Skip to content

Who's the second best shortstop of all time? Jeter or Ripken?

Jan 14, 2010, 12:00 PM EDT

If you don’t know who the best shortstop of all time is please say 50 “Honus Wagner’s” and 10 “our fathers.”  As for second place, ESPN’s David Schoenfield thinks it’s between the Cap’n and Cal, and sides with Jeter. At least eventually:

Look, Jeter still has some work to do to catch Ripken. He needs to
maintain his offensive production into his late 30s, no sure thing. But
as of now, I’ll take Jeter with the bat, Jeter on the bases, Jeter with
the consistency and Jeter on the top step of the dugout. Ripken rates a
big edge with the leather. But if Jeter stays healthy, it’s a worthy
debate: Jeter or Ripken?

Not a lot of Arky Vaughn love, but that’s based on length of career, not quality, so I suppose I understand.  Part of me still wishes that A-Rod had stuck at short — where he was a superior defender — and rendered this question moot.

Ultimately it’s hard to argue with Schoenfield’s conclusion that, if Jeter remains productive for the next few years, he’ll pass Ripken.  But if he were hit by a bus tomorrow I think you gotta go with Cal.

  1. Evil EmpirE 2010 - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    Who is bangin ALL those ladies and still competes at the highest
    level DAILY, Jeter.
    I have little time to waste, who has the hardware, Rings, Gold Gloves, Silver Bats………..
    The only thing Jeter lacks is a MVP and don’t get me started on that .

  2. Ron - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    Ever heard of the ’85 playoffs against the Dodgers?

  3. Alex K - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    The problem I have with WARP’s you mention the replacement level baseline is different for all those players (unless you used the same season for Jeter and A-Rod). The question is, what would the other player’s WARPs be the year that Ripken put up the 92.7?
    I think that if the Yankees moved Jeter (like I 100% believe they should have) when A-Rod came this wouldn’t even be a discussion.

  4. Moses Green - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    Derek Jeter also made a great contribution to medical science by finding out some previously unknown side-effects of herpes, mainly an inability to stop baseballs hit to his left.

  5. Evil EmpirE 2010 - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    CASH- Derek, so what do you think about getting A-Rod ?
    JETER- Where will he play?
    CASH- Third base!

  6. Ralph Kramden - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    Common Man – good research. But I wonder whether WARP is a good measure. It measures not only the player’s performance, but also good the “RP” is. It would artificially benefit players whose peers weren’t all that good.
    In this case, I think the SS’s of the last 10 years have been better than the 30 years before that. (I don’t have data, it’s just my guess.)
    Perhaps if you chose the “average RP” over the era we’re concerned with, you’d get a better measure.

  7. Alex K - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:55 PM


  8. Thumper - Jan 14, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    Did you ever see these guys play? You make it sound like they stood around in a 3 foot box just to pump their stats, lol.
    I saw the 1960 World Series (why was that a cool one?) and I also saw the 2009 World Series. I’ve watched a lot of ball players over the years, both good and bad. My grandfathers watched even more, as both met the Babe in person (on barnstorming tours back in the hayday). Baseball has been important in my family for as long as I can remember. My baseball cards as a kid included: Mantle rookie card, Aaron rookie card, Clemente rookie card, Babe hits 60, Luckiest man alive Gehrig card, complete ensemble of Murderer’s Row, and on and on. When I turned it over to the next generation in my family, I had 10000+ cards (no duplicates. if only I had been greedy and kept them instead of passing them down which was the custom of the day. DAMN, was I stupid. My oldest nephew used them with a clothespin to make “motors” on his bike, LOL. When I caught him, I nearly had my first heart attack)
    In short, to say Luis Aparicio or Omar Visquel didn’t make plays is one of the most asinine statements I’ve ever heard. Did you ever see either of them actually play over the course of a season? Ernie Banks in his prime? Watch the old 8mm highlight reels from the 1930-40s periods? If you had, you wouldn’t approach things in this manner. Sorry.

  9. Evil EmpirE 2010 - Jan 14, 2010 at 2:00 PM


  10. Andrew - Jan 14, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    A-Rod’s certainly the best I’ve ever seen, at least when he first exploded onto the scene. The only place he wasn’t elite was his range, which was still quite good. He was Larkin on steroids… literally.
    My opinion, and I expect it to be pretty unpopular, is that the modern greats are/were better players than the old-time greats, even Wagner.
    I can only speak from video footage for many of the players, but today’s players are simply bigger, faster, and stronger (and yes, quicker and more agile at prime defensive positions). Wagner might be at the top of the list if he had access to everything available to today’s athletes in terms of maximizing their athletic potential (up to you if you want to include PEDs), but I’d take Hanley Ramirez over him any day of the week and twice sunday if I were to take one of them from their prime.
    If we were to look at guys who primarily played short over their career, I think I’d lean towards Jeter, despite his fielding limitations. Ripken, Ozzie, and Vizquel all are in the running, though.

