[image title="derek_jeter" size="full" id="14190" align="center" linkto="full" ]
He is, according to David Schoenfield of ESPN.com. He argues that if you consider all facets of the game and weigh longevity heavily, Jeter edges out players such as Cal Ripken, Arky Vaughan, and Barry Larkin, with only Honus Wagner finishing ahead of Jeter. A few months ago, I tackled this issue by looking simply at offense, and this is what I found:
Career Numbers: .327/.391/.466 OPS+: 150
5 best (full) years by OPS+: 205, 187, 186, 176, 175
Career Numbers: .301/.390/.468 OPS+: 119
5 best years by OPS+: 138, 136, 135, 129, 127
Career Numbers: .318/.406/.453 OPS+: 136
5 best years by OPS+: 190, 149, 148, 146, 140
Career Numbers: .295/.380/.415 OPS+: 120
5 best years by OPS+: 164, 145, 133, 131, 128
Career Numbers: .276/.340/.447 OPS+: 112
5 best years by OPS+: 162, 145, 144, 143, 128
Career Numbers: .317/.387/.459 OPS+: 121
5 best years by OPS+: 153, 132, 128, 127, 126
One note: Looking at 5 best seasons by OPS+ does not exactly do Jeter justice, as much of his value is caught up in his consistency. His 6-10 best years are likely better than those years for most of the players on this list. That being said, I think we can reach a few conclusions.
1) Honus Wagner is the best hitting SS of all time, and Arky Vaughan is second.
2) Cal Ripken stuck around way too long, and his decline was substantial enough to knock him out of the top 5 in terms of offensive value.
3) Jeter is right there in the next group with Boudreau and Cronin, rounding out the top 5, and an argument can be made for Jeter as #3 if you place career value over peak.
Conclusion: Among players who remained at SS for the bulk of their careers, Derek Jeter is no higher than 3rd but is likely no lower than 5th (unless I missed somebody) in terms of hitting. Next time somebody tells you he would be a borderline star if he played in KC, tell him to do some research.
I placed Jeter third offensively, but this did not take longevity into account, and focused more upon peak than career value. Schoenfield argues convincingly that Jeter should be ahead of Vaughan, due to Vaughan only having 11 full seasons at SS, and Jeter likely to end up with 18 or so. However, when defense enters the equation, I think Jeter loses some value, such that he is likely to be neck and neck with Ripken by the end of his career. For now, I would have Jeter 4th, behind Wagner, Ripken, and Vaughan, with the chance to move up to 2nd.
Where would you place Jeter?
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