Which player has the more impressive 200-hit seasons…Derek Jeter or Lou Gehrig?

As was widely reported last night, Derek Jeter has tied Lou Gehrig with the most 200-hit seasons by a Yankee. Each fellow now has 8 such seasons.

I got in a little Twitter debate last night about which guy has been more impressive in those 8 years.

(Jeter lovers, please read the very last sentence at the bottom before you leave a nasty comment.)

I started off thinking that by virtue of playing entirely in the 162-game era, Jeter has had a distinct advantage. Indeed, 4 of his 7 previous seasons with 200 hits had no more than 206 hits, meaning that without the benefit of the extra 8 games, he probably wouldn’t have had 200 hits.

It’s also true that Gehrig faced overall easier competition than Jeter.

And a quick check on run-scoring shows that both guys played in similar eras, with teams averaging a little less than 5 runs per game.

So, how should we evaluate this? I try a little bit below, but one thing that occurs to me is that 200 hits is, of course, an arbitrary number. If there were a player who had 199 hits for 12 straight years, that guy would likely be a Hall of Famer despite never having a 200-hit season.

Anyway, let’s start with this:

If we sum the data from just each guy’s 8 seasons with 200 hits, Gehrig holds an edge in total hits, 1682 to 1657. Furthermore, Gehrig did it in fewer at-bats–4669 compared to Jeter’s 5017. That results in a 30-point difference in batting average–Gehrig hit .360 over those 8 seasons while Jeter hit .330. (All of these numbers are through 2012 to date.)

But as mentioned above, Gehrig faced easier competition. So let’s look at OPS+. I calculated a PA-weighted average for each guy’s OPS+ during those 8 years and Gehrig holds a huge edge of 195 to Jeter’s 129.

That’s a pretty huge difference–I mean a 129 OPS+ is nothing to sneeze at. Again, if a guy does that over a 12-year career, he’s a Hall of Famer just like Jeter will be. But 195 is so much higher and so much more impressive (This does, of course, reward Gehrig for his significant power advantage over Jeter which, while real, is not central to the point of this post.)

Thus, I tend to conclude that Gehrig’s performance in these 8 seasons is more impressive. He had more hits in fewer plate appearances and although he faced easier competition, he demolished it compared to Jeter’s merely “excellent” performance.

Don’t get me wrong…I am not trying to say Jeter’s not excellent! Both guys are all-time great players.

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60 Comments on "Which player has the more impressive 200-hit seasons…Derek Jeter or Lou Gehrig?"

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Mike L
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Andy, do you think that the inferior fielding of Gehrig’s time (roughly 1/6 of all runs scored were unearned, and presumably, many catchable balls went as hits) play a role in making the evaluation more difficult? To echo your own post’s last words, by no means am I suggesting Jeter is better than Gehrig, just wondering if the apparent gap might be narrower.

topper009
Guest
Is this a joke? Lou Gehrig is a top 5 hitter easy in MLB history, Jeter is a bad SS with the 241st best OPS of all-time while playing through the height of the 90’s offensive explosion. I assume this post is just talking about offense so the fact that Jeter has some pop for a SS does not come into play. A direct comparison between the offense of Lou Gehrig vs Derek Jeter belongs on ESPN. What’s next, we should begrudgingly tend to conclude Jimmie Foxx was a little more impressive than Don Mattingly? Also, it is no certainty… Read more »
PP
Guest

His keyboard’s smoking.

Joseph
Guest

I love Jeter. But how can anyone seriously compare him to Gehrig? Or even one of their 200 hit seasons? Gehrig’s lowest OPS+ was 176 during that time. Jeter’s highest was 153. Gehrig’s OBP was about .460 during that time. Jeter’s about .400. There are plenty more differences.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Andy, you’ve got .340 for DJ’s BA.
.330

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

I think a closer toss-up between the two is the question of who had a better nickname.

Biscuit Pants vs Captain Clutch

Jonas Gumby
Guest

I think it’s Biscuit Pants in a landslide. Folks had a stranger sense of humor back then. According to lore (google search engine), he gained the name due to his “broad backside.” I’d imagine a more creative name would be attached to a broad backsided dude nowadays.