  11. lessick - Jan 14, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    Arky Vaughan gets my vote. I agree that A-Rod should get more consideration than Ripken or Jeter.

  12. Fast Eddy - Jan 14, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    Lets not try to trivialize the man with a trick. The back flips only were a part of his show, not to minimize his talent by your ridicule.

  13. Fast Eddy - Jan 14, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    Hold on Rick. You never watched Ozzie much, or you wouldn’t say that. He was not a good power hitter, but did hit a good number of clutch hits when it came down to him. Why is it that we put so much value on HR’s, when it has been shown time and time again, that is the least important part of the game? Great pitching, and timely hitting with men on base are the two most valuable parts of the game along with defense.

  14. The Common Man - Jan 14, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    First, I’m sorry I was born after you, that baseball has not been as important in my family as it was in yours, and that my baseball card collection was not as mind-blowingly awesome as yours. Alas, I have no control over those things. You are, clearly, better than me and always will be. For all this and more, I apologize.
    That said, your time on this Earth and extensive family history with baseball gives you relatively little credibility with me to declare, carte blanche, that Vizquel was the best fielding SS of all time when the numbers and overall anecdotal evidence don’t bear you out. Yes, I watched Vizquel. And Ozzie. And Trammell and Larkin and Ripken, etc (missed Aparicio though, sorry). They were all terrific fielders. I loved watching them. Vizquel, in particular, has been very, very good and has a lot of hardware to prove it. But over the course of his career, Ozzie made (on average) 846 plays per season (RF/9×162). Omar made 750. Overall, by himself, Ozzie made three and a half GAMES more plays per season than Omar did. And he’s virtually universally acknowledged as the greatest defender most have ever seen at SS. So at some point, you have to say to yourself that your eyes might have been playing tricks on you, don’t you Thumper?
    Your dedication to fielding percentage to make your argument is really no different than my interest in other statistics to make mine. Except for the fact that fielding percentage is a relatively crappy statistic to determine who the best fielder is at a given position.

  15. btcoop71 - Jan 14, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    That would be Barry Larkin…..

  16. The Common Man - Jan 14, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    @ Ralph, Alex K
    You raise good points. And any statistic we use is going to have weaknesses. I was probably a little too flip when I said the answer was clear. I mostly was using them to provide some context to work from.

  17. mcgatman - Jan 14, 2010 at 2:54 PM

    Based on your WARP rankings, I guess you looked up some system that way overemphasizes defensive contributions to WAR, judging by how ridiculously Ozzie Smith’s totals are puffed, and Jeter’s are dinged.
    Using the Sean Smith rankings, and leaving out ARod, I get:
    Cal Ripken: 89.8 (92.7)
    Arky Vaughn 75.7
    Barry Larkin: 68.8 (63.4)
    Derek Jeter: 68.7 (58.7)
    Alan Trammell: 66.8 (77.4)
    Ozzie Smith: 64.7 (82.8)
    Omar Vizquel: 43.1 (42.4)
    Sean Smith’s system assigns plenty of weight to defense. Out of all the modern shortstops mentioned, Jeter’s the only one who gets assigned a penalty due to his defense,which totals about 90 runs (over 9 wins). Ripken, Smith each get about 200 runs added to their totals based on defense, Trammel around 80 runs, Larken about 20 runs. I’m a huge Jeter fan but I’m fine with this. He’s universally held as a subpar defender, penalize him. (Never mind the fact that he has IMPROVED his defense in his mid 30’s, something the gurus said was impossible)
    But let’s make one thing clear. Excepting ARod, Jeter is the unquestioned leader among modern shortstops in his offensive contributions.
    He has a way to go to catch Ripken in total value, but he’s going to end up way ahead of everyone else

  18. Alex K - Jan 14, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    The Common Man- I think the best way to settle the debate would be to take the Replacement level for Ripken’s 92.7 WARP year and adjust everybody else on the list numbers to that year. Then compare the WARPS from the other players (assuming you used the highest WARPs for each player) see who’s was the highest. That way we would at least be comparing apples to apples. I know that there is a way to do this, I’m just not sure how it’s done.
    The problem we would run in to with that is how reliable, exactly, are the adjusted figures.

  19. The Common Man - Jan 14, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    The 92.7 for Ripken is his career total during seasons in which he was a SS. That overlaps quite a bit with other players on the list (except for the old timers, of course)

  20. The Common Man - Jan 14, 2010 at 3:09 PM

    I was using’s WARP1, which may or may not have been the most useful here, but it was the most accessible to me at this point. I appreciate you digging deeper.

  21. Alex K - Jan 14, 2010 at 3:44 PM

    Fair enough.

