Talking ’bout my generational talent

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Long working with Nick Johnson

While pondering our recent discussion on Derek Jeter’s future yesterday, I posed a question to the legions of River Ave. Blues’ Twitter followers. Who’s easier to replace, I asked, Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera?

This question was not, by any means, posed idly. It had its origins in a questionable statement by The Post’s Joel Sherman — a shocking concept, I know. In discussing the four members of the Yanks’ old guard, Sherman wondered how to replace them. “The falloff,” he wrote, “from Jeter to Ramiro Pena, Rivera to either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes, Pettitte to Chad Gaudin or Alfredo Aceves, and Posada to Francisco Cervelli remains pretty steep.” There’s no denying that the falloff from either Posada to Cervell or from Jeter to Pena is incredibly steep, but for the other two players, Sherman’s statement rang dubious.

Meanwhile, Brian Cashman seemed to echo Sherman to a point. In explaining why the Yankees won’t negotiate with their free agents before they hit free agency, Cashman had this to say to the Daily News: What’s the difference between him and Mariano? Is Derek any more important than Mariano? Is that a message we want to send? We have legacy-type people and we have a policy in place. Everyone understands it and it’s not an issue.” I understand overall point, but the difference between Derek and Mariano is not a small one. And thus a Twitter poll was born.

The responses I received were widely divergent. Apparently, Yankee fans love, adore and admire Mariano Rivera across the board, and many of them said that Rivera would be tougher to replace than Jeter. When the Twitter reply dust settled, the final tally stood with 20 people saying Rivera is easier to replace and 16 saying that Jeter is easier to replace. Three people said that Rivera was easier to replace during the regular season but that Jeter was easier to replace than Rivera is during the playoffs because Rivera’s postseason value is through the roof.

So we’ll start this analysis by examining Rivera’s and Jeter’s contributions since 1996. Derek has played in 2138 games for the Yanks, third most in franchise history, while Rivera has appeared in 917, tops among Yankee pitchers all-time. Innings-wise, Jeter has the edge. Not counting the 14 times, he’s DH’d, Derek has spent 18440.1 innings the field for the Yanks while Rivera has 1090 innings pitched under his belt. Astute readers will know where this is going.

With the help of WAR, we can better see how Rivera and Jeter impact the Yankees. Since 2002 — the earliest date Fangraphs presents for WAR — Rivera has put together a 19.4 WAR while Jeter has contributed a 40.3 mark. Jeter’s lowest WAR mark is a 3.7; Rivera’s highest a 3.1. Mo might be the greatest, but he’s still just a reliever.

In terms of replacing one or the other, there’s little doubt in my mind that Jeter is harder to replace. Last year, in fact, Jeter’s WAR led all short stops, and the drop-off is steep. Ryan Theriot and Miguel Tejada, 11th and 12th on the list, put up marks of 2.8 and 2.6 respectively. Rivera’s relief translated into a 2.0 WAR, sixth best among relievers, but the drop-off is less steep. Alfredo Aceves, for instance, put together a 1.2 WAR. The Yankees, meanwhile, have someone who was more valuable as a reliever than Rivera during the regular season last year. Phil Hughes’ relief WAR was 2.1. All of a sudden that drop-off isn’t so steep.

In the end, this analysis is clouded by the post-season. Mariano Rivera stands head and shoulders above every other postseason reliever, but then again, in 637 October plate appearances, Jeter has hit .313/.383/.479. It’s tough to find that from anyone, let alone a starting short stop.

As both players near free agency for possibly the last time in their respective careers, the Yankees are going to have to mull replacing them at some point. While the two are a long way from retiring, it’s still a scary and depressing thought for fans used to seeing Rivera and Jeter there everyday. Make no mistake about it though: When push comes to shove, it will be much harder to replace Derek Jeter than it will be Mariano Rivera. And that’s coming from someone who worships at the Temple of Mo.

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  • Yankeegirl49

    The idea of having to replace one or both makes me sick to my stomach.

