Derek Jeter’s Postseason Legacy

October 16, 2012

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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 13:  Derek Jeter #2 of ...

Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter broke his ankle in the 12th inning of Saturday night’s ALCS opener.  Would the ankle have remained intact if the game had gone just nine innings – or was there previous stress that would have resulted in a break at a later point?  It’s a moot point for the Yankees, as they’re without their captain.  After losing again on Sunday night, the Yankees are down 2-0 and heading to Detroit for three games.  Oh, yeah – they’ll face Tigers ace Justin Verlander in the next game.

It’s no surprise that the Yankees are down 2-0 to the Tigers.  Even with the help of steroids, they’re giving up a good 60 pounds per man across the offensive line.  With Fielder at center and Cabrera at left tackle, the Yankees D-line isn’t ever going to get a hit against Verlander.  Oh, sorry, wrong sport.  Seriously, though, those guys are huge for baseball players.  If you’re wondering which city has the best restaurants, don’t overlook Detroit.  Those guys are eating well.

Jeter’s value had been the subject of much debate over the years.  Much of the discussion has revolved around his defense.  Yankee fans will point to error total and gold gloves and say he’s a good defender.  Others will point to advanced defensive metrics which rank him mediocre or worse.

But is Jeter’s post-season offense also overrated?

We always hear that A-Rod chokes in the post-season and that Jeter shines.  Jeter’s career post-season OPS is .838.  How bad is the OPS of the legendary choker, Alex Rodriguez?  .838.  Jeter’s had some great post-season series, but he’s also had a few stinkers over the years.  However, his legacy was established early in his career, as his reputation precedes him at this point.

An argument that you might hear is that Jeter ranks highly in many career post-season statistical categories.  This is true.  He’s first in hits, runs, total bases, doubles and triples while ranking in the top five in homers, RBI, and walks.

However, let’s not overlook one big aspect of Jeter’s numbers: opportunity.  Not only has he been fortunate to play on many successful teams, but the post-season is longer than it was in the past.  Prior to division play in 1969, there were a maximum of 7 post-season games per year – The World Series.  In 1969, this jumped to 12 possible games per player before jumping to 19 in 1995.  The coin flip game now makes it possible for someone to play in 20 games during a single post-season.

Yogi Berra famously won 10 World Series titles as a member of the Yankees.  He was also on the losting side 4 times.  Her compiled 295 post-season plate appearances in 77 games – incredible numbers for his era.  Derek Jeter has 734 plate appearances in 158 post-season games.  That’s a full season of games, just in the post-season.  He has more post-season homers (20) than Reggie Jackson (18) or Babe Ruth (15), but it would be silly to argue that he was a better slugger.  Does he have more shining post-season moments than nearly anyone else?  Sure – but he also has more ordinary moments.

Jeter’s 734 post-season plate appearances are by far the most in history.  Bernie Williams is second with 545, Manny Ramirez is third with 493, Jorge Posada is 4th with 492 (anyone noticing a trend?).  In fact, only seven other players have half as many post-season at bats as Jeter.

Don’t get me wrong – Jeter has made the most of his opportunities.  But he has also been the beneficiary of a massive amount of opportunities over the years.  Jeter also is the runaway leader is strikeouts – not because he sucks, but because he’s had more opportunity to strike out.

Likewise, he’s also had more opportunity to get injured … and random chance finally got Jeter on Saturday night.

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