Jeter’s advantage in the young season

Yanks showing patience & contact skills early on
Game Five: Starting A Streak
Four! Four hits against a lefty. Ah ha ha ha. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Sometimes an unexpected break can be just what we need. For Derek Jeter, last year’s trip to the disabled list, which he had not visited since 2003, provided just such a break. It allowed him to step back and refocus his efforts after a .260/.324/.324 start to the season. Whatever he changed, mentally and physically, turned around his season. In his 314 PA after returning he hit .331/.384/.447, which closely resembled his superb 2009 season.

Jeter’s changes appear to have lasting effects. In spring training he hit .318/.362/.455, and is now off to a hot start in the 2012 season. After a 4 for 4 performance last night he’s now 7 for 17 on the season (.412) with a walk and a double. Because he’s Derek Jeter, the 4 for 4 performance caused people to say some ridiculous things, but that’s understandable. It’s hard not to be excited about an apparently resurgent Jeter.

That Jeter has gotten off to such a hot start comes with little surprise. In their four games this year, the Yankees have faced two lefty starters, against whom Jeter excels. Against these left-handed pitchers Jeter has picked up five of his seven hits. Last year following his injury Jeter faced a left-handed pitcher 89 times and hit .390/.438/.622, smacking four of his six home runs in that sample. Even in 2010, when he struggled more than ever previously in his career, he hit .321/.391/.481 against lefties, a 135 sOPS+ (that is, compared to the league vs. left-handed pitching).

Jeter’s prowess against left-handed pitching is no revelation; he’s smacked them around far worse than righties in every year of his career except for 1999 (his surge against righties fueled his career-best season). But in recent years he has beat them up to a disproportionate degree: in his last three seasons he has the tree highest tOPS+* figures of his career. That is, his use of left-handed pitching as batting practice has essentially kept his career afloat as he has aged. This is especially true in the last two years, when he produced solidly below-average numbers against right-handed pitching (81 and 94 sOPS+).

*tOPS+ is his split compared to his overall numbers, so it compares the player to himself, while sOPS+ compares him to the league. Also, adding to that asterisk, Jeter did produced a 132 tOPS+ vs. lefties in 2000, which ties his 2009 mark. Close enough.

Tonight Jeter gets another chance, as the Yankees face Orioles’ lefty Wei-Yin Chen. After that, C.J. Wilson will take the mound against the Yankees this weekend. Francsico Liriano will be in town with the Twins next week. When the Yanks head up to Boston it might line up so they face Jon Lester and Felix Doubront. The Rangers have both Matt Harrison and Derek Holland. Among their most common opponents, the Orioles have two lefty starters, as do the Red Sox and the Rays. Only the Blue Jays are left with a single lefty in their rotation. All of this will play to Jeter’s advantage this year.

We so often see players, and especially middle infielders, start to fade by the time they’re Derek Jeter’s age. In many ways, Jeter himself has been in decline as a ballplayer. He’s kept himself afloat, though, and a big part of the reason is his ability to pick up the ball from left-handed pitching. May this skill fuel his career from now through the end of his current contract — and perhaps beyond.

Yanks showing patience & contact skills early on
Game Five: Starting A Streak
  • fin

    It definately seems like he figured somthing out. Its 3 years away, which is a long time for a 37yr old, but I could see a scenario where Jeter plays for another team or two. I think its clear that in 3 years Jeter will no longer be able to play ss for the Yankees, probably before then. With Arod seemingly destined to move in to the DH spot permanantely sometime around then and most positions on the Yankees being filled with premium players, there is a very good chance there is no where for a 40yr old Jeter on the Yankees. If he can still hit he would have plenty of opportunities for other teams as a DH/leftfielder, possibly even second base.

    • Dropped Third

      If Cano leaves via free agency and no long term replacement is found, I wonder if the yanks would move Jeter to 2nd and find a S.S instead.

      • fin

        I thought about that. It seems to me by the time Cano left for FA, Jeter’s range at 2B would be a similar liability as it is at ss. It doesnt seem to be out of the question though for a couple of years. I cant see him playing 2nd at the ages of 40+ though.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    It’s nice to see Jeter hiting the ball well.

