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Where Does Derek Jeter Rank Among All-Time Yankees?

25 August 2009

The Baseball-Reference Blog has an interesting post up about Derek Jeter, noting that he’s poised to become the all-time leader in Yankees history for hits.

Of course, much as having the most all-time hits among shortstops doesn’t make Jeter the best offensive shortstop of all-time (much less the best all-around shortstop of all-time — that’s Honus Wagner, in both cases), being the Yankee hit king shouldn’t be equated with Jeter being the best Yankees hitter, or player, of all-time.

So where does he rank?

Here’s how I’d stack up my 10 best Yankees position players of all-time:

1 Babe Ruth
2 Mickey Mantle
3 Lou Gehrig
4 Joe DiMaggio
5 Yogi Berra
6 Derek Jeter
7 Bill Dickey
8 Jorge Posada
9 Bernie Williams
10 Earle Combs

Who ya got?

UPDATE: Just to clarify, only time with Yankees counts. So no Maris, Winfield, A-Rod, etc.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. playmakers3 permalink
    25 August 2009 11:25 am

    Where does Mattingly rank for you Jonah? He would be in my top 10. Can’t argue with much else from this list. I would probably drop Combs and put Mattingly in that slot. Mattingly won an MVP, runner up once, top 10 4 times. Also 9 gold gloves if that counts for anything in your top 10.

    Mike

  2. Jonah permalink*
    25 August 2009 11:30 am

    If I were to replace Combs, my top choice would probably be Tony Lazzeri, followed by Charlie Keller.

    First basemen are hugely overrated in baseball, since that position is all the way at the end of the defensive spectrum, meaning you need gigantic offensive production for many, many years to be a true impact player, given the offensive contributions of other 1B. Mattingly was a very good player, but I ding him for his shortened career and especially because of his position (that he fielded 1B well doesn’t do enough to mitigate that).

  3. bradtempleman permalink
    25 August 2009 2:01 pm

    The list looks good. There will always be quibbles with any list, but it seems very reasonable.

    If Paul O’Neill had a few more years with the Yankees, he might have made it on. He was only on the Yankees for 8 years, but it seemed like longer with all the postseason games (76 G). His total numbers are lower, but of all Yankees with at least 1250 G, he is 9th in BA (Ruth, Gehrig, Combs, Dimaggio, Jeter, Dickey, Muesel, Mattingly, O’Neill), 6th in Slugging (Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle, Muesel, O’Neill) and 7th in OPS (Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle, Heinrich, O’Neill).

    http://www.baseballindepth.com

  4. sigtaulefty permalink
    25 August 2009 3:58 pm

    Posada over Bernie? I know he’s an offensive catcher, but Bernie ranks 5th in terms of hits, 6th in runs, 6th in total bases, 2nd in doubles, 6th in HR, 6th in RBI, 4th in walks and ranks below Posada in K’s.

    Bernie’s got 4 gold gloves at a premium defensive position to Jorge’s 0.
    Bernie and Jorge each have 5 All Star selections, but Bernie’s had more competition in the OF than Jorge behind the plate.

    Bernie also won the batting title in 1998.

    I can’t see how he’s not higher on your list than Posada.

  5. Jonah permalink*
    25 August 2009 4:17 pm

    The short version is that it’s much, much harder to find a catcher that hits than a CF that hits.

    If you look at metrics like Wins Above Replacement, which adjusts for position (and also accounts for defense), Bernie and Posada are very close, to the point where you could pick either guy and have an argument. So sure, if you want to argue for Bernie, that’s absolutely legit. If Posada has another couple more solid Posada seasons, he’ll be the clear winner.

    On a fan’s level, I always enjoyed watching both of them play, despite not being a Yankees fan.

  6. Jonah permalink*
    25 August 2009 4:19 pm

    O’Neill’s up there too. He’d be Top 20.

    Lazzeri, Keller, Mattingly, Randolph, A-Rod and O’Neill certainly rank in that 11-20 range.

    Clay Bellinger is #91,482.

  7. lucaspwp permalink
    25 August 2009 6:03 pm

    This is probably just quibbling, but how did you rank Mantle above Gerhig? I’m not being sarcastic, I’m genuinely curious. Gehrig’s career AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS is .340/.447/.632/1.080 while The Mick’s is .298/.421/.557/.977 – I’m assuming you factored in Mantle at CF vs. Gehrig at 1b and perhaps their hitting numbers relative to other players of their respective eras. You might also consider Gerhig’s consecutive games streak along with Mantle’s frequent trips to the DL. Though it’s possible that I’m simply blinded by Gehrig’s extraordinary RBI totals (And yes I’m aware of RBI’s being an overrated stat, but still – he AVERAGED 149 RBI per 162 games). Though I guess batting behind Ruth might have helped those totals…

  8. Jonah permalink*
    25 August 2009 6:49 pm

    It’s a tough call, Mantle over Gehrig, to be sure. They’re very close. My reasons for picking Mantle, in approximate order of how much they factored into my rankings:

    1) CF vs. 1B

    2) Gehrig played only against the best white Americans who happened to hang around close enough to the ballpark for someone to hear about them. Mantle not only played after integration, but after scouting had come a lot way from Gehrig’s time. The competition was much better in Mantle’s era, in other words.

