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.