Oh Captain, my captain! A 38-year-old shortstop isn’t supposed to have a season like Derek Jeter had in 2012. While all reports reveal his defense stinks, at least in regards to range, he was a true catalyst with the bat. The normal curve throughout a player’s career dictates that any seasons played after age 35 means a sharp decline in all baseball activities, but Jeter is no normal player, and up until his injury in the ALCS, he was the engine of this ballclub.
Not many shortstops record a .316/.362/.429 slash line, heck not many players amass those numbers ever in their career. However, Jeter had a season that made all of us remember he’s what makes this team tick. While Robinson Cano is most likely the future in this regard, he won’t have the torch passed to him until Jeter retires. The shortstop led the league in hits (216) for the second time in his illustrious career, and also led the league in plate appearances (740) and at-bats (683) in 2012.
Let’s get right into the good stuff. Usually when a player has a great batting average, on-base, and slugging percentage, they also have a higher than normal BABIP. Jeter’s BABIP (.347) is a tic above normal range (.280-.320), but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was lucky. Instead, he hit line drives nearly 22 percent of the time and groundballs 65.2 percent of his at-bats. Those two outcomes, coupled with a good K-rate (12.2 percent) help drive up BABIP numbers. His BABIP totals were close to his career number mark (.354), which is even more amazing considering his age.
Meanwhile, many players in the twilight of their careers have a difficult time finishing out seasons due to fatigue, however, Jeter was better in the second half than he was in the first.
He scored more runs, batted more runs in, hit more home runs, and had just as many doubles in 40 fewer plate appearances than he had in the first half. He was a table setter in every sense of the word.
That being said, there were some warning signs to might tell us this season was an aberration. First, taking a gander at his plate discipline numbers reveals he’s swinging at more pitches out of the zone, swinging more in general, and making contact about the same amount. Over his career he’s swung at around 22.4 percent of pitches outside the zone, but he swung at 31.1 percent of those same pitches this season. Also, he made contact with nearly 10 percent more pitches outside the zone in 2012 than he has throughout his career. Swinging at strikes and getting hits are difficult enough, expecting to get base hits from making contact with pitches outside the zone is foolhardy. Jeter goes up there hacking and it worked this season, but we are just as likely to see the ugly side of this in the coming seasons.
On the fielding front, it’s widely known that Jeter isn’t the best defensive shortstop and 2012 wasn’t that kind to him. He recorded his second worst UZR/150 total (-16.4) of his career. Furthermore, his range (as expected) got worse (-16.6 RngR in 2012 compared to -8.39 in his career). He makes the play if he gets to it, unlike one Mr. Eduardo Nunez, who’s a crapshoot throwing the ball.
Finally, Jeter was one of the only batters to show up during the postseason. During the ALDS, Jeter hit .364/.391/.500 and scored four runs. Sadly, in the one game he played during the ALCS before busting his ankle, he hit .200/.333/.200. It was a sad end to an otherwise great season for Jeter. Everybody expected something around .270-.260 in the batting average department, but instead we were treated to a great season by the Yankees best shortstop of all-time. Relish in it Yankees fans, because we might not see this again for a long time.
- Effort reflects ability
- Uses time wisely
- Participates in class activities
- Positive role model for peers
- Exceeds goals
A – At his age, Derek Jeter should not be putting up numbers like he is. His fielding won’t get any better, but he could still do some damage with the bat despite the obvious warning signs.