    At a much lower level, Mantle gets some bonus points for making a greater impact on the basepaths.

    RBI are a context-dependent stat, I never even glance at them in evaluating a player, whether he played 80 years ago, or today.

    Like I said, though, even after accounting for these factors, it’s close. Lou Gehrig is Lou Gehrig.

  9. sorekara323 permalink
    25 August 2009 9:29 pm

    But would not the same rules you apply to Gehrig also apply to the Babe?? Or does “Babe Ruth” being the Babe overcome that?

    Amazing to have such a list without Donnie Baseball, but thet’s the joy of being a Yankee fan..no one can match the history and the glory..

  10. Jonah permalink*
    25 August 2009 9:50 pm

    The player doesn’t have zero value playing pre-integration and scouting. You just have to adjust downward. Not enough to drop Ruth below the #1 spot, nor enough to drop Gehrig below #3.

    Mattingly was a good player, but not top #10 all-time.

  11. sorekara323 permalink
    25 August 2009 10:11 pm

    Off the Yankee topic but…are RBI really completely useless in evaluating a player?? I mean..Ozzie Smith drove in 80 runs one season while hitting ONE home run..doesn’t this reveal “somethign” about his ability to hit with men on base? Not being provocative, just still getting my head around RBI worth as a stat..BA and pitching WINS I get of course…

    Oh, Reggie and Mattingly are ahead of O’neil.

    Alvaro Espinoza is # 6,455,876…

  12. Jonah permalink*
    25 August 2009 10:13 pm

    If you want to use RBI, make sure you also use RBI per RBI opportunity. Still a flawed stat, but at least that way you have context.

  13. hentrose permalink
    26 August 2009 11:48 am

    Top Ten Tigers:

    Ty Cobb
    Al Kaline
    Hank Greenberg
    Sam Crawford
    Lou Whitaker
    Charlie Gehringer
    Alan Trammell
    Bill Freehan
    Norm Cash
    Harry Heilmann

  14. ryanrosso permalink
    27 August 2009 10:16 am

    What would your list look like if you included pitchers?

  15. clintoncheney08 permalink
    27 August 2009 1:54 pm

    Where do you slot Mariano Rivera if you’re ranking all Yankees?

  16. bellylard permalink
    28 August 2009 11:10 am

    I’d have Randolph on there now that defense has some better metrics.

  17. briand23 permalink
    28 August 2009 11:39 am

    Nice job Jonah. I just wasted 30 minutes on baseballreference trying to poke holes in your ranking, but really couldn’t. The only one I found close was Dickey and Jeter. I actually think I would have Jeter slightly behind Dickey. Dickey provided the Yanks with average (at worst) to great (at best) hitting production from the catcher spot for 17 years. I actually didnt even realize how good his career was. Obviously if Jeter has a couple of more years like the one he is having this year, he would pass Dickey. I believe the top 5 is locked in stone for the foreseeable future (unless Arod plays another 10 years as a Yankee at a high level).

  18. laherman permalink
    29 August 2009 2:26 pm

    Jonah,

    Has anyone ever tried to assess just how much easier it was for pre-integration players not having to compete with that 12% of the population? Has someone tried to crunch numbers on this, also assessing whether expansion, competition from other sports, the size of the minor legues, and other factors has made things easier or harder?

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, but is there a definitive study, or even nondefinitive studies? The methodology should be better than just going by righteous indignation.

  19. Jonah permalink*
    29 August 2009 3:30 pm

    Someone has indeed. Check out “Baseball Between the Numbers”, specifically the chapter by Nate Silver titled:

    “Is Barry Bonds Better than Babe Ruth?”

    The chapter title is purposely controversial, but the main thrust of the chapter compares players across eras. We may never be able to isolate each and every variable that separates one era’s level of competition from another. But this essay is as close as I’ve seen to doing just that.

    You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0465005470?ie=UTF8&tag=jonahkericom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0465005470

  20. laherman permalink
    29 August 2009 6:41 pm

    Thanks, Jonah. I follow Nate Silver’s 538 blog and have great respect for him as an analyst. I will check out the book.

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  1. Rating the best Yankees of all time | River Avenue Blues
  2. Ranking the All-Time Yankees |

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