Earlier this week, Mets owner Fred Wilpon referred to David Wright as “our Jeter.” Some may be taken aback by that statement, but it make sense when considering what each player has brought to their respective franchises. Both are the “faces” of their franchise, have spent their entire careers with their team (and will probably end them there as well), have been referred to as their team’s captain, and have contributed to their club extensively both on and off the field.
That’s all well and good, and admirable in this day and age of high-priced free agents, but how do these two players actually compare with regard to on-field production? Both Wright and Derek Jeter made their major league debuts at the age of 21. At 30 years old, Wright is eight years younger than Jeter and has spent nine years in the majors. The table below is a comparison of some traditional statistics for their age 21 to 29 seasons:
Jeter mostly had the leg up on BA throughout similar age seasons, while Wright clearly hit for more power, especially in their early years. OPS+, which is adjusted for the player’s ballpark, favors Wright most years (and overwhelmingly so some of those years).
It’s interesting to note that Jeter reached 3,000 hits in 2011, his age 37 season. Through their first nine years, Jeter had 1,546 hits to Wright’s 1,426. That leaves Wright 120 off the pace and the last year of his latest contract will be his age 37 season (2020). Barring any major time missed, it’s possible that Wright could be the Mets first 3,000-hit player.
Though the traditional statistics are interesting here, they don’t give us the whole picture. For example, Jeter played shortstop, a position with more defensive value and difficulty than Wright’s position of third base. On top of that, Jeter was at the head of a new generation of offensively-oriented shortstops during the mid-to-late nineties. In order to take this (among other factors) into account, we turn to bWAR. The table below compares the players’ bWAR through their first nine seasons:
The fact that both players provided almost the exact same value over their first nine seasons is pretty incredible, especially considering the sentiment that fueled this analysis. They’ve done it in different ways, though. Jeter’s never surpassed Wright’s highest bWAR season, but never fell below 3 during this nine-year stretch. Wright’s bWAR values consisted of high highs and low lows.
These “faces of the franchise” also share similar achievements. Both have multiple all-star appearances, MVP votes, and Gold Gloves. Of course, Wright doesn’t have what many see as what really matters when all is said and done: world championships.
Jeter has had generally much more talent surrounding him, especially during his first nine years in the midst of the last Yankees dynasty. Wright has stuck it out through team lows, the likes of which Jeter never really had to experience, and still signed on to be a Met for life. Because of this, you could even argue that Wright may end up meaning more to the Mets than Jeter has to the Yankees.
Keep in mind that this exercise wasn’t meant to determine which is the better player. Good arguments could be made on both sides in that case. The point was to see if there was something to Wilpon’s comment about Wright. Based on the numbers, he really seems to be our Jeter.