Stats: Jeter not a 'winning' player

September, 7, 2010
9/07/10
11:20
AM ET
There are a lot of things that Derek Jeter could be labeled during his career -- 99.999 percent of them are of a positive nature, and rightfully so.

This could be the first season in which you could attach the term "Losing Offensive Player" to his name.

Let me explain what that means.

In the early 1980s, sabermetrician Bill James devised a statistic, Runs Created, to measure the offensive value of a player. It looks at a what a player did at bat and on the bases in relation to the number of outs he made.

Add up the Runs Created for all the players on a given team and you should get the team’s run total for the season, or a number close to it.

The formulas involved are effective and the statistic has survived the credibility test in the statistical community for the past few decades.

An offshoot of the Runs Created statistic is one James called Offensive Winning Percentage, currently tracked on Baseball-Reference.com.

That stat estimates what the win percentage of a player’s team would be if that player occupied every spot in the lineup, and the team had league-average pitching and defensive skill.

The idea behind this stat is that players who do things offensively that generate runs will be players with a winning record, a number above .500.

Those who are not performing well in relation to their league will have a winning percentage below .500.

For example, a lineup of nine players, all of whom had the same statistics as Robinson Cano, would average about 7.5 runs per game. That team, with average pitching, would win 70 percent of its games, a rate that would rank among the best for American League players.

Through Jeter’s career, his offensive winning percentage has always been above .500. For his career, he's at .609. But Jeter's run of winning seasons is one that is in jeopardy right now.

Jeter's current offensive numbers (.264 BA/.331 OBP/.373 slugging pct) and his penchant for out-making (he leads the American League and is on pace to come near the Yankees single-season record) don't lend themselves to winning performance.

Currently, a lineup of nine Jeters would average about four runs per game. That, with league average pitching, is good enough to win only 44 percent of the time.

For his career, Jeter’s offensive winning percentage has ranged from .502 (2008) to .781 (1999). Last season, it was .661, tied for the third-best mark of his career and within the top 20 percent of everyday major league hitters. This year's drop, which could be a 220-point plummet, would put him in the bottom 20 percent, with the likes of Matt Wieters and Juan Uribe.

Statistically speaking, a .440 offensive winning percentage at Jeter's age (36) is an ominous sign. Rare is the everyday player who performs at that rate, at that age, who becomes statistically great again.

In front of us is a list of 41 batting title qualifiers since 1994, whose offensive winning percentage dropped below .500. It's almost entirely made up of players whose best days were behind them. Yes, we know Jeter is capable of bucking the odds, but precedent is not in his favor.

Former teammate Paul O'Neill had a run of 11 straight seasons as a winning offensive player, but once he went sub-.500, he never got back over. Bernie Williams had nine straight 'winning' seasons once his career got rolling in 1994. Once he dropped below .500, he was out of a job as an everyday player.

And don't forget, one of Jeter's predecessors as captain, Don Mattingly, retired after his offensive win percentage dipped to .443 in 1995.

One last thing about what Jeter's .440 means. You can use this statistic to measure the effectiveness of a teams offense too. There is currently an American League team with an Offensive Winning Percentage of .440.

It's the team in the other dugout tonight, the Orioles. That's a team with a 52-86 record, a mark that is the exact opposite of the Yankees current tally.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
13 2.77 141 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146