Jeterian Blues

Derek Jeter is about as untouchable in the pantheon of Yankee greats as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mariano Rivera.  Notwithstanding the persistent criticism of defenseively-focused sabermetricians – and Jeter helped tamp even that down a bit last year – his skill with the bat has been pretty much beyond reproach.  And yet, as we near the end of Jeter's current contract with Yankees, it is impossible to ignore that he is having his worst season ever at the plate.  With just over a month to go in the season, Jeter is on pace to compile career lows in batting average (.272 compared to his worst full-season in 1997 of .291), on-base percentage (.336 vs. 2004's .352), and slugging (.384 vs. 1997's .405), while quickly approaching his career high in grounding into double plays (19 so far vs. 21 in '07 and 24 in '08).

Jeter has always focused on winning above all and so the fact that the Yanks maintain the best record in baseball, perhaps that is all that matters.  But being in the leadoff position as he is, Jeter cues this offense as demonstrated by how he performs in games where the Yankees win vs. in losses: In wins: .292/.357/.438 – yielding an OPS of .794.  In losses: .234/.299/.288 for a paltry .587 OPS.  And so, while it seems clear that the Yankees can't go far without a healthy Pettitte, it also stands to reason that they aren't likely to win a whole lot if Jeter doesn't start hitting the way he has for pretty uch his entire career.

Looking a little deeper into the numbers for 2010, a few things strike me:

1. Fatigue: Jeter has compiled the second most plate-appearances (2,147 – second only to Milwaukee's 27-year-old 2B Rickie Weeks) and the most at-bats (541) in 2010 of all players in the major leagues.  We all know that Jeter is the kind of gamer who has to be dragged out of a game.  But that's an important part of any manager's job – knowing when veterans need a rest and giving it to them whether thy like it or not.  Jeter is a 36-year old playing the most physically demanding position on the field (after catcher).  Last year Girardi played A-Rod into the ground in the month after he returned from his hip-rehab only to regret it – he subsequently piled up the rest days and A-Rod had a stupendous October.  Girardi has now gone down the same path with Jeter.  Only in this case, he doesn't have a whole lot of options to make up for it.  With A-Rod out until Sept 5 and the Yanks in a dead-heat for the division title, it's going to be tough for Girardi to give Jeter a rest any time soon.  It doesn't matter – he has to.

2. Check the eyes. The splits between Jeter's day and night games are, well, day and night.  In the 44 day games in which Jeter has played this season, his BAA/OBP/SLG are strong: .333/.386/.471.  By comparison, in the 83 night games, Jeter is .239/.309/.336.  Perhaps coincidental, but the gap is cavernous here.  And it does not match with his career figures – where there is a gap of no more than .012 in each of these stats between day and night games.  Not to over-react, but if I'm Cashman I'm telling Jeter to get his eyes checked.  Seriously.  What's the worst result of doing so?

3. Home-cooking.  The splits between home and away games are equally striking.  At Yankee Stadium (62 games) Jeter has hit .314/.380/.461, while in away games (65 games): .233/.295/.312 (!).  Again, this does not match with the career figures.

Take the above three stats together combined with the fact that the Yankees are returning home for their longest homestand of the season (10 games, of which – strangely – 6 of the last 7 are day games), and I probably would have rested the captain last night – the last road game for a while – and sent him to an eye doctor.  Even apart from the above stats, how can you not rest him given the fact that he is hitting .195/.296/.326 in his last 12 games and an unsightly .105/.227.263 in his last 5?  Girardi kept him out of last Monday's game until the 9th inning.  He needs another.  Even if you have to start Nunez and Pena on the left side of the infield with Jeter on-call if needed, does Girardi really think that those kids couldn't match Jeter's current production?  I would start him tonight to see if the return home sparks him, but if not, I'd sit him before the first day-game on Thursday and hope the stretch of home-day-games kickstarts a monster September and beyond for the Captain.

Finally, are Jeter's woes evidence of inevitable decline coming on suddenly after his excellent 2009?  I honestly don't think so.  If his bat had slowed substantially you would see it in his splits vs. different kinds of pitchers.  But Jeter is doing his worst against the guys who throw to contact, not the ones who try to blow the ball by him.  Against power pitchers this year (61 G) he is hitting .301/.373/.398, while against finesse pitchers (93 G) he is hitting only .227/.286/.302.  This is the reverse of his career figures, where he has traditionally hit substantially better against guys who pitch to contact.  And his K-rate is actually a touch better than his career average.  Simply put, in 2010 he is hitting fewer ropes and banging the ball into the dirt more than ever before.

