Oct
09

What Went Wrong: Derek Jeter’s wrist

By

Can a player be too devoted to a team? Can a player’s devotion to a team and his willingness to play through an injury no matter how severe be a detriment? Of course, it can, and this year, the Yanks learned that the hard way.

By his standards, Derek Jeter got off to a slow start. Through May 18, Jeter had been to the 167, and while he was hitting .314, his OBP was just .349 and he was slugging just .429. With just 11 extra-base hits to his name, Jeter was not having the MVP season his teammates had predicted in Spring Training.

Then, on May 20, in a game in which a Jeter error led to six unearned runs, disaster in the form of a Daniel Cabrera fastball struck. Jeter had to leave the game in the third inning, and while X-Rays were negative, the next few weeks were not kind to the Yankee short stop. Between May 20 and June 14 — a span of 111 plate appearances — Jeter hit .198/.291/.292 with 14 runs scored, five extra-base hits and seven RBIs. It would be a brutal 25 games for the Yankee Captain.

After June 14, Jeter turned it all around. He hit .323/.390/.430 over his last 390 plate appearances, and while another HBP against the Orioles ended his season a few days early, he pulled down a .300/.363/.408 line on the year. But Jeter those numbers pale in comparison with his .316/.387/.458 mark. He didn’t score 100 runs for the first time since his injury-shortened 2003 campaign, and he notched full-season career lows in doubles, home runs and hits.

Sabermetrically, Jeter’s numbers were down this year as well. His runs created per game dipped from 6.3 to 5.0. His VORP dropped from 53.3 to 37.5, and his win shares declined from 24 to 18. Overall, his subpar season didn’t impact the team that much; his contributions declined by about two wins over the course of a full season. But if we assume that Jeter was indeed hurt by Cabrera’s fastball, his decision to play through the pain did not help the Yankees this year.

Of course, Jeter’s bad 25 games could have just been that. Perhaps, he just hit a slump, and the HBP was merely coincidental. And perhaps Jeter’s delince, at age 34, isn’t to be unexpected. He’s on the downside of what has been a very productive career. Over the next few seasons, the Yanks will have to grapple with a lot of Derek Jeter-related questions. He’s not really fit for short stop, and his contract will soon end. The team is still relying on him to be that linchpin out of the two hole, and soon we’ll see if that decision may not be the best for the future of the team.

Categories : Analysis

64 Comments»

  1. TheLastClown says:

    Are there any prospective successors in-house? At all, at all?

  2. E-ROC says:

    Putting in the long hours, Ben?

    Ultimately, Girardi should’ve been able to recognize that the HBP from Cabrera truly affected Jeter at the plate given the numbers. I guess it would be tough to make that sort of decision when its your first year managing the Yanks.

    Jeter will probably finish his career at a different position, but that time won’t come until after his contract expires. Maybe. IDK. I think he’ll have a bounce back next year.

    • From Ben:
      But if we assume that Jeter was indeed hurt by Cabrera’s fastball, his decision to play through the pain did not help the Yankees this year.

      From you, E-ROC:
      Ultimately, Girardi should’ve been able to recognize that the HBP from Cabrera truly affected Jeter at the plate given the numbers.

      But, even if you’re both correct, what was Girardi or Jeter to do? Hit the DL for 15 days or a month to heal up? Who mans short in the interim, an Alberto Gonzalez/Wilson Betemit tag team? They’d probably have been just as shitty, if not shittier, than the hobbled Jeter was.

      It’s not like we had another starting caliber shortstop just sitting on the bench to swap in for Jeter. We’re even positing that Jeter playing through it exacerbated or prolonged the affects of the injury, which is also not a safe assumption.

  3. brockdc says:

    Moving him off SS is a quandary because his bat won’t play nearly as well at either of the corner outfield slots. CF won’t be ideal either, since I’d imagine he won’t be moved from short for another two seasons or so. My guess is that, by that point, he’d make a below-average defensive centerfielder. I could see second as a viable possibility, if they deal Cano at some point.

