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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Alex Rodriguez: greatest Yankee player since Mickey Mantle.

Alex Rodriguez April 19,2008
 By Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons
Alex Rodriguez: cheater.  cheater.  cheater.

Alex Rodriguez: liar, liar, pants on fire.

OK, now that we got that out of the way we can continue with the analysis.

Because of D-Day (Derek's retirement announcement) many will go all Derek Jeter on me.  But as addressed in the two previous posts:

Who is the best hitter Jeter is better than?

Most plate appearances (PA) by a Yankee: Jeter 11,968.  Simply looking at counts distorts Jeter's contributions and his Hit total, while impressive, is an accumulation.   It's like claiming that Pete Rose was a better hitter than Ty Cobb because Rose had the most hits.  Rose also made the most outs.

I'm going with OPS+, which has this in baseball-reference.com:

"Statistic Description: OPS+ 100*[OBP/lg OBP + SLG/lg SLG - 1] Adjusted to the player’s ballpark(s)"

OPS: "On-Base + Slugging Percentages"  Note: they're not represented as percentages.

So OPS+ is OPS adjusted for year and park.

I understand that OPS has a slight bias favoring Slugging Average but it's more easily understood than more esoteric stuff and the relative rankings are pretty similar.  See:

wRC+ v. OPS+ top 25 career.  Wednesday, December 4, 2013

OPS+ is an average.  So, a player like Jeter is hurt because of his long career.  A full career will tend to follow a bell curve.  A career cut short tends to benefit from using an average for evaluation.  That would also apply to stints with a team but not a full career.  Using counts hurts players like Joe DiMaggio who had short careers.  In this post I am looking only at performance while playing for the New York Yankees.  So, I will try to balance those conflicting dynamics.

I originally tried a query with a restriction of 5,000 PA minimum then ran it again for 4,000 PA for all Yankee batters all time.  That lower threshold allows for the inclusion of Charlie Keller, Bobby Murcer, Bill Skowron, Tommy Tresh and others.  This is cumulative data sorted by OPS+.