MikeD
Guest

Biscuit Pants, Columbia Lou and, or course, the Iron Horse are all better nicknames, IMO. Captain Clutch isn’t even Jeter’s best nickname. I’d go with Mr. November just because there is some humor behind it based on a singular event, and it plays off of Reggie’s Mr. October. Yet neither is really all that good and a reminder that while the level of competition wasn’t as high long ago, the nicknames were far better!

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Throw away Gehrig’s first and last full seasons, and Every One of His Seasons was better than ANY of Jeter’s, save maybe 1999.

Jeter was, though, better than Mark Gehrig:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=gehrig001mar

Jason Z
Guest

Jeter is also better than Mark Koenig.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/k/koenima01.shtml

Lawrence Azrin
Guest
This can be answered two different ways: 1) Is the act itself of getting 200 his, more impressive in Jeter’s time, or Gehrig’s time? I’d say, “Jeter’s time”, since in Gehrig’s time, even with 8 less scheduled games, there were (on average) more players every year getting 200 hits. This, despite there being 16 teams vs. 28/30 in Jeter’s time. 2) Which player’s 200-hit seasons have more value? Gehrig’s seasons have _far_ more value, because of his far greater power, higher BA, and considerably more walks (I’ll let someone else calculate this for each player’s 200-hit years). By whatever measure… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Some data behind Lawrence’s #1. During Gehrig’s 14 seasons of full time play, there were a total of 145 200 hit seasons, or 10.4 per season. During Jeter’s 17 seasons of full time play there have been 92 200 hit seasons, or 5.4 per season. So twice as many per season when Gehrig played despite fewer teams and a shorter schedule.

Jeff
Guest

The fewer overall 200 hit seasons now vs then is probably due to evolution of hitters’ mentality. K rates are much higher now. Hitters today don’t try to put the ball in play with 2-strikes.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Ed,

Thanks for doing the drudge work to back up my point in #1.

Since we were talking MVP elsewhere, I was wondering if anyone thought that a 200-hit season made a difference in a player receiving the award? I don’t have any specific years in mind.

topper009
Guest

Not sure about the 200 hit plateau, but the hit leaders in the MVP era are
262 2004 Ichiro (no MVP)
242 2001 Ichiro (MVP)
240 1985 Boggs (no MVP)
240 2000 Erstad (no MVP)
239 1977 Carew MVP
238 1986 Mattingly (no MVP)
238 2007 Ichiro (no MVP)
237 1937 Medwick (triple crown, MVP)
234 1988 Puckett (no MVP)

I think batting average is what mattered (and still does but to a slightly lesser degree) for the MVP, not hit totals.

topper009
Guest

Looking at seasons where only 1 player in the league had 200 hits (last 40 seasons):

2011 NL Starlin Castro NO MVP
2009 NL Ryan Braun NO MVP
2008 NL Jose Reyes NO MVP
2002 NL Vlad Guerrero NO MVP
1997 AL Nomah NO MVP
1987 NL Tony Gwynn NO MVP
1985 NL Willie McGee MVP
1978 NL Steve Garvey NO MVP
1978 AL Jim Rice MVP
1974 AL Carew NO MVP
1973 AL Carew NO MVP (Ralph Garr had 200 hits for ATL that season and got no MVP votes at all)

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

On the subject of old guys getting hits, Ichiro had 4 hits and 4 steals in yesterday’s nightcap. At age 38.

Even ELIAS isn’t reporting how many times that has happened, but if I used the play index correctly, it has only been done once before.

Ed
Guest

I assume you mean only once by a player 38 or older? If so, I assume this is the other game, with Kenny Lofton doing it at age 40:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS200706290.shtml

Course the fact that 3 of the steals were against Wakefield, partially explains the feat.

