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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Arod vs. Jeter: The Idiot's Debate

Recently, I received an email from a buddy of mine which included some very odd statements, which I will share with you, dear readers. One thing that my cowriter and I here at realbbbb cannot stand is when people make statements and offer no evidence of any kind to substantiate it. For example, my father recently said "I don't know why people hate George Bush so much, he's done a fine job in office." I asked him to clarify that a bit, and provide some evidence and he sort of mumbled and trailed off. This irritates me more when it comes to baseball, because unlike politics, I actually know a lot about it, and when people tell me things I know they have no evidence for, it really aggrevates me. (The only thing that upsets me more, is when I catch myself doing this and then rush to see if I was right and realize that regrettably I was not)

The 3 statements by my friend to which I most strongly object can be found in the following uninteresting post.

1. "Arod can't hold Jeter's jock. Besides Jeter is a clutch player."

Assuming he does not mean this literally, this is quite plainly a stupid thing to say. I cannot imagine what statistics he is thinking of when he said this, and I'm left to assume he was simply ignoring the stats all together. He'd have to be, because I've listed them in the following table. It's not a tough comparison.

Derek Jeter vs Alex Rodridguez Career Offensive Statistics


I see no need to discuss the numbers in the above table. Therefore, I will not.

Now onto the 'clutch' part. Most baseball statisticians will tell you that clutch hitting does not exist. The fine people at Baseball Prospectus have taken the time to more or less prove that no hitter is consistently clutch from year to year. The most likely reason for this is luck. To get a hit in a particular at bat, no matter how good you are, or how much you want to get a hit the most you can do is try to hit the ball hard. Even if you do, more often than not the ball is going to be caught.

To satisfy those who want to know, let's take a look at the two players in question and see how they did with Runners In Scoring Position (RISP) Shall we?

Jeter '05.261.386.355
Jeter '06.381.482.581
Arod '05.290.410.484
Arod '06.303.431.508

Obviously, Jeter's 2006 is pretty damn good. Surprisingly for some, Arod's 2006 is also good. Though clearly, not as good. However, Jeter's "clutchness" if you will certainly varies from '05 to '06. Through their careers they are fairly similar with Jeter holding a slight edge in Average and OBP, and Arod having the expected large advantage in Slugging. Make of the numbers what you will, but sometimes just because you feel certain ways about players, that doesn't make it true.

2. "Obviously Jeter is better, he's got 4 rings and Arod has none, and Jeter is the career leader in postseason hits ands runs."

Not sure where to start here. I suppose we'll start with the idea that the number of World Series rings a player wins is directly related to how good that player is. (dwthb-for those mathetmatically inclined folks (such as myself), such an equation might look like this: where Sl = Skill Level and Ws = # of World Series Rings won.) We all know this is not the case. World Series are won by team and not players, unless the one player in question is a starting pitcher who starts 3 times in a 7 game series (gibson, lolitch, koufax, matthewson) and dominates. His suggestion that the reason Arod has not won a world series and Jeter has is that Jeter is the better player is perhaps a bit misdirected. A better reason for the disparity in W.S. rings can be seen in the following table.


