Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Prediction: Jeter To Have Career Year

No, not career as in best season of his career. Career as in reflection of his career body of work.

On Christmas Day my dad's oldest brother took down all of our (his, my dad's, their two other brother's, five of my cousins, and my) predictions for Jeter's 2011 batting average. When only my dad's youngest brother was left, I was the only one above .300 at .310. There were a few high .290's, but also a number of .280's and .270's. My dad's youngest brother proceeded to call everybody but me a non-believer, and promptly said he wanted whatever Jeter's career batting average was as his prediction. Jeter was at .317 prior to 2010, and dropped to .314 after, so he was happy to take .315 since it's a nice incremental number.

In an off-season that DV has railed against the over-extension of sabermetrics, the point I'm about to make will fit in. Because it is totally non-scientific. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if none of the projection systems had him anywhere close to his career numbers. But I am in firm agreement with my uncle, that's approximately what he's going to do in 2011 if he stays healthy.

It's just a gut feeling based on watching him for his entire career and knowing what kind of competitor he is. I still remember the attention his 2008 got, that it was the start of his decline. Then he had a career (other sense) year in 2009. It wasn't quite as dramatic a falloff as his 2010, but I'm also not predicting the type of bounceback he had in 2009, finishing 3rd in AL MVP voting.

What I'm predicting is that Jeter is the kind of guy that will continue to reinvent himself until his body says no more. He'll take steps back and find new ways to take steps forward. Some guys allow age to take it's toll naturally, and some guys fight back against it until they can no longer do so and be productive. I see Jeter as being the latter. He adjusted his offseason workouts between '08-'09 to fit his new needs as a player, and already we are hearing that he is doing the same thing this winter.

Maybe 2010 really was the start of his body limiting what he could do. Very possible. I just don't think so. I think it was more him being nicked up or his body telling him he just couldn't do things a certain way anymore. And I think he'll find the new way, just like he did in 2009, to play at least to his career level of production.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

Derek Jeter: The Second Coming? I didn't know that he had legions of believers, though you must be glad to be considered one of them.

All kidding aside, there are two competing factors at play with Jeter this year. The first is that he's a talented hitter with a hall of fame career on his resume. The other is that he'll be 37 and struggled last year. Which will prevail in 2011? Age or talent. It will certainly be interesting, especially if he struggles again this season, to see how the media and fans react to him.

--the Gunn

TimC said...

Hear, hear, PF (here, here?), let's do some quality anti-sabermetric work today. I am currently in a state that falls within a 95% confidence interval of total disgust as all these clowns who don't even know the difference between an arcsine and an obtuse triangle are making their bold, STATISTICALLY SOUND, Superbowl predictions. It is one thing when baseball screws it up because at least they have an underlying basis of numbers and theory to back it up but it is an entirely different ballgame when the football folks come out of the woodwork.

Back to the relevant; yes, I agree Jeter could have a career year, but at this point it is more about how much he works in the off-season to maintain, not build, on his athleticism and conditioning. A hard prediction to make now and an even harder one to make at Xmas time since we don't know how he will continue to work out in preparation for the season over this next four weeks. But to me, the guys that tend not to fall off in their later years are the ones who put the time and effort in during the winter. Has anyone even seen a report along the lines of 'Jeter running sand dunes every day at 5am' or 'Jeter to move to Arizona for three months to train'? These are the indicators I look for when predicting old-guy competence.

That said, all I've seen is that he is getting married.

the gm at work said...

At least .310. Jeter always has been the one to come up big when it counted, right?

Oh, wait, sabermetricians said there's no such thing as that. That's garbage. By the way, my aggressive anti-sabermetric kick dawned sometime in the afternoon of September 30, 2009 when Theo started a sentence in an interview "I thought you were gonna ask me..."

Back to my real point, though, there's little doubt in my mind that Jeter will hit at least .310 because the guy is pissed. As he is the kind of player who steps it up when it counts - and this year, at least for him, after the contract and the Cashman comments and all that, it counts - I expect him to play like a man possessed this year.

What probably sucks the most about the Yankees winning the World Series for the first time since I met Pat is the fact that after that championship, all objectivity has vanished and his pinstriped footy-pajamas have become more and more visible. That said, this is a good post.