Given that Kevin Long did not approach Curtis Granderson for fear of offending him and therefore waited for Granderson to come to him before helping with his swing, I can't imagine he would ever approach Jeter.  But perhaps on one of the off-days Girardi hopefully gives him, and after he gets back from the eye doctor, Jeter could keep one eye out for Long.

15 comments… add one

  • great post IH…thanks
    yeah, lost in the shuffle of a pennant race, the red sox woes, the absolute crapfests of starts by aj vazquez, is the rather precipitous dropoff in production by our captain…without coming out and saying it, you hint that perhaps age is beginning to have its impact…
    fatigue: 15 seasons of being “the man” has to take it’s toll…i’m not saying that the pressure is getting to him, no way, but even a guy with icewater in his veins has to be a little tired once in awhile…
    check the eyes: yep…nite blindness can happen to anyone, but is particularly critical in a profession where hand/eye coordination is the key to hitting a pitched ball, especially one thrown with finesse…i agree, they should drag him to the eye doctor if necessary…
    home cooking: while i’m sure life on the road as a millionaire ballplayer has it’s charm, after 15 years, including many post-seasons, it’s got to start getting old…most of us who don’t travel for a living probably enjoy getting away from home once in awhile, but there’s nothing like getting back to familiar surroundings, and especially your own bed…makes me sleepy just thinking about it…
    lastly, the thing with kevin long…i’d say it’s non-negotiable…i like granderson, but if it took him that long to realize that he was in a slump and he’d better consult his hitting coach, that’s kinda scary…these guys get paid a lot of money not to have egos so fragile that they won’t ask for help…i hope jeter’s not being stubborn here…

    dc August 30, 2010, 12:49 pm
  • Does it bother you at all dc that Girardi – notwithstanding his many strengths – seems to have a weakness for playing older players into the ground a bit? I ended up posting the next-to-last version of the above post by mistake (hence the multiple typos and grammar issues – sorry). One of the things I discovered and included in what was supposed to be the final post was that, until last Monday’s game, Girardi had Jeter in for virtually every inning of 17 games in 17 straight days, preceded by one day off that had followed him playing virtually every inning of 16 games in 16 days. I don’t know. Seems like unnecesarry wear and tear to me.

    IronHorse (YF) August 30, 2010, 1:55 pm
  • i agree…not sure why joe seems insistent on using jeter so much, particularly when it’s so evident that he could use a day or 2 off…he may be trying to hide the fact that he doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his bench and will only use those guys when he absolutely has to, like when there’s an injury…he may feel that even a tired jeter is better than the alternative, particularly when the other regulars keep getting nicked up…who knows, maybe when the roster expands joe will loosen up a bit…you know the yankees, it won’t be enough to just make the playoffs, and they’re in a battle with the rays to the wire it would appear…don’t forget also that joe is managing for a contract…winning the division looks a little better on the resume than winning the wild card…

    dc August 30, 2010, 2:07 pm
  • Awesome start so far for Moseley…not. Walks the fucking bases loaded, again, and 28 pitches with 2 outs.
    This is ridiculous.
    As I’m typing…0-3. Fuck this bullshit. I’m not wasting another fucking evening watching this garbage fucking team.

    krueg August 30, 2010, 7:28 pm
  • Works everytime!

    krueg August 31, 2010, 9:34 am
  • “…I’m not wasting another fucking evening watching this garbage fucking team….”
    u still da man krueg :)
    your reverse jinx/psychology, whatever it is, works every time…
    good to see tex back…looks like no lingering effects…
    what’s up with marcus thames?…cashman looks like a genius for getting him back…
    cano…damn…once upon a time when he seemed to be playing inconsistently and uninspired, there were calls to trade him…wonder how that would have worked out…
    is it too early to wonder if javy has reinvented himself as a middle reliever?…
    on the topic of the post, jeter went 0-4…ugh

    dc August 31, 2010, 9:40 am
  • Good work last night krueg.
    On Javy: he, Eiland, and Posada say that Eiland and he found and fixed a kink in his delivery having to do with his leg position and that since that time, he has been able to deliver with much more velocity in his last 3-4 outings. His last few have been very strong and at this point I would advocate swapping his and Moseley’s roles. Let Javy return to the starting role with Moseley waiting in case javy can’t go 6. We have no clue if AJ is done for the year or is going to work things back out, and Hughes is about to hit his innings limit. Having at least a third veteran to go with CC and Pettitte would be good and we already have good long relief in Mitre and possibly Moseley.
    And yeah – Jeter needs to sit. I’d seriously consider sitting him tonight and tomorrow and let him start Thursday’s day game. He was great defensively but he is actively hurting them at the plate right now with his GIDPs and unproductive outs.

