On May 11, I questioned whether or not Derek Jeter, a soon-to-be 36-year old, had finally begun to decline as a ballplayer. On the season, his offense seemed relatively weak – his .286/.324/.436 line was certainly indicative of that – and, at times, he looked about as bad as anyone at the plate. Rather than just connecting his problems to age without any sort of internal discussion, however, I did wonder, in the piece, if Jeter’s anemic output could be tied to a bit of bad luck. Perhaps a few balls just did not drop for the normally productive Yankees shortstop.
Looking back on it, it seems like that could very well be the case. On May 11, Jeter’s batting average on balls in play was .304, while his career BABIP was .359. In accordance with that number, Jeter’s BABIP and, subsequently, his triple slash line should have been higher. He was due for an increase in those areas and Jeter has definitely delivered, surging at the end of May. After going on to hit just .190/.264/.228 from May 1-19 – his bad luck seemingly plaguing him for most of the month – from May 20-29, Jeter has hit .415/.455/.585 with 4 doubles and a homer. His BABIP has increased from .304 to .326, and his triple slash line is now a more respectable .297/.340/.425. While we might see this as a bit of good luck, which it is, it is also signifies a statistical correction. Jeter’s unlucky stretch was bound to pass and he was due to hit the cover off of the ball in order to make up for it. We are seeing that now.
If age is not a big factor, then this is how we can view the situation. In my May 11 post, I wondered if age, rather than luck, was the reason Jeter’s hits were not falling (thus, the low BABIP). I was concerned that Jeter, who will turn 36-years old next month, had entered his decline (a fair thought). Jeter seems to be finding his groove, however, so perhaps that is not the case and what we saw earlier in the month (and a bit in April) was just an unlucky stretch. He is currently in the midst of a hitting streak and has improved his walk rate significantly, from 3% in April to 6.6% in May, which is another good sign. Jeter obviously won’t go on to hit .415/.455/.585 for the rest of the season, but, as his numbers continue to unfold, citing an age-related decline seems like it was a little premature on my part.
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