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Comparing the Captain: Jeter vs. Trammell

On Wednesday, February 12th, Derek Jeter announced that he will be retiring at the end of the 2014 season. This has taken over baseball headlines, and rightfully so. Jeter, a lifetime New York Yankee, is their captain and has been their starting shortstop since 1996. He is a 13 time All Star, 5 time Silver Slugger award winner, 5 time Gold Glove winner, and a 5 time World Series champion. On top of all that, Jeter has long been considered one of the true class acts of the game. In 2020 when he is eligible for the Hall of Fame, he will almost certainly be elected to it with close to a unanimous vote. Derek Jeter’s playing career was nothing short of spectacular.

On the other side of the comparison we have Alan Trammell, who played his entire career with the Detroit Tigers. Manning shortstop from 1977 to 1996, Trammell is a 6 time All Star, a 4 time Gold Glove winner, a 3 time Silver Slugger winner, and a World Series champion. He is not in the Hall of Fame and is barely holding onto a spot on the ballot. His career was also spectacular.

When you compare the accolades that each earned, Jeter easily beats out Trammell. Funny thing about all of those awards mentioned above is that they are either voted on by a committee or earned with 24 other guys on the roster. The only way to truly compare their careers is to delve into their individual advanced statistics, so let’s do exactly that!

Let’s start with with the offensive side of the stats. Through 11,986 plate appearances, Derek Jeter has a career OPS of .828, a wOBA of .365, and an average wRC+ of 121. Jeter is also a member of the 3,000 hit club. In 9,375 career plate appearances, Tram has an OPS of .767, a wOBA of .343, and an average wRC+ of 111. Alan Trammell does not have 3,000 hits, coming up short with 2,365.

Shortstops are generally considered to have the least amount of offensive production among position players. Based off of the numbers from Scoresheetwiz, the average shortstop OPS is around .749. According to FanGraphs, in 2011 the average wOBA for shortstops was .303. The average wRC+ for shortstops during Trammell’s career fluctuated between 68 and 93, and 80 and 97 during Jeter’s career according to SABR. Among shortstops, all of Jeter and Trammell’s numbers are considered well above average, but the Captain clearly has the edge.

For Hall of Fame shortstops, both of their numbers stack up quite well. Among Hall of Famers, OPS fluctuates between .653 and .859, wOBA between .296 and .409, and wRC+ between 83 and 147. Jeter will be near the top in all three of those hitting categories when he enters the Hall, while Trammell would be more towards the lower middle. Needless to say, both have earned their spots among the all time greats based off of their performances at the plate.

Comparing Derek Jeter’s defense to Alan Trammell’s is where this article gets tricky. Defensive metrics have come a long way since Trammell’s day. Today, sabermatricians use advanced metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), and Probabilistic Model of Range (PMR). I’ll mention Jeter’s UZR, but I won’t use it to compare him to Trammell. The statistic I will use, which is widely considered to be the most accurate way of measuring defensive ability from 1954-2001, is Total Zone (TZ).

Alan Trammell’s TZ for his entire career at shortstop was 80, while Derek Jeter’s is -129. Total Zone isn’t as accurate as a defensive metric such as UZR, but when you have a 209 run difference, I think it’s fairly easy to distinguish the better fielder. Trammell only had a negative TZ in 5 seasons out of his 20. The only years that Jeter posted a positive TZ rating were 98′, 04′, and 09′.

The metric that I used to compare both of these players to other Hall of Famers was Defensive WAR. The lowest career Def in the Hall of Fame is 27.3, held by Robin Yount. The high Def is 375.3, which is from Ozzie Smith. Alan Trammell would actually be tied with Honus Wagner for 13th on the list of Def with 184.4, while Derek Jeter would be in last place with a Def of -25.7.

I am well aware of some of the seemingly spectacular plays that Derek Jeter made in the field. Unlike Trammell, I grew up watching Jeter. Yes, Jeter made some eye popping plays throughout his career, but people fail to acknowledge that there were numerous plays that he didn’t make. Judging by Jeter’s UZR, he cost the Yankees -67.8 runs throughout the more recent bulk of his career. He may have made some big plays along the way that will be remembered, but he cost the Yankees way more runs that theoretically could have made it so the big plays weren’t even necessary.

Bottom line, Alan Trammell was a much better defensive shortstop than Derek Jeter despite having fewer Gold Glove awards. Judging by Jeter’s advanced metrics, he really wasn’t that good of a fielder at all.

Total Value
Oh no, this is where I bring out that WAR mumbo jumbo. If you’ve read anything from me before, you probably know that I am an advocate of using Wins Above Replacement to analyze a player’s total value. While it shouldn’t be the end all, be all statistic, it is great to use when comparing two players’ total contributions on the field.

Derek Jeter has a career WAR of 73.7, and Alan Trammell has a career WAR of 63.7. Despite Jeter’s poor defense throughout his career, he hit well enough to still prove more valuable than Trammell. I think that’s a testament to how truly great of a hitter Jeter was. When compared to other Hall of Famers, both WARs fit in nicely. Honus Wagner holds a large lead for WAR at 138.1, while John Ward is in last with a 39.8 WAR. When Jeter enters the Hall, he will be 4th on the list, and if Tram was in the Hall, he would be 11th.

