During the Yanks’ victory over the A’s yesterday, Michael Kay dropped an interesting, if largely meaningless, statistic. Derek Jeter is 13 for 23 when facing a pitcher for the fourth time in the game. His hit on Sunday against Dallas Braden gave the Yanks a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
For Jeter, the two-RBI hit capped off a weekend to remember. On Friday night, he passed Ted Williams on the all-time hit list. Following the weekend set against the A’s, Jeter now has 121 hits on the season and 2658 career hits. Three thousand, here he comes.
During the post-game show, the YES Network hosts were praising Jeter. On the month, he his now hitting .367 with 15 runs scored and 11 RBI. He has hits in 19 of this month’s 22 games, and he has taken to the lead-off spot as a moth does to a light. Quietly, confidently, Derek Jeter, at age 35, is having one of the best seasons of his career.
On the season, Jeter is hitting .321 — a full .005 points above his career average — with a .398 OBP and a .457 slugging. While the slugging mark is in line with his career average, his OBP is well above his career .387 mark. He’s on pace for 19 home runs and 31 stolen bases.
Defensively, he has shown marked improvement as well. While his numbers aren’t as gaudy as they were in June, his UZR is a positive 1.8 and his UZR/150 is 4.5. For his career, those marks are at -38 and -5.5 respectively. If a 35-year-old short stop known more his bat than his glove can improve, Jeter is doing so.
During the TV broadcast, Michael Kay and Paul O’Neill were talking about Derek Jeter’s MVP-like campaign this year. In 2006, Jeter should have won the MVP when he hit .343/.417/.483. While Mark Teixeira has been an utter beast at the plate, Jeter in the leadoff spot has been a revelation for the Yanks. He’s hitting as well as he ever has, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
At some point, we’ll start to have some very serious discussions about Jeter’s future. He is after all making over $20 million and nearly playing to his salary this season, but he’s a free agent after next year. The Yankees are going to have to figure out how much to offer a 36-year-old who has been the face of the franchise since 1996. It is not a decision for which I envy the Steinbrenners and Cashman.
For now, though, we should just sit back and watch a master professional at work. At various points in his Yankee career, Jeter has been either underrated or overrated. No matter everyone else’s opinion, Jeter has just always been there, and this year, he’s doing it at a high level. To that, we offer up a tip of the cap to the Yankee captain. Keep it up, DJ.