    It’s hard to watch a superstar athlete become mortal right before your eyes which is one reason why I wouldn’t be too sad to see Mariano hang it up after this season.

    • jjyank

      Yeah I’m inclined to agree. I love Mo, he’s my favorite active pitcher easily. But I would love to see him go out on top like Moose did rather than play until the league hits him so far he is forced to retire. It sucks, and as a fan that grew up in the 90’s, I would cry a little bit inside when Mo retires, but it might kill me even more to see the league have their way with an ineffective Mo.

      • Manny’s BanWagon

        He’s been so great that I agree, I’d rather see him leave a year too soon than see him get beat around by staying a year too long. I think leaving on top just adds to the legend.

  • Chien Ming’s Wang

    Lol f’ing Kruk…I remember when Randy Johnson came to NY, Kruk predicted he’d win 30 games..we all know how that turned out. Lol Kruk no more Yankee predictions

    • handtius

      too much lol

    • Robinson Tilapia

      What did Kruk say?

      Kruk can’t even predict how many sandwiches he’s about to eat.

      • Johnny

        He said on Baseball Tonight that Jeter would hit .400 this season, and went on repeating it as if he was serious.

        • Cris Pengiucci

          We’d all love to see that, but, yeah, not happening. Anything over .300 would be fantastic (with just a bit of power thrown in for good measure).

        • Dummies Playing With Balls (formerly Rainbow Connection)

          Typical. F’ing mainstream media shitting on the Yanks yet again! Victims!


          RAB meme destroyed

          • Robinson Tilapia

            I missed that meme.

            Everyone thinks the media’s against their team, except for Royals fans. They just correctly assume no one gives a rat’s ass.

            Apologies to any Royals fans on here.

      • Jesse

        He said that Jeter could hit .400. It’s the link in the story that says “… say some ridiculous things”, in case you missed it.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Oh my.

  • Johnny

    How completely effed up would it be if Jeter actually hit .400? Or anybody for that matter? I’d straight up refuse to believe it. I’d think I’m in a coma and trapped in some different reality or something. (Ted Williams, greatest hitter of all time.)

    • JobaWockeeZ

      *almost the greatest hitter of all time.

    • flamingo

      Ain’t gonna happen, but it would be nice to have a Yankee hitter with the highest BA in baseball history (meaningless as you may find the stat).

    • fin

      Yea, I’m not sure we will ever see anyone hit .400 again, let alone a 37yr old. It would be freakin awesome if it happend though. I remember in Jeters younger years, he was always mentioned as a possible .400 hitter because of his inside out swing and lack of prolonged slumps.

  • Cris Pengiucci

    We so often see players, and especially middle infielders, start to fade long retired by the time they’re Derek Jeter’s age.


  • Pogo Pete

    Shouldn’t the Yankees give Jeter his required rest days against RHP? I don’t understand this DH stuff against LHP since it means benching Gardner. Instead they should just give Jeter a full day off (when needed) against RHP’s only.

    • Steve (different one)

      Because his replacement in the field is also right handed. DHing him against LHP makes it so putting Nunez in hurts you less. And Gardner can’t really hit lefties, at least not yet. And to Girardi’s credit, he has said that he won’t sit Gardner against every LHP.

      It’s a fairly reasonable system he has, provided Nunez develops some consistency in the field. Which is a big “provided”, of course.

      • Jerkface

        Gardner On bases the same vs LHP as he does vs RHP pretty much, so he is still valuable against lefties, not to mention his defense plays anywhere.

        Nunez is worse than Gardner vs lefties or righties, and he doesn’t have a huge platoon split OBP wise.

    • Ted Nelson

      As mentioned above, Nunez is expected to have a large platoon split himself.

      A lot of people discount “half days off,” but getting into your defensive stance for 150-200 pitches or whatever every game alone is probably more than 1/2 the wear a player gets in a game. Getting up there 5 times to maybe swing a few times and occasionally run seems like less than 1/2 the wear to me. Granted, swings, fouling balls off yourself, HBP, baserunning injuries, etc. do add up and can cause acute injuries.

