Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jeter Just Doing Enough

Jeter's not contributing much, but his performance hasn't flatlined (IBTimes)
Derek Jeter turned 40 on Thursday, which unfortunately for him was an off-day for the Yankees. Jeter is a born-winner, but even he can not win a game that isn't played.

So last night must have been the next best thing, then, as New York trampled their longtime rivals from Boston 6-0 at Yankee Stadium. With Toronto losing and Baltimore splitting its doubleheader against Tampa Bay, the victory moved New York to within two games of first place and just half a game out of second. Despite age, injuries, and underperformance, the banged-up Bombers have battled their way into contention and, with better luck in the second half, could very well walk away with a winnable division.

Jeter has not done much to help the Yankees this year*, but he isn't killing them, either. He went 2-for-4 with a run scored last night, raising his batting line to .271/.327/.330. With only two home runs, 11 extra base hits, 17 RBI and a slugging percentage not much better than his career batting average, Jeter's not providing much power. But then again, nobody expected him to. With three stolen bases in four attempts he's not providing much speed, either, but few 40 year-olds do.

*One thing Jeter hasn't been is clutch. With only two go-ahead hits to date, hes batted .105/.244/.158 in late and close situations, .133 with no extra base hits when there've been runners in scoring position with two outs, and .170/.278/.213 in high leverage situations. If you're a Yankees fan, Jeter's not the guy who want at the plate when the game's on the line.

Jeter has hit for a solid average and gotten on base at a decent clip, which is all anybody could have really asked for. He's also been incredibly consistent, with a .660 OPS in April, .670 OPS in May, and a .635 OPS thus far in June. As steady as ever, Jeter's gone two straight games without a hit only twice this year, and never three. Joe Girardi shouldn't be batting Number Two second of course, but Jeter's held his own offensively and has remained reliable, if nothing else. He's avoided anything resembling a slump, which at his age is truly remarkable.

Also, Jeter's defense has not been nearly as bad as many (myself included) expected it to be. It's not good, obviously, as his range is still terrible (the worst of his career), but on the whole it could be worse. FanGraphs acutally gives him a positive defensive rating, while Baseball-Reference estimates that he's saved only four fewer runs than the average shortstop. Jeter's still making the plays on the balls he can get to, with a .973 fielding percentage that's right in line with his career .976 mark and slightly better than the league average of .971. Like I said, steady as ever.

Throw it all together and Jeter's been a hair above replacement level, which is about where he was the three seasons before last year. That might not be the winning Mariano Rivera-esque comeback story some were hoping for, but he's played as well as we could have reasonably expected him to. His performance has been far from great, but he's not embarrassing himself either. He's holding on.

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