Numbers show a decline on Jeter’s range to his left

2010 Draft: Rumored Targets
Game 45: Finish what they started
Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

It’s unsurprising for anyone who has watched most of the season to date, but it appears that Derek Jeter has taken a step backwards defensively. Last year he made marked improvements, and the numbers confirmed what our eyes saw. This year we’ve seen him miss a number of plays, particularly those to his right. While the readily available defensive numbers don’t break down his defense that far, ESPN’s Mark Simon tracked down the specific left-right splits for Jeter.

In the winter of 2007-2008, Brian Cashman had a conversation with Jeter in which Cashman raised the issue of Jeter’s diminished defensive range. Jeter had not heard this from coaches or teammates, but made a commitment to improve. He started doing workouts that helped balance the typical workload of a baseball player. Because there are so many repetitive one-way movements — running the bases and swinging the bat — a player can become unbalanced. Jeter’s workouts strove to help him work both sides of his body.

It seemed to work. Not only did Jeter look better in the field starting in 2008, but the numbers reflected it. On Baseball Info Solutions’ +/- scale, Jeter rated just -1 to his left in 2008, and improved to +2 in 2009. This seemed to hamper his range to his right, usually his strong point, but even then he adjusted. After rating -18 in 2008, Jeter climbed to -3 in 2009. After another off-season of balanced workouts, we might have seen Jeter improve further, or at least negate the effects of age.

Instead we’ve seen him decline on balls to his left, on which he currently rates a -7. Again, this is no surprise to the faithful followers. Jeter has missed a number of balls, and has come close to missing a few more. I particularly remember a play in Detroit where it appeared he would smoothly scoop a grounder up the middle, but he hesitated at the last moment and had to make a spinning throw. On the good side, Jeter has been excellent on balls to his right, rating a +7.

At this point in his career, we can’t expect Jeter to become a top defensive shortstop. The balls up the middle are frustrating to watch, but it is reassuring to know that he’s at least making some plays that other shortstops have not. Still, it’s certainly going to affect his contract negotiations after this season. How much will Derek Jeter the shortstop cost compared to Derek Jeter the guy who will have to move off the position in a couple of years?

2010 Draft: Rumored Targets
Game 45: Finish what they started
  • Rebecca-Optimist Prime (Optimovelist Primus)

    Aren’t players supposed to have better years in walk years?

    • JGS

      I bet that’s a myth. Or if it’s true, it’s because a player’s contract year is usually his 6th or so year in the bigs, and experience + physical prime = better numbers

    • Mike HC

      It has certainly not been a good start of the year for Jeter. It is unmistakable that he has not made the plays up the middle. And he looks anything but graceful when he does make the plays.

      I’m hoping that there is a just a little World Series/getting engaged/his dad advising him to take it all in and enjoy the moment more, type of hangover going on here and he will whip it into shape for the stretch run and playoffs. I’m really thinking that is whats happening here.

      • Mike HC

        meant to be a fresh comment. my bad

  • Kyle Farnsworth

    Jeter has taken a step back in all areas of the game, it is not surprising to hear his defense is getting worse too.

    • mike c

      you sucked!

      • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

        you continue to sucked

    • poster

      Not the guy who should be making these claims…

  • Steve H

    Hopefully it’s just a slump both offensively and defensively. Not asking for Ozzie Smith, but something close to last years D would be nice.

  • JoeyH

    We always here how Cano has a Short Stop’s arm. Can we ever see they swap positions?

    • Pete

      unfortunately, range >>>>>> arm for middle infielders, and cano’s range is no better (possibly even worse) than Jete’s

      • JGS

        But Cano is going to win a gold glove one day!

        /dumb narrative’d

      • JoeyH

        Yeah I suppose so. Just a thought. I wouldn’t be that far in favor of doing it. It was a reckless statement.

    • Marcos

      A bunch of people/scouts said early in Cano’s career that he’d be better off playing 3rd base as his abilities project as a top 3rd baseman. But hey, the man can play a PRETTY darn good second base if you ask me, so why bother.

  • larryf

    Interesting that Alex plays so far off the bag and we give up alot of hits/doubles down the line. Is this to allow Derek to play further up the middle because the minds know his range is poor to his left? He has never been great at stopping grounders with a dive either. Oh Derek-what r we going to do with you this next contract?? That pic is great!

    • JMK’s Mystique and Aura

      I usually disagree with what you say, but frankly, I think you’re spot on. I’d bet that with Rodriguez now recovered from hip surgery, they can flank him further in the hole to shift Jeter toward second.

      It makes sense.

      They must figure they grab more balls with such an alignment, as more are hit between the hole at short and second than there are right down the line at third. Perhaps Alex isn’t as good going to his right anymore, so this helps minimize each player’s weakness instead of just Jeter’s?

      Just thinking aloud on the last point there. If anyone has range data on balls hit to either side, I’d love to see it.

  • Chris

    I don’t know that 1/3-1/2 of balls to SS over 1/3 of a season is a large enough sample size to draw real conclusions about Jeter’s defensive range to his left. Just a few misread balls, or the hesitation that you mention could be enough to throw off the numbers. His overall numbers are probably a better reflection of his actual talent, and they have stayed about average or slightly above average over the last 2+ seasons.

    As for moving Jeter off SS, I just don’t see it unless his overall defense significantly declines. All indicators suggest that his defense is still better than it was pre-2008, so there should be no added incentive to move him off SS.

  • A.D.

    Did Jeter do that same off-season training regiment?

  • Kevin M.

    Please no “past a diving Jeter” jokes. Jeter does not dive for ground balls. Ever.

    • Matt Imbrogno

      How about past a lunging Jeter?

  • Mike HC

    To be brutally honest, it looks like Jeter can barely get down low enough to field those grounders up the middle. Not a great sign there.

    • Matt Imbrogno

      Yeah, it seems like he’s in position to get a lot of stuff up the middle/to his left, but the ball just scoots under his glove.

  • Rose

    What do you call a slow roller to Jeter’s left?

    A single up the middle…

  • Michael Kay but not THE

    Isn’t he injured? I’m almost positive Francesa was rambling on & on about Jeter playing through an injury right now.

  • Hughesus Christo

    And his UZR/150 is… +4.9