Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mr. Consistency

Derek Jeter now has more hits at this point of his career than any other player in the history of baseball at the same point in their career. That's about as impressive a statistic as they come, not only because of the sheer talent and ability on display, but because of how consistently they are on display. You have to do a lot of hitting for 15 consecutive years to accomplish something like that, and that is exactly what Jeter has done. It really does take a ridiculous about of talent and consistency.

It is somewhat of note that this occurred for Jeter in the midst of what is so far one of the slower seasons of his career. His average and on-base percentage, two of the staples of his career, are down. Oddly his power, always good for a shortstop, is a big reason why he's having a much more productive season than he would be otherwise. His slugging percentage looks low, but that is largely a product of his low average as he's on pace for over 20 homers and around 40 doubles, both better than his career marks. Of course it's early. His traditional statistical strengths could come back and his power could normalize a bit, or one or the other, or neither.

In terms of core numbers, his 85 hits, 39 RBI, and 45 runs scored are all very productive, especially form the shortstop position. So in that sense he's in good shape. His peripherals are a mixed bag. His BABIP is way down, which usually calls for a bounceback, especially when it's someone who puts the ball in play as often as Jeter does. But of the numbers that typically correspond to BABIP, his line drive percentage is down slightly, his flyball percentage is down a little bit more, and his groundball percentage is up pretty substantially, and he was already a pretty extreme groundball hitter. If these numbers don't come back a bit, that BABIP number may hold more true instead of correcting as much as we might think it should, because the less you put the ball in play hard the less hits you are likely to get. His K rate is virtually unchanged which is good, and his walk rate is down which is bad, although it is creeping back towards career levels.

Most major defensive metrics see his defense at about even this year, maybe a little less.

Back to the offense, Derek Jeter at less than 100% of what Derek Jeter has been is still going to be a competitive advantage for the Yankees because he's still going to be better than most shortstops. But in terms of impacting the Yankees overall, obviously any decline is not going to give them as much production they have become accustomed to. Because of his age, it's a valid to wonder just how long he can keep up this much consistency. Not in terms of being unproductive, just being as productive as he's been for his career. Because of who he is, it's valid to not want categorize him as on the decline just yet. With a middling first few months, we'll just have to wait and see what happens the rest of this season. For the Yankees, in this division, in this particular year, it would be very big to continue to have Jeter be Jeter, not just have him be very good. We'll see if he can keep the consistency going. I certainly hope he can.


jason said...

I did say he would start declining last year, and I also thought it would be more of a sharp decline so I am definitely surprised to see him still playing so well, may be that I dont watch him play every day that I came to that conclusion

the gm said...

Holy crap! I was gonna write about the Red Sox' offensive masterpiece against Ubaldo tonight, but there was already something posted. No sarcasm here at all.

Something that is sadly missing in this post is the fact that Jeter will be hitting free agency at the end of the season. Pat brings up the fact that Jeter will still be better than "most shortstops" for probably years to come. Assuming this is true, and also assuming a second-half revival in the rate stats, how much will the Yankees shell out for this guy? They already have a lot of contracts that could very well become albatross contracts (NoMaas has an excellent Photoshop of the centaur kissing a 42-year-old version of himself in the mirror).

You gotta think Jeter is thinking six more seasons. This will get him to the age of 42, and barring missing a lot of time due to serious injuries (insert JD Drew hamstring joke here), this will also get him to four thousand hits. I don't think the Yankees want to see Jeter hit 3000 (or 4000) in any other uniform, and I have a feeling Jeter doesn't want to see that happening. Therefore I think the dollars will probably be in the $12-14 million area unless he hits .400 for the rest of the season. The real question is years. Will the Yankees commit five or six years to Derek Jeter? It's not like he's moving to third with the centaur there. It's not like he's moving to first with Kurt Teixeira there. And it's not like he's moving to second with Cano there. Can the Yankees afford giving the shortstop position to Jeter for 5 or 6 years a) with minor leaguers, including their first-round draft pick waiting in the wings and b) with Jeter's inconsistent sabermetric defensive stats?

Pat states mostly the obvious here, but I am very interested in knowing what he, FTB, Kaplan, and others think about Jeter beyond 2010. What will they do? What should they do? Is Jeter bigger than further championships? These are all things worth thinking about.

jason said...

Get him in a red sox uniform and ruin all the new york fans enjoyment of him? or would he still have a spot for you in his heart?

PF said...

There are other positions besides 3rd, 1st, and 2nd he could move to. Just throwing that out there as we jump to the conclusion that if the yankees commit to him, they are commiting to him at shortstop.

TimC said...

If they go the trade route, Cano is the most likely guy to go, right? What are the chances they pursue this option?