Oct
24

What Went Right: Derek Jeter

By

Over the next few weeks we’re going to spend some time reviewing the entire 2012 season, which featured another division title and unfortunately another disappointing playoff exit.

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Thirty-eight-year-old shortstops are not supposed to lead the league in hits. Heck, they aren’t even supposed to be good. It’s a physically demanding position and by the time a player starts to approach 40, they usually just can’t handle it anymore. It’s a young man’s position. Coming into the 2012 season, exactly two players in baseball history age 38 or older managed to qualify for the batting title while playing at least 75% of their games at short and still be above-average offensively…

Player OPS+ Year Age Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB BA OBP SLG OPS
Honus Wagner 144 1912 38 PIT 145 634 91 181 35 20 7 59 38 26 .324 .395 .496 .891
Luke Appling 126 1947 40 CHW 139 573 67 154 29 0 8 64 28 8 .306 .386 .412 .797
Honus Wagner 126 1915 41 PIT 156 625 68 155 32 17 6 39 64 22 .274 .325 .422 .747
Luke Appling 125 1949 42 CHW 142 619 82 148 21 5 5 121 24 7 .301 .439 .394 .833
Honus Wagner 121 1916 42 PIT 123 484 45 124 15 9 1 34 36 11 .287 .350 .370 .721
Luke Appling 117 1946 39 CHW 149 659 59 180 27 5 1 71 41 6 .309 .384 .378 .762
Honus Wagner 113 1913 39 PIT 114 454 51 124 18 4 3 26 40 21 .300 .349 .385 .734
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/23/2012.

Hall of Famer Honus Wagner did it four times and Hall of Famer Luke Appling did it three times, all over 60 years ago. That’s it, that’s the list. In fact, prior to 2012, there were only 23 instances (involving just 12 players) in history of a 38-year-old qualifying for the batting title while playing primarily shortstop, regardless of offensive production. It’s an exclusive list, a list that Derek Jeter joined this season.

Jeter’s resurgence started with his calf injury in June of last season. He had hit just .267/.336/.357 from Opening Day 2010 until the date of the injury last summer, a span of 1,032 plate appearances. That’s not a small sample, and at his age, it was easy believe his Hall of Fame career was winding down. Jeter spent his rehab time working with organizational hitting coordinator Gary Denbo to iron out some mechanical issues, making adjustments that allowed him to hit .331/.384/.447 in 314 plate appearances after coming off the DL. It was the Jeter of old, not old Jeter.

That second half success carried right over into 2012. The Cap’n opened the season with a torrid April, going 37-for-95 (.389) in the team’s first 22 games. He peaked at .397/.439/.595 on May 6th and at the All-Star break it was still a robust .308/.354/.411. He started the Midsummer Classic in Kansas City not only because he’s one of the most popular players in the world, but because he absolutely deserved it based on his performance. Jeter picked up the pace after the break, going 10-for-27 (.370) in his first seven games back and hitting .325/.372/.449 in the second half overall.

(Elsa/Getty)

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Jeter’s season was his rebound against right-handed pitchers, who had given him a hard time the last two years and even after working with Denbo in the second half of last season. He didn’t for much power against same-side pitchers, but his .294/.346/.377 line against righties was far better than his .261/.321/.327 line against them from 2010-2011. Lefties had no chance — Jeter hit .364/.399/.542 against southpaws, a 157 wRC+ that ranked 19th in baseball. The guys ahead of him are mostly in-their-prime right-handed sluggers like Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp. The Cap’n absolutely punished lefties in 2012.

Derek finished the season with a .316/.362/.429 batting line overall in an MLB-best 740 plate appearances. Not only did he perform, but he stayed in the lineup despite nursing a left ankle problem late in the season. Jeter led the league with 216 total hits, eleven more than the second place Miguel Cabrera. Those 216 hits were just three shy of his career-high set way back in 1999, and it also set a record for the most hits by a player in his age 38 season, surpassing Pete Rose in 1979 (208). Only Paul Molitor (225 hits at age 39 in 1996) has had more hits in a season that age or older throughout baseball history.

Along the way, Jeter climbed from 21st on the all-time hit list to 11th, passing all-time greats like Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount, George Brett, Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, and Willie Mays. Early next season, like the second or third series of the year, he should jump past Eddie Collins and into tenth place on the all-time hit list. A modest season gets him into the top-six at this time next year, but another great season will get him into the top-five all-time.