Team ERA: 5.21

Ace: Sterling Hitchcock: 13-9, 5.35

Closer: Norm Charlton: 20 sv, 4.04

Team ERA: 4.65

Ace: Andy Pettitte: 21-8, 3.87

Closer: John Wetteland: 43 sv, 2.83


Team ERA: 4.79

Ace: Randy Johnson: 20-4, 2.28

Closer: Norm Charlton: 14 sv, 7.27

Team ERA: 3.84

Ace: Pettitte: 18-7, 2.88

Closer: Mariano Rivera: 43 sv, 1.88


Team ERA: 4.95

Ace: Jamie Moyer: 15-9, 3.53

Closer: Mike Timlin: 19 sv, 2.95

Team ERA: 3.82

Ace: Wells: 18-4, 3.49

Closer: Mariano Rivera: 36 sv, 1.91


Team ERA: 5.24

Ace: Freddie Garcia: 17-8, 4.07

Closer: Jose Mesa: 33 sv, 4.98

Team ERA: 4.13

Ace: Orlando Hernandez: 17-9, 4.12

Closer: Mariano Rivera: 45, 1.83


Team ERA: 4.50

Ace: Aaron Sele: 17-10, 4.51

Closer: Kazuhiro Sasaki: 37 sv, 3.16

Team ERA: 4.76

Ace: Clemens: 13-8, 3.70

Closer: Mariano Rivera: 36 sv, 2.85


Team ERA: 5.71

Ace: Rick Helling: 12-11, 5.17

Closer: Jeff Zimmerman: 20 sv, 2.40

Team ERA: 4.02

Ace: Roger Clemens: 20-3, 3.51

Closer: Mariano Rivera: 50 sv, 2.34


Team ERA: 5.15

Ace: Kenny Rogers: 13-8, 3.84

Closer: Hideki Irabu: 16 sv, 5.74

Team ERA: 3.87

Ace: David Wells: 19-7, 3.75

Closer: Mariano Rivera: 28 sv, 2.74


Team ERA: 5.67

Ace: John Thomson: 13-14, 4.85

Closer: Ugueth Urbina: 26 sv, 4.19

Team ERA: 4.02

Ace: Mike Mussina: 17-8, 3.40

Closer: Mariano Rivera: 40 sv, 1.66

Obviously, pitching is what wins. Only once from 1996-2003 did Arod's team post a better ERA than Jeter's team. That would be in 2000, when the two teams met in the 2000 ALCS, with the Yankees beating the Mariners in 6 games. Before you ask, Arod batted .409 with a 1.253 OPS in that series. (It's rare for one pitcher to singlehandedly win a series, but common for a pitcher to lose a series. Exhibit A would be Arthur Rhodes in this ALCS, who blew 2 games and ended the series with an ERA of 31.50)

It's also worth noting how important closers truly are. The Yankees have had 2 closers during Jeter's time as their shortstop, while Arod's teams had different (and minimally successful) closers in every year but one.

Last thing in regard to this quote. Jeter is in fact the career leader in postseason hits and runs. I can't argue that. He is however, also the career leader in at bats, strikeouts and total outs. Why? Because he's played so many postseason games (only Bernie Williams has appeared in more).

3. "As Jeter goes, the Yankees go."

This is a strange statement. And frankly, a hard one to prove or disprove, as would be any other example of a player and team, especially without the benefit of a statistics team working behind me. There are basically 2 ways to go about checking on this that I can think of. The first is comparing Jeter's statistics in Yankee Wins vs. his stats in Yankee losses. Unfortunately, loser though I am, I have neither the time nor resources to do this.

The other way is to look at the teams performance without the player in question. The only such evidence we have is the 2003 season, when Jeter dislocated his shoulder on a slide into third (thank you Ken Huckaby). He missed the month of April that year. So the question is, did the Yankees suffer?

The answer is no. They went 20-6 in April of 2003, their best record in any month that season. They also allowed the fewest runs of any month in their season that April. Obviously, this is a pretty small sample size and it probably doesn't tell us much. But at the very least it tell us that the Yankees can probably survive without Jeter. What's interesting, and I don't want to beat this argument into the ground (because if anybody who still thinks Jeter is one of the best fielding shorstops out there obviously doesn't care much for "facts") but lets look at range factors for the team, shall we?

Erick Almonte; 4.14

Enrique Wilson: 3.94

Derek Jeter: 3.75

Let's not forget that the league average for shortstops that year was 4.54. Small samples, but worth noting.

One last attempt at taking this statement down. Jeter has hit .500 in 2 different playoff series: The 2002 ALDS vs. Anaheim and the 2006 ALDS vs. Detroit. Yankees lost both series in 4 games. What does that mean? That when Jeter is at his best, it's just not enough to carry a team as my buddy suggests. By the way, it's obviously still impressive to hit .500 in a 4 game series, but it's clear that one player hitting .500 does not win a series.

These two examples are obviously small samples (a month in 2003, two 4 game series) but it's the best I could do without going through thousands of boxscores. (again)

One final note, I think that if you were to say that "as ------- goes, the Yankees go," wouldn't it have to be Mariano Rivera? Afterall from 1997-2001 when the Yankees were at their height, they failed to win the World Series twice in those 5 years. What happened in the playoffs in those 2 years that didn't happen in the other 3? Rivera blew a save (1997 vs. Cleveland, 2001 vs. Arizona).

* For the record, this post was not about saying that Jeter is a bad player. He most certainly is not. He's a very good player. Anybody actually trying to say that he sucks, is retarded. But the ideas that he is better than Arod, or that he's the reason the Yankees have won 4 World Series are simply silly ideas.


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