Allen Barra from the New York Observer wrote today to do some Derek Jeter questioning. We’ve seen a lot of this recently, mostly centered around his defense at shortstop. While Parra gives us a healthy amount of that, he also throws some of this in:
This will be Jeter’s 14th season (not counting 1995, when he only played 15 games), and judging from the blogs and radio call-in shows, Yankee fans are assuming that he is a walking Hall of Famer, but I don’t necessarily think that’s true. If he pulled a Thurmon Munson, I think he’d get in. His credentials are pretty good. In 1,985 games, he has a batting average of .316, and that’s always the first thing they look at. He has 206 home runs, a very good total for a middle infielder, and has been in double figures every season since 1996, when he got the starting job. He’s driven in more than 100 runs only once (1999 with 102), but batters who hit first or second in the order aren’t expected to have 100 RBI seasons: they’re expected to score runs, and Jeter has had more than 100 runs scored in 11 of 12 seasons, from 1996 through 2007, missing the mark just once, in 2003 when he played only 119 games (a full season would have projected him to at least 110).
I think, in defiance of most Yankee fans, a good 2009 season is critical to Derek’s Hall of Fame chances. His batting average and stolen base percentage and power numbers (for a shortstop) are impressive, and the 2,535 career hits look great for a guy who has only batted a little more than 8,000 times. And, of course, he has four World Series rings. That’s the argument for.
Unfortunately, for sportswriters outside New York, Jeter may need a bit more. Most baseball analysts I know agree that Jeter should or could have won MVP awards in 1998, 1999 and 2006. That he didn’t probably reflects the rest of the country’s resentment that New York players receive so much national attention (or at any rate, are said to). But he didn’t win, and that may ultimately be used as an argument against him when it comes time for the HOF vote. In fact, though he’s placed high in several important categories, the only eye-opening statistics he’s ever led the league in are runs scored (1998) and hits (1999). Given the swiftness with which he seems to be slipping—he hit .343 in 2006, .322 in 2007, and .300 last year—it’s not likely he’s going to be leading the league in anything important from here on in.
I normally laud the Obsever, but Parra is dead wrong here. Derek Jeter has a legitimate claim to the Hall of Fame, and even if his career ends sooner rather than later he should have a strong claim to first-ballot status. Parra isn’t using any of the more sophisticated statistical measures that we could use to determine his career value, but the Hall of Fame voters probably won’t either.
What about the Bill James method? After the jump.
1. Was he considered the best player in baseball at any point while he was active?
While I’m sure some people considered him the best in the game, there were better players while he was active. He entered the league at basically the same time as Alex Rodriguez, so its hard to blame Jeter.
2. Was he the best player on his team?
From 1996-2006, Derek Jeter was the best player on the New York Yankees.
3. Was he the best player in his league at the position?
No, but that is because Alex Rodriguez exists. After Arod, Jeter was the best.
4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
Probably no player since Jeter entered the league has impacted more.
5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?
Even after accounting for his poor defense, Jeter has been a strong asset at shortstop all the way to age 35.
6. Is he the best player in baseball history who has not entered into the Hall of Fame?
If you exclude other players who haven’t hit the ballot yet, I think that Jeter has a pretty good case for this. He played a tougher position than Tim Raines and hit similarly, hit much better than Alan Trammel, and got on base dramatically more than Andre Dawson. Bert Blyleven might have a case here, but considering the era that he played in, I think that Jeter is still better.
7. Are players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?
Yes. Jeter will end up at the very least somewhere around 3,000 hits, and could easily have many more. He’ll have the OBP and power numbers to look pretty good too. Plus, the bar is pretty low for shortstops.
8. Do the player’s numbers meet Hall of Fame Standards?
Yes. Jeter’s career line is .316/.387/.458, and his two peak seaons saw him hit .349/.438/.554 and .343/.417/.483, which were two of the best seasons by a shortstop not named Alex Rodriguez in history.
9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player is any better or worse than his statistics?
If you believe in that sort of thing, he’s got intangibles.
10. Is he the best player at his position that is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
I can’t name anyone better.
11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how close did he come?
While Derek Jeter never won the MVP, he probably deserved it in both 1999 and 2006. He came in second in 2006 and sixth in 1999. Jeter has received MVP votes every year since 1997 except for 2008 and 2002. He has had 3 MVP-caliber seasons (1999, 2000, 2006) and many more that were close to that level.
12. How many all-star type seasons did he have? How many all-star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many games go to the hall of fame?
By my count, ten of Jeter’s fifteen major league seasons have been All Star caliber. He has played in the game eight times.
13. If this man were the best player on his team, could this team win the Pennant?
It happened. Six times.
14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rules changes? Did he change the game in any way?
Jeter, along with Nomar and Arod, can probably claim some credit for the move toward more offense at the shortstop position. He’s no Bruce Sutter, but he probably has something here.
15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written rules, instructs us to consider?
Derek Jeter is not getting a free pass to the Hall of Fame because he plays on the most popular team in the game. This should demonstrate that.
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