Yankee Captain searching for lost talent

Have you seen Derek Jeter’s talent lately? Recent reports allege the talent went missing during the 2010 season in what could have been an abduction orchestrated by Father Time. The Yankee organization has apparently offered a $51M reward for the lost talent’s presumed return, although hope among many involved has evidently been waning…

In all seriousness though, what the heck is going on with our beloved Captain? His game is rapidly becoming more somber than Peter Gabriel’s rendition of “My Body is a Cage” (which ironically is a rather befitting song for Jeter’s performance thus far). Jeter’s triple slash heading into last night’s bout with the Tigers was .242/.308/.263 (.260 wOBA), recorded over 107 plate appearances. Last night, he went 2-5 and looked largely overmatched (granted even a struggling Justin Verlander is one hell of a challenge). Of Jeter’s 25 hits on the season, 23 have been singles, and over a third (!) of those are of the infield variety. Need a visual? Here’s the spray chart.

It certainly isn’t pretty. The graphic reinforces what we all observe in the games – that is to say some major power deficiency – and it is highlighted further by Jeter’s meager .021 ISO mark. To put that ISO (isolated power) percentage into proper context, Juan Pierre has a career ISO of .068. The cynical side of me assumes this unfortunate downward spiral in production is resultant of age – plain and simple. Let’s be realistic; the guy is in his late thirties (soon to be 37 years old) and professional athletes can’t sustain elite levels of success forever, right?

Perhaps though, a more tangible (and potentially related) aspect of his offensive struggles can also be attributed to his overall plate discipline. In 2010 and 2011 Jeter averaged a 28.5% O-Swing% (swings at pitches outside of the strike zone) compared to a career average of 20.6%. As to be expected, his contact rate on pitches outside the strike zone has also experienced a small uptick this season (65.6% in 2011 compared to a career average of 60.4%) which makes sense given the fact that he’s never been a big whiff guy (career 7.8% swinging strike rate). As the proportion of opportunities to hit balls out of the strike zone increase, so does the rate of success.

In terms of pitch type, opponents have been feeding him a steady diet of fastballs this season (66.9% of the time) which is about in line with what he has seen over the entire course of his career. However, unlike years past, this is the first season which he has been completely baffled by the heater (-3.0 wFB). Consider the table below; in just 2009, Jeter was producing 27.8 runs above average off the fastball.

Frankly, it’s no wonder the results have been awful thus far – he’s making poor contact on pitches located outside of the strike zone. Unfortunately for Derek, unlike his recently-reconciled-teammate Alex Rodriguez, he simply does not have the strength to muscle a ball into any part of the field despite less-than-ideal contact.

The lack of selectivity may ultimately be indicative of declining bat speed and unnecessary ancillary movement in his mechanics (which a certain hitting coach tried to rectify earlier this season). I would not be surprised to find out that Jeter was trying to “cheat” the pitch by starting his swing sooner. He’d have less time to react and less time to discern which pitch is a strike and which one is a ball. The only difference now is as his bat speed decreases, all those remaining points of contact are underscored by less power resulting in copious infield squibs.

Unrelated but still important:
First and foremost, I’d like to give a huge shout out to my brother, Dan, who’ll be graduating from UConn this weekend! I’m really proud of you bro! I know you’ll do great in the professional world or with any graduate-level studies you wish to pursue. Great job and good luck!

Second, I appreciate all the excellent work my fellow writers here at TYA have done. I’ve been unable to contribute to the site the past several weeks. Aside from generating some awesome content, they’ve also graciously provided me with some backup. Thanks fellas; I appreciate it!
Third, I’ve finally succumbed and joined Twitter. Feel free to follow me at @Matt_Warden. I can’t promise my Tweets (is that what we’re calling them?) will always be sane, but hopefully they’ll be entertaining.


13 thoughts on “Yankee Captain searching for lost talent

  1. If one is passing final judgment on the basis of one month, then its worth noting that the fielding metrics actually have him at to just above average, meaning Jeter could still be an asset if he merely raises his offensive game to last season.

    • nyyankeefanforever

      I noticed that too, William, and I agree with you. Obviously, Derek’s still got more than enough in the tank defensively, and his record of achievement as a savvy hitter suggests he as much as anyone who ever played the game can figure out how to fix his offensive shortcomings. I just feel he ought to be dropped in the order for awhile until he works that out, and he’ll never do that himself. It’s up to Joe G and, while it obviously won’t be an easy conversation, I hope he grows a pair soon and has that conversation with Derek, if he hasn’t already.

