Come To Think Of It: Derek Jeter Hasn’t Really Caught Lou Gehrig Yet

September 11, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

I’m not trying to demean or diminish his accomplishment, I’m just saying that while Derek Jeter may have passed the immortal Iron Horse for career hits as a Yankee, he has a long way to go to catch Gehrig in terms of getting on base.

And shouldn’t the ultimate goal for every hitter be to get on base?

One way to get on base is to get a hit, of course. And hey, hits are important – the hardest thing to do in sports, so they say, is to hit a round baseball with a round bat. At least over in jolly old England, they had the smarts to make the cricket bat flat. Of course, we Americans say where’s the challenge in that?

So, yes, Jeter’s accomplishment is extremely impressive.  His 2,722nd hit passed Lou Gehrig for the most hits by a Yankees player. That’s an awful lot of hits.  He is on his way to eclipsing the magical 3,000 hit mark, and is certainly on his way to gaining first ballot entry into the Hall of Fame once he’s eligible.

But walks are critical to an offense as well. Look, it’s all about scoring runs on offense.

Now, just so we’re clear, this isn’t intended to be an argument about who the best Yankee of all-time is, nor a debate over whether or not Jeter will end up being a better player than Gehrig, or anyone else, for that matter. There are just too many variables to effectively and objectively compare players among generations.

Instead, this is a reminder of the importance of getting on base and a plea for us to celebrate those accomplishments as well. We all know there are ways to get on base that don’t require a hit, and today’s metrics have evolved to the point where we can assess offensive impact in a variety of ways. But the most important remains getting on base any way you can.  

When you add in walks and hit by pitch numbers, you get the following impressive list of Yankees greats who have gotten on base the most times in their career*:

Babe Ruth:      4,405 

Lou Gehrig:      4,274

Mickey Mantle: 4,161

Derek Jeter:     3,736

Sure, Jeter is still playing while the other three are taking dirt naps. But it will likely take him at least three more years to get on base more times than Gehrig did.

The all-time leader in number of times on base is Pete Rose, who failed to record an out 5.929 times in his career*. But he played a long time. He also recorded the most outs of any player in history.

In terms of on-base percentage*, Jeter ranks seventh among Yankees greats with a career .387 OBP. Babe Ruth had an amazing 484 career OBP. Gehrig, at .447, and Mantle, at .421, rank next. 

So, the celebration for Jeter, at least to me, is not all-inclusive, nor should it be over. While hits are more mainstream, there should be some recognition if and when he passes Mantle and Gehrig for number of times on base.

For that run scored counts the same regardless of how you got on base, come to think of it.


* hat tip to River Avenue Blues

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