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Derek Jeter Is The Second Best Shortstop In Baseball History

Perry ArnoldSenior Analyst IJune 15, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 14:  Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees hits an RBI single in the second inning against the New York Mets on June 14, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Cliff Eastham just wrote a piece on the top 10 shortstops in the Hall of Fame and I was very interested in the piece.

One of the reasons it was so interesting to me is that I wrote a piece last week about the best 50 players in baseball history, but done considering positions so that I composed two teams who could theoretically play one another.

By doing the analysis in that way I had to consider who were the best catchers, who were the best third basemen, etc.

And of course, I had to consider the best shortstops.

As Eastham did, I put Honus Wagner at the top of the list and he was the starting shortstop for one team. There is no argument there.

I started out considering Ernie Banks as the other starting shortstop. But Banks played more games at first base than shortstop and never played shortstop after the age of 30.

Without question Banks is one of the best 20 players to ever step onto a major league field, but I eliminated him as one of the starting shortstops because he was primarily a first baseman.

I also thought about Lou Boudreau, Arky Vaughn, Marty Marion, Luke Appling and Cal Ripken, Jr.

But when I did a statistical analysis, I finally came to my own subjective conclusion that Derek Jeter is a better shortstop than any of these players.

He is even better statistically than Banks in my opinion.

Banks had a lifetime average of .274. Jeter is now at .316.

Banks hit 512 home runs, had 2,583 hits and drove in 1,636 runs.

With several years left on his career, Jeter is never going to catch Banks in home runs since Jeter has only hit 215.

But Jeter already has more hits with 2,614. He will probably never get to Banks' RBI totals since Jeter only has 1,032.

And Banks' OPS+ is two points higher.

That is why this is opinion, but considering the higher average, the greater number of hits and the fact that Jeter is still playing very well at short at the age of 35, I rank Jeter higher than Banks at this position.

By comparison, Luke Appling had a lifetime average of .310, garnered 2,749 hits and had an OPS+ of 112. 

It is almost impossible to compare players from the different eras. Appling only had 45 home runs, but he played when the game was essentially different than now.

Lou Boudreau had a lifetime average of .295, hit only 68 home runs, had a total of 1,779 hits but had an OPS+ equal to Jeter's at 120.

Perhaps most surprising to me was that Cal Ripken Jr. had an OPS+ of only 112 compared to Jeter's current 120.

This is despite the fact that Ripken hit 431 home runs and drove in 1,695 in his illustrious career. Ripken also finished with 3,184 hits, a number Jeter should pass unless he is injured.

The big surprise for many may be that Ripken only hit .276 for his career and had an on base percentage 46 points lower than Jeter's.

Again, this is all subjective and I write this as an unapologetic Yankee fan who understands that my bias may influence my opinion here.

Jeter has often been criticized as less than the best on defense. But that is extremely subjective, notwithstanding new statistics such as UZR.

But the critics who have insisted in the past two years that Jeter no longer has the range to play shortstop, may have to rethink their position now that Derek is playing injury free for the most part.

This season, Jeter has played very well defensively. It is unlikely that the Yankees are going to look to move him to another position or DH for several years.

And Jeter's leadership abilities and his uncanny knack for being in places few other players would imagine to be (such as in the playoff game in Oakland), just when a big play has to be made, add to my determination that Jeter is the second best shortstop in the history of this great game.

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