Overall, Derek Jeter had a better career than Alan Trammell, but both are much deserving of spots in the Hall of Fame. To almost any baseball fan, Jeter is considered a first ballot Hall of Famer. Why then, is Allan Trammell being completely overlooked? The voters in the BBWAA need to sit down and reexamine Trammell’s career. Trammell didn’t have the New York media following that Jeter has gotten to experience throughout his legendary career, but media coverage shouldn’t be what decides who goes into the Hall and who doesn’t. Allan Trammell deserves justice, and when you compare his numbers to the greatest players to ever play his position, you will see that he ranks right up there with them.

Warning! Beware of Nelson Cruz

Lately I’ve been hearing some rumors connecting the Tigers to free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz. I understand how fans have been hungry for another power bat since Prince Fielder was traded, but Nelson Cruz is not the guy you want. It’s not because of the whole PED suspension last year, or even the fact that he single-handedly dismantled the Tigers in the 2011 ALCS. No, it’s simply because he is not that valuable of an all around baseball player.

I don’t particularly enjoy writing pieces where I talk about a player’s shortcomings. At the end of the day, these guys are major leaguers and I’m still a kid who’s a fringe high school bench player who doesn’t know whether he’s a natural right-handed or left-handed hitter (I’m really bad at both). But due to the recent clamoring for Cruz, I figured it was my duty to all my readers to expose the truth about him.

The Good

Nelson Cruz is a solid power hitter. Despite having a shortened season due to a 50 game suspension, Cruz still managed to hit 27 HR in 109 games. With a respectable ISO of .240 in 2013, and a career ISO of .228, Nelson can still manage to hit for very good extra base power. His wOBA in 2013 was .359 and is .353 over the course of his career, both being good. Bottom line, he’s a good power hitter, but I never said that I’m debating that aspect of his game.

The Bad

Nelson Cruz does not have very good plate discipline. Assuming that we’re talking about the guy that’s supposedly going to be “protecting” Miguel Cabrera in the batting lineup, plate discipline does play a huge factor in this discussion. We don’t want a guy who’s a free swinger batting after a walk to the best hitter in the game who also happens to be really slow on the base paths. Last season, Cruz swung at 30.8% of pitches that were outside the strike zone (O-Swing%), which is really bad. He only made contact with 73.1% of the pitches that he swung at (Contact%), which is also bad. His BB/K was also bad, clocking in at 0.32. Bad. What have we learned so far? Basically, Nelson Cruz is an all or nothing hitter, which some fans really don’t mind. In the case that he’d be hitting behind Miguel Cabrera, I’d tend to shy away from a hitter like Cruz.

The Ugly

To an extent, all the bad I mentioned could be forgiven if Nelson Cruz wasn’t such a terrible defensive outfielder. Move him to DH you say? The Tigers have Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera who will both rotate time at 1B/DH, so there is no room whatsoever for another DH. Cruz would have to play everyday in RF or LF. He is 34 years old and 240lbs. His ability to chase down balls in open space is clearly declining. Sticking him in the outfield with Torii Hunter, who looked lost in the outfield for most of 2013, would be a horrible idea for a team that used the offseason to vastly improve their infield defense. The stat that I like to use for defense is UZR, but because of Nelson’s shortened season though, I’m going to use UZR/150. Last year, Cruz’s UZR/150 was -6.5, which is way below average. Considering he’s posted a negative UZR for the last three seasons, you can see that he is not very good at defense and is clearly not getting any better. It’s also worth mentioning that the Tigers would have to give up their 2014 first-round draft pick to the Texas Rangers considering Cruz turned down their qualifying offer of $14 million.

Total Value

In 2013, Cruz was worth 1.5 Wins Above Replacement. Andy Dirks 2013 WAR: 1.7. Obviously WAR is not the end-all-be-all statistic, but it does give a pretty good idea of what a player is worth when you replace him with someone who is league average at his position. In this case, the WAR of each player is practically identical, which means over the course of a season they will somehow be worth the same amount of wins to their team. Cruz will probably cost around $7-9 million in 2014, whereas Andy Dirks is already under contract for only $1.625 million. Assuming Cruz signs for $8 million and has the same WAR as 2013, the Tigers would be paying $5.33 million per win for him. Andy Dirks with his current contract and WAR? $956,000 per win. I know this might be some moneyballin’ right here, but if the goal of baseball is to buy wins, wouldn’t you rather have the wins at a cheaper cost?


When all aspects of the game are taken into account, you see that Nelson Cruz is a below-average baseball player with a plus power tool. The Tigers have Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Austin Jackson, and Torii Hunter (and sometimes Alex Avila too) who will all contribute their fair share of runs this upcoming season. Not only do they not need a one-dimensional power hitter, he just doesn’t make sense for the makeup of their lineup which now features a solid balance of on-base average, power, and speed. Mix that with the huge liability that he is on defense, and you get a player that I don’t want to play for the Detroit Tigers.


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