After not hitting lower than .291 in his entire Major League Baseball career, last season, Derek Jeter hit .270 and slugged just .370. The slugging percentage was also the lowest of his career. And even though he won his 5th Gold Glove in 2010, his decline in range at shortstop over the last few years is very apparent. As of this writing, Jeter is currently hitting .206 with just one extra base hit in the first nine games of the season.
In most cases, you would just write it off as a great player having a slow start. Jeter will be 37 later this summer and in this supposed non-steroid era (though I don’t believe players are all of a sudden angels), the upper 30s isn’t usually kind to athletes. However, Jeter has kept himself in really good shape and as recently as 2009, hit .334. I was ready to give him the slow start pass.
According to the post, Jeter’s start may not be something to simply pass off as bad luck.
Although he’s 67 hits shy of 3,000, the data suggests it will take a while to reach that milestone. One reason is due to Jeter’s struggles against right-handed pitchers. After hitting .311 against right-handers in 2009, that average dropped to .246 last season. So far in 2011, Jeter’s hitting .154 against righties.
If you don’t know why that’s important, note that the majority of Jeter’s at-bats will come against right-handed pitching.
And, when Jeter’s at-bats end in fastballs, the results have not been pretty.
Meaning, when the outcome of Jeter’s at-bat is determined on a fastball, the results are really bad. Major league hitters make a living hitting fastballs. You don’t really hear about guys who are great curveball hitters. Pitchers throw fastballs and if they make a mistake with it, good hitters dominate those fastballs.
For Jeter to be making so many outs on fastballs tells me that his bat speed has slowed down, and maybe to a halt. If this continues, catchers will set up on the inside and pitchers will hammer him with fastballs and then if necessary, throw soft stuff away. If he has any fears of getting around on fastballs, he will have to adjust, which suggests to me that his power numbers will probably suffer as well.
There are other things Derek Jeter can do on the baseball field and in the clubhouse. He’s a career winner and understands how to play at a high level in big situations. But it’s simple. Players get old and when they get old, their skills diminish. Jeter may be able to remake himself to account for what looks to be a slow bat, but more than likely, his skills will continue to regress.
My un-expert opinion is that his 2011 season will look more like 2010 than 2009.
Photo of Derek Jeter via Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license