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.


Comments

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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 that Jeter faces tougher competition. There were less teams but also fewer people in the country so I think those have roughly been even percentages over time. But, in 1930 the best athletes all played baseball, whereas today that is not the case. Yes there were no black players in Gehrig’s time but nowadays most of the best black athletes don’t play baseball. Yes Gehrig never had to face a guy like Pedro Martinez but he did have to face the best pitchers in the league much more often than Jeter due to the league being almost half the size.

    195 vs 129 OPS+ is infact a huge gap, so that is correct. Nothing can narrow that gap between these two. A 129 OPS+ for a peak is also not that great. Just looking at the average peak of ages 25-32, there are 202 players who have put up a 129 OPS+ with 3000 PAs. certainly not all-time great player status.

      • Andy, you seem to sense that every time someone disagrees with you. Please address the content of the post instead of assuming someone’s tone over the internet. If I would have just typed ‘Andy, I respectfully disagree with you but….’ would you then address the points I raised instead of trying to discredit the content of my post by changing the discussion?

        Nothing against you or anyone personally, just want to make some points without having to compose an essay

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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!

        • Come on Andy, lighten up a little bit today. He must have meant something else, are you seriously accusing the distinguished MikeD of thinking 9/11 was a joke? I would think you should not assume anyone thinks 9/11 was not really that bad thing unless they specifically come out and say it. I mean come on, no one thinks that.

          • I find the nickname humorous because it’s attached to a single hit, a HR, that just so happened to occur seconds after the clock struck midnight on November 1st, and there was some guy in the stands who already had a sign made up proclaiming “Mr. November.” The fact that this single hit, or event, led to a nickname and plays off the nickname of another Yankee, Reggie Jackson, who had many great Octobers, is a bit odd and yes humorous to me. Not uncommon for nicknames at all to occur off a single event, some good, some bad, yet I do find it interesting that a man who now has nearly 3,300 hits and counting has a nickname that seems to have grown only in the last few years based on that one hit more than a decade past.

            You took it to a very dark area, which is why I asked if you were comfortable with your response since it comes across as an accusatory question. There seemed to be no attempt to consider other likely reasons from one of your regular posters (that would be me) who has never written anything to suggest what you were suggesting.

            It’s annoying that I had to take the time to even write this response. In a word, it was unnecessary.

          • Mike, sorry that you found it annoying. My original question wasn’t meant to be accusatory–more it was supposed to be asking why, with an intentionally absurd possible answer offered up.

            I do appreciate your explanation of why you found the nickname odd and humorous. I agree with it.

            I find an indelible link between the nickname and 9/11 since one exists due to the other.

            I apologize for the original comment–it wasn’t meant to annoy or offend.

          • Andy, that’s fine. Rest assured that making an off-hand or flip remark about 9/11 is not in my DNA. Being from the New York area, and for other reasons I won’t go in to, the events of that day are much too personal.

            Obviously the entire 2001 World Series was played in the shadow of 9/11, something which pushed the series into November giving opportunity to Jeter’s nickname. Yet my guess is most fans that even know that Jeter’s nickname is Mr. November (is that well known?) do not direcly associate it with 9/11. I know I don’t.

            Anyway, back to everything this blog is about: Baseball!

  3. 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 you use – OPS+, Adjusted Batting Wins, oWAR, Gehrig produced far more offensive value in his 200-hit years, vs. Jeter’s 200-hit years.

    Tell me which question you are answering, there is your answer.

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

        • 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)

  4. 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.

  5. 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+

      • These are the players to do that in 12 straight qualifying seasons.

        Jeff Bagwell
        Albert Pujols
        Hank Aaron
        Stan Musial
        Ty Cobb
        Manny Ramirez
        Willie Mays
        Mel Ott
        Frank Robinson
        Lou Gehrig
        Honus Wagner

        Another HOF case for Bagwell.

        • ARod 1998-2009

          Foxx did it in 12 of 13 seasons from 1929 to 1941, just missing in 1937 with a 127 OPS+

          Williams did it every year except his age 40 season, but he had seasons between missing or very short due to service time. He still did it in 12 straight qualifying seasons.

          Speaker 16 of 17 seasons from 1909-25, missing with a 126 OPS+ in 1919.

          Mantle did it every year except his rookie season. He did have some years that werent qualifying however.

          • Thanks topper,

            I missed A-Rod. To clarify, P-I is reporting on 12 straight player seasons in which a player qualified for the batting title each time. Missed seasons will not break a streak, but partial seasons will. Hence, Williams was not picked up because of partial seasons due to military service (’52,’53) and due to injury (’50,’55,’59). So, among Williams’ 14 qualifying seasons, there are ZERO that he did not meet this OPS+ standard.

            Babe Ruth is the same – 16 qualifying seasons and 16 over 160 OPS+. If he had played 2 more games in 1925, he would have had 17 straight seasons, 1918-34.

        • I think you missed Barry Bonds. I think maybe because there was a strike-shortened season in there his PA were low, but he qualified.

          • Bonds did it in 1988 and in 18 straight seasons (1990-2007) to close out his career, but he did not qualify for the batting title in any of his last 3 seasons, or in 1999.

            So, his best run was 9 straight (1990-98) and 14 out of 15 (1990-2004).

  6. 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.

  7. 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 now to see how far off I am for making these pre-judgments.

    • 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.

      • Your analysis is pretty good. I used the discussion from the commenters here to ultimately smack down the guy who was telling me that Jeter’s better. I don’t mind you being a self-described snob–but I do go out there in the “real world” to try to get more exposure for the blog and find lots of folks who need some edjumucation.

    • 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.

  8. 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)

  9. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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 To.

        Paul O’Neill was standing in the on-deck circle, contemplating his final trip to home plate.
        A 38 year-old man who had been playing professional baseball for 21 years was about to experience a closure. This was his fate and he had earned the right to it.
        His nickname was The Warrior.
        King George had bestowed upon him the title of A True Yankee.

        And this man’s moment was taken, with two outs and a runner on first, because of his sinistral predilection.

        For a Warrior,
        such a tearing of the fabrics of fate
        could only be mended if the man to take his place
        was a greater Warrior.

        But the man that “The Manager”
        thought would do a better job than The Warrior,
        coming off the bench,
        cold,
        in game 7 of the World Series,
        to face a 7 foot tall man with a mullet
        who had killed a bird with a pitch…

        …was an Aggie who had developed the mental illness of not being able to hit a broad target from 40 feet away.

        Consider what might have been said to Joe Buck
        in this moment if the commentator had been Obi Wan Kenobi
        rather than Tim McCarver.

  10. 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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