A Sweeter Jeter?

There are other encouraging signs.  Jeter’s line drive percentage for April was an abysmal 9.6%, but so far in May, it is a robust 26.3%.  26.3% is a terrific line drive percentage, higher than the 2011 line drive percentage for any other Yankee playing full-time.  If Jeter can manage to pound out line drives at close to this rate, he’ll finish up this year just fine, and his April will (largely) be forgotten.

Now come the caveats. When I speak about “so far in May”, I’m talking about something closer to a week than a month. A good week does not eliminate concerns about Jeter’s performance during the month of April – or for that matter, his performance last July and August. He’s still hitting a large percentage of ground balls along with those line drives. Also, while we don’t have May splits to show this, Jeter still seems to be hitting better during the day than at night, and better early in the game than later.

A couple of weeks ago, many of us said that it was too early to write Jeter off.  Similarly, it’s too early now to proclaim that the old Jeter is back. (Er, when I say the “old Jeter”, I’m referring to the guy that nearly won the MVP award in 2009, and not a Jeter who is, you know, old.) I can’t make too much of one week’s performance, or one day’s performance, and still provide rational guidance. But I can hope.

Speaking of which … I wonder now, how many home runs we can project Francisco Cervelli to hit?

10 thoughts on “A Sweeter Jeter?

  1. Two more for Franco. If you were watching TBS, you saw his absurd batting average with the bases loaded – something like .476 or so. Which is kinda what I remembered from last year – he didn't always suck. ;)

  2. I always felt like Jeter was going to start hitting, mostly due to the fact that his strikeout rate hadn't increased (I think it had actually gone down). I felt like there was something off mechanically that prevented him from driving the ball, a notion that that felt more possible to me amidst all the talk of a "new swing" he worked on with Kevin Long.

    • Dusty and 27up, I'm never sure what to make of low strikeout rates. They don't always correlate with great hitting. If you look at the low strikeout rate leaders this year, you'll see some very good hitters (Ichiro, Tulowitski) and some terrible hitters (Pierzynski, Tejada).

      Jeter's career strikeout percentage is around 17%. Last year, which was not a great year for Jeter, his strikeout percentage was 16%. His two worst months at the plate last year were July and August, but his strikeout percentage those months was around Jeter-average: 14.2% and 17.1%. True, Jeter's strikeout percentage in April was quite low — 9.8%, but his strikeout percentage in May is up to 19.4%. I'm not seeing a correlation between Jeter's strikeout percentage and his ability to be a productive hitter.

      ARGUE with me about this if you want — I'm not convinced that Jeter's strikeout rate tells us much of anything, but I could be convinced otherwise.

      • As a guy on the sideline, i have no idea. It does seem like the drop is significant, however. Maybe if the much ballyhooed shortening of his stride helped him make more contact with pitches that he would have swung through otherwise, that could account for some of those very weak dribblers that have been too common so far this season. As the season goes on he's made adjustments and been able to feel more comfortable and hit the ball more on the nose. Of course, maybe its just a statistical fluke.

  3. I will be "Prisoner of the Moment" and say I was wrong! I'm glad to see Jeter start to turn it around and hope this is the return of the old, no pun intended, Derek Jeter, and good riddance to the impostor we have had to deal with for the last year and plus!

    • DOA, you may have noticed that I try not to get too high or too low. I remember as an 11 year old in 1966, Mickey Mantle hit an opposite field home run over the left-center field wall of the old Stadium, which I think was something like 457 feet from home plate in those days. I was watching the game on TV with my father, and I said something to the effect that maybe Mantle was back to being the hitter he was a few years earlier. My Dad said something to the effect that Mantle was still great, he just wasn't going to be great that often.

      With the benefit of advanced statistics, we can see that Mantle WAS great even during his declining years of 1965-1968 — he had an average OPS+ during this time of 176.5, a number higher than A-Rod (great hitter!) has had during any single year of his career! It was just less than what Mantle was capable of earlier. This is what we can wish for Jeter: a relatively productive end to his career, where he produces good but not great numbers. We should all be very happy with that.

  4. I’ll stick to the term that most people who were defending Jeter stated. This is too small of a sample size to make believe that anything has changed.

  5. Thanks Larry! Maybe I am wrong, maybe I'm not. But all I know is it's sure good to see Jeter hit with confidence and authority again. He really does look comfortable at the plate, so maybe he's finally found what works for him. I understand it's a small sample size, but I do believe that if there's one person who can withstand all this scrutiny and criticism and come back strong, it is The Captain!

  6. I'll be thankful for wRC+ 90-100 and average fielding at SS. Expecting any more than that w/ the bat because of the past week or expecting the flicker of noise on UZR to be maintained is delusional.