Last night, just as Abner Doubleday drew it up way back when, Derek Jeter did the most Derek Jeter thing possible in his very last game at the "new" Yankee Stadium. With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game against the Baltimore Orioles, Jeter laced a walk-off single to right field. Sure, it was his first walk-off hit in over seven years, but that right-field single is something he has done countless times over the course of his 20-year big league career. To put it simply, it was a moment that many baseball fans around the globe will store away in their respective memory banks so they can one day have the opportunity to share it with their children and eventually their children's children.
Amazing. To be honest, I had zero intention of including anything from last night's #FarewellCaptain game in this post, but after witnessing the event as it happened on MLB.TV, I came up with no logical reason to exclude it. How could I? When it all comes down to it, would I call myself a fan of Derek Jeter? Somewhat, I guess. Back in 2011, I purchased one of those Fathead murals of his 3,000th hit. It remains unopened in the basement of my parents' house back in St. Louis, so that, one day, in the not-so-distant future, I can hang it in my house's man cave. I purchased it out of respect for a legendary player who has done so much for the game that I love equally as much.
If you are not a fan of Jeter and have found yourself muttering, "Is it over yet?" on more than one occasion this season, that's perfectly fine, but just know that it is going to be quite some time before baseball sees another player with a career like Jeter. Due to their ever-growing TV deals, maybe we will see this with Mike Trout and the Angels through 2030? Who knows? The closest opportunity the Cardinals had to experiencing something like this abruptly ended after the 2011 season.
Well, Yadier Molina, drafted out of high school back in 2000, is the next closest opportunity for the Cardinals. After completing roughly three full minor league seasons in the organization (2000-2004), he has played all eleven big league seasons with St. Louis and is under contract for at least three more. If he is able to stay behind the dish for four, five, or even six more seasons (not likely, even for Yadi), he will find himself in the conversation with Jeter as one of the all-time greats to stay with one team for his entire career. Even then, Yadi would have to keep up his All-World defense, maintain an above-average hitting line, and help the Cardinals capture one or two more World Series rings.
For a "closer-to-home" perspective, how do Jeter's career numbers match up to those of Cardinal shortstops during the span of his 20-year career? For those wondering, I chose to start with 1996 for Cardinals statistics, since that was Jeter's first full season with New York. He did, however, make his MLB debut (51 plate appearances) as a 20 year old back in 1995, roughly three years after being drafted sixth overall in the MLB Draft.
|1996 through 2014||PA||R||HR||RBI||BA||OBP||SLG||OPS||ISO||wOBA||wRC+||fWAR|
From 1996 through 2014, 19 different players had plate appearances (at least five to qualify) at the shortstop position for the Cardinals, ranging from John Nelson (five PAs) on the low-end to Edgar Renteria (3,759 PAs) on the high-end. As you can see in the chart, Jeter has had exactly 3,000 less plate appearances than Cardinal shortstops during that span, and yet, he has scored a few more runs (+9), has hit considerably more home runs (+68), has less, but comparable RBI (-82; keep in mind, he has had 4,649 PAs in the lead-off spot), and has been valued at 27.4 more fWAR. In terms of the non-counting statistics, his slash line, OPS, ISO, wOBA, and wRC+ are all significantly better than his Cardinal counterparts. Jeter has had 4.0 fWAR or greater in 10 separate seasons, while the Cardinals have had five. Jeter has been worth 6.0 fWAR or greater in four separate seasons, while the Cardinals' highest was 5.8 back in 2003, with Renteria at the helm.
Let's return back to reality, though. It is time for #2 to finally hang it up after such an illustrious career. He has been less than a replacement level player the last two seasons (-0.6 fWAR in an injury-shortened 2013, -0.1 fWAR in 2014). His ISOs of .063 last season and .057 this season make even Jon Jay (and his career ISO of .102) look like a power hitter. By UZR (-74.3) and DRS (-159), he has been one of the worst defensive shortstops since the introduction of advanced fielding statistics. Though these statistics are cumulative, he is so far below even the second worst player that it should be seen as significant, in my opinion. It also doesn't help Jeter that they were introduced eight years (and nearly 10,000 innings) into his career as a shortstop.
Despite bad defense and an obvious decline in offense, Jeter will rightfully go down as one of the top five shortstops of all time, and he will forever be known as the face of the game for over a decade. Advanced metrics expose Jeter's defense, but if you've ever taken infield grounders in your life, chances are you've attempted a "Jeter jump throw" at least once. I know I have. Many times.
I will close this reflection by including three tweets:
Only Derek Jeter could do that... #RE2PECT— Matt Carpenter (@MattCarp13) September 26, 2014
Amazing! #RE2PECT— Trevor Rosenthal (@TrevRosenthal) September 26, 2014
Be more adorable, Jeter's nephew. You can't. https://t.co/UgUDIhBCfn— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) September 26, 2014