Rivera vs. Jeter

"Isn't this a cool picture?" Photo Credit: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports

Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter are two of the most iconic Yankees ever. Both players played huge roles in the late 90s Yankee dynasty and both players contributed heavily to the 2009 World Champion Yankees. There’s no question that both players have been extremely valuable throughout their careers, but who has been more valuable? This poses to be a much more difficult question than it seems. Has Mariano Rivera and his persistent dominance as a closer been more valuable than Derek Jeter? Or has Jeter’s year in and year out above average play been more valuable than Mo? Well, when in doubt, turn to the numbers.

Mariano Rivera (since 1996)

Total WAR: 35.9

Average WAR (per season): 2.394

Highest WAR (1996) : 4.4

Highest WAR as a closer (2001): 3.3

Total innings pitched: 1,068.2

Derek Jeter (since 1996)

Total WAR: 70.6

Average WAR (per season):  4.71

Highest WARs (1999 & 2009): 7.5 and 7.4 respectively

Total innings played: 19,317

So clearly WAR heavily favors Derek Jeter as more valuable than Mariano Rivera since 1996. Jeter’s total WAR is almost twice as much as Rivera’s total WAR, same goes for Jeter’s average season WAR and highest single season WAR.

My take: Derek Jeter has been more valuable than Mariano Rivera since 1996. And I don’t think it’s even close. The reason, shortstops are more valuable than closers. There’s no doubt that Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer to ever live, the greatest reliever to ever live. While it’s a bit more arguable whether Derek Jeter is the greatest shortstop ever, he has been more valuable than Mariano Rivera. Closers play a much more limited role than do shortstops. As a closer Mariano only influences games for one inning, two at the most. On the other hand, as a shortstop Derek Jeter can impact a game for at least 9 innings. This is why Derek Jeter has been much more valuable than Mariano Rivera has been to the Yankees, in my opinion.

"The Captain." Photo Credit: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports

Mariano Rivera’s statistics

Derek Jeter’s statistics

4 thoughts on “Rivera vs. Jeter

  1. As much as Rivera has done for this team with those 500+ saves and all my vote goes to Derek Jeter. I vote for Jeter for one reason and one reason only. That reason is that Jeter is an everyday player. You know that pitchers are usually thought of as a team within a team and that sometimes they are separated from the position players. Jeter goes out there everyday for 16 years and gets the job done. I bet this comment will be met with some harsh criticism in Rivera’s defense but in my opinion Jeter has been more valuable. Although I could be persuaded to pick Rivera because without him we may not have won a majority of those World Series in the mid 90’s.

    • Thanks for voting! I have to say I generally agree with what you here (something that doesn’t happen often when we’re talking about the Yankees, haha). I couldn’t agree with you more that the reason Jeter has been more valuable is that Jeter is an everyday player, while Mo is just a reliever. If Mo was a starter, then we’d be having a very different discussion, but he’s not. The ceiling for a reliever’s value is much lower than the ceiling for a position player’s value, or a starting pitcher’s value for that matter. So even the best reliever ever can be less valuable than a single position player, and in this case I think he is.

      You bring up a good point saying that the Yankees may not have won some of the World Series they did if it weren’t for Mo, and that may true. But, I can’t help wondering whether the Yankees would have even made it to the World Series as many times as they did if it weren’t for Derek Jeter. So without Jeter, would Mariano Rivera even have been in the position to help win those World Series like he did? I don’t really have the answer for that question, but I find it interesting.

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