    • bexarama

      You said it.

  • Mike HC

    The answer is Derek Jeter is far tougher to replace. It is really not even that hard. Just in terms of literal time on the field, you need to replace Jeter for every single inning played of every game. For Mo, you just need to replace him for about 50-70 innings, and while guys don’t have the consistency that Mo has, relievers put up Mo-like numbers every year. Very few shortstops replicate what Jeter can do. Jeter by a landslide really.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Peck Templeton “Brendog” Peck

      this. like, a lot and stuff.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      Exactly.

  • bexarama

    I think the reason there might be some confusion here/people might be saying Mariano is because, well, Jeter’s not the best shortstop of all time. He’s excellent, probably top ten or fifteen ever, and I am so happy he is the face of my favorite team, but he’s not the best. Mariano Rivera is, without question, the best relief pitcher ever. It just feels weird to say you’d let the best player ever at their position go.

    But don’t make me think about this question. ;_;

    • Chip

      Jeter if he retires at the end of next year is right there with Ripken, maybe A-Rod, Vaughn, ect as the second best shortstop behind Wagner. If he keeps up his recent pace for 4 more years it’ll be an interesting argument

    • Mike HC

      Jeter is the best shortstop ever in my opinion. Not relative to each shortstops era, but just in terms of the talent level respective to each other. Maybe you can argue for A-Rod, but he moved to third for Jeter, so that kind of ends that debate for me as well. Ripkin was consistently good, but never as good as Jeter. Also does not have the championships.

      As for the Wagner’s and Banks of the 50’s, the talent level is just far superior now. It is the same reason by guys in the NBA now like LeBron, Kobe and Wade are superior to the guys from the 50’s.

      So overall, not relative to their respective eras, I think Jeter is the best shortstop ever.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        By that logic, though, Albert Belle is the best rightfielder ever, better than Babe Ruth. Was Belle a better, more talented athlete than Ruth? Without freaking question, yes.

        Is Jeter the best SS of the modern era? Yes. Better than Honus Wagner and Arky Vaughan? Meh, I don’t now about that.

        • Chip

          Even when measured against his current competition, to stay at shortstop that long and be that productive in a defensive position is amazing. I’d say that Jeter is behind only Wagner right now and could pass him if he does indeed continue to be productive until he’s 40

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

            Oh, I’ll agree that Jeter can be better than Wagner. I was just arguing against the notion that Jeter is, by default, better than Wagner simply because Jeter is alive now and Wagner played back in the 1920s.

        • Mike HC

          No doubt. Albert Belle in his prime was clearly better than Babe Ruth, not relative to eras. I’m not taking anything away from the older guys, I’m just saying I believe that the people at the top their respective sports today, are probably the best players to ever play. They are playing the sport at the highest level ever played. That is maybe just a personal opinion. Others may believe people overrated the present players and the past players could easily play in the current era. You can’t know for sure.

        • Don W

          You seriously think Belle was a better athlete than Ruth? It boggles the mind to think that Ruth’s later years as an overweight slugger could’ve clouded his earlier years. Ruth wasn’t Mantle as far as athletes go but he was Belle’s match at least athleticism and tack on the almost 100 games he won as a pitcher, (that takes some athleticism), and it’s not close.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

            Albert Belle was a physical freak of nature. Fast, strong, quick, you name it.

            Slimmed down, physically fit, top of his game Babe Ruth still looks like a slovenly obese pig compared to Albert Belle.

            • MikeD

              Are we talking about Joey “Roid Rage” Albert Belle here?

              I’ll say one thing. If a fight broke out on the baseball field, I’d want Joey on my side.

            • Don W

              http://www.baseballantiquities.com/BabeRuth.jpg

              You mean that Babe Ruth? Ruth was a great athlete when he was young…and Joey couldn’t pitch.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                http://a.espncdn.com/media/cla.....lle_ct.jpg

                Compare biceps and forearms. Belle wins. Faster, too.