      • A player should never have to do that himself, but he should respect the manager when he makes the devision. That’s what happened with Mattingly (as I wrote about in yesterday’s 3PM post). Jeter is a competitor…it’s not in his nature to quit. As a Yankee fan, that’s all I can ask for now. If the time comes when Girardi wants to make a move, then I’d expect Jeter to support it (even if he disagrees with it). Until he shows otherwise, I see no reason to do anything but support him as he tries to figure out the first major adversity in his career. I wish more Yankees’ fans shared that opinion, but I increasingly feel like I am in a distinct minority.

      • bornwithpinstripes

        it is joe’s job..however jeter is the captain and face of the yanks..he needs to take the lead and view himself like he would anyone else on the team..self nepotism..no matter how much the other guys love him..he must show true leadership..or they will lose respect..nobody is asking him to tear up his contract..just drop down until he hits again..

    • bornwithpinstripes

      it is not just a month..he was .47 points below his career average last year..with so many balls hit to the SS..i have never seen him hit that way so much ever.and very weak..compare him and the kid on the jays..if his name was not jeter..you would say ..who is far and away better?

      • Great points, folks.

        I actually think it is Derek’s responsibility to be honest with himself. Obviously, the man is going to get paid; a contract is a contract. However, he knows in his heart that he’s not performing as expected. If Joe decides to drop him in the order, he should accept it flat out on the premise that it’s in the best interest of the team. I’m not sure that’d happen in reality. We’ll find out for sure one of these days though if things keep going as they are currently.

        To your point Will, it’s certainly true that we only have a month’s worth of data to run off of for 2011. At the same time, it’s hard for me to praise Jeter’s defense on a good day. His range has been pretty suspect for years — so much so Cashman felt the need to call him out on it.

        Offensively, I think Jeter still has value. If there’s an athlete who can “figure it out,” surely it’s him. With that being said, his power and pitch selection is a clear problem right now.

  2. Disgruntled Yank

    Jeter’s really been pretty terrible so far this season. He’s not even that bad I don’t think. It’s just the circumstance that he’s in that brings extra emphasis to the crappy play. He’s being paid an exorbanant amount of money on a team that is always in the spotlight, is given more at bats than anyone, and his defense is abysmal. It’s time for everyone to accept that this is what he’s going to be for the next 4 years and to just move on. If he were as excellent of a leader as everyone says, he’d be assessing his own abilities and wouldn’t put up a stink if the Yanks bumped him down to the bottom of the order. Of course, reality dictates another 1000000000 double plays and 12 infield singles before we get there.

    • bornwithpinstripes

      you are correct..he should tell joe and take the pressure off him..bat seventh until hit starts heating up..until then …

  3. Pat S

    Vison? Is it a vision problem? Since a person’s vision changes very slowly, it is difficult to realize you’re not seeing the ball as well as you used to. Perhaps a visit to an eye doctor would be in order? Jeter is around the age when things start changing…

  4. Joe G

    Simple answer….Jeter is old: old players lose skills. I’ve seen a ton of excuses made for him (early season slump, injuries, eye sight, marriage pressure, etc), yet possibly because of who he is and what he means to yankee fans, we don’t want to admit that his long and successful career is just about over.

  5. Brad S

    I’m all for hoping Jeter pulls out and plays up to his standards again, but I think we should be on the look-out for signs that Cashman is trying to embarrass him into retiring after hit #3,000.

    Here are top ten things to look for…

    10. His uniform no longer gets washed between games
    9. His Yankee Stadium locker is moved to the clubhouse level Janitor’s utility closet
    8. His uniform @2 is given to Brett Gardner
    7. He is assigned unifrom #87
    6. The announcement for his at-bats is switched from the voice of Bob Shepard to that of Pee Wee Herman
    5. His picture on scoreboard is enhanced to look 30 years older and his name is spelled wrong
    4. He is replaced late in games for defensive purposes by Marcus thames
    3. “Late in games” becomes the 2nd inning
    2. On days he doesn’t start, he is assigned to sit down the third base line and retrieve balls
    1. Minka drops him for Rameiro Pena

  6. […] Yankee Captain acid for mislaid talent | New York Yankees blog … […]

  7. dlogan

    How about these stats: 0-2 with bases loaded this year. 1-20 last year. 3-13 in 2009. 3 for his last 35 with the bases loaded since ’09. Pathetic.

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