortstops because they accrued the most value there. He’s about five wins above the Hall standard there (66.7), while his peak total (best seven seasons) of 42.3 ranks “only” 16th and is 0.5 wins below the Hall standard. Even so, his JAWS ranks 12th among shortstops, well above the standard. Here’s the top 20 all-time:

Rk  Player Career Peak JAWS
1 Honus Wagner* 130.6 65.3 98.0
2 Alex Rodriguez 115.7 64.1 89.9
3 Cal Ripken* 95.6 56.1 75.8
4 George Davis* 84.8 44.4 64.6
5 Robin Yount* 77.1 47.3 62.2
6 Arky Vaughan* 73.0 50.6 61.8
7 Ernie Banks* 67.6 51.9 59.8
8 Ozzie Smith* 76.5 42.3 59.4
9 Luke Appling* 74.5 43.8 59.1
10 Bill Dahlen 75.3 40.2 57.7
11 Alan Trammell 70.3 44.6 57.5
12 Derek Jeter 71.6 42.3 56.9
13 Barry Larkin* 70.2 43.1 56.6
14 Bobby Wallace* 70.1 41.6 55.9
15 Lou Boudreau* 63.0 48.7 55.8
16 Joe Cronin* 66.4 43.9 55.2
Avg HOF SS 66.7 42.8 54.7
17 Pee Wee Reese* 66.2 40.8 53.5
18 Jack Glasscock 61.8 41.0 51.4
19 Joe Sewell* 53.7 37.3 45.5
20 Bert Campaneris 53.3 36.7 45.0

Asterisks denote the Hall of Famers; not shown there are the scores of seven other enshrined shortstops plus John Montgomery Ward, who split his career between short and the mound so evenly that I don’t include his JAWS in calculating either position standard. With even a minimally productive season (1.7 WAR, say), Jeter could pull into the top 10.

He would rank higher on that table above if not for his defense. Sure-handed, blessed with a strong arm (think of those jump throws from deep in the hole) and a preternatural awareness of the action around him (think of that 2001 Division Seriesflip play), Jeter was certainly capable of making plays that gave the impression he was a fielding whiz. Even so, his limited mobility — particularly to his left — meant a whole lot of balls in play that he never got a glove on, and it’s there where the metrics take their toll. Via the Total Zone and Defensive Runs Saved estimates (the latter has only been around since 2003) used in’s version of WAR, Jeter comes in at a whopping −234 runs, by far the lowest figure at any position, let alone shortstop. For more than a decade, the gap between the perception of his skill afield — as typified by highlight reels and Gold Gloves — and the cold, hard numbers via methodologies that have evolved during his career has been one of the sport’s most polarizing topics of discussion.

Whether it’s TZ, DRS, Ultimate Zone Rating, Fielding Runs Above Average or something else in the alphabet soup of sabermetrics, the general agreement of those multiple metrics is that he’s been a significant drag on New York’s pitching and defense, by figures that have sometimes exceeded 20 runs a year. Via DRS, Jeter’s low was 27 runs below average, which came in 2005, the year in which he won his second Gold Glove. He was a combined 62 runs below average during his five award-winning seasons, though to be fair those of his last two (+3 in 2009 and −9 in 2010) were markedly better than the earlier ones as he worked to combat his advancing age.

How does that impact his ranking? Among those classified as shortstops by JAWS, Jeter’s 94.0 offensive WAR ranks third behind only Honus Wagner (122.4) and Rodriguez (112.9); in fact, it’s 21st among all hitters. The next eight guys: Eddie Mathews, Mike Schmidt, Anson, Chipper Jones, George Brett, Ken Griffey Jr., Pete Rose and Robin Yount, with Manny Ramirez, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs and Frank Thomas — players routinely hailed for their hitting — even further below him. In terms of defensive WAR, his -9.2 is about 31 wins less than Trammell (22.1), about 44 less than Ripken (34.5) and about 53 less than Ozzie Smith (43.4).

For all of that, the entire package of bat and glove was still a very valuable one. If 2.0 WAR is an average season for a full-time regular, Jeter had 14 that can be considered solidly above average (3.0 or more), including five that are more or less All-Star caliber (4.0 to 7.0) and two more that were borderline MVP caliber (7.5 and 8.0, from 1998 and 1999, respectively). On a per 162-game basis, he’s been worth 4.5 WAR, the kind of building block any general manager would kill to have.

Of course, none of that factors in Jeter’s intangibles, which obviously can’t be quantified but which were considerable enough to impress even the most skeptical sabemetrician. When it came to setting the tone in the Yankee clubhouse by placing team goals above individual ones, withstanding the harsh glare of the New York spotlight, rising to the occasion to create indelible moments or serving as an ambassador of the game, Jeter was in a class by himself. He’ll probably have more company than that on the Hall of Fame dais in July 2020, but even then, he’ll stand alone.


Great....another year long goodbye fest, just like for Mariano. Honestly, a little annoying at this point. If he was Mr. Classy, why not retire quietly at the end of the year?


Jeter is an all-time great, but even his famed "classiness" needs to be looked at.  Although he was "Captain", he really let his team down in that role on several occasions such as allowing clubhouse turmoil with Chad Curtis and to a large degree allowing the ARod mess to fester early on.  As Captain, he failed.  If you let yourself, you'll see that he has a me-first attitude like many other stars - no great sin - but it is what it is. All-time great? Yes.  Top 10 SSs all-time? yes.  But the other nonsense is just NY media pulp


The question that really gets me is the one I'm hearing on local sports talk shows and reading about the question all over the place, and that is:  Is Derek Jeter on the Yankees Mount Rushmore?  They can't be serious, right?  I'm a life long Yankees fan.  I love Derek Jeter.  He's a classy guy and a great ball player.  But Mount Rushmore has four faces.  Count 'em, 4.  I can name the four greatest Yankees and not get past 1955.  Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.  And we're not even mentioning Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford or Elston Howard. Then, you move into the modern day.  I often think that the people who come up with some of these questions just have too much time on their hands.