Patrick said...

gunn -

good spot gunn. all kidding aside, he probably has more non-believers than believers in the fan base in terms of his ability going forward.

i think there is a third competing factor. will, desire, competition, drive, whatever you want to call it. you've touched on this before, and i am totally on board with it: regardless of talent, the way athletes are wired internally impacts how they play. jordan is the extreme example. your two age and talent factors are valid, and that was the point i was trying to get at in the 4th paragraph, just adding that third element. we've seen plenty of talented guys just let age take it's course and when it prevails it prevails. then their are certain guys who are wired to try to squeeze every last ounce of good play out of their body. it doesn't mean they will do so successfully, but it does mean they will try. these are the guys who tend to reinvent themselves and find new ways to produce and win when it's no longer as easy as it used to be.

timc -

tying this into the point with gunn above, i think it is all about what you are saying here, how hard someone works later in their career. i alluded to it in the post, there have already been reports about how jeter has again adjusted his offseason workouts to fit his new needs as a player. he was never a guy for hitting instructing, always hitting and adjusting his swing by feel. the steve nash of baseball, if you will. but he's working with kevin long in a serious way for the first time, and is starting his hitting program far earlier than he typically does. last time was the first time in his career he ever experienced offensive failure at this level (not a "down" year by his standards, but straight up bad), and he is not going to rely on the same old habits he could when he was consistently successful to correct it. this is an individual who, after 2008, spent time watching video with training experts to figure out what toe positioning maximized his first step out of his defensive stance to cover the most range. he came back and had one of the best defensive seasons of his career after tailing off for a few years in a row, and being beyond the age that players typically have that kind of career. the man is an animal when it comes to his offseason program.

dv -

to tie that into both of the comments above (i like the flow we have here today) i agree with you, and this may be the most important point. he's proved himself over his career to be the kind of player who takes accountability and responsibility for his performance very seriously. he wants to play well this year because it probably feels like an obligation to him. but in addition, now he's pissed. he's got everyone telling him he's cooked, he got probably 50% of the contract he would have if his prior one had been up just one year earlier, and he's got the front office taking negotiations public and calling him out in the media. to a lesser extent, this was the type of stuff that people were talking about after 2008. first sign of trouble and he's done. and i think that played a big part in driving his 2009. it's possible that 2010 was the start of a broader decline. but it's also possible that it was just an extra bad year. until he has two of those in a row (which will happen at some point, and it may be this year), i'm not going to count him out. i too expect him to play like he's on a mission this year. he knows that's the way you respond to all of the negative things we've mentioned in this thread.

the gm said...

Guys,

The point about getting married and offseason workouts are very good ones, and these are topics that were discussed at great length in Boston before the 2010 football season regarding Brady and all that. I am a believer that later in your career, when you get married, have kids, and all that kind of stuff, you are no longer an unbalanced human being. And fans, for better or for worse, WANT their athletes to be unbalanced human beings. Brady's not spending his entire offseason at Foxboro anymore, because he has a more balanced life. As all four of us talking today are former athletes, we can attest to the fact that we're more balanced people than we were when we were all training like crazy during college. And we did that because we could pull it off. I can't imagine Bandi and Pat can try to outlift each other with the same alacrity anymore.

I am still completely unbalanced. I got my Rocky IV on in the snow storm for two hours this morning. But that's why I'm competing so well. I don't have a balanced life. Whatever. I've said for about six months now that I'm retiring from competitive running at age 33. If I have to live a balanced life, my performance will suffer. And I'd rather step away from it than give a JD-level effort toward my athletic performance.

JD lives a balanced life.

Jeter, though, while he might be getting married, doesn't have kids. He can still pull off living the unbalanced life - plus, in the words of Steinbrenner, he probably isn't doing as much "carousing with his friends." Instead he's carousing with Kevin Long.

One more thing: If there are reports about all the offseason conditioning you're doing, it's because you publicized it. Arod did it himself when he was talking about how he gets up in the morning and does stairs when other people are taking their kids to school. Other people do it with more tact, and some people don't advertise it at all. Even if Jeter were running sand dunes at 5AM, it would be un-Jeter-like to advertise it. It's Youkilis's way to advertise it, same with Pedroia, Ethier, and all those guys in Arizona. Same goes for Crawford and Hunter Pence down in Houston. That stuff could be on the DL if they wanted it to be.

Jeter wants it to be. .310, without question.

TimC said...

Good point there DV about advertising and the like. I brought up the workout point because that forms the basis of my fantasy football research, believe it or not. I can cite many examples but Curtis Martin's last great NYJ season is the prime example of hearing about a guy working out above and beyond his usual level and coming up with a massive season. Good info, too, on Jeter's workout levels, I probably have heard about it before but just forgot. The man has earned my respect, about five years ago, and has earned that same respect from most of the thinking fans I run into in this area and that is just another reason for it.

The work/life balance stuff is interesting to me as for players of the caliber we discuss work is a factor almost 24 hours a day. Sleep, diet, and social hours are all factors that feed into work before the actual work- practice, lifting, running, the like- are put into play. With Jeter, the points about his balance are good ones but I do think that he may be nearing the point where things tip the other way. Then again, I suppose he led a pretty vibrant lifestyle prior to getting married so this might as well settle him? Who knows. I'm not DV, ESPN, PF, Oprah, or TMZ.

