The Real Impact Of Derek Jeter’s Ankle Injury

How's that ankle going to respond the first time Jeter has to make a similar play to his left next year? Courtesy of Getty Images

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

The immediate impact of Derek Jeter’s ankle injury was major and painfully obvious to anybody who watched the ALCS. Without him in the lineup or on the field, the Yankees managed to score just 2 runs in the final 3 games while giving up more than that and committing 3 official defensive errors, 5 if you want to be a stickler like me and give Chavez and Teix Es for their stay-back botches in Game 4.  Even deeper than the on-field results, the entire attitude and morale of the team seemed to drop without the presence of The Captain. Say what you want about his robotic repetition of nothing comments to the media, but the tired, lifeless nature of the Yankees’ play in the final 3 games should stand as an example of just what kind of behind-the-scenes leader Jeter is in the clubhouse and how important he still is to the Yankees’ success. Losing Jeter for this year’s ALCS was a big enough blow to the Yankees, but the impact this injury has on next season could be even greater.

The first, and most obvious, issue is the expected recovery time for this injury and how that will affect Jeter’s ability to be ready for Opening Day 2013. The reports of 4-5 months recovery time have been consistent across the board since the surgery option was first reported. Jeter had the surgery last Saturday, and 4-5 months from last Saturday puts him back on the field sometime between late February and late March. Assuming the bulk of that time will be spent strengthening the ankle and foot and testing it out to make sure Jeter can run, plant, and cut as needed, it’s safe to say Jeter will not get a full baseball-related offseason workout in.

If he is able to resume full baseball activities in late February, there’s a good chance he can get enough work in during Spring Training to be prepared for the start of the 2013 season. But for every day after that 4-month side of the rehab schedule, that’s less time Jeter has to get back into his full baseball routine, a routine that he’s surely mastered after going through 17 offseasons, and sending him back out there as a 38-year-old shortstop coming off major surgery without that full preparation routine would be a risky move.

Which brings us to concern number 2, that being what kind of production and performance should we expect from Jeter next season coming off this surgery? In the last 2 seasons, Jeter’s gone from looking like he was on his way out as an effective everyday player to having one of the best seasons of his career and one of the best seasons in baseball history for a shortstop his age. It would have been unreasonable to expect Jeter to replicate his .316/.362/.429, .347 wOBA line from 2012 in 2013 even if he was completely healthy. To expect him to do it coming off ankle surgery, a severely modified offseason training program, and a possibly accelerated ST schedule would be ludicrous.  Suddenly all the questions about Jeter’s deteriorating skill set come right back to the forefront for 2013, especially the ones about his range at short.

Where things really get tricky is when the focus of this injury impact expands from just Jeter to the rest of the roster.  Anticipating that Jeter is going to start the 2013 season on some kind of reduced playing time schedule, the Yankees are once again going to find themselves in a position of serious roster inflexibility.  Jeter needing DH days or full days off early means more Eduardo Nunez at shortstop, a scenario that, no matter how you slice it, is a downgrade.  It also means fewer opportunities to rest or play the matchup game with Alex Rodriguez, something that is going to become a bigger part of the Yankees’ day-to-day lineup structuring now that the Pandora’s Box of using A-Rod as a platoon player has been opened.  The Yankees will now be faced with 2 older right-handed hitters whose playing time will need to be closely monitored, a lefty DH to platoon them with, and because the team is reportedly set on using Nunez only as a shortstop, another lefty platoon third baseman to pair up with Rodriguez.

If Jeter is late starting the season, or ineffective as a result of his altered offseason program, the Yankees will also have some serious work to do at the top of their batting order.  Ichiro will likely not be back next season, at least he shouldn’t be, and there isn’t a clear-cut ideal option in house to replace Jeter at the top of the order unless you’re a big believer in Brett Gardner.  With Swish almost assuredly also on his way out and Curtis Granderson turning into a strikeout machine, the first 2 spots in the batting order are suddenly up in the air without Jeter.

It’s still way too early to be ringing the panic alarm on any of these hypotheticals scenarios, but this is an issue that the Yankees will have to address.  Derek Jeter is lucky to have made it through his career without any really serious injuries, and lucky that this one occurred essentially during the offseason to allow him time to recover and the Yankees’ time to formulate contingency plans.  As frightening as it was watching him go down in pain and not get up when the ankle first broke, the possibilities of what could happen in 2013 as a result are even scarier.

About Brad Vietrogoski

Born in Dover, Delaware and raised in Danbury, Connecticut, Brad now resides in Wisconsin, where he regularly goes out of his way to remind Brewers fans that their team will never be as good as the Yankees. When he’s not writing for IIATMS, he likes to spend his time incorporating “Seinfeld” quotes into everyday conversation, critiquing WWE storylines, and drinking enough beer to be good at darts.

13 thoughts on “The Real Impact Of Derek Jeter’s Ankle Injury

  1. What about moving Jeter to LF, with Gardner (or an unreleased Granderson) in CF and Ichiro (or an unreleased Swisher) in RF? Nunez and Nix can platoon at SS (or 3B if an unreleased ARod can still play short [unknown, as he may be more immobile than even a post-broken-ankle Jeter], which would give Chavez some 3B play)?

  2. Man, I know it’s the offseason (forget about the Giants and the Tigers), but this speculation is getting crazier & crazier. What happened to a discussion of baseball using analytics? Or if you are going to write speculatively about the effects of injuries, why not consult some individuals in the area of sports’ medicine?

    Recently I’ve read on this blog from a number of people suggesting that Jeter play left field next year or the near future. I just wonder about the logic involved in that suggestion. Jeter can’t cover enough ground to play SS so you want him in replace Grander in LF at YS3?

  3. It’s closer to 3 months… they openly admitted they switched it to 4-5 months just to play it safe…

    This is Derek Jeter we’re talking about… not only will he be ready to roll opening day I wouldn’t be shocked (surprised, but not shocked) to see him play in the world baseball classic…

    No question he needs to DH his fair share.. but he was great in that role this year so maybe add 10 extra games at DH, no problem..

  4. The type of running would be different and hopefully less stressful, mostly N-S in the OF instead of E-W as at SS. Also he would not be vulnerable to being taken out by hard slides at 2B or having to pivot on DPs. Typically, an older IF’er is moved to the OF (or 1B) to lengthen his career. Jeter is not a prototypical DH, so that option is out. Jeter is (rightfully) a proud Yankee and would normally resist any move from SS. However, the injury provides the perfect excuse to preserve his pride while making a move that would help the team. It seems to be a win-win all around.

  5. Can everyone acknowledge now that it was completely inexcusable for the Yankees–having committed to acquiring ARod for the 2004 season–to not insist that Jeter–by far the inferior fielder at shortstop to ARod at the time–to switch to third rather than to completely waste ARod’s superior defensive ability and to indeed make it a flaw by making him learn a new position on the job. Between the actual defensive loss involved and whatever stress it put on his offense, indulging Jeter and his Cult may well have cost the Yankees a title or two. Completely inexcusable–if they weren’t willing to ask Jeter to switch, they never should have made the move in the first place.

  6. Thinking outside of the box, I would think that Jeter moving to 3rd, needing less range, and A-rod moved off the team or full time DH. Remember they moved the HOF Ripken from ss to 3rd because of range issues. Nunez would be full time ss and get the playing time he needs to be a better ss. I remember Jeter having error problems when he first came up but it has turned out well. Jeter and A-rod can share the DH and 3rd base duties. Ibanez could be the LH DH with Jeter at 3rd against RH pitching and have Jeter being the RH DH and A-rod at third against LH pitching. Just a thought!