I read an article today that suggests that Jose Reyes has become the best shortstop in NY. That didn’t sound quite right to me, so I decided to look at some stats.
Obviously, Jeter has had the better career, so there is no point in even looking at overall career numbers. Let’s just look at this season – which is Reyes’ best and arguably Jeter’s worst.
On the surface Reyes appears to be having the better season with avg/OBP/SLG of .305/.365/.489 vs. Jeter at .295/.354/.396, but Jeter is known as someone who comes through when his team needs a hit. How do their numbers compare in critical situations for their teams? With runners in scoring position Jeter is batting .315 while Reyes is batting .262. In late and close (7th inning or later in either a tied or 1-run game) situations Jeter’s numbers are .324/.395/.412 while Reyes’ numbers are .278/.348/.367. How about against their biggest rivals? Reyes has pretty good numbers against the Phillies with .299/.373/.507, but Jeter boasts numbers of .360/.396/.400 against the Red Sox.
Baseball, of course is all about scoring runs and driving them in. Derek has driven in more runs (63 to 56) while Reyes has scored more (98 to 77), but Reyes has had more plate appearances. If we look at something I like to call run efficiency (runs/PA)+(RBI/PA) Jeter has a slight edge (.236 to .234).
Defensively, despite what Jeter’s commercial says, Reyes is the one with an edge, but it’s not as large as many would believe. Reyes has a better range factor, which many sabermetricians consider to be the “be all, end all” defensive statistic, but it is somewhat flawed in that it rewards a player simply for having balls hit his way while another gets penalized for not having balls hit his way. It’s also usually not a good idea to look at just one statistic to make an absolute determination. Jeter has a better fielding percentage while Reyes has turned more double plays.
Overall, I would say that it is accurate to say that Reyes is having a slightly better season than Jeter, but it would be ridiculous to imply that because of this one season he has become a better player. In 1946 Mickey Vernon had a better season than Joe DiMaggio. I don’t think that anyone would argue that Vernon was a better player.