Derek Jeter has put up one of the greatest offensive careers by a shortstop in league history. He just put up his 3000th hit, an impressive counting number. More importantly for this case he is top 10 in Wrc+ (wOBA adjusted for era) among shortstops and I don't think it is disputable that offensively he has had a hall of fame caliber career, even his most adamant haters should grudgingly admit that much. That said, this post isn't just meant to extol the virtues of Jeter, cause that wouldn't be fun on it's own, right? I am here to enlighten everyone here who doesn't know about the second best shortstop in Pirates history, a guy be the name of Arky.
Doesn’t it feel strange to realize if Jeter put up the same performance in New York that he did in Pittsburgh, he’d only be the 3rd greatest shortstop in franchise history as a hitter? At this point some people are probably saying, OK, I've heard of Honus Wagner, but Jeter's a top 10 all time hitting shortstop, and I don't think the Pirates have ANOTHER one of those, or I'd have heard of him. Then, they finally found out about Vaughn, research him, and realize the Pirates in fact DO have another top 10 hitting shortstop of all time. I don’t think many people would dispute that who looked at the numbers. Arky Vaughan was indeed a shortstop for the ages, and a better hitter than even Derek Jeter.
Arky Vaughan fun fact about his plate discipline, the man walked OVER 3 TIMES MORE OFTEN THAN HE STRUCK OUT. Jeter, more K’s than BB. Arky Vaughan has higher BA. Arky Vaughn, higher OBP, higher SLG, and if you want to adjust for era, Arky Vaughan’s Wrc+ is 14 or 15 points higher than Jeter's.
You say you don't like fancy stuff like wRC+, well then try this on for size. In that 1935 season he had a .385 average, a .491 OBP, and a ,607 SLG for a .494 wOBA. What’s funny is he lost the MVP that year to a Gabby Hartnett, a catcher whose stats that year were quite spectacular, but not up to Arky’s. Hartnett was inferior in OPS, wOBA, and even the traditional MVP categories of the time like BA, RBI, hits, runs, home runs, and stolen bases. That .385 average was the highest single season average for a shortstop in the 20th century, and it was backed with a ton of walks and decent power to boot.
Some people here probably want that fabled thing called consistency and figure that with a season like that, he was probably a streaky hitter if I've never heard of him. Well, here was Arky Vaughans WORST offensive triple slash line with the Pirates in all 10 years he played for them. Are you ready for this? .318/.375/.412 for his WORST season.
Jeter is one of the top 10 hitting shortstops of all time, and a hall of fame guy, but as this guy named Vaughn who most here probably have only heard of in passing at most can show, the teammates and media can change an amazing player into a legend, and turn an even greater player into just a name by their failure to build up a player over the years. I'm pretty sure someone here if they tried could show off Arky's case even better than I, and argue that he is potentially the 2nd or 3rd greatest hitting shortstop of ALL-TIME. If so, get to it if you feel like it. I feel my job is done if I have brought attention to Arky Vaughan.
EDIT: Even I needed to learn more about him. It took a person from the comments to tell me I was spelling his name as Arky Vaughn, and not Vaughan as is correct.
Also, I might need to hide from some people for this comment, but Vaughan was probably the best baseball player to wear the #21 in Pirates history. (Off the field stuff combined with postseason heroics and career length obviously make Clemente THE #21 in Pirates history, I'm not disputing THAT at least, just the skill of each ballplayer relative to the league at their position. I don't think anyone would put Clemente as a top 5 outfielder of all time objectively, (Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Stan Musial spent half+ their careers as outfielders) but I find it hard to find someone who would objectively put Vaughan OUTSIDE the top 5 at shortstop)