Troy Tulowitzki vs. Derek Jeter (Yes, I Went There)


As far as topics go, they don't get much touchier than this.  It's our golden boy vs. baseball's golden boy being compared by one very biased author (although I'll try to be as fair as possible).

Let's begin with why I'm writing this piece.  Well, first of all it's Tulo, and it's always fun to write about Tulo; and also there's this quote from Andrew Martin earlier today.  "There is no way I'd get on board anything that is saying that Tulo is better than Jeter or Hanley, at least at this point. I'd love to be proven wrong as time marches."  I read that and thought; you know what, I think the Tulo vs. Jeter debate is actually very close and would make for a very interesting post and well, here we are.

What I really want to focus on for most of this piece is the 2009 season since it was a season where both players excelled.  It's really some of the best data we have to see just how awesome these two players can be when they are at their best.  Now if you look at Fangraph's WAR, the question of who had the better season in 2009 seems to be an open and shut case in favor of Jeter as the Yankee shortstop posted a 7.4 WAR compared to Tulo's 5.4.  However, this is only an acceptable conclusion if you believe that last year Jeter was worth 7.8 runs more than Tulo defensively as UZR does.  If you look at the two offensively in 2009, they are actually very even.  As you can see in the chart below, Jeter had a better average, OBP, wRAA and wRC+ while Tulo had a better OPS, SLG, ISO, and wOBA.; it's almost a dead heat for this part of the game.







On Base Percentage



Slugging Percentage



















What I'm getting at here is that majority of the two win gap in WAR can be explained by the difference in Jeter's and Tulo's UZR scores.  Just for fun, let's compare Jeter and Tulo's 2009 numbers with a defensive metric at the other end of the spectrum and see what happens. According to Total Zone (Rtot), Tulo's 2009 defense was worth 14.6 runs while Jeter's was worth just 3.8.  That's a whopping 10.8 run difference in favor of Tulo.  (And by the way Total Zone didn't hate Jeter's 2009, in fact Rtot thought 2009 was Jeter's second best year ever defensively and Tulo was still 10.8 runs better than him in this category).

The point here is that if you just plug in a different defensive metric to calculate WAR, (which I'm not smart enough to know how to do) you could find that Tulo's 2009 was better than Jeter's instead of the other way around. This is one of the reasons why I'm not a huge fan of WAR, it leans too much on the often erratic UZR metric, but I digress.

I was able to see both Jeter and Tulo play a whole bunch of games last season and from what I saw there is no way that Jeter was better defensively than Tulo.  (Granted I am VERY BIASED)  If you look at the offensive numbers both of these players put up in 2009, you really need to use defense to break the tie (or almost tie) to determine who had the better season. Despite what UZR says, I would argue that Tulo was much better than Jeter defensively last year; and if Tulo was better on defense in 2009, then he was the better player in 2009.

Now as far as better player overall goes, I agree with those who say that we need more data to reach a solid conclusion. However, I will throw this out there.  There are two major phases of the game that Tulo absolutely crushes Jeter in.

1) Defense:  Even if you believe this year's UZR score which says that Jeter was worth 7.8  runs more defensively than Tulo, UZR still says that Jeter has been a below average fielder for the body of his career while Tulo has been well above average.

2) Power:  Tulo hit 32 HR in just his third full season last year while Jeter has never hit more than 24 during any season in his career.  This is going to make a huge difference in comparing the two going forward.

If you buy my argument above that Tulo had a better 2009 than Jeter, then you could start to argue that Tulo is already on his way to becoming a better player than Jeter for his career. Let's face it, other than 1999, 2009 was Jeter's best season. If Tulo had a better season than Jeter's second best season of his career when he was only 24 and still working on his stance, then there is no reason he shouldn't go right by Jeter's career production in OPS, SLG, OBP, wOBA and wRC+  as long as he continues on his current path. 

It's like Tulo said the other day, "if you mess with us, we're going to answer back."  Well if you mess with my golden boy, I'm going to answer back.

Okay, I'll end this right here since I've completely failed on the whole not being very biased thing. 

Eat. Drink. Be Merry. But the above FanPost does not necessarily reflect the attitudes, opinions, or views of Purple Row's staff (unless, of course, it's written by the staff [and even then, it still might not]).

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