    For me, the real question is whether he will even be a productive major league hitter in another couple of years, regardless of position. And by productive, I mean league average.

  4. brockdc says:

    And by league average, I’m referring to him as a shortstop, not an outfielder.

  5. ODannyBoy16 says:

    Not for at least two years. The highest rated internal shortstop prospect is Carmen Angelini and the authors of this blog are very high on him, but he just finished up his first season in the Sally League, and although he has a lot of talent, he didn’t have a good year at the dish – .236/.302/.295.

    It’s a fascinating question – I honestly can’t see Jeter volunteering to move off of SS, even though I’m sure we’ve all read Bill James’ opinion that he is the least effective defensive player in baseball. Something should really be done about this, as a better infield defense will make the pitchers we have look much better than they did this past year.

    An even trickier issue is when he does finally move to first or left, how will his financial value change? I think it’s a fairly common view that Jeter has entered the declining stage of his career, and if he hasn’t, it’s right around the corner. You can easily make the argument that he’s worth every penny of his $20 million salary in 2009 because of the offensive production he melds with the shortstop position. But imagine for a second – Jeter’s 2010 or 2011 stats while playing left field, and now try to picture him asking for another big contract.

    I have no doubt he’ll be a Yankee til the day he retires, but there is gonna be quite the to-do about his worth of his production.

    • Hitman says:

      For his sake and the sake of the yankees Jeter should move to third asap. He might actually turn out to be a better defensive third baseman and it’ll probably prolong his career if he can continue to hit .300. The very thought of him continuing at SS makes me ill. Jeter really should have taken over Bernie’s CF job many years ago. I think with his athletism he would have been a potential gold glover out there.

      • TurnTwo says:

        i think you forget there is somone else already playing that position, and he’s not bad.

      • Chris C. says:

        Jeter moving to 3rd is ridiculous.
        The guy doesn’t even have the reaction time to make a play to his left at SS, so how the heck is he going to get something that is smoked to his left at 3rd base??

        That move will be a disaster. Not to mention, more than a few coaches have mentioned that AROD has grown into an excellent 3rd baseman, and may have sized himself out of the SS position.

        • True and true.

          Jeter moving to 1B or DH is silly, those are positions we should be reserving for truly less-athletic power batting guys who drive in runs, not Jeter who merely gets on and scores runs (and is still fairly athletic, overall).

          Jeter moving to 2B or 3B is ludicrous, it solves nothing. Jeter’s problem is lateral quickness, range and arm accuracy, and those are requirement of all infielders.

          It’s the outfield or nothing.

          (or catcher).

        • Hitman says:

          Reaction time is not Jeter’s problem. Playing shortstop well simply takes a skillset Jeter never really had all that much of. You try him out at third and see what happens and move Arod to short.

  6. Chris says:

    I don’t really understand all of the talk that he will need to move off SS sometime soon. It’s not like he was an elite SS who has started to suffer a severe decline. His defense now is about the same as it has been – if this is too bad to play SS, then he should have been moved a long time ago.

    He might start a decline in the future, but at this point the when and how bad of that is still just speculation. It’s possible that he maintains his current defensive production for years to come.

  7. ortforshort says:

    Jeter is still a great shortstop. All this Jeter-bashing stems from highly questionable fielding stats. Somewhere along the line, you might actually try believing what you see instead of fielding stats, which on their best day are to be taken with lots of grains of salt. As far as what went wrong. Cashman, in an effort to save pennies, stuck Girardi with Betemit or Gonzalez as shortstop replacements. Huge dropoffs from the future Hall of Famer playing the position. If you want to be a contender and, especially, if you want to be a contender with an aging team, then you better invest in high quality reserves, not the schlocks that Cashman foisted on Girardi this year.