Rk Player OPS+ PA From To Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Babe Ruth 209 9198 1920 1934 25-39 2084 7217 1959 2518 424 106 659 1978 1852 1122 35 94 110 117 .349 .484 .711 1.195 *97/8H31
2 Lou Gehrig 179 9663 1923 1939 20-36 2164 8001 1888 2721 534 163 493 1992 1508 790 45 106 2 102 100 .340 .447 .632 1.080 *3/H976
3 Mickey Mantle 172 9907 1951 1968 19-36 2401 8102 1676 2415 344 72 536 1509 1733 126 1710 13 14 47 113 153 38 .298 .421 .557 .977 *8397H/645
4 Joe DiMaggio 155 7673 1936 1951 21-36 1736 6821 1390 2214 389 131 361 1537 790 369 46 14 130 30 9 .325 .398 .579 .977 *8/79H3
5 Charlie Keller 152 4466 1939 1952 22-35 1066 3677 712 1053 163 69 184 723 760 481 10 19 50 45 23 .286 .410 .518 .928 *79/H
6 Alex Rodriguez 140 5657 2004 2013 28-37 1293 4829 910 1404 234 8 309 979 681 55 1080 97 0 50 130 145 30 .291 .386 .534 .920 *5D/H6
7 Dave Winfield 134 5021 1981 1990 29-38 1172 4485 722 1300 236 35 205 818 477 53 652 8 9 42 155 76 36 .290 .356 .495 .851 *97/8HD5
8 Tommy Henrich 132 5410 1937 1950 24-37 1284 4603 901 1297 269 73 183 795 712 383 34 60 62 37 19 .282 .382 .491 .873 *93/H87
9 Bobby Murcer 129 4997 1965 1983 19-37 1256 4428 641 1231 192 29 175 687 491 50 564 17 14 47 81 74 48 .278 .349 .453 .802 *89DH/756
10 Bill Skowron 129 4102 1954 1962 23-31 1087 3748 518 1103 173 44 165 672 278 29 588 35 9 32 129 14 13 .294 .346 .496 .842 *3H/54
11 Don Mattingly 127 7722 1982 1995 21-34 1785 7003 1007 2153 442 20 222 1099 588 136 444 21 13 96 191 14 9 .307 .358 .471 .830 *3/D9H7584
12 Bill Dickey 127 7064 1928 1946 21-39 1789 6300 930 1969 343 72 202 1209 678 289 31 51 49 36 32 .313 .382 .486 .868 *2/H
13 Robinson Cano 125 5791 2005 2013 22-30 1374 5336 799 1649 375 28 204 822 350 65 689 54 10 41 171 38 28 .309 .355 .504 .860 *4/DH6
14 Bernie Williams 125 9053 1991 2006 22-37 2076 7869 1366 2336 449 55 287 1257 1069 97 1212 39 12 64 223 147 87 .297 .381 .477 .858 *8D/9H7
15 Paul O'Neill 125 5368 1993 2001 30-38 1254 4700 720 1426 304 14 185 858 586 51 710 13 0 69 174 80 40 .303 .377 .492 .869 *9/7HD3
16 Yogi Berra 125 8350 1946 1963 21-38 2116 7546 1174 2148 321 49 358 1430 704 49 411 52 9 44 146 30 26 .285 .348 .483 .830 *2H79/35
17 Earle Combs 125 6513 1924 1935 25-36 1456 5746 1186 1866 309 154 58 632 670 278 17 74 98 71 .325 .397 .462 .859 *87/H9
18 Jorge Posada 121 7150 1995 2011 23-39 1829 6092 900 1664 379 10 275 1065 936 78 1453 74 1 47 186 20 21 .273 .374 .474 .848 *2DH/34
19 Roy White 121 7735 1965 1979 21-35 1881 6650 964 1803 300 51 160 758 934 66 708 29 53 69 123 233 117 .271 .360 .404 .764 *7HD/89534
20 Bob Meusel 121 5543 1920 1929 23-32 1294 5032 764 1565 338 87 146 1002 349 556 20 143 134 102 .311 .358 .500 .858 79/5H83
21 Joe Gordon 120 4216 1938 1946 23-31 1000 3686 596 1000 186 38 153 617 481 508 19 30 97 68 48 .271 .358 .467 .825 *4/3H6
22 Tony Lazzeri 120 7068 1926 1937 22-33 1659 6094 952 1784 327 115 169 1157 830 821 19 115 147 79 .293 .379 .467 .847 *45/6H37
23 Ben Chapman 119 4018 1930 1936 21-27 910 3539 626 1079 209 64 60 589 404 362 20 51 184 93 .305 .379 .451 .830 789/54H
24 Derek Jeter 117 11968 1995 2013 21-39 2602 10614 1876 3316 525 65 256 1261 1047 39 1753 164 89 54 272 348 95 .312 .381 .446 .828 *6/DH
25 Thurman Munson 116 5905 1969 1979 22-32 1423 5344 696 1558 229 32 113 701 438 59 571 42 21 58 160 48 50 .292 .346 .410 .756 *2/DH9375
Rk Player OPS+ PA From To Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
26 Tom Tresh 115 4520 1961 1969 22-30 1098 3920 549 967 166 33 140 493 511 30 651 38 21 28 62 43 23 .247 .337 .413 .750 786/5H9
27 Hank Bauer 115 5374 1948 1959 25-36 1406 4784 792 1326 211 56 158 654 491 10 594 33 46 19 83 48 33 .277 .347 .444 .791 *97H/82
28 Graig Nettles 114 6248 1973 1983 28-38 1535 5519 750 1396 202 20 250 834 627 55 739 31 8 62 115 18 25 .253 .329 .433 .762 *5/HD6
29 Tino Martinez 113 4244 1996 2005 28-37 1054 3770 566 1039 189 11 192 739 405 42 546 27 1 41 103 17 10 .276 .347 .484 .831 *3/HD
30 Gil McDougald 111 5398 1951 1960 23-32 1336 4676 697 1291 187 51 112 576 559 8 623 36 97 27 93 45 44 .276 .356 .410 .766 456/H
31 Elston Howard 110 5488 1955 1967 26-38 1492 5044 588 1405 211 50 161 733 342 72 717 24 26 49 148 8 13 .279 .324 .436 .760 *27H/39
32 Wally Pipp 107 6356 1915 1925 22-32 1488 5594 820 1577 259 121 80 826 490 495 31 226 114 60 .282 .343 .414 .757 *3/H
33 Willie Randolph 105 7464 1976 1988 21-33 1694 6303 1027 1731 259 58 48 549 1005 29 512 28 75 54 171 251 82 .275 .374 .357 .731 *4/HD
34 Joe Pepitone 105 4115 1962 1969 21-28 1051 3841 435 967 113 24 166 541 223 50 413 19 8 25 94 31 23 .252 .294 .423 .718 *38/9H7
35 Hal Chase 101 4466 1905 1913 22-30 1061 4158 551 1182 165 50 20 494 147 367 16 145 248 22 .284 .311 .362 .674 *3/487615
36 Red Rolfe 99 5406 1931 1942 22-33 1175 4827 942 1394 257 67 69 497 526 335 10 42 14 44 20 .289 .360 .413 .773 *5/6H
37 Phil Rizzuto 93 6718 1941 1956 23-38 1661 5816 877 1588 239 62 38 563 651 1 398 49 193 2 107 149 58 .273 .351 .355 .706 *6/H4
38 Roger Peckinpaugh 93 5263 1913 1921 22-30 1219 4555 670 1170 174 53 36 427 508 457 16 190 143 43 .257 .334 .342 .676 *6/H
39 Clete Boyer 86 4037 1959 1966 22-29 1068 3658 434 882 140 25 95 393 297 51 608 15 27 38 81 27 12 .241 .298 .371 .669 *56/H4
40 Tony Kubek 85 4493 1957 1965 21-29 1092 4167 522 1109 178 30 57 373 217 24 441 13 71 26 62 29 23 .266 .303 .364 .667 *6/7H58943
41 Horace Clarke 84 5143 1965 1974 25-34 1230 4723 543 1213 149 23 27 300 357 18 356 11 28 24 77 151 58 .257 .309 .315 .624 *4/H65D
42 Frankie Crosetti 83 7268 1932 1948 21-37 1683 6277 1006 1541 260 65 98 649 792 799 114 90 59 113 62 .245 .341 .354 .695 *65/H4
43 Bobby Richardson 77 5780 1955 1966 19-30 1412 5386 643 1432 196 37 34 390 262 20 243 7 98 30 100 73 48 .266 .299 .335 .634 *4/H56
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/14/2014.