    IronHorse (YF) August 31, 2010, 10:04 am
  • You know I watched the whole game dc…once the negative reinforcement was posted, they got it together!
    Jeter has really been struggling this year…it’s painful to watch.
    Javy? I still don’t trust his ass although he was good last night.
    Thames? WTF??? The guys is on a tear. Thames and Kearns against lefties, Granderson and Berkman against righties…works for me!
    Now if we could just get Pettitte back soon. I’m also interested to see Hughes tonight. Hopefully he can bounce back!

    krueg August 31, 2010, 10:05 am
  • i read something about them tweaking javy’s mechanics too IH…i agree with your suggestion about swapping roles with moseley…javy is the starter, and if the adjustment can put him back to where he was for parts of june and july, i’d be happy with that…i’m hearing good things about pettitte’s progress, but they rightfully aren’t rushing it…getting him ready for the post season is the top priority i would think…i only hope yankee brains read IH’s post about jeter…get the eyes checked and sit him for a few games…

    dc August 31, 2010, 10:26 am
  • Your first reaction to the post re: Kevin Long got me thinking. I was intrigued to hear Long say what he did about Granderson. Actually, I didn’t hear Long – it was Michael Kay paraphrasing what Long said to him. It gave me insight into the dynamics with hitting coaches that was kind of interesting to me. Apparently Long said that he lets guys come to him and that if he doesn’t he might irrevocably harm trust with them. He apparently asked Nick Johnson about Granderson because he had retooled Johnson’s swing (to extraordinary effect!) during the off-season and he wanted Johnson’s advice on whether he thought he could have made that same adjustment mid-season because he had Granderson in mind. Johnson said he couldn’t imagine doing it mid-season because it required so much practice to shift approaches, but when Granderson finally came to Long they went for it and Granderson apparently took crazy numbers of practice hacks before and after regular BP until he started to get it right. Anyway, I tend to agree with your view that at some point visiting the hit-doctor needs to be non-negotiable. And yet I’m intrigued by the possibility that the delciate balance of ego, confidence, etc. plus the need for trust in the hitting coach might lead a lot of coaches to take Long’s “let them come to me” approach. Regardless, I wish Jeter would go to him at this point!

    IronHorse (YF) August 31, 2010, 11:04 am
  • “…I wish Jeter would go to him at this point!…”
    yeah, even if it’s just to get some positive reinforcement that his mechanics are ok, he’s just tired and needs a break, or it’s his eyes…whatever…it’s what the hitting coach is for…and the pitching coach for that matter…i get frustrated when i think about the granderson story because these aren’t kids who need to be nurtured by coaches as they learn the game…they’re supposed to be grown men…ego/shmego…these guys aren’t making 10/15/20 mil to flail away at .250, when their track record suggests a higher expectation…frankly poor performance would leave a bigger bruise on my ego than swallowing my pride and asking for help, or being asked if i want help …use the darn resources the team provides, i.e. coaching, medical staff [eye exam] to get better…and don’t be so proud not to ask for a day off when you need one…

    dc August 31, 2010, 11:42 am
  • Jeter has to be hurt.

    krueg August 31, 2010, 1:56 pm
  • If he is hurt enough to be having a career-worst year in every offensive category (by as much as 20-30% in some statistical categories), then he should take himself out OR Girardi should be in tune enough to sit him. I love Jeter’s attitude and refusal to discuss injuries. It’s a great attitude to have vis-a-vis the media and vis-a-vis opposing teams and as a model for players in your own organization. It’s not a great attitude to have vis-a-vis yourself and your manager and/or trainer. Especially if injury is causing you to hurt the team. The guy is having a horrific year at the plate. His performance against power pitchers would seem to argue against a slow bat or even an injury. He is not hitting breaking balls and he is hitting everything into the dirt more than usual. I love him. I just want him to seek out help even if he never acknowledges to anyone that he did.

    IronHorse (YF) August 31, 2010, 4:11 pm
  • OK, I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I just heard this stat on ESPN radio and had to include it on this thread: Of the past 67 breaking balls thrown to Jeter since August ?? (didn’t catch the date), he has put 20 in play yielding 1 hit and 19 outs.

    IronHorse (YF) September 1, 2010, 3:32 pm
  • It’s hard to watch…

    krueg September 1, 2010, 5:46 pm

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