    • Tim says:

      Just out of curiosity, who would you have like to see as a backup? I agree that Jeter is a future hall of famer and I am not sure who was available as a reserve that would not have left the Yanks with a huge drop off at the plate.

    • Joseph P. says:

      Since Mike isn’t around right now, I’ll ask. Name three better utility infielders than Betemit.

    • Ben K. says:

      It’s not “bashing” per se. We’re just questioning if Jeter’s presence at short is right for the team. For all the talk about the problems of the team, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Derek Jeter and his fielding.

      To address your other issue, I think you’re overstating the role of a backup. If someone is better than Wilson Betemit or Albert Gonzalez, that person will not be a backup on the Yankees. That person will be a starter on some other team. As a backup, Betemit’s fine and no one is urging the Yanks to install him as the starting short stop any time ever.

      • steve (different one) says:

        If someone is better than Wilson Betemit or Albert Gonzalez, that person will not be a backup on the Yankees.

        exactly.

        you have Betemit, who can hit fairly well and isn’t great defensively at SS, and you had A-Gon, who is a good defensive SS but can’t hit.

        if you are good defensively at SS and you can hit, you are called a “starter”.

    • Somewhere along the line, you might actually try believing what you see instead of fielding stats, which on their best day are to be taken with lots of grains of salt.

      Very true. Stats aren’t everything, you should supplement them with your eyes.

      The stats tell me Jeter’s not a very good fielding shortstop. My eyes ALSO tell me that Jeter’s not a very good fielding shortstop.

      (FWIW, my brain synthesized what my eyes tell me about shortstops and centerfielders in general and about Jeter in particular and tells me he’d probably be a pretty good centerfielder.)

      • Bo says:

        Don’t you have to actually be able to play SS to be considered a good UTL INF??

      • Chris C. says:

        Good post. However, Jeter is not killing the Yankees at SS. This is being way overblown. His instincts for the position are still excellent. You can certainly live with him there for another 2-3 years.

        I think the Yankees have about 50 other issues to resolve before you get to Jeter being a problem at SS.

    • steve (different one) says:

      Cashman, in an effort to save pennies, stuck Girardi with Betemit or Gonzalez as shortstop replacements.

      this is beyond stupid.

  8. Nick says:

    I think his bat will be fine for left field:

    “major league average for LF was .269/.343/.442 in 2008.”<-(grabbed from an earlier post)
    Jeter: .300/.363/.408

    About the same OPS, and higher in the OBP, which is more important.

    Question 1 is, can he play the outfield. I think his athleticism will help, and he has always seemed to track popups from SS very well. However, that’s not the same thing as flyballs, and it could be ugly. He may end up being more like Knoblauch and Soriano in the OF than Yount.

    Question 2: Who is his replacement at SS? Must be either a defense or offensive upgrade, otherwise what’s the point. A-Rod would fit the bill, but then its who is A=Rod’s replacement at third? Would the White Sox give up Josh Fields or Joe Crede? Is sticking Betemit out there a net upgrade at all? I don’t think there are any prospects close to being ready to step in.

    Moving Jeter would not only create a whole in the IF, but also it would further crowd the OF situation. Even with assuming Abreu leaves, you would have Jeter, Damon, Matsui, and Nady in the OF, with Gardner and maybe even Melky or Ajax waiting in the wings. Maybe throw one into the DH/1B spot, and then sign either Tex or Manny, if possible.

    • Tim says:

      I do not think that moving A-Rod back to short is a good solution. It has been years since he played short and if I am not mistaken he is heavier now than he was then. Between age and weight it is hard to imagine that he is as quick as he once was.

      • TurnTwo says:

        moving ARod back to SS is a non-issue. It’ll never happen.

        My guess is Jeter stays at SS thru at least 2010… and that his replacement comes from outside the organization.

      • Nick says:

        Good point. If he is unable to play SS at an acceptable level anymore, then that makes finding a Jeter replacement that much harder. Who’s out there?
        Jack Wilson? a good glove, but a horrible bat.
        Betemit? a horrible glove, and a questionable bat.