I've never been a Jeter fan, but there's no question he's a first ballot Hall of Famer, even if you agree that he was a defensive liability. But the best shortstop ever, as the question on the front page asks? No. That's still Honus Wagner, hands down. 


Not a Hall of Famer.

Just ask the JAWS Junkies. WAR Addicts. VORP Terrorists.

An Overrated Bum, that's what all the SABR Sycophants and their Cult Leader, Billy James, will tell you.

Jaffe just typed this to keep the SI bosses off of his throat.

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

@HOFPufnstuf , maybe he doesn't want himself and his team to have to deal with 10,000 "is he retiring" questions this year. At least he has that out of the way early.


@HOFPufnstuf  Depends on how you define class.  This way, kids in Seattle, Texas, California will KNOW ahead of time that he is retiring and may and go and see him play during his ONLY trip to their state when it happens say in June.

If he announced it in early Sept, many dads, sons etc... would have ALREADY missed the chance to go and see him play for the last time (or the first and only time) as they might live 2,000 miles or more away from NYC and NOT be able to get there.

Class is ALLOWING your fans an opportunity to see you one last time because you were classy enough to let them know AHEAD of time so they wouldn't miss you, could plan for it etc...


@FredC.Dobbs1  Please, you argument is baseless. Jeter isn't the religion police nor is he A-Rod's father. The responsibility for policing those two issues falls on the shoulders of the GM. Curtis didn't last much longer after he pissed Jeter off and an A-Rod/Jeter battle only makes a bigger riff and puts a bad spotlight on the Yankees team.


@BobRayTalbot  The Mt. Rushmore is this: 1. Babe Ruth 2. Lou Gehrig 3. Joe DiMaggio 4. Mickey Mantle..then you have Berra and Jeter.


@BobRayTalbot  I'm not a Yankee fan, just a baseball fan, but it IS up for debate.  Ruth is #1, Gehrig is #2 and then it gets tricky.  I'd put DiMaggio #3 but then I'm not sure.

Mantle was a drunk and it did affect his game (this makes it hard to be one of a franchises all time best when a player does something to lessen their value to the team).

Jeter DOES have the MOST hits ever by ANY Yankee and that includes ALL those you named.  His lead over the 2nd place person is almost 600 hits and it will be over that this coming season.

Jeter has the MOST at bats as a Yankee and his lead in this stat is OVER 2,500 more than 2nd place.

Jeter is actually in 5th place for most base on balls and will end up in 4th place all time on for the Yankees.

Jeter is currently 2nd, but will finish with the MOST doubles ever by ANY Yankee.

Jeter is ALREADY the games played leader for the Yankees and is only adding to his lead.

Jeter has the 3rd most HR's by a Yankee right handed hitter ever.

Jeter has scored the 3rd most runs all time for Yankees players and he'll end up in the 2nd spot after this season.

Jeter has the 3rd most total bases of all Yankees (Behind Ruth and Gehrig, but AHEAD of DiMaggio and Mantle).

My point is that it is up for debate.  Jeter hold more Yankee records than Mantle or DiMaggio and he's above them in many categories where none of them are the team leader.

As far as Yankee history goes, Jeter is a huge part of it.  Keep in mind that while DiMaggio won 9 WS and Mantle won 7 WS to Jeter's 5, it was easier to make it to the WS back then and the team was a well oiled machine before both DiMaggio and Mantle began playing for the Yankees.

The Yankees were in dark times after the WS in the late 70's, Reggie Jackson time frame.  The Yankess from 1982 to 1994 did NOT make the playoffs even ONE time.

Then their fortune changed.  

it is NOT cut and dried that Jeter is or is NOT on the Yankee Mt. Rushmore.  It is CLOSE enough that thought must be given and things discussed to see if someone like Jeter, Mantle or another Yankee great should be in the #3 or #4 spot as 1 and 2 are for Ruth and Gehrig.


@OK You probably should have read the part where he used WAR/JAWS to call Jeter the third best SS of all-time.


@Sportsfan18 @HOFPufnstuf  When a player in any sport is approaching 40, the only reasonable way to think about each and every appearance is to think that that might be his/her last one.

There goes your argument.


@Twen15 @OK 

JAWS Junkies, WAR Addicts, and VORP Terrorists - led by their Master, Bill James - have been tearing down Jeter for 20 years.


@OK @Twen15    OK    The were ONLY tearing down his defense.  Still, WAR includes BOTH defense and offense and even with his poor defense, he still rates as ABOVE average for HOF shortstops and he rates around the 10th or 11th best SS of all time.

You need to use better context in what you say.  YES, those JAWS and WAR folks did put Jeter down through the years (but ONLY for his defense).  

You FAILED to mention that, that it was only his defense they put down.

Again, even INCLUDING his poor defense, he STILL ranks as one of the all time best shortstops.


@OK @Twen15the SABR crowd rates Jeter as an all-time great and one of the top 5 or 10 SSs ever, but recognizes his faults as a player.  Bill James and that crowd totally give Jeter his due - just not MORE than his due.


@Mark112 @OK  Really? Tell them to go out and win some championships. WAR, JAWS and VORP are great tools for the armchair brainiacs but they don't mean squat on the field. The Yankees were EXTREMELY lucky to have Jeter on their team. His intangibles outweigh all the negatives. EVERY manager, without a doubt, would LOVE to have a guy like him on their team.