  22. King chadwick - Jan 14, 2010 at 3:48 PM


  23. Thumper - Jan 14, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    My eyes don’t play tricks on me.
    Ozzie was great. No doubt about it. Omar was great, no doubt about it.
    My point: the love of sabermetrics has little tangible meaning to me, sorry. Why play this stupid game of X is defintely greater than Z. It’s pointless. Every year, the statistican’s say X is finished because of XYZ, and year after year, they fail to predict future human behavior. Such is life.
    Further, I prefer the words and opinions of people who know what ducking out of the way of a 100mph fastball approaching ones right ear means, over a room full of propeller heads with calculators (back in the 90s, they asked the SS contemporaries who was the best with the glove, and they all said Omar, hands down).
    Sorry. Sabermetrics aren’t that good a model of reality, though they can be fun to play with. Why did Oz have more opportunities for plays (as you mention 3.5 more games worth per year than Omar). Did Oz and Omar play in a vacuum without a supporting cast? Plays on ball also must include the range of the people around you. Whose pitchers were most capable of producing groundballs to the left side? Too many variables go into a statisitc such as “plays on ball” to be solely indicative of a single players performance. You assume much stating “thats all OZ, all the time” that accounts for the stat. My main problem with sabermetrics btw.
    And all other things considered equal, fielding percentage does mean something, even if you don’t like what the stats say. You hit the damned ball in my “box”, I make the the play successfully on it 98% of the time does mean something over the course of the season (or a career). The other 2% are mostly errors (or lost opportunities for outs) and errors lose ballgames, as do walks, and lost opportunites. Poo-pooing that is ridiculous.
    Oz had incredible range, no doubt about it, but he also took some big risks over the years, as I saw him more than once boot an almost impossible to get ball further into the outfield, or off the field of play behind 3rd base (saw that several times). It happens. No discredit to Oz. Very few would have even gotten into position to even do that.
    And yeah, the backflips were awesome, LOL.

  24. The Common Man - Jan 14, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    “Why play this stupid game of X is defintely greater than Z. It’s pointless.”
    Really? Is that what we, as baseball fans have done since the beginning of the game? Who’s better, Mickey, Duke, or Mays? Reese or Rizzuto? Williams or DiMaggio? Jeter, ARod, Garciaparra, or Tejada? Isn’t that the kind of debate that baseball fans have always been having? And why? Because it’s fun. It’s why entire books get written on the subject and people snap them up. When Craig makes a tongue-in-cheek comment about Jeter’s ability and the bland hero-worship of the man that many Yankee fans and national media types have of him, his digital door gets broken down by villagers who want to argue for him and rank him and call him the greatest ever. You don’t want to play the X is better than Y game? Fine, but you’re in a very small minority.
    “Sabermetrics aren’t that good a model of reality, though they can be fun to play with.”
    Actually, that’s what they are, or aspire to be. An accurate and objective understanding of how the game works that can help us appreciate its complexity more. Now, no statistic is perfect. And no system of prediction is going to be 100% accurate. But the modeling that gets done today by PECOTA, CHONE, and others is often pretty darn close. Sure, you can say “a ha, here is one prediction you didn’t get right,” but when nine others are spot on, that’s misguided at best, disingenuous at worst.
    “I prefer the words and opinions of people who know what ducking out of the way of a 100mph fastball approaching ones right ear means, over a room full of propeller heads with calculators”
    Right, because ballplayers are always so articulate and none of them (or us) is capable of self-aggrandizement or delusion. Look, ballplayers are great sources of information and they ad a different level of analysis and context that many of your “propeller heads with calculators” can’t. And if you want to recycle the worst stereotypes about bean counters with slide rules, calculators, and computers (and beanies! and pocket protectors!) watching baseball, you can. But you should acknowledge a couple things. First, every MLB team save a couple consults in house and/or outside advanced statisticians when they make their personnel decisions, and the practice goes back to Branch Rickey. Teams that do this, and properly weigh the information they are getting to make decisions, tend to be more successful. Those that don’t are called the Kansas City Royals. Second, Billy Beane was a ballplayer. So was Ruben Amaro. So was Curt Schilling. So is Brian Bannister and Pat Neshek. And so are dozens of other front office types and ballplayers today who have a passing interest or more in understanding the game better and who take the time to familiarize themselves and appreciate statistical analysis. Meanwhile, you can have John Kruk all to yourself.

  25. Luke - Jan 14, 2010 at 4:48 PM

    My vote is with Ozzie Smith hands down.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. G. Stanton (2456)
  2. B. Crawford (2324)
  3. Y. Puig (2295)
  4. G. Springer (2075)
  5. D. Wright (2017)
  1. J. Hamilton (2009)
  2. J. Fernandez (1990)
  3. D. Span (1919)
  4. H. Ramirez (1896)
  5. C. Correa (1860)