The big four occupy the top spots.  Keller squeezes in at number 5.  Highest rank since number 3 Mantle is number 6: Rodriguez 140.  Jeter is number 24 with 117.  That is artificially low and will be addressed but the rank of Rodriguez is genuine given he is number 22 in PA with 5,657 and has played ten seasons with the Yankees.

Candidates for best Yankee since Mantle who retired in 1968; query starts in 1965 to include all of the Yankee careers of Murcer and White:

Rk Player OPS+ PA From To Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Alex Rodriguez 140 5657 2004 2013 28-37 1293 4829 910 1404 234 8 309 979 681 55 1080 97 0 50 130 145 30 .291 .386 .534 .920 *5D/H6
2 Dave Winfield 134 5021 1981 1990 29-38 1172 4485 722 1300 236 35 205 818 477 53 652 8 9 42 155 76 36 .290 .356 .495 .851 *97/8HD5
3 Bobby Murcer 129 4997 1965 1983 19-37 1256 4428 641 1231 192 29 175 687 491 50 564 17 14 47 81 74 48 .278 .349 .453 .802 *89DH/756
4 Don Mattingly 127 7722 1982 1995 21-34 1785 7003 1007 2153 442 20 222 1099 588 136 444 21 13 96 191 14 9 .307 .358 .471 .830 *3/D9H7584
5 Robinson Cano 125 5791 2005 2013 22-30 1374 5336 799 1649 375 28 204 822 350 65 689 54 10 41 171 38 28 .309 .355 .504 .860 *4/DH6
6 Bernie Williams 125 9053 1991 2006 22-37 2076 7869 1366 2336 449 55 287 1257 1069 97 1212 39 12 64 223 147 87 .297 .381 .477 .858 *8D/9H7
7 Paul O'Neill 125 5368 1993 2001 30-38 1254 4700 720 1426 304 14 185 858 586 51 710 13 0 69 174 80 40 .303 .377 .492 .869 *9/7HD3
8 Jorge Posada 121 7150 1995 2011 23-39 1829 6092 900 1664 379 10 275 1065 936 78 1453 74 1 47 186 20 21 .273 .374 .474 .848 *2DH/34
9 Roy White 121 7735 1965 1979 21-35 1881 6650 964 1803 300 51 160 758 934 66 708 29 53 69 123 233 117 .271 .360 .404 .764 *7HD/89534
10 Derek Jeter 117 11968 1995 2013 21-39 2602 10614 1876 3316 525 65 256 1261 1047 39 1753 164 89 54 272 348 95 .312 .381 .446 .828 *6/DH
11 Thurman Munson 116 5905 1969 1979 22-32 1423 5344 696 1558 229 32 113 701 438 59 571 42 21 58 160 48 50 .292 .346 .410 .756 *2/DH9375
12 Graig Nettles 114 6248 1973 1983 28-38 1535 5519 750 1396 202 20 250 834 627 55 739 31 8 62 115 18 25 .253 .329 .433 .762 *5/HD6
13 Tino Martinez 113 4244 1996 2005 28-37 1054 3770 566 1039 189 11 192 739 405 42 546 27 1 41 103 17 10 .276 .347 .484 .831 *3/HD
14 Willie Randolph 105 7464 1976 1988 21-33 1694 6303 1027 1731 259 58 48 549 1005 29 512 28 75 54 171 251 82 .275 .374 .357 .731 *4/HD
15 Horace Clarke 84 5143 1965 1974 25-34 1230 4723 543 1213 149 23 27 300 357 18 356 11 28 24 77 151 58 .257 .309 .315 .624 *4/H65D
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/14/2014.