                Ruth’s stint on the mound doesn’t mean that he’s stronger/faster/more athletic than Belle, btw. Just means he can pitch.

                • Don W

                  You’ll have to remind me when it was the two of them were timed in the 40 and how many times they rep 200 at the NFL combine.

                  Athletics isn’t just strength and speed.

        • bexarama

          Is Jeter the best SS of the modern era? Yes.

          I know he moved, but Alex Rodriguez says hi. And yeah, I do think if both A-Rod and Jeter were still SS, Alex would be much better. Possibly, at this point, he’d be the best SS of all time.

          That’s not a jab at Jeter ;) , just an affirmation of the awesomeness of Alex.

          • bexarama

            Oh and hey, since that Frank Thomas post kind of devolved into dream scenarios, here’s a NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: A-Rod goes to Boston prior to 2004, plays SS for them. SHUDDER.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

            No argument. But, while Alex moving off the position comes with an asterisk, it did happen. Can’t change that now.

            • bexarama

              Fair enough.

          • Mike HC

            Yea, but it is not what could have happened, it is what actually happened. A-Rod moved off SS for Derek Jeter. It is really that simple. Maybe A-Rod was the better player (which I don’t really agree with but that is an entire other debate), but Jeter was the better SS.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

              A-Rod moved off SS for Derek Jeter. It is really that simple.

              No, it’s not really that simple.

              http://riveraveblues.com/2010/.....ent-772698

              Maybe A-Rod was the better player (which I don’t really agree with but that is an entire other debate), but Jeter was the better SS.

              Not accurate.

              The fact that Jeter stayed at SS and ARod moved to 3B does not mean that Jeter was the better SS. It was more complex than that and you know it. ARod moved and Jeter stayed irrespective of their actual talent levels because Jeter was the incumbent and ARod the newcomer, and the newcomer deferred to the incumbent. THAT’S what actually happened.

              • Mike HC

                True. But personally, I do believe that Jeter should have stayed at SS, and is better than A-Rod, then and now. The stats obviously call me delusional, but so be it. I’m kind of irrational when it comes to Jeter maybe. I guess I should just check out of the whole Jeter vs A-Rod debate. I thought Jeter was better at every step of the way.

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  Fair enough. You’re on thin ice, but at least you admit it.

                • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

                  Michael Jackson will one day wake up dead, wake up, wake up, dead.

      • Mike HC

        *Ripken

      • Chip

        Banks played only 7 or 8 seasons as a shortstop, he’s not in the discussion as far as I’m concerned. Wagner is the best right now but Jeter’s going to have him beat in almost every statistical category by the time he’s done so I think that would put him over the top.

        A-Rod would have been the best shortstop of all time but he chased every cent to go to the Rangers which lead him to be a third baseman. He might have been better than Jeter but Jeter actually did it so A-Rod doesn’t really have a case.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

          A-Rod would have been the best shortstop of all time but he chased every cent to go to the Rangers which lead him to be a third baseman.

          That’s a rather intentionally misleading way to phrase what actually happened, isn’t it? Not only are you putting the cart before the horse a bit, you’re throwing in a needless character assassination.

          Revisionist history FTL.

          • Chip

            Hahaha I know, and I’m a huge A-Rod fan but he signed a huge contract with a horrible team because they offered money. Hey, I’d do the same thing but it took him giving up shortstop in order to get out of it is my point.

            • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

              I work for a woefully incompetent company because they paid me the most money. On weekends I nail bitches in my horse-drawn carriage pulled by centaurs.

              Life is sweet.

        • Mike HC

          But for my argument, if you can take Wagner in his prime, and Jeter in his prime, for a game played today, who would you rather have? I mean, Wagner may have been far better than Jeter respective to their peers, but compared simply to each other, I believe Jeter is far better. There is no doubt, comparing who was better relative to their peers, Wagner has Jeter beat.

