Home > BASEBALL, CHANGE: > BASEBALL: Whither Derek Jeter?

BASEBALL: Whither Derek Jeter?

The N.Y. Yankees are not one of my many vices.  Indeed only the Miami Marlins, owned by the loathsome Jeffrey Loria, are more disliked among MLB teams by this author.

Derek Jeter is one of my favorite players, not only now, but of all of the 45 seasons I have been following MLB.

As great as my disinclination to root for the Yankees is I am rooting for Derek Jeter to return.

Derek Jeter’s recovery from the broken ankle suffered during the 2012 ALCS Game 1 against the Detroit Tigers is a primary concern to the Yankees for the 2013 season.  At 39  Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Rabbit Marranville,  Luke Appling and Luis Aparicio were playing regularly at shortstop.

(Luke Appling played 149 games at shortstop in 1946 at age 39 in hitting .309 just short of his .310 life average.  Luis Aparicio played 132 games at short for the 1973 Red sox, hitting .271.  Honus Wagner played 110 games at short in 1913; injury history unavailable, and hit a relatively paltry .300 as contrasted to his .328 life average.  Rabbit Marranville played 137 games at SS for the 1931 boston Braves and hit .260, very much in line witrh his .258 life BA.  Additionally, the recently retired Omar Vizquel played 153 games at short for the Giants hitting a lusty .295, 23 points higher than his life BA.  All paranthetical players data: BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM).

Offensively Jeter pounded 216 hits to lead 2012 MLB in that department bringing him up to 3304 for 11th. on the career hit list per BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM

The 11/30/2012 N.Y. POST featured Derek Jeter, sporting a walking boot, looking portly beneath a typically understated N.Y. POST headline blaring ‘DEREK EATER’.  On 12/4/2012 Jeter took to USA TODAY and posed looking svelte with MLB NETWORK host Harold Reynolds commenting that the N.Y. POST “…had a little fun with it…” and proclaimed himself ready for spring training.

Humor aside there has long been debate among fans regarding Jeter’s defensive worth.  While Jeter’s acrobatic jump throw from deep in the hole draws accolades, his Range Factors; putouts+assists-errors; calculated by games or actutal innings, are pedestrian.

Shortstop is not figure skating.  It isn’t what you look like but how often you do it.  Jeter brings to mind former N.Y. Giant quarterback Fran Tarkenton as Jeter can make the long throw from deep in the hole by lofting the ball.

This is because Jeter’s arm requires him to play close.  Watch closely when Yankee southpaws C.C. Sabbathia or Andy Pettitte are facing a righty power hitter.  Jeter will be playing about 1/2 of the way into the dirt.  Indeed when flatfooted Derek Jeter’s sidearm slot calls to mind Nomar Garciaparra’s just before the Red Sox dispatched Garciaparra to the Cubs.

Derek Jeter’s positioning stands in stark contrast to that employed by Cal Ripken.  At 6’4″ and 220 lbs. Ripken defied the stereotype of the scampering, spindly shortstop.  Indeed many fans, myself among them, wondered why a man who had the build of a 3rd baseman, Ripken’s original position on the Baltimore Orioles, was playing shortstop.  Ripken was able to excel at short by playing virtually every hitter on the grass.  This was enabled by his strong overhand throws.  Ripken charged virtually every ball and gloved the ball at the apex of the hop.  Thus the “cone” he covered per Craig Nettles in BALLS was quite wide.

While Jeter’s technique is efficient the results aren’t.  According to BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM Jeter’s Range Factor per 9 innings is 3.76 as opposed to a league average of 4.43.  This translates to 67 less hits per season!  Multiply by .30 for the run potential of a hit a net cost of -20 to -22 runs is computed.


If this statistic is a mere quirk it hasn’t stopped Jeter from earning Gold Gloves from 2004-2006 and 2009 and 2010 per BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM.

Having said that Derek Jeter probably doesn’t hurt the Yankees’ defense as much as naysayers claim.

