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Jeter vs. Ripken

On my chat the other day, someone asked the simple question, "Jeter or Ripken?" I answered "Jeter." That's my gut reply. I feel he was the better player, all things considered. If I were starting a baseball team and had my choice of either player as a rookie, I would go with Jeter. I didn't consult the stats at the time. I gave an honest answer.

Later, some chatters seemed surprised. One accused me of picking Jeter because I felt Ripken was a phony. There's truth to that. I felt Ripken wasn't the good guy and great teammate he was made out to be. But that wasn't the reason. I always felt Ripken was a bit overrated as a player, largely because of his streak and his image as the personification of the hard-working, selfless American athlete.

Another chatter told me that "the most advanced statistical comparisons rate Ripken significantly better than Jeter." Now that made me curious. If the numbers were so clearly in Ripken's favor, maybe I would have to modify my opinion, or make a strong argument using the intangibles.

Well, here's a simple statistical comparison that stunned me: Jeter has a higher career slugging percentage than Ripken. That was one raw stat I had asssumed would favor Ripken. Jeter's slugging pct. is .449. Ripken's career slugging mark was .447, much lower than I would have imagined.  

Jeter is a career .313 hitter. Ripken hit .276. Jeter's on-base percentage for his career is a sterling .383. Ripken's was a modest .340. Jeter scored 1,727 runs to Ripken's 1647. On a 162-game basis, Jeter scored 29 more runs a game than Ripken. I've always felt runs scored was an underrated stat. Players who score runs are productive players. Ripken had more homers and RBIs, but it's my opinioni that Jeter was been more productive overall. He was faster. He has roughly 300 more stolen bases. Fielding-wise, I'd rate them even, though I'm sure there are advanced fielding statistics that could make a case either way. Both lost range and bat speed later in their careers.

Still, Jeter was the better overall hitter. I don't have to bring in his remarkable record as a clutch post-season player, his leadership, his stellar reputation. If anyone wants to make a case for Ripken, go right ahead. Tim Kurkjian listed his all-time shortstops on ESPN the other day and he had Ripken ahead of Jeter. He covered the Orioles, so maybe his opinion is skewed. I know other former Baltimore baseball writers who felt Ripken was a jerk. Anyway, let's debate. Find those "advanced statistical comparisons" and tell me what I'm missing.

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