        • Nick says:

          While moving A-rod might not happen, I mentioned it because I think it would be easier to find a replacement 3b than a replacement SS.

    • Yank Crank 20 says:

      A-Rod is about 30 pounds heavier than he was when he played shortstop. Look at a pic of him now compared to 2003 with Texas…he’s f’in huge and probably can’t move around at short as well as he used to.

    • Hitman says:

      Jeter is an outfielder/centerfielder forced to play short. He’ll very likely do better in the OF than he ever did as a SS.

      I’d move Arod to SS and put Betemit at third or heck I’d try Jeter at third.

  9. tom says:

    how about cano at ss?

  10. Tim says:

    I know that this is a popular topic and has been for the last few years, but I don’t understand what is fueling the “get Jeter off short” movement this year. As I understand it, and please correct me if I am wrong, Jeter played a better defensive short this year than the last couple. While I agree that there are some items of concern in his offensive line, it is still hard to say that Jeter had a bad offensive season for a shortstop – especially if you take out the 25 down games in May and June. I agree that Jeter will not play shortstop (or baseball) for ever but I do not understand the level of urgency to moving him immediately. The Yanks have much bigger problems this offseason.

    On a side note, how in the hell can the Yanks let it slide that two different Baltimore pitchers drilled the Captain in the hand during the same season throwing high and inside. To make it worse he was seriously injured in both incidents. I cannot believe that this does not become a retaliation/protection issue that must carry into next year.

    • beantownbosoxh8er says:

      It is how they pitch to Jeter , Im not so sure it was intentional but rather how the team (orioles) felt was the best way to pitch to Jeter …inside , he unfortunatly got hit.
      It happens again by the same pitcher or pitchers NOW there is a problem.

      • Tim says:

        I understand that the book on Jeter is that he dives over the plate and pitchers need to establish the inside part of the plate to be successful against him. However, I saw both the games where he got hit and those balls were not over the inside part of the plate. Those balls ran way inside the batters box. I am not suggesting that they were trying to hit him. What I am suggesting is that the Baltimore pitchers are far too comfortable throwing hard and inside at Jeter. If I recall properly, the pitch from Cabrera that hit him in May was a two-seam fastball. There is no reason to throw that pitch as a brush back pitch. I recall the pitch literally tailing into Jeter as he tried to spin out of the way. If he does not get some protection then I would expect Baltimore to use the same approach next year and end up drilling him again.

        • Count Zero says:

          I understand that the book on Jeter is that he dives over the plate and pitchers need to establish the inside part of the plate to be successful against him.

          I think you answered your own question. Any player whose hot zone is the outside part of the plate is generally leaning in that direction when the pitch is released, so it’s harder for him to do a 180 and get out of the way.

          Jeter averages 11 HBP per 162 games for his career — he got hit 9 times in 2008. The fact that 2 of those came from the Orioles (22%), a team we play 19 times (12%), isn’t really a notable trend?

          • Ben K. says:

            I have no problem with the fact that the Orioles hit him or that the Yanks don’t retaliate.

            Jeter hangs over the plate, he leans in, and D-Cabs can’t locate a pitch to save his life. It happens. I’m more concerned with Jeter’s tendencies to play through these rather bad injuries.

        • steve (different one) says:

          As I understand it, and please correct me if I am wrong, Jeter played a better defensive short this year than the last couple.

          no, you are absolutely correct.

          everyone in this thread is ignoring this fact.

          Girardi had him work on his positioning in the off-season and he was an average defensive SS this year.

          he was good enough to take a position shift completely off the table for 2009. we’ll see what happens in 2010.

          until then, not much point talking about it.

  11. KW says:

    I’m not sure the HBP affected him that much, from an OBP perspective. He just didnt walk all that much this year as compared to other years. Maybe other teams recognized that his power and bat speed were compromised and so made him hit the ball, but man, it sure looked like jeter didnt have much plate discipline this year. Was it just me?