          • bexarama

            I love Jeter and I feel bad that I’ve basically spent the entire post saying “other guys are better than him” because I adore him so much, but you can’t really do this kind of comparison. Cy Young has 511 wins. I’d bet a lot of money that, unless the game changes drastically, no pitcher ever comes close to that total ever again. The game is SO different now.

            If Honus Wagner was born in 1974 like Jeter, as opposed to a century before that, he would not only have his natural incredible ability, but whatever other modern amenities available now. Can I definitively say he’d be better than Jeter? No, but I think he’d be really friggin’ good.

            • Mike HC

              fair enough. I get what you are saying. But, the whole if he was born today thing, he would have had the same advantage’s Jeter had thing, I don’t buy. I’m not saying that Wagner would not have the capability to do what Jeter did if he had the same advantages. I’m saying (writing) that Jeter had those advantages, and for his career, has played SS at the highest level ever played, irregardless of his peers at the time, or what advantages he had compared to other players.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                I’m not saying that Wagner would not have the capability to do what Jeter did if he had the same advantages. I’m saying (writing) that Jeter had those advantages, and for his career, has played SS at the highest level ever played, irregardless of his peers at the time, or what advantages he had compared to other players.

                Your argument is a bit of a tautology, though. That’s what we’re saying.

                • Mike HC

                  sorry if I can’t explain myself as well as I would like.

                  I guess there is nothing left to write on the matter then.

            • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

              Cue the alexgonzalez.

        • ROBTEN

          A-Rod would have been the best shortstop of all time but he chased every cent to go to the Rangers which lead him to be a third baseman.

          Wow. If anyone thought the boos might never return…they’re just lurking.

          This was posted in a thread a few days ago, but it’s worth repeating:

          To Rodriguez, a lifetime shortstop, it is better to be kind of satisfied at the hot corner for a potential championship team than to be miserable at shortstop for a last-place team…Eventually, whether it is two months or two years, whoever is managing the Yankees might be forced to recognize Rodriguez’s superiority at shortstop. Since Rodriguez moved positions so willingly, how would Jeter look if a manager asked him to shift positions and he complained? Jeter, the team’s captain, could be accused of putting himself ahead of the team.”

          Ah…the Halcyon days gone by.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02.....nkees.html

          • Chip

            I completely agree that A-Rod’s position is good right now. I’m just saying that if he had stayed at shortstop he’d have been the best one of all time. Of course that’s no problem to A-Rod because he has a world championship now and wouldn’t trade that for being the best ever shortstop, no doubt.

        • Hughesus Christo

          Umm… ARod played 9 years at SS and is going to end up at probably 22 or 23 overall. He’s in the EXACT same boat that Banks or Yount is in. He really shouldn’t even come up in these discussion anymore.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      Also, consider this: closer wasn’t really a position until a few decades ago. SS has been arguably the most vital defensive position since the birth of baseball, so really, Jeter is not only competing for “best” status by playing in a much, much larger representative sample in terms of career innings, but his competition spans thousands and thousands of players. Mo is competing against a much smaller number of players.

      Jeter being even the third most valuable shortstop over time is arguably better than being the best 1st baseman ever or best DH ever; certainly better than closer.

      Think of it like this: a pinch hitter could be a lifetime .340/.440/.590 hitter and be the MVP in all kinds of World Series’ for hitting .400/.500/.750 and hitting game-winning homers, but he’ll never be as valuable as a league-average Melky Cabrera-type if that player plays every game.

      Crude analogy, I know.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

    Not counting the 14 times, he’s DH’d, Derek has spent 18440.1 innings the field for the Yanks while Rivera has 1090 innings pitched under his belt.

    For comparison’s sake:

    Roger Clemens pitched more innings for the Yankees than Mariano Rivera did. Keep that in mind if you ever make the claim that Rivera is the most irreplaceable of all Yankees.

