As Derek Jeter‘s illustrious career comes to a close, there’s been no shortage of Jeter-related highlights reels. With 20 Major League seasons under his belt and five World Series rings on his mantle, Jeter’s pretty much done it all. Just about any baseball fan is able to name several great Jeter moments just off the top of his or her head. The flip play, the Mr. November homer, his dive into the stands, #3,000, etc. The list is long, and we all have our favorites.
I thought it would be interesting to see which of Jeter’s 2,742 games stand above the rest when judged by a more objective criteria. Win Probability Added (WPA) is a metric that allows for just that. WPA measures how each play influences a team’s chance of winning a game. So if a batter comes to the plate while his team has a 50% shot at winning the game, and that probability jumps to 75% after he hits a home run, that player is credited with .25 WPA.
Without further adieu, here are Jeter’s top five regular season games according to WPA. Keep in mind that WPA does not take into account defense, so anything the captain did on the defensive side of things isn’t accounted for. I included video, when available. I’ll repeat this exercise for the captain’s post season work within the next couple of days.
#5) June 14th, 2002: .475 WPA
Jeter reached base twice — and stole second base twice — in this game’s first three innings, but was left stranded in both cases, allowing the Mets to take a 2-0 lead into the eighth inning. Jeter lead off the 8th with a walk against David Weathers and came around to score on single by Bernie Williams, cutting the lead to one. The game remained at 2-1 in the ninth when Jeter came to the plate once more against Armando Benitez with Marcus Thames standing on second base. Jeter connected on an RBI single to left and promptly stole second base for the third time that night, but was once again left stranded. Robin Ventura sealed the deal with a two run homer in the ninth off of Satoru Komiyama.
#4) September 15th, 1997: .486 WPA
Jeter was a very tough out in this late-season matchup with the rival Boston Red Sox. In the game’s first eight innings, he went two-for-three with two singles and a HBP. Although he didn’t drive in any runs in his first four plate appearances, he did come around to score on a Tim Raines sac fly in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at six. The game remained knotted until the bottom of the ninth, when Boston brought in Jim Corsi to try to force the game into extra innings. Jeter came to the plate with two outs and Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez on first and second, and Jeter sent the fans home happy by hitting a line drive up the middle.
#3) April 30th, 2010: .522 WPA
The White Sox struck first in this game with a three run homer by Paul Konerko in the top of the first, but the Yankees wasted no time chipping away at that deficit. Jeter got things started with a lead-off single in the bottom of the first, and came around to score on a double by Alex Rodriguez. He delivered again in the 5th when he tied the game at four with a two-run shot off of Freddy Garcia. The captain came up big yet again in the seventh when he untied the score with a two-run triple off of Matt Thornton that proved to be the final piece of scoring of the game.
#2) June 2nd, 2006: .535 WPA
This was yet another game where opposing pitchers couldn’t keep the captain off base. Jeter went two-for-three with a walk in the game’s first six innings, but it wasn’t until the late innings that things got really interesting. With the game tied at three in the seventh, Jeter delivered a two-out RBI single to score Johnny Damon. The Yankees managed to tack on another run in the seventh, but the trio of Ron Villone, Scott Erickson, and Kyle Farnsworth coughed up two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Luckily, Jeter had one more hit left in his bat, as he delivered what ended up being the game-winning RBI single in the top of the ninth.
#1) April 11th, 2006: .536 WPA
Unlike all of the games listed above, Jeter only had one hit in this contest against Kansas City, but boy was it a big one. Through seven innings, the Royals tagged Chien-ming Wang and Tanyon Sturtze for seven runs, while Joe Mays, Mike Wood, and Elmer Dessens held the Yankees to just four. Jeter wasn’t much of a player early on, going 0-for-three with a walk in his first four trips to the pate, but then the eighth inning rolled around. The Yankees started the inning by stringing together a couple of singles and walks off of Andrew Sisco, cutting the Yankees’ deficit to one. With one out and two on, the Royals replaced Sisco with Ambiorix Burgos, who preceded to strikeout Johnny Damon for the second out of the inning. The Yankees’ odds of winning sat at just 30%. Jeter turned things around in a hurry though, belting a three-run shot that put the Bombers up 9-7. After Jeter’s bomb, the Yankees’ chances jumped to 92%, and a scoreless 9th by Mariano Rivera sealed the deal.