  12. troy says:

    Sign Furcal, Jeter to 3B, Arod to 1B

    • Ben K. says:

      Why would you ever move the best defender off of the hot corner and replace him with arguably your weakest infield defender not named Jason Giambi? Move Jeter to first if you must, but keep A-Rod at third and don’t be fooled by Rafael Furcal’s 36 good games this year.

      • In the interests of have a fair and honest discussion, please sit silently and watch this filmstrip.

        Note: All player ages correspond to the listed year they’re actually hitting free agency, NOT their current ages.

        FA SS this offseason:
        Angel Berroa KCR 30
        Willie Bloomquist SEA 30
        Orlando Cabrera CWS 33
        Juan Castro CIN 36 (’09 Team Option)
        Alex Cintron CHC 29
        Alex Cora BOS 32
        Craig Counsell MIL 38 (’09 Team Option)
        Ramon E. Martinez LAD 35
        David Eckstein TOR 33
        Adam Everett MIN 31
        Rafael Furcal LAD 31
        Cristian Guzman WAS 30
        Felipe Lopez WAS 28
        Tomas Perez HOU 34
        Nick Punto MIN 30
        Edgar Renteria DET 33 (’09 Team Option)
        Juan Uribe CWS 29
        Omar Vizquel SFG 41 (’09 Team Option)
        Tomohiro Nioka Yomiuri Giants 32

        FA SS next offseason:
        Bobby Crosby OAK 29
        Alex Gonzalez CIN 32 (’10 Mutual Option)
        Khalil Greene SDP 29
        John McDonald TOR 35
        Ramon Santiago DET 30
        Miguel Tejada HOU 33
        Jack Wilson PIT 31 (’10 Team Option)

        FA SS Winter of 2010:
        Alfredo Amezaga FLA 32
        Clint Barmes COL 31
        Nick Green SEA 32
        J.J. Hardy MIL 28
        Maicer Izturis LAA 30
        Derek Jeter NYY 36
        Julio Lugo BOS 34 (’11 Team Option)
        Jhonny Peralta CLE 28 (’11 Team Option)
        Jose Reyes NYM 27 (’11 Team Option)
        Jimmy Rollins PHI 31 (’11 Team Option)

        FA SS Winter of 2011:
        Russ Adams TOR 31
        Jason Bartlett TBR 31
        Yuniesky Betancourt SEA 30(’12 Team Option)
        Ronny Cedeno CHC 28
        Cesar Crespo BAL 32
        Carlos Guillen DET 36
        Mike Morse SEA 29
        Ray Olmedo PHI 30

        • steve (different one) says:

          i bet Khalil Green could be had cheaply in a trade. he had a bad year this year and the Padres were pissed when he hurt himself ala Kevin Brown (i think).

          he could be a good buy-low opportunity if the Yankees were looking to move Jeter this year. but they aren’t.

          • What I more had in mind with this lists is looking at what our options would be after this 2009 season, when we’d likely want to do the move. Jeter is improving and should stay at short all of this coming year, but in 2010, when Damon and Matsui (and possibly Nady) all disappear, it’s the perfect time to move him to the outfield. So, we could either sign a winter of ’09 free agent, or target one of the players entering his walk year (winter of ’10 free agents) in a trade.

            Greene is intriguing, but if he has a bounceback season, the Padres would likely keep him. Bobby Crosby is the only other semi-appealing free agent, and he just doesn’t hit anymore.

            Perhaps trying to swing a trade for Maicer Izturis? The glove is good, bat’s decent (high 80’s OPS+), and they’re pushing him out to make room for Erick Aybar. Price shouldn’t be too high…

            Clint Barmes is intriguing; the Rockies may sell on him like they were with Holliday (figuring he’ll price himself out of their market) but without the Holliday prospect price tag…

            Or, aim bigger and go for Jhonny Peralta?