Jeter wasn’t the Yankees’ best hitter this year — Robinson Cano did hit .313/.379/.550, after all — but he was certainly their most reliable and consistent hitter. He was the guy everyone wanted to see at the plate in a big situation, and frankly I hadn’t felt that way about Derek since at least 2009, the last time he truly was a superstar-caliber hitter. That left ankle ended his season in Game One of the ALCS, a sour ending to an otherwise spectacular season. Great players do things other players can not do, which is why Jeter became the first full-time shortstop in more than 60 years to be an above-average hitter at age 38.

Categories : Players
  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…(I believe that children are our future)

    So right until the broken ankle :(

    • 0 for infinity and beyond

      He’s so awesome that he looked cool walking off the field after the injury.

      • Davud

        Don’t sell Jetes short, I’m sure it was more of a jogging action off the field…

  • Cris Pengiucci

    A pleasure to see such great things still being written about my favorite Yankee. Loved Munson and Mattingly (even had a boy crush on Stick Michael before I understood that just because he was a Yankee, that didn’t make him great), but they had far shorter careers and periods of greatness. Hope he continues performing well until he retires.

  • Yankee Fan 1

    3 games without him in the ALCS and the yankees just didn’t feel like the yankees. It’s going to be real weird when he finally retires.

    • MannyGeee (Eddard’s Big left handed hairy monster)

      in all honesty, even with him in the lineup, it didn’t feel like the Yankees. you know, the non-hitting thing.

      • 0 for infinity and beyond

        Plus no Mo in the pen.

    • TomH

      Yes, it will be weird, as it was in 1952 when Dimag went, and as it was in 1968 (for me) when Mantle went. As it must have been when Ruth, then Gehrig went.

      They need another HOFer in their pipeline.

      Is number 6 taken?

      • 0 for infinity and beyond

        Torre has it but i’m sure he would trade it for a nice cup of tea and the rights to Scott Proctor

    • Mike HC

      I’m not looking forward to it.

  • Eddard

    Derek Jeter will be the first player to go into the Hall of Fame with 100% of the vote. And as soon as he’s in I expect the other inductees to nominate him HOF Captain. As soon as the Captain went down this team was done because not one other player stood up and claimed that leadership role. Not ARod, not Cano, not Teixera.

    • MannyGeee (Eddard’s Big left handed hairy monster)

      but…. you told us they were done, like, some time in August. Something about no grit and a lack of Kozma. Or something

    • nsalem

      9 writers did not vote for Hank Aaron. 4 writers did not vote for Ty Cobb. 11 writers did not vote for Babe Ruth. Over 20 writers did not vote for Willie Mays and Ted Williams on the first ballot. They all had better careers. You can also consider that there is a lot of anti New York sentiment that has been shown by baseball writers across the country. What makes you think Derek will get 100%

    • Mike HC

      Glossing over the fact 75% of your comments are tongue in cheek (“I expect the other inductees to nominate him HOF Captain”), I’m not a big HOF follower at all, but how could Jeter not get 100% of the vote? What could be a voters excuse for not voting him in first ballet?

      • nsalem

        What were there excuses for not voting for every other superstar who ever played the game. I have also heard that he is not that good of a dancer.

        • Mike HC

          I’m just saying, even if he won’t get 100%, he should, and possibly has a good a shot as any to finally be the first one.

          • nsalem

            I absolutely agree with you. However it has never been done before. I have no idea why this happens. I know that Tom Seaver came the closest and there was the belief about 20 years back that he would be the first unanimous candidate. He had the highest percentage but 5 writers did not vote for him. Derek has impeccable character and is well loved throughout the game. There is a chance it may happen but I don’t think so. My guess is there would be a couple of writers who believe that since he is not the greatest player ever he shouldn’t be the first to get in that way. I hope he does and I’m wrong. Perhaps if A-Rod or Barry Bonds had Derek’s intangible attribute they might have had a shot at it.

            • KeithK

              Some writers could drop him off the ballot because they think he’s been over-rated through his career and want to make a statement. Or some writers may just be Yankee-haters. But the other reason is that the HoF ballot may be quite crowded when he becomes eligible. What if a voter thinks that there are 11 or 12 guys on the ballot who deserve his vote? I could see a guy skipping Jeter in favor of the 11th guy on his list, knowing that Derek will easily get to the necessary 75%.

              When all is said and done I don’t give a damn how many votes a guy gets above the 75% bar. The only thing that matters is whether he is elected or not. And I am absolutely positive that Derek Jeter will be elected.

