Michael Young = Derek Jeter?

On the Monday evening ESPN SportsCenter, Dave Winfield was highlighting the big plays of the afternoon tilt between the Rangers and the Tigers. Since Michael Young went two-for-four with a big RBI double that broke open a tied, scoreless game in the seventh inning, Winfield was right to attribute much of the offensive glory to the longtime Ranger. He was the offensive WPA champ of the game (+.184) on the revamped box scores.

But maybe Winfield went a little too far when he said “Michael Young is the Derek Jeter of the Texas Rangers.” Derek Jeter still plays shortstop and owns all those rings! Then again, we might find with a little uncovering that the description was apt.

First blush doesn’t do the comparison justice. Jeter has 70.3 WAR and blows Young’s 25.6 WAR out of the water. But Jeter has 10,588 plate appearances to Young’s 6,745, and is two years younger. Pro-rate Jeter’s WAR to Young’s PAs and you get 44.8 WAR for the Yankee shortstop, which probably reflects Jeter’s .371 career wOBA compared to Young’s .346 number. Young does own a .374 wOBA lifetime, at home, but Winfield did not say that “Michael Young at home is the Ranger’s version of Derek Jeter in any stadium.” It looks like an overall comparison fails before we even get to defense portion of the equation.

But let us zoom in on the last three years, if only because that’s about how long our short-term baseball memories seem to last. In the last three years, both players have shown declining bats and gloves. They even share a resurgent year. Check out their wOBAs and fielding runs above replacement for the past three years:

Young Jeter
wOBA FRAR wOBA FRAR
2008 0.331 -4.6 0.343 -0.3
2009 0.385 -7.6 0.390 6.4
2010 0.335 -5.4 0.320 -4.7

Well now we’re getting somewhere. Yes, Jeter is still a tiny bit ahead because of his one-year defensive improvement, but this paints the picture of two declining players. They are both still capable of a strong year but are also both much more likely to put up a year that looks like an average offensive player than an outstanding one. Over this time period, Young has accrued 9 WAR (29.6 Batting Runs) and Jeter 13.3 WAR (41 Batting Runs).

Defense is interesting part of this equation, obviously. Back before Jeters’ 2009 resurgence at shortstop, he was the topic of much consternation, as the defensive numbers for him were execrable. He’d lost 40.4 UZR runs in his past four years and was described as the worst defensive shortstop of the era. Unfortunately for Young, that wasn’t quite true. Since 2002, only one shortstop has had a worse UZR total than Jeter (-42.4). That shortstop is Young (-55.6). In 2008, Young was switched off the position and lost four runs of positional replacement value with his move, on average.

But check out the batting runs above, and you see that even with the gloves taken out, and even with the help he gets for being two years younger than Jeter, and even with the scope narrowed to the last three years, Young doesn’t really make it to the Cap’n’s level.

If Winfield had said that “In the past three years, Michael Young’s impact on the Rangers in home games has been similar to Derek Jeter’s impact on the Yankees in that he represents an aging bat connected to an aging glove and complications related to prior service to their teams,” then he would have been correct. But that wouldn’t play so well on television.





With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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DonCoburleone
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DonCoburleone

I’ve always said the only difference between Jeter and Michael Young is the quality of Jeter’s teammates over the years…

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11

… and ~20 WAR (over the same year span, much more career difference).

I would LOVE to say that the difference between Jeter and Young is “teammates”. But, that’s not the case. No matter what lens you look through, those two images aren’t the same.

Matt
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Matt

Well, you’ve always been wrong.

Steve
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Steve

If only there were an article to read about this!

Rally
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Rally

A few years ago when I first started writing for Hardaball Times, I thought up a list of topics and one was a comparison of Young to Jeter. Thinking they were similar offensive players, poor defenders, and Young toiled in obscurity because he wasn’t a Yankee.

A few minutes of research threw that idea in the trash. Jeter has a substantially higher OBP and does so without benefit of a great hitter’s park. Young is at best a poor man’s Jeter.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11

Totally agree.

Like I said, a few years ago I threw in the towel in being President of the Jeter Hater Club. I got tired of losing. One can only say “he’s an over-rated defender” so many times before it pales in comparison to all of the areas that he is superb (or at least really good).

I really like Michael Young, but he has not turned out to be the player I thought he would. It would be awesome if we could show that some under-rated guy was Jeter’s statistical equal but only received less fanfare because he did not wear the NY over his heart.

AJS
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AJS

But WAR is to some degree a counting stat, right? Even if their wOBAs and UZRs were constant, wouldn’t Jeter have a higher WAR than Young because he gets more plate appearances due to playing with a better offense?

Garrett
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Garrett

Yes. Like every other counting stat, when you hold rate stats EXACTLY THE SAME whoever gets more attempts will have higher counting stats. Though I’m not sure how that is relevant to this.

Mike R.
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Mike R.

I find it hillarious that those who claim that Jeter is the most overrated player evah are just as disoriented with advanced statistics as those enamored with Jeter.

Garrett
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Garrett

Anyone with a passing understanding of advanced statistics should be enamored with Jeter. Inner circle HOFer? No. One of the 50 best position players ever? Possibly. First ballot HOFer? Almost without question.

Jeter is highly underrated by the “intelligentsia”.

Ian R.
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Ian R.

I don’t think stat people disagree with the level of praise Jeter has received. It’s the things he’s been praised for. The mainstream media often laud Jeter’s defense, which is bad. They often praise him for leadership and just ‘willing his team to win,’ which may well be true, but it’s at best a small factor. They point to his awesome postseason performance, in spite of the fact that his overall postseason line is pretty much exactly the same as his overall career line.

Meanwhile, Jeter isn’t praised so much for the thing he should be praised for: being a fantastic offensive shortstop. He’s a possible top-50 all-time player just because he hit so well from such an anemic position. He’s also never won the MVP award, despite deserving it in 2006.

In other words, the treatment Jeter has gotten from the mainstream media is absurd. They correctly by-way-of-incorrectly praise him as an awesome player, but the reasoning behind it is totally wrong.