            • Old Ranger says:

              Or, aim bigger and go for Jhonny Peralta?

              I like that line…high quality=high price tag, but it may be worth it. 27/09.

  13. Old Ranger says:

    Who says Jeter will stick around if they say he has to move at the end of this contract?
    When this topic was last posted, I floated the thought, he may retire rather than move. I do so again; he may retire rather then move. I think it would be a very good move on his part…go out on top. One draw back to that is, he may want to get to 3500/4000 hits.
    For the time being (until his contract is up) he stays at SS. Using your eyes and stats, Jeters’ (D) is avg., at SS…as stated above. His contract is up in 2010, isn’t it? 27/09.

  14. ViaSistina says:

    I love the obsession with trading Cano. The truth of the matter is, fellow Yankee fans, is that there are only 3-4 players on this whole team with ANY trade value. A-rod of course, followed by Cano, Hughes and Nady Ok, you got Jeter and Rivera, but what would someone really give you for 34 year old Jeter? Posada? Damon? After that you’re trading scrubs for subs? Would someone really trade for Giambi? There’s a couple of parts in the bulllpen that might get some interest but your not getting David Wright or Thiggens for them.

  15. Beau says:

    I know I will sound like the biggest cheese ball of them all. I know Jeter’s actual physical limitations at short are evident, but the man has saved games and made the highlights with his instincts. I seem to remember falling into the stands against Boston and the shovel pass to the plate against Oakland. He also makes good throws jumping deep in the hole. I can’t bear to see Jeter leave short, unless he gets too old and just can’t do it anymore. Everyone, including Yankee fans take for granted his gold gloves. I know it’s easy to say that he got them out of respect for being a great team leader and motivator. I think it still means something. This may not sound like a realistic post, but I say keep him there until he proves he is just not the same fielder.

    • ODannyBoy16 says:

      I’m sorry my man, but it’s just not a realistic post.

      There is no question but that Jeter (at least earlier this decade) was a terrible shortstop. A great player, but a ridiculously ineffective defender. Every single statistical method I’ve ever seen backs up this conclusion, and before I’m denounced as a stathead, which is an insult for whatever reason, what John Dewan does for a living is hardly statistical analysis – he looks at every ball put in play all season, every vector, every velocity, and makes a very detailed analysis based on OBSERVATION. I’m not saying I believe method X or method Y individually, but when all the methods point the same way, it’s foolish not to take note.

      The thing I’m most interested in is that there are a couple of you who have claimed that Jeter is in fact, made big improvement over the last year or few years, that he is average at his position now. IF that is indeed the case, I have no desire to push him and have yet another guy play out of position, like Cano.

      But can I hear somebody’s case as to why he’s ‘average’ now? We’re not going to solve the debate over fielding stats here and now, but I need to hear someone’s evidence that he’s made the move from ‘worst SS in baseball’ to ‘average’.

  16. Adrian-Retire21 says:

    Jeter wrist isn’t to blame for he bad offense numbers.He just isn’t a great offense of guy.He can’t lead a team to the playoffs he just isn’t that good.And those hits he gets is a record for most bloop singles.

    • monkeypants says:

      You’re a fool. No one is going to confuse Jeter with Ruth or A-Rod, but he does have a career .458 SLG, 200+ HRs and 400+ 2B. That, my friend, is not a bloop singles hitter.

  17. monkeypants says:

    And as an additional note. Jeter’s offense was not “bad”. His OPS+ was 105–in other words, he was an above average hitter this year, compared to ALL hitters in the league, and yet he plays at a position with one of the lowest offensive expectations (P, C, and SS).

    The fact that Jeter was not his usual excellent self does not necessarily mean that he was “bad” this year. But it fits the current narrative to talk about how bad he is/was.

    Seriously, he was one of the top SS in the AL this season despite playing below his typical standards. You can look it up. So, for all those fans who want to move him, where are you going to replace the production at SS?

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