              • nsalem

                Then there will be some sportswriter that will use the rational that he wasn’t even the best shortstop on his team since 2004. No matter like you say he will get in on the first ballot most likely with a near unanimous vote.

    • RetroRob

      Let’s arrange a bet.

  • Kingslayer

    I would love to see Gary Denbo be Yankees hitting coach. He did a tremendous job with Jeter in 2011, and no one really gave him much credit for it.

    • Francesa

      Denbo? The man who was fired as hitting coach after the Yankees batted .183 in the 2001 World Series? That Denbo?

      • Kingslayer

        What did the Yankees hit in 2011 and 2012 playoffs with Kevin Long Jackoff???

        • Steve (different one)

          In 2011 they hit .260/.350/.399

          The tigers hit .228/.311/.380

    • Steve (different one)

      Yes, Long should be let go because the Yankees scored 13 runs in their last 7 games and replace him with Denbo, who was replaced in 2001 after the Yankees scored 14 runs over their last 7 games…

    • RetroRob

      Hitting coaches don’t hit.

  • 0 for infinity and beyond

    In my opinion, he is the greatest ball player I will ever see in my life. A True Yankee Legend.

  • jjyank

    A tip of the cap to the Captain. It’s been really special watching him break records and pass such iconic names.

  • VaYankeeFan

    What a rare treat it has been to watch Jeter over his GREAT Yankee career! I just hope that Jeter, Mo & Andy can return next season and bring us more special moments!

  • Rich in NJ

    Given how bad he was for so long, I seriously doubt that his resurgence was foreseeable to anyone, and certainly not to me.

  • The Moral Majority is Neither

    Any good data on Jeter’s defense this year? He was factor whipping boy a few years ago but haven’t read anything either way lately (which I’ve assumed is good since most non-Yankee fans like to poke holes in his game).

    Given his age and this ankle injury, would a move to 3B help him and/or the team?

    • thenamestsam

      Nope, he’s still a train wreck no matter what system you prefer.

      -15 UZR this year, -9 average the last 3 years.
      -14 TZ this year, -8 average the last 3 years.

      And most tellingly (since there’s compelling evidence that the stringer-based systems like those above have overrated Jeter’s fielding his whole career):

      -6 FRAA this year, -10 average the last 3 years.

      Derek is still a god-awful fielder. I think the reason you don’t hear about it as much anymore is because he’s no longer winning gold gloves and having baseball insiders laud his defense.

      From my perspective it’s shocking how noticeable the difference in range between him and Nunez is. Nunez got to 2 or 3 balls in the ALCS that made me think “Holy crap, I forgot that it was possible for a shortstop to field a grounder there.”

  • Austin Aunelowitzky

    That Derek Jeter just loves proving his critics wrong. This article was the turning point {He says on this blog for about the 20th time to intentionally belabor the point}
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06.....wanted=all

  • Mike HC

    My favorite athlete by far. Most definitely have been spoiled rotten by being able to watch Jeter everyday for the past 17 years. Here is to 17 more!

  • cr1

    Some of the players who did not get 100% back in the day had character issues. In the past those were not disclosed to the public but members of the media certainly knew and may have been influenced. Though he has been highly scrutinized, nothing shameful has turned up regarding Jeter, so character issues should lose him no votes.

    But there are still Yankee-haters among the press, and some of them will perhaps enjoy an opportunity to take the Empire down a notch.

  • Darren

    Jeter is one of the best players of all time.

  • KeithK

    I have enjoyed reading all the stories about how there have only been x number of good seasons by shortstops of Jeter’s age. Especially the ones six months ago that were trying to argue that Jeter would not be good this season. Yes, it’s highly unusual for a shortstop to hit at this venerable (in baseball terms) age. But Jeter has something in common with Appling and Wagner. They’re all some of the best shortstops of all time. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that their abilities are unusual.

    • Darren

      EXACTLY! At what point will people stop predicting what Jeter will do based on the past performance of run of the mill shortstops, or even merely great shortstops? He is a once in a generation player that has NO limits. His career highlights the utter failure of most SABRmatricicians to recognize when their analysis is useless.

      • Thunder Road Runner

        great point, thank you!

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…(I believe that children are our future)

    Btw the douche writers who don’t vote for him will also have accomplished their job #1: selling newspapers (er, page views) wherein they explain their douchey rationale for not voting for him.

  • Thunder Road Runner

    still need another option at SS next year!

  • FreeAgentSignee

    I agree Mike.
    Go Derek!