Not even going into this year, but last year, Derek Jeter had his doubters. People would say that Jeter’s old, washed up and that he provides nothing beneficial to the team other than being the captain. That however is far from true. While Jeter’s defensive range has become more than just limited, his offensive production is honestly some of the best he’s been putting up in the past few years. A lot of people still doubt his 2012 season, putting him on the pedestal of his 2009 numbers. Regardless of that, Jeter currently leads the AL in hits with 148 and is third overall in the entirety of the MLB. Pete Rose, like Jeter, also got his 3,000 hit at the age of 37 and ended up with 4,256 at the age of 45 when he retired. I’ll beat this dead horse some more and say that age is a mental aspect. I’m not saying Jeter is going to be playing ’til he’s 45, but then again I’m not saying he couldn’t either.
During his career, Jeter has a total of 3,236 hits heading into Saturday’s action. Hypothetically, let’s say he ends the season with 212. That’s 64 more than what he has right now and at the pace he’s been going, it’s very possible he could get that. If he gets those 64 hits, he’ll end the season with a career total of 3,300. Since his career high 219 hits in 1999, Jeter has consecutively recorded 155 hits or more a season. If he plays, let’s say for another four years and averages 160 hits a season, he’ll have 640 hits in four years, being 60 short of 4,000. Now imagine if Jeter were to get more than 160 hits in those four seasons. He’d be well over 4,000.
Jeter’s bat provides something in the line-up that the Yankees overall lack, contact. Any time Jeter gets a hit, it’s because he’s one of the better contact hitters in the game. I never liked him leading off in games, but in the leadoff role, he’s batting .311 with 137 hits and scoring 60 runs. Curtis Granderson, who typically bats second behind Jeter, also has scored 60 runs from his spot. Granderson has also led off this season. Going forward, I think if the two were interchangeable in the line-up, which they are, that the Yankees’ lead off production would not at all falter. However, with Jeter’s production this year, if Granderson leads off and finds a way to get on, then the Yankees could be in business early in games.
Obviously, Jeter is not a power hitter. With only eight home runs and 21 extra base hits on the season, his bat is better suited to move runners over on base, not necessarily score them from first. When Jeter is able to hit those runners into scoring position, it sets the table for the heart of the order. This is something that is really undervalued about Jeter and the fact that he has a lot of clutch hits.
Jeter’s WAR is 2.3, which is higher than everyone else in the line-up except for Granderson and Robinson Cano. His RBIs and runs scored are both on the decline, but Jeter’s bat is one that most teams would envy, especially considering all the wear and tear his body has taken from playing shortstop for 16 years.
As of last night’s two-hit effort, Jeter sits only 14 hits behind last year’s total of 162. He’ll definitely surpass the mark, barring injury, and maybe even break into the 200’s. As long as he can still swing his bat, Jeter will be a hitter that no pitcher likes to face, especially considering that with or without runners on, he just destroys the ball. It really doesn’t matter what scenario it is, runners on, nobody on, leading off an inning, or whatever it may be, Jeter is batting over .300 in all of those situations.
So, will Jeter ever get to 4,000 hits? It remains to be seen, but I think from what this season has shown us, he has a chance to achieve it. Is 2012 a testament to silence his critics? Perhaps, but Jeter doesn’t play this game solely for himself and his achievements. He plays this game for his team, his fans and just because he loves the sport. Here’s hoping that the Captain will obtain that 4,000th hit someday.