Thursday, March 28, 2013

This means WAR: Jeter vs. Ripken. Ripken was better-including "in the clutch".

Had a bit of a dispute with a friend the other day about Derek Jeter. Yes, I agree that Jeter has had a wonderful career, and that he will deserve the HOF slot he will get in a few years' time.

Still, Cal Ripken Jr. was the better player. Better defense, more power. This is a view that drives a lot of people crazy. Why, Jeter is "Mr. Clutch"! He's "Mr. Yankee"! Nobody has been the hitter at SS that Jeter has been, year after year!

Well, as someone who's not a Yankee fan, calling him Mr. Yankee is hardly a compliment.  But I digress. The question has to be settled by the numbers. How else can you do it? Otherwise it's just opinions backed up by air. And when you put the facts forward, you see there's really no comparison-Ripken had a far more impressive career.

First, let's look at fielding. Jeter has always been a weak shortstop defensively. In all but three years of his 18 season career, he's had a negative defensive WAR, totaling up to -8.7 over those years. (In retrospect, it was foolish not to have moved Jeter to third when A-Rod was acquired).

By contrast, over his 21 year career, Ripken never had a negative defensive WAR. Some might say,  "I saw Ripken at the end of his career, after he'd been moved to third, and he wasn't very good." Maybe, but he still didn't lapse into negative territory, and at their peaks, when Jeter was a mediocrity defensively, Cal was worth 2-3 wins a year with his glove.

Next, compare them with the stick. While Rip was hitting 20-some HR's a year on average, with a peak of 34 in 1991, Derek was averaging in the teens, with a high of 24 in 1999. Jeter did have a higher career OPS (.838 to .788), and his offensive WAR is higher, 91.5 to 72.8.

But throw offense and defense together, and you see Ripken's edge-Cal's at 107.3 WAR total, Derek at 82.8. That's almost twenty five wins.

Before you say, "But Cal played longer!", yes, his career now exceeds Jeter's by about 500 games. But that means it includes more of the Oriole's decline phase. Certainly Jeter, if at all possible, will play a year or two more, which will equalize things a bit.

And on that clutch stuff-Cal still has the edge. Mr. Oriole had a .866 OPS in post-season play, compared with his .788 in regular season play (though it's true he didn't do much against the Phillies in the 1983 World Series). Mr. Clutch had a lower OPS in the playoffs than Cal, at .838, compared with his .829 regular season figure.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Philadelphia-a baseball or a football town?

There's been some controversy over whether Philadelphia is a "baseball town" or a "football town". Some guy named "guapo", in a Baseball Think Factory discusion of whether Boston is a baseball town (you have to be a true helmet-head to think otherwise), does a nice job in looking at various cities' loyalties.

This is how guapo sees it:

Anaheim: Disney town

Atlanta: Football town

Phoenix: Basketball town

Baltimore: Football town

Boston: Baseball town

Chicago: Basketball town

Cincinnati: Baseball town

Cleveland: Football town

Dallas: Football town

Denver: Football town

Detroit: Hockey town

Miami: Football town

Houston: Football town

Kansas City: Football town

Los Angeles: Basketball town

Milwaukee: Baseball town

Minneapolis: Hockey town

New York: Basketball town

Oakland: Football town

Philadelphia: Football town

Pittsburgh: Football town

San Diego: Baseball town

San Francisco: Football town

Seattle: Football town

St. Louis: Baseball town

Tampa: Football town

Toronto: Hockey town

Washington: Football town

Now, being Philadelphia born and bred, I can only weigh in on my city, although I think SF is more of a baseball town than guapo would claim. As to whether we're more partial to baseball or football, I can honestly say: Nether.

Philadelphia's favorite sport, a (well-informed) cynic would say, is to dump on the athletes it claims to love. It is sick, I tell you. Sick, sick, sick! An awful lot of fans seem to have a better time dumping on the "bums" when they lose than they have fun with winning teams, which, in all honesty, have been all too rare here. And there always has to be a scapegoat: Think, Von Hayes, Tom Bladon, and Norm Snead, for the Phillies, Flyers, and Eagles respectively.

And the guys who get it the worst are those from Philly themselves, like Del Ennis, who was a hell of a player for the Phils in the fifties. And Dick Allen, not from here but a guy with HOF talent, was essentially booed out of town.

For the region overall I guess the Eagles are number one-these are dumb, violent times and people enjoy their dumb, violent sport. Where I live, in Delaware County, I think the Phillies (and maybe the Flyers too) are bigger than the Eagles. I'm basing this on bumper stickers, clothes, etc. seen on the denizens of my fair county, or their vehicles.

My personal preference is for Australian Rules Football, or, in a pinch, New Zealand RF. No, of course baseball's my first love. It is the great American sport. The NFL, as I've written elsewhere, isn't a sport at all.