Joseph
Guest

Re: >>>That’s a pretty huge difference–I mean a 129 OPS+ is nothing to sneeze at. Again, if a guy does that over a 12-year career, he’s a Hall of Famer just like Jeter will be.<<<

Unless you are Don Mattingly, 1983-1994 with a 130 OPS+

Chad
Guest

Yeah, but neither ’83 nor ’94 were qualifying years.

PP
Guest

A better comparison to Jeter might be Waner. He also had 8 200 hit seasons, an OPS+ of 134 (career), a 69.8 WAR to Jeter’s 69.6, and according to the list on Wikipedia, he’s the guy with the most seasons over 215 hits, done 7x, Jeter 1x.

Doug
Guest

Good observation, PP.

Of 16 seasons over 300 PA, only twice did Waner have from 181 to 214 hits. It was 7 times at 215 or more and 7 times at 180 or less.

PP
Guest

It looks like Waner had a 140 OPS+ in his 200 hit yrs.

Tmckelv
Guest
I haven’t read the post or any of the comments above (I will read after this). Jeter has been my favorite player since 1996. But do any of us (that regularly follow these blogs) need any kind of analysis to tell us Gehrig’s seasons are more impressive than Jeter’s. Especially to the point that Andy would need a warning statement about how mad Jeter fans would be. It’s much more insulting that anyone would think Jeter fans would even be upset by the mere mention of him not being as good as Gehrig. I will read the post and comments… Read more »
Tmckelv
Guest

Well the word “twitter” tells me all I need to know as to why this article even exists. I am a baseball discussion snob and only listen to people commenting on highheatstats.com blogs.

Tmckelv
Guest

I didn’t think of the concept of how common it was to get 200 hits during Gehrig’s career vs. during Jeter’s career. Thanks Lawrence @8. For that reason, this was definitely a worthwhile exercise, even if it doesn’t change the results. Sorry for pre-judging the post Andy.

topper009
Guest

Players with 8 200 hit seasons by OPS+ during those seasons
190 Gehrig (8 seasons)
180 Cobb (9 seasons)
140 Waner (8 seasons)
136 Keeler (8 seasons)
132 Rose (10 seasons)
129 Jeter (8 seasons)
117 Ichiro (10 seasons)

Mike L
Guest

That’s an interesting chart, Topper, since Ichiro is a consensus Hall of Famer.

Phil
Guest

Is it my browser, or is there all sorts of visible HTML coding in the opening paragraph here?

John Autin
Editor

Phil — I’m seeing the same thing right now, using Chrome. I presume that something has happened since Andy posted it, since nobody else mentioned it.

Ed
Guest

I’m using Chrome as well and don’t see any HTML. I was having some pretty major problems with the site earlier tonight but everything seems back to normal for me.

John Autin
Editor

I tidied it up … I hope Andy understands.

Jimbo
Guest

Miguel Cabrera has had a whole bunch of 195+ hit seasons without ever getting 200. He might be that theoretical player.

It’s worth noting that Gehrig did not bat leadoff, and hence got many fewer PA’s.

Also, strange that the Mr. November nickname would stick when the Yankees didn’t win that WS.

Jason Z
Guest

True the Yankees didn’t win. But in the shadow of 9/11 most
of us remember the epic games 4 and 5.

And while the Yankees lost, they lost on a great pitch and
a broken bat.

It was awful at that moment, but in the big picture, not so bad.

The fact that Derek Jeter’s homerun was a symbol of that time,
insures that the nickname will live forever.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
What everybody should remember is the greatest managerial decision in World Series history. Bob Brenly bringing in Randy Johnson, on zero days rest, to face Paul O’Neill in the 8th inning. Joe Torre looks up from his teacup, consults his trusted advisors, and counters with a right handed batter. I have been searching, for eleven years, for another human being who understands, and understood in that moment, that this is why the Diamondbacks won. There are moments in life that are not about statistics or strategy or anything linear. Some moments are about things happening the way they are Supposed… Read more »
Jason Z
Guest

What I remember about the moment that Randy Johnson came in was that
I was seeing the scariest postseason sight on the mound since Mike Scott
in 86.

Your description of the moment is poetic. Good job.

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