  • Chip

    How many more years do people think Mo could really go? I seriously think he could be an above-average reliever (aka non-ace closer) with an 86 mph cutter. He might have to develop a change-up which he tinkers with pretty much every spring but it’s very very possible. Does that mean he could pitch for another 5-6 years? Would he accept only being above-average though?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      3-4 years from now, when his cutter slows down, he’ll start pitching lefthanded. It’s actually his better hand.

      He’s been throwing with his right all along because it’s the only way he can be satisfied. If he uses the left… over too quickly.

      • Chip

        Well he’ll have pitched 20 years by that time with his right arm so he’d be able to go another 20 years with his left right?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

          That’s what I’m thinking.

        • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

          And after 20 years of pitching with his left arm, he could use his right arm again, right?

      • pat

        Mariano Inigo Rivera

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

          Antonio Alfonseca: Count Ruger

          • pat

            Shelly Duncan: Fezzik

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

              Billy Beane: Vizzini

    • Mike HC

      I agree. I think he could probably pitch for another decade if he really wanted to. No exaggeration.

    • bexarama

      He still hasn’t busted out THE CHANGE-UP

      No, seriously, I don’t think another five years, at least, will be a problem. And when he knows he’s done, I think he’ll leave gracefully.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        Gyroball. You heard it here first.

        • bexarama

          Mariano taught Dice-K the gyroball.

    • Bo

      Keep giving him 15 mil a yr and he’ll play til his arm falls off.

  • http://forums.projectcovo.com/images/smilies/e6omir.gif Do Not Feed The Trolls!

    Isnt it silly to compare WAR(between Jeter and Mo)if we are talking about whos tougher to replace? Shouldn’t Mo be compared to other relievers and Jeter be compared to other SS?

    If were talking about value then of course Jeter will win out.

    • Don W

      I suggest you re-read the article, Ben compares them both ways.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      But that’s the whole point.

      WAR is comparing Jeter to other shortstops, and WAR compares Mo to other relievers. As good as Mo is, he’s still only worth 19.4 wins more than a replacement level closer over his career. Jeter is worth 40 wins over a replacement level shortstop over his career.

      Whether you replace them with a replacement level player or a good player or an elite player is moot. The shortstop is always more important than the closer, so Jeter is more important than Mo.

      • BG90027

        Looking at Fangraphs, those cumulative WAR figures appear to be 2002 – Present and not career figures. Also, you can’t draw the conclusion that you are trying to based on those numbers. Its not surprising that Jeter’s career WAR is higher than Mariano because a SS is more valuable than a Closer. In asking who is harder to replace, you might want to say is it easier to get closer to Jeter’s WAR from another SS than it is to get Mariano’s WAR from another reliever? I don’t have the time or inclination to do a comprehensive analysis of that but I will offer that Tejeda has a WAR of 32.3 over that period and Trevor Hoffmann has only a 8.9 WAR. In other words, Mariano > Trevor by 10.5 and Jeter > Tejeda by 7.7 WAR. I don’t have any idea if those two are the #2 guys at their position but that’s the analysis you’d want to do.

    • http://forums.projectcovo.com/images/smilies/e6omir.gif Do Not Feed The Trolls!

      Sorry guys totally missed the seconds half of the post.

  • Bo

    You cant find HOF shortstops. Obv they’ll both be missed. Tough to even say which one. For those old enough to remember Rafael Santana and Kevin Elster and Alvaro Espinoza starting at SS the replacing of Jeter will be much tougher.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      Well said, Bo.

      No, seriously.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        The apocalypse has moved up their “date” to 2010.

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          Our minds: Blown (not that TSJC agreed, but that it was a good comment)

    • Klemy

      This makes me relive my nightmares… /shiver

  • pete

    The most irreplaceable yankees (IMO) right now:
    1. A-Rod
    2. Sabathia
    3. Jeter
    4. Granderson
    5. Posada (not to say that by the end of 2010 we wont necessarily WANT to, but as of right now, his production from the catching position is elite, and it’s just not easy to pry catchers who can hit at that level away from clubs)
    6. Teixiera
    7. Cano
    8. Vazquez
    9. Rivera
    10. Swisher

    Yeah, I went there. Look I love Rivera as much as the next guy, but his actual impact on the team’s overall W-L at the end of the season is just not as great as people make it out to be. It’s not for a lack of utter dominance at his position, it’s because his position just isn’t anywhere close to as important as SS.