Derek Jeter’s defense offers numerous rewards for the observant fan.  Jeter compensates for his lack of range towards 2nd. base through superior footwork.  With his left foot pointed towards 1st. and his right foot pointing towards home plate Jeter can accelerate to the left to cut off grounders right up the middle.  With his fundamentally sound glove-to-hand transfer he throws off his front foot with a “bow and arrow” throw that calls to mind Ozzie Smith.

Fielding statistics are intrinsically less trustworthy that hitting stats.  However as the Yankees have always had at least 2 lefties in the rotation to minimize the effect of both of the asymmetrical Yankee Stadiums this will result in the Yankees facing more righty hitters.

Theoretically Derek Jeter’s range factors should be at least average.

However, Jeter does the things that mitigate his weaknesses.  Watch Jeter on a hit to left field, especially when Brett Gardner is playing leftfield.  Jeter faces the outfield and runs flat out as far as possible into short left in order to minimize the length of the throw that the leftfielder must make  with a runner on 1st.  Jeter is facing 1st.  With a runner on 2nd Jeter is facing home,.  This works to lessen  the aggressive baserunning of the opposition.

Indeed aggressive baserunning is a foolhardy risk when Derek Jeter is manning his post.  The famous; at least if you are a Yankee fan, “flip” toss in Game 3 of the 2001 ALCS to erase Jeremy Giambi was surely one for ESPN highlights but typical of Jeter’s mindfulness.  Jeter was the 2nd. trailer backing up the throw.  Backing up a throw is largely a lost art nowadays and to back up the back up well…only a hyperthoughtful player such as Derek Jeter actually follows the manual.  This strategy has its root in the stratagems of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Branch Rickey.  N.Y. Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer served his apprenticeship in the Dodger system and was doubtless smiling at the play and not merely at the results.

As a member of SABR itr might seem perverse, if not sacrilegious, but Jeter makes the most of what he has defensively and at the least doesn’t hurt the Yankees.

The New York Yankees of 2013 face the uncertain futures of 4 Hall of Famers.  the futures of Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki and Mariano Rivera are at least as uncertain as that of Jeter.

Alex Rodriguez’s recurring hip maladies required off-season surgery.  A. Rod will be out until the All-Star break at the least and possibly for the entire schedule.

The sore-hipped Kevin Youklis will be manning the hot corner.  Derek Jeter will have precious little margin for errors this season.

Offensively even the oft injured A. Rod of the past few seasons will be a high hurdle for Kevin Youklis to scale.

Ichiro Suzuki hit .322 as a Yankee as Yankee manager Joe Girardi wisely limited Ichiro’s exposure to lefties.  It is worth noting that Ichiro’s .261/.288/353 slash lines with the Mariners per BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM prompted his dispatch from Seatlle at least as much as his $18 million salary and expiring contract.

The 43 year old Mariano Rivera will be rebounding from a 2012 spent on the Disabled List due to a torn ACL.  while the now departed Rafael Soriano pitched well in Rivera’s absence the certainty nurtured by Rivera’s 608 saves per BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM won’t be as automatic as in seasons past.

But wait, there’s more…

The 33 year old Mark Texeira’s  fall-off; .251/.332.475 in 2012, per BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM marks Texeira’s 3rd. consecutive season of decline in his slash stats.

Brett Gardners’ virtual absence for the 2012 season makes Gardner’s return to 2011 form both questionable and necessary.

The ante will up for Jeter’s bat as well as for his glove.

As mentioned the role of lefty pitchers in minimizing opposition’s lefty bats has always been a Yankee tactic.

C.C. Sabbathis underwent off-season arthoscopic elbow surgery per MLB.com. after being limited to 28 starts in 2012 per BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM.

Andy Pettitte’s 41, as of 6/15/2013; per BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM, year old broken ankle is more than a fleeting concern.

Indeed the Yankees face challenges as they haven’t since the banishment of George Steinbrenner in 1990.

The Yankees are not one of many vices.  Rooting for Derek Jeter is 2013 is.

Whither Derek Jeter?  I hope not.

  1. February 13, 2013 at 4:09 am

    This in no way compromises my status as a Mets fan!


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