The safest bet to make regarding Jeter's production is that this may be his best AVG season left. Obviously, not a bold prediction considering how guys tail off at the end of careers. But it seems that his work ethic is really driving his production, the one factor that is slowing his decline against what one (or one's normal distribution- ugh) might expect. If he slows down in the coming off-seasons, the drop could be a little larger than expected, almost like how a tug of war team eventually falls, hard, as soon as they let go of a losing rope.

Anonymous said...

PF

I didn't mention it in my original comment, but it's worth noting that I'm confident of two things this year--that Jeter will have an excellent season and that one of Garcia/Colon/Mitre will have a big year. Why? Not because of any statistics. But because of the Aaron Small/Shawn Chacon/Scott Brosius/Cecil Fielder corollary, which states that "any player, no matter how washed up, has at least one big year as a Yankee, if only to infuriate Red Sox fans who have had to watch their own washed up reclamation projects suck."

DV

As Tim said, your points about an unbalanced lifestyle are very valid. We've seen how critical people have been of Tom Brady (especially in New England) for appearing to care less about football. And the fact is football probably isn't his top priority. He has a wife. He has two kids. I have no doubt that he loves football and is a tremendous competitor, but to suggest that a sport is still at the top of someone's priorities when they have a wife and family is probably over the top. Now, the average fan can draw whatever conclusions he/she wants to about the Patriots not winning any championships since he became a father and a husband, but you can't deny the likelihood that his priorities have changed.

--the Gunn

TimC said...

In Brady's defense, it seemed that his Superbowl years came after his Bridget Moynihan days while the more recent trend of big numbers, crushing playoff losses came after that degenerated into a distraction and he found himself having his hair styled by a Brazilian supermodel. I suppose it is hard to explain certain events.

Anonymous said...

PF,

I'm glad that you and your extended family can talk about a love for a common team. I'm not around my uncles on my father's side very much, but when I am, conversation typically goes to things like deer hunting, nascar, fixing cars, the pittsburgh pengiuns, or any number of other blue collar activities that I know nothing about.

My random guess is that Jeter will hit in the .290s this year.

To address DV's comments about Jeter being better because he is pissed, I think that element, along with talking about "will" or "drive" is one of the most overrated things in all of sports. You don't get anywhere by being pissed. You don't get anywhere by "really wanting it."

You get things done by being good. There are plenty of angry athletes and driven athletes in MLB and the rest of competitive sports (JD Drew not-withstanding). Derek Jeter doesn't get any sort of edge by trying really hard- you don't think he tried really hard last year?

The Gunn is right, talent and age are the primary concerns here. If there's another factor then it's Jeter's ability to adjust to his diminishing abilities in an effective way.

On the Brady front, anyone who watches the Patriots on a regular basis, as I do, knows that Brady cares about football as much as anyone in the NFL. If he also happens to have a questionable hair cut that is a separate issue. The issue with the Patriots in the playoffs lately has not been Brady as much as it's been the demeanor of the team as a whole (just playing and looking tight) and horrible play calling. I can't believe I'm defending Brady but there it is.

the gm said...

Bandi,

Can't disagree more, especially in baseball when, as you're playing every single day, there are some days when you feel like playing ando ther days when you don't. Are you telling me that Coco Crisp's at-bat in that Tampa game in 2008 would have happened during a meaningless regular season game against Kansas City? Did Manny Ramirez turn it on after being traded to the Dodgers because he just started taking steroids then? Does JD Drew play better against his brother and/or against his former teams just because it's a coincidence? Give me a break.

Arod. No need to say more about that.

Overrated? Perhaps. But you can't say it's because guys are good. There's a certain human element in the whole thing - it's about focus. Not to say the player was unfocused last year. But you gotta think he will be especially focused this year after all the crap in the offseason.

Patrick said...

bandi -

i strongly disagree with you. i think we are all acknowledging that talent is the main driving force behind anything. a less talented guy can work out a lot more than a really talented guy and still not be as good. but when dealing with really talented guys, things like drive, will, and wanting it is a significant factor in who separates themselves. it is also substantial in determining who can get more out of their career, including the back end. when you have talented guys who also have drive, and don't rely on their natural abilities, that's often when you get really special players. again, jordan is the extreme example. talent alone would have gotten him a lot, but it probably wouldn't have got him everything it did. he got all that because he was one of the most ferocious competitors american professional sports has ever known. to that point, i agree that getting "pissed" doesn't get you anywhere in a vacuum. there are a lot of athletes to whom anger is a detriment. but what dv and i are talking about are sharply competitive people who use any sort of criticism as motivation because they are just that competitive. they know how to channel it into on field production, not letting their anger out emotionally. anyone who says people shouldn't need extra motivation probably hasn't been criticized before. if you're a competitor, it's human nature to want to prove people wrong. even if you're already highly motivated (jeter), you can always get more by having someone set you off. jeter has been relatively (for him) dragged through the mud the last 10 months all considered, something that is beyond foreign to him. i doubt he's taken too kindly to it.

