"My mission is to be the ray of hope, the guy who stands out there on that beautiful field and owns up to his mistakes and lets people know it's never completely hopeless, no matter how bad it seems at the time. I have a platform and a message, and now I go to bed at night, sober and happy, praying I can be a good messenger." -Josh Hamilton
Historically, the guy I've always appreciated more than most is Keith Hernandez. Like Jeter, it seemed like he was involved in every game-deciding play, and most of the time he made the key defensive play or got the big hit to decide it in his team's favor. Some think first base defense isn't that important or that it doesn't provide much differentiation, and most of the time, they're probably right. But that's because no one I have seen before or since played it the way Hernandez did. What a weapon.
Sorry for the tangent. Please return to debating the streakiness of Jay Bruce.
On a personal experience here, I think Pujols is the most consistent player I've ever seen. I was surprised he wasn't on the list.
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Edited to add-After I posted this...I looked at Jeter's BR page. I swear I didn't know this before I pulled that example out of my butt. Number 1 on Jeter's similar players list...Craig Biggio. Headasplode.
Bruce is basically helpless with 2 strikes. When he gets down 2 strikes I always reflexively smirk because I know what's coming next - a strikeout. If that issue could be improved, e.g., maybe make an adjustment with 2 strikes (see Votto), then his "consistency" and numbers would look much better.
Bruce is a good player, and position of strength on the team. But every player has things that could be improved upon. No reason a player can't try to make some adjustments to do that; and I wish Bruce would would work on his 2 strike approach this offseason.
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Two big differences between Biggio and Jeter:
1) Biggio made his bones by beating up on weaker pitchers. That's not an entirely bad thing. MLB was flush with bad pitching during his career and he made the schlubs pay for it. Yet he also struggled mightily against good pitchers and generally performed a disappearing act in the playoffs. Meanwhile Jeter hits good pitching about as well as anyone we've ever seen. His playoffs stats are actually a hair better than his regular season stats. It's yet another reason why Jeter is worshipped. There's a firm reality behind the hype. BTW, Jeter's got 3,504 career hits and he's 9th on the career runs scored list if you count his playoff numbers (and I remain under the firm belief that those games count).
2) Jeter's aged better. It probably goes towards him being a less volatile player. There's a reason Jeter was heading up the list that started this thread and Biggio's not on it, and it says more than a little bit about the differences between them.
Plus, far as I can tell, Jeter has Biggio trumped for career value across the board. Use any measuring stick you want, Jeter's ahead. They're certainly similar creatures in many respects, but Jeter's been the better of the two.
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One thing about Biggio that always bothered me was that he always wore that armor on his arm all the time and if anyone dared to pitch inside he would just let the ball hit him on the armor and trot down to 1st. I know he was just taking advantage of the rules at the time but it's a lot tougher to pitch to a guy when you know you can't come inside on him.
I think there's a lot of merit to the theory that if Biggio and Jeter switched organizations, Biggio would be the fair-haired boy and Jeter would have toiled in obscurity. In a way, that's not fair to the NY players because people are going to say that a great player's success in NYC was in part because he played there. It's probably not fair to a guy like Jeter and definitely not someone like Rivera but might be more fair to a guy like Pettit or Posada.
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What it boils down to is you could airlift Jeter into any era - deadball, 1960s - and he'd still produce. Biggio feasted on a bad pitching era. He reached his prime exactly when the 1993 expansion hit and probably was able to scuffle his way to 3,000 hits thanks to the 1998 expansion. Biggio was a great player. I'd vote him into the HOF straight away, but he's definitely a product of his era. He was wired to thrash bad pitchers during the regular season of a hitters' era.
Jeter's risen beyond that because he's shown himself to be a truly rare animal. When you look at who the steadiest hitters are and at how the guys are that do the best against good pitching and at the guys who perform the best in the postseason, Jeter is at the top of the list. It's substance, not hype.
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