Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Joe Posnanski has an interesting piece claiming that Derek Jeter has moved from being vastly overrated to somewhat underrated. The reaction against Jeter and the hyperbole he receives (which really is no fault of his own) has been swift and severe in the past few years. It's become hard to respect someone who still talks of Jeter as if he is one of the best players in major league history. Tim McCarver, the worst offender of Jeter fellation, has become a national joke for it. His defense has been laughable for years, though Posnanski notes a marked improvement this year. With defense increasingly considered an important element in judging a player (and isn't it remarkable that it hasn't been rated as that important for 100 years), Jeter's value has been reconsidered.

On the other hand, it is important to remember that Jeter is a Hall of Fame caliber player who is having a really good year. Like many people, I thought Jeter was on a permanent downslide after last year's performance of .300/.363/.408. That's hardly terrible but it isn't much above league average. However, he has come back strong this year, hitting .330/.394/.471, his best performance since 2006. I'm not sure that this is a long-term thing; I could easily see this plummeting a good bit next year. He's not getting any younger at age 35. But he clearly should reach 3000 hits, making him a HOF player even if he played his whole career in Kansas City or Pittsburgh.

Perhaps we can best analyze Jeter through his comparative players at Baseball Reference.

They are:

  1. Barry Larkin (901)
  2. Alan Trammell (876)
  3. Ryne Sandberg (870) *
  4. Roberto Alomar (866)
  5. Ray Durham (855)
  6. Lou Whitaker (842)
  7. Julio Franco (838)
  8. Joe Torre (834)
  9. Johnny Damon (824)
  10. Bobby Doerr (818) *
Only 2 HOFs (the guys with asteriks). That's interesting because it suggests that Jeter, were he to retire today, probably wouldn't belong based upon numbers alone. On the other hand, Larkin and Alomar should gain entry into the HOF in the next few years while Trammell and Whitaker have been robbed by the voters. Most of those who don't belong in the Hall are lower on the list. The reality is that, as it stands, Jeter is a marginal Hall of Famer who will significantly strenghten his legitimacy in the next couple of years as he moves toward 3000 hits. I'd be surprised if his new top 10 comparative players didn't take a significant jump upwards with his good year this year.

So the reality is that Jeter is overrated by the legions of Yankee fans and people who still understand baseball like it was the 1960s but is in fact underrated by Yankee haters and stat heads. I hate to say that last part, but it's true.