Derek Jeter reached another milestone today, but this one has nothing to do with any baseball stat. He reached his 40th birthday, and as he told Mark Feisand of the New York Daily News, it means nothing to him:
“A lot of people always dread turning 30, 40, 50, 60; for me, it doesn’t make a difference. I go by how I feel. Age is just something I’ve never stressed.”
Despite the indifference about his age, turning 40 does mean something in the annals of major-league baseball history. Let’s take a stat-based look at what Jeter has accomplished thus far and what it means for him to be in the lineup nearly every day as a 40-year-old shortstop.
In the company of one
Jeter passed the 3,000-hit mark (in dramatic fashion) nearly three years ago and currently sits in eighth place on the all-time list behind Carl Yastrzemski. Jeter also recently reached 1,900 runs, which places him 10th on the all-time list.
Yet, as he turns 40, he is in an even more exclusive club.
Only four players – Ty Cobb, Pete Rose, Hank Aaron and Tris Speaker – had as many hits before their 40th birthday as Jeter.
And of those four players above, only two – Cobb and Aaron – also had at least 1,900 runs when they celebrated their 40th birthdays.
Adding in Jeter’s 351 career stolen bases, the list is reduced to just one other player: Only Ty Cobb had as many hits, runs scored and stolen bases as Derek Jeter did before turning 40 years old. However, Cobb had just 111 homers at the time of his 40th birthday while Jeter now has 258.
That makes Jeter the only player in major-league history to accumulate at least 3,300 hits, 1,900 runs, 350 stolen bases and 250 homers before the age of 40.
Rare season for Jeter, Yankees
The fact that Jeter is simply playing shortstop at the age of 40 also puts him in rare territory.
In the modern era (since 1900), there have been only four players that played at least 100 games in a season at the age of 40 or older with at least half of them coming at shortstop: Honus Wagner (1914, 1915, 1916), Luke Appling (1947, 1949), Barry Larkin (2004) and Omar Vizquel (2007). Barring an injury, Jeter is set to become the fifth member of that group.
With 72 hits in 67 games, Jeter would accumulate 153 hits by the end of the season if he continues at his current pace. The only 40-year-old shortstops with at least 150 hits in a season are Wagner (155 in 1915) and Appling (154 in 1947). So if Jeter can get on a little hot streak, he could easily set the “record”.
Jeter’s below-average line of .268/.324/.327 this season should be no surprise given the track record of this 40-year-old shortstop group. Appling’s 1947 and 1949 seasons remain the gold-standard: he hit over .300 and had an OPS above .750 in both seasons, the only shortstop age 40-or-older to reach either of those marks in a season with at least 400 at-bats.
History is not on the Yankees side if Joe Girardi continues to write Jeter’s name on the lineup card at shortstop every day.
Only one team in major-league history has posted a winning record with a 40-something-year-old shortstop playing at least 50 games in a season: the 1996 St. Louis Cardinals went 88-74 and won the NL Central with 41-year-old Ozzie Smith playing 52 games at shortstop in his final major-league season.