Even with only 4,000 PA required Hall of Fame players are excluded: Reggie Jackson, Ricky Henderson, Wade Boggs.  However, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield is right behind Rodriguez.  Jeter is number 10 on this list.  One problem for Jeter is that some of his teammates are ahead of him: Rodriguez, Cano, O'Neill, Posada, Williams.  Then there is the iconic Don Mattingly and the late captain, Thurman Munson.  Several players, like Jeter, played their entire careers with the Yankees.

Mantle last had OPS+ over 150 and qualified to lead in an average in 1964 at age 32: 177; Mick led the league.  Let's look at the twenty seasons since his retirement when a Yankee reached at least 150:


Rk Player OPS+ Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Bobby Murcer 181 1971 25 NYY AL 146 624 529 94 175 25 6 25 94 91 13 60 0 1 3 9 14 8 .331 .427 .543 .969 *8/H
2 Paul O'Neill 177 1994 31 NYY AL 103 443 368 68 132 25 1 21 83 72 13 56 0 0 3 16 5 4 .359 .460 .603 1.064 *97H/D
3 Alex Rodriguez 176 2007 31 NYY AL 158 708 583 143 183 31 0 54 156 95 11 120 21 0 9 15 24 4 .314 .422 .645 1.067 *5/D
4 Alex Rodriguez 173 2005 29 NYY AL 162 715 605 124 194 29 1 48 130 91 8 139 16 0 3 8 21 6 .321 .421 .610 1.031 *5/6D
5 Jason Giambi 172 2002 31 NYY AL 155 689 560 120 176 34 1 41 122 109 4 112 15 0 5 18 2 2 .314 .435 .598 1.034 *3D
6 Reggie Jackson 172 1980 34 NYY AL 143 601 514 94 154 22 4 41 111 83 15 122 2 0 2 7 1 2 .300 .398 .597 .995 *9D/H
7 Bobby Murcer 169 1972 26 NYY AL 153 654 585 102 171 30 7 33 96 63 7 67 2 0 4 6 11 9 .292 .361 .537 .898 *8/H
8 Jason Giambi 161 2005 34 NYY AL 139 545 417 74 113 14 0 32 87 108 5 109 19 0 1 7 0 0 .271 .440 .535 .975 *3D/H
9 Don Mattingly 161 1986 25 NYY AL 162 742 677 117 238 53 2 31 113 53 11 35 1 1 10 17 0 0 .352 .394 .573 .967 *3/5D
10 Bernie Williams 160 1998 29 NYY AL 128 578 499 101 169 30 5 26 97 74 9 81 1 0 4 19 15 9 .339 .422 .575 .997 *8/D
11 Dave Winfield 159 1988 36 NYY AL 149 631 559 96 180 37 2 25 107 69 10 88 2 0 1 19 9 4 .322 .398 .530 .927 *9/HD
12 Rickey Henderson 157 1985 26 NYY AL 143 654 547 146 172 28 5 24 72 99 1 65 3 0 5 8 80 10 .314 .419 .516 .934 *8/7HD
13 Don Mattingly 156 1985 24 NYY AL 159 727 652 107 211 48 3 35 145 56 13 41 2 2 15 15 2 2 .324 .371 .567 .939 *3
14 Don Mattingly 156 1984 23 NYY AL 153 662 603 91 207 44 2 23 110 41 8 33 1 8 9 15 1 1 .343 .381 .537 .918 *37/9H8
15 Dave Winfield 154 1984 32 NYY AL 141 626 567 106 193 34 4 19 100 53 9 71 0 0 6 14 6 4 .340 .393 .515 .908 *98/H7
16 Jorge Posada 153 2007 35 NYY AL 144 589 506 91 171 42 1 20 90 74 7 98 6 0 3 18 2 0 .338 .426 .543 .970 *2H/D3
17 Derek Jeter 153 1999 25 NYY AL 158 739 627 134 219 37 9 24 102 91 5 116 12 3 6 12 19 8 .349 .438 .552 .989 *6
18 Danny Tartabull 153 1992 29 NYY AL 123 526 421 72 112 19 0 25 85 103 14 115 0 0 2 7 2 2 .266 .409 .489 .898 *9D/H7
19 Bobby Bonds 151 1975 29 NYY AL 145 626 529 93 143 26 3 32 85 89 8 137 3 0 5 10 30 17 .270 .375 .512 .888 *98D/H7
20 Reggie Jackson 150 1977 31 NYY AL 146 606 525 93 150 39 2 32 110 74 4 129 3 0 4 3 17 3 .286 .375 .550 .925 *9D/H
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/14/2014.