      • Jerkface

        Nunez does not have a huge platoon split. Infact he keeps his OBP pretty even (and shitty) against both sides. He gets more power against lefties though. He is worse than Gardner still, but atleast vs righties he has the chance to be as good or better than Jeter.

        It makes little sense to take a net loss (replacing gardner with nunez) vs lefties than it would be to take a marginal loss or a marginal positive by replacing Jeter vs righties with nunez.

        And if Nunez is going to be their SS of the future he needs to hit both sides anyways.

      • fin

        I agree Ted. That half days off are valuable. I think its playing the field that wears players out and where they get their nagging injuries. Worn out players and players with nagging injuries then get hurt or suffer a decline in performance. Most injuries may occur while running the bases but the foundation of the injury may have been laid earlier.

        I personally like the Yankees proactive approach to resting Jeter and Arod. Why wait until they are tired to rest them, why not just keep them as fresh and injury free as possible the whole season. It also allows them to get into a routine and know what to expect right from the start of the season.

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    man, 4,000 hits would be superb…

    • Dropped Third

      Look out Mr.Rose!

      • Steve (different one)

        Wanna bet on it?

  • JoeyA

    Does the fact that Texeira is regressing into a platoon 1B concern anyboyd but myself?

    The guy can barely hit LHed, pops everything up. I loved him when we first got him, but he’s looking worse and worse every season at the plate.

    I know this team has more pressing issues at this point, but let’s not less this issue fly under the radar.

    • Ted Nelson

      This is far, far, far from flying under the radar. It’s got to be one of the most common topics on here. What do you want to do about it, though? Teixiera fully acknowledged the problem this off-season and said he’s working on it. All we can do is wait and see. Guy is a notoriously slow starter who has done far better in his 12 PAs against RHP this season than in his 6 PAs against LHP. He has a 2B in 8 ABs with 4 BBs against RHP (.667 OPS), compared to a single in 6 ABs with 0 BBs against LHP. It’s a ridiculously small sample, but he’s actually more successful against RHP.

  • Monterowasdinero

    Jeets at 37 with 3095 hits. I think he wants 4K+ for Cooperstown.

    • fin

      That would be great. He would have to stay a pretty damn good hitter and every day player through his age 43 season though to do it.

      • jsbrendog

        therein lies the rub

        mmmmmm, rub

      • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

        If he stays a very good healthy every day player (which I doubt) he may not need to wait until his age 43 season. I could see it in 5 seasons (age 42). Again though that assumes a very HIG level of productivity and very good health. The combo is doubtful!

        • fin

          I think you’re being way too optomistic. Averaging 150-160 hits through his age 37-43 seasons, when you take into account the amt of games he can or will be given the opportunity to play seems like a very big stretch. Averaging 181 hits through his age 42 season seems pretty much impossible.

    • Havok9120

      I really don’t think he cares. Johnny Damon he ain’t. And even if I’m wrong about that, I think he’s pretty secure in his legacy.

      • flamingo

        And I think he’s said before that he doesn’t want to play if he considers himself ineffective or a liability to the team… so odds are he won’t be around long enough to collect 4k.

        • fin

          Saying that and actually knowing when your time has come are two different things entirely. When he feels he is ineffective and when the team does, very well not go hand in hand.

          He also may still be a an effective hitter or part time player but no longer a 140 game a year guy. THere is alot of gray area between what he has been and ineffective/liability. I’m sure when guys are in that grey area they think its temporary and they will get hot and improve. Its usually teams that end up letting players know when they are done. Who knows if Jeter goes out on top, on his own or baseball ends up deciding that for him.

  • Jerkface

    Jeter is hitting .200 vs RHP and .700 vs LHP so far. Seems like the same Jeter from the last few seasons.

  • fore

    The caption didn’t make sense at first. Then i realized the author probably intended to write ‘fore,’ as in the exclamation used in golf. Not four, the number.

    • Spiff

      I believe he meant for you to read the caption in the Count’s voice from Sesame Street. Hence the Transylvanian laughing after it.

  • Mike HC

    I was watching Baseball tonight when Kruk said that, and it was completely a joke. Not serious at all.