Anonymous said...

It looks like I disagree with both PF and GM, and I am simply not backing down on this. Clearly focus and effort are important in sports, and in life. If you read my comment, you'll see that I didn't discount that fact. There were two aspects of my comment.

First, I'm discounting the fact that Jeter is really going to play better next year because he feels slighted or is angry. To say that is to imply that he really didn't go all out last year but now because he didn't get the contract that he wanted, he's really going to turn things on this year. I didn't hear once last year that Jeter was mailing it in, or being non-chalant. He's a professional who has been good for a long time, and is internally driven. Consequently, I don't think him being angry is going to be a big factor. Could he rebound? Absolutely, but that would primarily because he is good, not because of emotion.

And in general, I think playing angry is overrated. First, many players self destruct when they become angry. Second, there have been many cerebral players that have been extremely successful but don't show much emotion. My point is that it's an overrated elment and you can't disprove that by pointing to a few fringe examples.

The second point is that talking about a player having "will" or "drive" is overrated, because almost anyone that competes at an elite level in anything has a lot of "will" and "drive." Again, there are examples on the fringes of people that mailed it in. That's not my point. My point is that for every Manny or JD Drew there are 99 other major leaguers that are hungry and want to succeed.

Tying this back to Jeter, he's not going to be able to count on his "will" or "drive" this off-season and next season to be the differentiating factor for him. Is he going to work hard? No doubt. You think Pedroia's not working hard? You think Youkalis isn't working hard? You think Lester isn't working hard? 99% of the people in MLB are hungry to succeed individually. No one is volunteering to lie down next season so that Derek Jeter can succeed. Welcome to the real world guys.

the gm said...

Bandi,

Two words: Contract year.

Yes, players - even Derek Jeter - can be more motivated and have more drive in some years than others. Was 2010 maybe a hangover from the got-screwed-in-the-MVP-ballot/World Series 2009? Sure, why not?

Opinion, not fact, but yours is wrong.

Anonymous said...

The last sentence...

"Opinion, not fact, but yours is wrong"

That doesn't make any sense. Nor for that matter, does that entire comment. First you mention contract year, but then mention how Derek Jeter was less motivated in 2010, which was in fact a year where Jeter was playing for a contract.

Please try again.

Overall, a point that I'm making - that you haven't successfully refuted - is that most players come out and and play hard and try to win. Their motivations may vary- some have contract years, others are professionals that do their job, most are exceptionally proud and competitive people that are out to prove that they are better than the guy they are going up against. Derek Jeter isn't special because he's "extra" motivated to win this year.

PF said...

Bandi -

You make some good points but I think, as dv began to allude to in his last comment, this is an issue with many more shades of grey than you are giving it credit for. First, it isn't about jeter's work ethic in the offseason vs. everybody else's. You're right that most are busting it. My point about will generally (and the jordan example) is that there are certain athletes who, when all else is even, or even when they are inferior, will just find a way to beat the other person, outlast them, outwork them. They can't do it to other players of the same ilk, and when you have two like that matchup is when you usually end up with truly great games. But they'll do it to everyone else. But this is besides the point, doesn't impact what we are saying about jeter. It has nothing to do with any other player.

Dv began to say this, but its only about jeter. And it goes back to the shades of grey. Does jeter try as hard as he can every year? I'm sure he does. But as hard as you can is not a constant, it changes with circumstance. Its very hard to put in the same effort in the gym for a week, let alone for 15 years of 162 game seasons and offseasons. This may sound dramatic but put yourself in his shoes. You don't think its possible that after the world series, and finishing 3rd in mvp voting, that maybe he didn't do that little bit extra everyday last winter? And now, coming off the worst year of his career, with everyone telling him can't this can't that, that maybe he's going much harder than last winter, because the paradigm has changed for him? That's the point. You've taken the anger thing way out of context. Its not about him playing angry. Its about him having a chip on his shoulder to drive him higher than he was last year. He knows how to direct that energy. Will it translate to results? Time will tell. But I would be willing to say its factual that motivation like this exists, even for the most self motivated people. Its not easy to do 4 hours every day instead of 3, when your body is exhausted because you're old and you've played over 2000 baseball games and who knows how many more workouts and you just don't recover from the workout the day before the way you used to. Especially when you're as financially successful as he is and have a hot fiance. But having people tell you that you can't, when you're as competitive as he is, can give you that extra hour.