Better Hitter: Derek Jeter or Pete Rose?

Perry ArnoldSenior Analyst INovember 24, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04:  Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees bats against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Six of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium on November 4, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees won 7-3 to win the series 4 games to 2.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Pete Rose has more hits than any other man who ever played professional baseball.

He finished his long career with 4,256 hits, surpassing the immortal Ty Cobb.

Derek Jeter has now played fourteen seasons with the New York Yankees and is generally recognized as one of the best players and best hitters of his era. 

I have long been intrigued thinking of the comparisons of these two men on the field.  (Off the field there is no comparison.)

One of the thoughts that is frequently on my mind is whether Jeter could possibly surpass Rose in career hits.  As a Yankee fan and as a baseball fan who has always despised Pete Rose, it is my fondest baseball hope that someday Jeter will pass Rose in total hits.

Jeter will have to play well into his forties to get it done.  Late this season, there was some indication that Jeter has actually talked about playing long enough to challenge Rose's record.  I hope he does.

I did a statistical analysis of Jeter and Rose to compare their career hitting marks.  When you look at the gross numbers based on a 162 game average, Jeter comes out ahead in almost every category.

Based on this 162 game average, Jeter beats Rose in runs scored by 119 to 98.  Jeter comes out on top in hits with 208 to Rose's 194. 

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Jeter also wins in RBI per season with 81 to Rose's 60. And Jeter has a higher average (.317) than Rose (.303) and higher OPS+ (121) than Rose (118.)

However, this is not a completely fair analysis because it includes the much later and less illustrious years of Rose's controversial career.

So I went back and took a look at Rose at age 35, the same age as Jeter when the 2009 season finished.

Again, Jeter surpasses Rose in every category except OPS+.  Rose wins that comparison with 126 compared to Jeter's 121.

But based again on a 162 game schedule for their first 14 seasons, Jeter averages 119 runs per season to Rose's 108; Jeter has 208 hits per season compared to Rose at 204;  and Jeter averages 81 RBI to Rose's 62.

And Jeter has a .317 batting average compared to Rose at .310 at the same points in their careers.

So statistically, Jeter is the better hitter at this stage in his career. He is also within 15 hits of Rose at the same point. 

At the end of the season in which Rose turned 35, he had played in 46 more games than Jeter and had 227 more at bats than Derek.

So a quick calculation tells you that Jeter has gotten one hit every 3.152 times at bat while Rose had one hit every 3.217 times at bat.

So Jeter, just barely, is getting more hits per times at bat than Rose had when he was 35.

Will Jeter eventually pass Rose for total hits?  Who knows? Time and something more than 7 years will give us the answer.

At Jeter's current hit pace, he will need 7.25 more years to catch Rose.  Jeter at that point will be past his 42nd birthday.

Will his body, his team and Minka let him play long enough to challenge Rose?  It is going to be a lot of fun finding out.

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