    And I agree, Ben, I really do think it’s odd to group Pettitte and Rivera in with Posada and Jeter. Right now the yankees have 6 legit starters in front of Chad Gaudin. If Pettitte falls out of the rotation, his consistency will be missed, but his overall production would likely be pretty capably replaced. Likewise with Rivera. Not to dis the Almighty, but if he weren’t there, we’d have 2 very legitimate closing options in Chamberlain and Hughes. That’s not to say there wouldn’t be a dropoff, but in terms of the overall significance to the team, that dropoff would be relatively insignificant. A couple wins, tops. For Jeter, however, the dropoff to Pena is enormous. And Posada to Cervelli likewise, although Montero, if he can catch, could certainly dampen that blow, if not altogether erase it.

    And I know, it’s easy to say “well that’s only b/c the yanks HAVE other starters and other capable relievers, and don’t have a capable replacement at short and their potential replacement at C might not be able to stick it out at the position”. But that’s not what I’m saying. All I am saying is that an elite-hitting shortstop and catcher holds a ton more value than an average starter and a dominant reliever.

    • bexarama

      You forgot 1a. Johnny Damon

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        Well played.

    • Mike HC

      CC first. Jeter second. A-Rod third, Teix in front of Posada and Granderson in my opinion.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      But that’s not what I’m saying. All I am saying is that an elite-hitting shortstop and catcher holds a ton more value than an average starter and a dominant reliever.

      Repeated for emphasis. If you want to take the Yankees depth out of the equiation, simple, make a list of all closers and all SS’s across baseball, and see how replaceable the closers are vs. SS’s. Hell considering there are 100+ starting pitchers in baseball who are 100% capable of being lights-out closers, it’s really not a question.

  • bexarama

    Also, since I’ve spent this post talking about how I would replace Mariano and how there are a number of shortstops better than Jeter, which makes sense but makes me sad, let me just say that we are all so freaking lucky that we got to see these two guys play for so many years. :D

    • Mike HC

      I’ll second that.

  • radnom


    In the end, this analysis is clouded by the post-season. Mariano Rivera stands head and shoulders above every other postseason reliever, but then again, in 637 October plate appearances, Jeter has hit .313/.383/.479. It’s tough to find that from anyone, let alone a starting short stop.

    You know what, I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here for a second. I certainly understand the argument for Jeter, but I think there is an argument for Mo that is not presented in this post.

    First off, Ill concede that Jeter is more valuable than Mo in the regular season, with the addendum that neither is especially difficult to replace.
    Why?

    The way MLB is currently constructed, with the Yankees massive financial advatage over most teams, and the efficiency in which the organization is run, they can make the playoffs every year that two factors occur.
    1. They have halfway decent starting pitching.
    2. They are not decimated by injurues.

    Jeter does not factor into either of these. The 2000’s proved that the Yankees can assemble a powerful enough offense through free agency to at the very least mash their way into the playoffs (with mediocre starting pitching). Should Jeter retired after this season, it would be easy for them to sign a big hitter in LF and replace Jeter with a defensive option, keeping the offense just as powerful.

    In short, neither Mo nor Jeter have a great deal to do with the answer to the question “Do the Yankees make the playoffs this year?”