Bobby Ray Murcer!  Murcer takes slots 1 and 7.  Bobby was supposed to be the successor to The Mick but instead he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for the man who was supposed to be the successor to Willie Mays: Bobby Bonds, father of Barry, and number 19 on this list in his only season as a Yankee.

Henderson and Jackson are making a late bid.

Ranks of players with multiples:
Murcer: 1,7
Rodriguez: 3, 4
Giambi: 5, 8
Jackson: 5, 20
Mattingly: 8, 13, 13
Winfield: 11, 15

As you can see, Jeter is tied with Posada and Tartabull at number 16 with 153.

The Mick exceeded 150 eleven times: 221, 210, 206, 195, 188, 180, 177, 162, 162, 158, 151; led league 8 times.

Mickey Mantle's plaque in the Hall of Fame
via Wikimedia Commons
When I noticed the lack of a huge hitter since Mantle while writing the two previous posts about whether Jeter is great, I paused to make sure I wasn't slipping into old fartism.  I think that players today are better than ever in every meaningful way.  But the reality for Yankee fans is that we were spoiled with four super players from 1920-1968: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle.  Unfortunately, since then the Yankees have had only one player who can reasonably be considered anywhere near that caliber: Alex Rodriguez.  Reggie Jackson is in the ball park but not close.

I am influenced by the entirety of his career but what Rodriguez has done as a Yankee is very impressive on its own.  A-Rod is the only Yankee since Roger Maris in 1960 and 1961 to win multiple MVP awards.  The only other individual winners since Maris: Mantle 1962 (who was also MVP in 1956 and 1957), Howard 1963, Munson 1976, Mattingly 1985.

Whether Jeter should/could have won the MVP is interesting but irrelevant.  Mantle should/could have won more than his three, including the two won by Maris.

A-Rod's Yankee OPS+ is 140; career 143.  Mantle 172.

Peek career cumulative OPS+:
Mantle 177 1963-1964
Mattingly: 151 1986
Rodriguez: 147 2007-2009 (career, not just as a Yankee)
Murcer: 141 1972
Williams: 133 2002
White: 130 1971-1972
Posada: 124 2007-2009
Jeter: 122 2000-2001, 2006-2007

Donnie Ballgame maxed early but then dropped steadily.  Jeter leads on longevity but that's it.  A-Rod is the best Yankee player over all since Mickey Mantle.  Bernie shows well and if you look at the annual Yankee leaders 1996-2012 listed in my previous post, Bernie Williams could be considered better than Jeter.  The fact that Jeter peeked twice in career cumulative OPS+ is certainly a tribute to his consistency.  Jeter's problem is that his peek is simply not all that high.  He is one of the boys on Yankee teams with some very good hitters who often were better at the plate than Jeter.  None more so than Rodriguez.

2 comments:

Cliff Blau said...

Going by who produced the most wins above replacement on offense, the best Yankee since Mantle is Jeter, and by a wide margin. Rodriguez is third. Since 1901, Jeter is fourth among Yankees by that statistic. Since winning is what it's all about, I'd go with that.

Kenneth Matinale said...

Since 2004 when A-Rod joined the Yankees, tops in WAR cumulative:

Rodriguez 52.5
Cano 45.1
Jeter 31.4
Gardner 23.1