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Friday, February 15, 2013
David Wright is no Derek Jeter ... or is he?

By David Schoenfield

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon compared David Wright to Derek Jeter, to which Wright responded by saying, "In my eyes, that's the ultimate compliment. I think it's somewhat undeserving. But it's humbling to be mentioned in the same sentence with him."

Don't you miss the days when a player may have responded by saying something like, "Sure, Jeter's had a nice career. Won a few rings. But I've had a few good seasons as well. And let's be honest here: He's had better teammates. I mean, did he ever have to play with Oliver Perez or Jason Bay? Did he have Frank Francisco closing out games for him? See what I mean?"

Still, while Wright's humble attitude is nice, a comparison between the two New York stars is in order.

Jeter: .313/.382/.448, .829 OPS, .365 wOBA, 1849 runs created, 116 RC/162 games
Wright: .301/.381/.506, .887 OPS, .376 wOBA, 936 runs created, 120 RC/162 games

Any way you slice the numbers, Wright has been a little more productive at the plate, mainly due to his power advantage; Jeter's career high in home runs is 24, but Wright has topped that five times. What's maybe most surprising is that Wright only trails Jeter by 12 points in batting average. While Jeter has hit as high as .349, .343, .339 and .334, Wright has hit .300 in six of his eight full seasons.

What Jeter has, of course, is longevity and durability. He's played 150+ games for 13 seasons; the only players with more are Pete Rose, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Rafael Palmeiro, Brooks Robinson and Hank Aaron. Wright, however, has been durable as well. Other than 2011, when he suffered through a stress fracture in his back and missed two months, he's played 160, 154, 160, 144, 157 and 156 games.

Overall, we'll call this even since Wright hasn't entered the down phase of his career. Obviously, he hasn't had the career length of Jeter, but he's been just as good.

Jeter: Five Gold Gloves, minus-229 runs saved (via Baseball-Reference)
Wright: Two Gold Gloves, minus-16 runs saved (via Baseball-Reference)

The defensive metrics have never liked Jeter's defense, often rating him among the worst defenders in the game due to his lack range. You can complain all you want about defensive metrics, but they all agree that Jeter has long had the range of a three-toed sloth in the field. Now, the managers and coaches who vote on the Gold Glove Awards certainly would disagree with that assessment, since they've voted him the best shortstop in the American League five times. In 2005, Jeter rated at minus-27 defensive runs saved, one of the lowest totals of the past decade at any position AND WON A GOLD GLOVE.

Here's the thing about the metrics: For the most part, they do agree with the common perception of the best fielders. Except, notably, with Jeter.

Wright is probably a little overrated in the field as well. But he's better than Jeter. Edge to Wright.

Peak seasons
Jeter's best seasons via bWAR: 7.8, 7.3, 6.4, 5.4, 4.9
Wright's best seasons via bWAR: 8.1, 6.7, 6.7, 4.5, 3.8

Jeter's five-year total: 31.8. Wright's five-year total: 29.8. Edge to Jeter.

Top-10 MVP voting
Jeter: 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 10th, 10th, 10th
Wright: 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th

Wright has been hurt by the quality of his teams, but Jeter's eight top-10 finishes is impressive. Edge to Jeter.

Career WAR
Jeter: 69.3
Wright: 39.1

Obviously, edge to Jeter. The question: Can Wright catch him? Considering he's 30 wins behind and now 30 years old, it will be tough. He is coming off a 6.7-WAR season, however. Say he has three more five-win seasons in him (that may be optimistic; 2012 was his first five-win season since 2008). That means he has to get 15 wins (plus whatever Jeter builds up before he retires) from ages 33 on. From age 33 to 38, Jeter has compiled 17.4 WAR. This could end up being pretty close.

(FanGraphs has different valuations for the two players, but the same 30-win spread: Jeter at 77.6 WAR, Wright at 47.0.)

Jeter, by the way, is credited with 91.5 Offensive Wins Above Replacement; so his defense has cost the Yankees about 22 wins over the years.

Jeter: Many
Wright: Engaged to model Molly Beers

Obviously, Jeter's list of starlets (we presume) is impressive. On the other hand, Molly Beers is a model. Plus, to our knowledge Wright never left gift baskets. Edge to Wright.

Diving catches into the stands
Jeter: Well, there was this one.
Wright: None that I could find.

Edge to Jeter.

Resemblance to Mr. Met
Jeter: Don't see it.
Wright: Eerily similar.

Edge to Wright.

So there you go. Jeter wins 4 to 3 with one tie. Still the toast of New York baseball!