    Starting from this premise, it is easy to see where we go next – who would be harder to replace in the playoffs. My eyes tell me that Mo has been as valuable as anyone on the team during the playoffs since hes been here, but lets see what Nate Silver has to say:

    “[three] key ingredients that strongly correlate with postseason success: a team’s [pitchers’] strikeout rate, or Equivalent K/9 (EqK9), adjusted for a team’s league and ballpark; its quality of defense, or Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA), an estimate of the runs a defense has saved or cost its pitchers relative to the league average; and its strength of closer, or Win Expectation Above Replacement (WXRL), which measures the wins the closer has saved versus what a replacement-level alternative would have done. In other words, teams that prevent the ball from going into play, catch it when it does and preserve late-inning leads are likely to excel in the playoffs” (emphasis mine)

    So it appears that there is some statistical merit to the cliche “great pitching beats great hitting”. Specifically, it appears that the importance of a closer is greatly magnified in the postseason. Jeter, as great as he has been, does not contribute significantly to any of the statistics which actually correlate to postseason success. Add in the fact that some good closers are not as great postseason closers, due to mental issues (lidge, another clunker and nathon is up there) and the fact that Mariano actually elevates his game in October makes him that much more special. Considering all this, Mariano gets my vote.

    Too long, didn’t read: The Yankees can easily make the playoffs without either, but Mariano is much more valuable in the postseason.

    • bexarama

      I would agree that a very, very good closer/reliever is more valuable in the postseason than the regular season, but I still take the guy that’s guaranteed to play every game. Mariano was a bigger part of the Yankees’ postseason success than their regular season success, but some teams with not-very-good closers have won the World Series. Heck, the 2003 Red Sox were what, five outs away from the World Series, and they had a closer by committee situation.

      It’s a little unfair to say guys like Nathan and Lidge are not great postseason closers. Yeah, Nathan hasn’t done well so far, but he’s had a limited amount of postseason experience. Plus, in 2004 IIRC he was sent out for like three or four innings in that blown save/loss he had, and he clearly did not have it in the last inning. He’d been used a lot toward the end of the year in 2009, as the Twins made that postseason push. Lidge was fantastic last year, great in 2004 and 2005 (2004 NLCS: 8 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 14 K) until Pujols hit that hilariously huge HR off of him, and he’s striking out a ridiculous 12.8/9 IP in the postseason.

      • radnom

        In response to your first part –

        Just because teams can win without a great closer doesn’t mean anything about the statistical correlation between the two. Bringing up the 2003 Red Sox as a counterpoint would be like me saying “Yeah, its nice to have a good QB if you want to win a superbowl, but look at the Ravens and Trent Dilfer.”

        By the way, if the 2003 Red Sox did have an elite closer, that would have solved that “last five outs” problem.

        Second part –

        Yeah, youre right I was a little harsh on those two, and you are correct in that they have had postseason success.
        My only point is that the position of closer is unique in that it is high pressure enough that mental issues manifest themselves in play (no one would argue this happened to Lidge after the Pujols shot) and that gets magnified by the fact that they only appear in high leverage situations.


        I would agree that a very, very good closer/reliever is more valuable in the postseason than the regular season, but I still take the guy that’s guaranteed to play every game.

        Based on? In a short series I would argue that Marianos 5-6 high leverage innings are worth more than an individual’s 18 AB….and the statistics appear to back that up.

        • bexarama

          All your points are fair, especially the leverage thing, which I didn’t really consider. In the playoffs, relief pitchers, particularly closers, generally face high leverage in most situations they’re in; yeah, hitters will probably face those situations, but maybe only once or twice in an entire postseason. But…

          By the way, if the 2003 Red Sox did have an elite closer, that would have solved that “last five outs” problem.

          In 2003, Grady Little wasn’t smart enough not to push Pedro and send him out for the eighth when he’d obviously been laboring in the seventh. During the eighth inning, he didn’t pull him IMMEDIATELY when he got into trouble. Covering the eighth and ninth innings with a 5-2 lead, maybe the Red Sox bullpen easily gets the last five or six outs. Embree and Timlin did keep it scoreless until Wakefield entered in the tenth.

          • radnom

            I know Grady screwed up, I was just being a bit cheeky in with that comment.

