- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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You probably saw that Chipper Jones rescued Freddie Freeman after Freeman was stuck on a gridlocked interstate for five hours when a snowstorm hit the Atlanta area. Dressed in camouflage hunting gear, Jones escorted Freeman back to his house on a four-wheeler. More proof that Jones is one of the greatest teammates ever. Although I'm pretty sure Braves management had a collective heart attack after seeing the photos. Umm, no, Freddie, don't ride on Chipper's four-wheeler. Not really a good idea. Sit tight. Don't get out of the car. It could be a little slick out there.
Anyway, Joe Posnanski has been writing terrific articles throughout the winter on his top 100 baseball players of all time. He just wrote on his No. 56 player: Chipper Jones. His No. 57 player was Derek Jeter.
So my question: Which player would you have wanted for your team?
Do you want the power-hitting, switch-hitting third baseman with great on-base skills and OK defense? Do you want the shortstop with great durability and terrific offensive production for his position but subpar range? (If you're not a believer in the whole "Jeter's defense wasn't good" argument, check out this piece from August by Ben Lindbergh on Grantland.)
By one metric, the clear edge goes to Jones. By Baseball Reference's WAR analysis, Jones finished his career at 85.1 WAR. Jeter is at 71.6 WAR and not likely to get much higher.
At the plate, Jones was better, and it's not that close; he produced about 557 runs above an average hitter while Jeter is at 366. When you factor in positions, Jeter actually has the advantage in offensive WAR -- 94.1 to 87.5 (including baserunning, where he has a 52-run advantage).
Jeter, however, gives all that away on defense. Baseball Reference grades him as 234 runs below an average shortstop over his career. There are many who won't buy that. Hey, Jeter won five Gold Gloves after all; we know Gold Glove voting can be a joke, but it's not like they've been handing them out to Delmon Young and Adam Dunn.
The one advantage Jeter has is durability; he has played 150 games in 13 seasons, plus two more with 148 and 149. Jones was durable early in his career, but after he reached 32, he topped out at 143 games and six times was below 130.
But has that durability been that much of an advantage? From age 32 to 40 (his final season), Jones posted 36.7 WAR while Jeter has posted 23.2 WAR from 32 to 39. Jeter, of course, has nearly one entire vacant season on his ledger after playing just 17 games last year. Overall, Jeter has played 103 more games in his career, with one season in hand.
I'd go with Jones, and I say it knowing that it's probably more difficult to find a good shortstop than a good third baseman. Makes for a fun what-if, though: If you're starting a team in 1995, whom do you take?