            Seriously though, I really do believe if Mariano Rivera were on the Sox for that game, there wouldn’t have even been a decision to make and Pedro would have been out of there at the first sign of trouble. The lack of a bullpen ace left it open for Grady to make the (bad) call to leave his best pitcher in the game.

            • bexarama

              if Mariano Rivera were on the Sox

              Bad thought, bad thought, BAD THOUGHT!!!

              For the record, I think having a “bullpen ace” is a pretty decent idea. Most teams have this, only it’s the closer and the closer gets used only in save situations, which… fine. I think “closer by committee” is NOT the best idea in the world.

              • radnom

                I agree. Closer by committee would work if you had an elite bullpen ace who would be used in only the most high leverage situations, regardless off if it is a save situation or not.

                Thing is though, that person would essentially be the “closer”, since they would end up with the majority of the teams saves. The reason bullpen by committee was so bad with the sox is because they didnt have that guy. I’m not convinced it was the concept as much as the quality of the pitchers in question that led to that bullpen’s failure.

  • MikeD

    Let’s give Posada more love in this equation of “hardest to replace.” Having high offensive production from both the SS and C positions over the past decade-plus has been one of the keys to the Yankees winning ways. The only year the Yankees didn’t make the play-offs during Posada’s tenure was the year he was injured. I know the Yankees had other issues in ’08, but the loss of Posada was at the top of the list.

    I think fans do understand how valuable Posada has been, but I don’t think they realize how important he’s been. They will soon discover.

    • radnom

      I think the pitching injuries hurt more, but definitely. I think the reason Posada doesn’t get any love in these discussions is that we all have Montero already penciled in as an upgrade when Posada retires.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      I think alot of fans on here will be the 1st to pound the Jorge to the HOF drum (and hop aboard the Bangwagon), and not just because he’s a Yankee. These same fans will agree that Pettitte and Mattingly don’t belong anywhere Cooperstown, unless they get in to the Corvette Hall of Fame.

      • bexarama

        If Varitek makes the Hall of Fame and Posada doesn’t, I……… don’t know what I’ll do.

        Someone please assure me this will not happen. :(

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          If Varitek makes the Hall of Fame

          If Varitek makes the Hall of Fame I will give up baseball forever, regardless of what happens with Posada.

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    damn i hate to bring this up but…

    what kind of impact do you think their names and reputations have on other clubs?

    remember ozzie talking about how great Mo is and how he now knew ‘what its like to have the greatest reliever ever’ at his disposal (with his boy standing right behind him!)??

    announcers (doh) and managers often mention how its an 8 inning game…do you think jeter’s name strikes the same fear as Mo’s does?

    ***i am in no way refuting any statistical evidence, modern-new-fangled or otherwise, i’m just asking is jeter’s name in bernie williams’ territory when it comes to fear?

    • radnom

      I think Mo is more “feared” just because if you see him, you’re already fucked (thanks to the rest of the team doing a good job the first 8 innings). Not really relevant to this debate though (and if you look above, I’m the only one to actually take Mo’s side).

    • bexarama

      remember ozzie talking about how great Mo is and how he now knew ‘what its like to have the greatest reliever ever’ at his disposal (with his boy standing right behind him!)

      That was hilarious.

      I think Jeter’s pretty feared in any situation viewed as “clutch,” because of his reputation.

    • Klemy

      How many pitchers want to face Derek Jeter with a runner on third and less than 2 outs, in a tie game?

      My only point here is that setting up specific situations to make the arguments obviously takes on the shape of whoever is making the point for their player of choice.

      I’m just sad we are at the point in their careers where their leaving is becoming a discussion.

  • warren

    Only 36 replies on Twitter ?

  • Bob B.

    Mo is harder to replace and here’s why…

    The emotional surge, palpable electricity and oppositional fear that fills Yankee Stadium when

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uY3LAFJbKyY (safe)

    ^ that hits the PA system and the bullpen door opens is enough to power half of Manhattan. That is going to be almost impossible to replace. ;)

    (Love the statistical analysis, the thought of replacing either makes me cry)