El Crapitan?


Let me preface this post by saying this: I have nothing against Derek Jeter. I think he is a great ballplayer that has helped bring the Yankees five World Series championships. This is not meant to be a knock on him; I (kind of) don’t think he is over-the-hill, washed up or anything of the sort. I am simply attempting to figure out what is going wrong for him in 2010.

What is wrong with Derek Jeter this season? Has his age (36 in June) caught up with him? Can he no longer connect on certain pitches? Does he need glasses, because he used to wear them. Was that hit-by-pitch from Justin Verlander (and the other two this season) more troubling than he let on? Is Minka Kelly and their looming marriage causing this decline in production?

I think one of the problems could be that he is swinging at the first pitch too often and hacking away at stuff outside the strike zone. Last night, for example, he swung at the first pitch in the first inning and grounded to short. Then, in the second stanza, he took seven pitches but also swung at ball four twice (something he also did on Monday night and countless other times this season) before striking out. He fanned again in the fifth, but did so on seven pitches. He drew a seven-pitch walk in the sixth frame, and finally connected on a huge five-pitch single in the eighth. Strikeouts aren’t that big of a deal, per se, when you’re driving the pitch count up. However, when you’re seeing an average of 3.59 pitches per plate appearance whiffs are kind of a nuisance.

Let’s look at some of DJ’s numbers through 38 games. In 2010, Jeter is hitting .268/.315/.393/.708, which is way down compared to his career .316/.387/.458/.844 line. Plus his 2010 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is at a meager .289 compared to the robust .358 for his career. Plus this year’s BB% (5.0) is the lowest it’s ever been throughout his career. To put that in perspective, Robinson Cano has drawn three more walks (12) in 17 fewer at-bats (151) than Jeet. On the other hand, at the moment, Jeter’s K% (13.7) is also the lowest it’s been in his career but not too far away from that of his career mark (16.9), which, I guess, is a positive.

Not  to further knock Jeter, but his May line reads .189/.268/.230/.498. Perhaps he’s the anti-Teixeira, as he went .330/.354/.521/.875 in April.

To make matters worse, Captain’s line drive percentage this year (14.4) is way down from his career mark (20.5) and 2010’s ground ball percentage (67.8) is way up from that of his career (56.2), both are the worst of his career. Plus, damn near all of his 2010 plate discipline stats are an abomination.

What does this all mean? Maybe he just needs more time and a larger sample size to produce better numbers, maybe a day off, or perhaps he needs to be moved from the leadoff spot. Could the speedy Brett Gardner and his dead-sexy .321/.399/.412/.811 with 17 stolen bases (caught once) take over at the top of the order? It’s something to think about, that’s for sure.

So what should the Yanks do about this slump? Are the critics right? Lest we forget Jeet also had kind of a slow start in 2009, but fought his way back to make a bid for the MVP award. So I say give him some more time and if he doesn’t pick it up by mid-to-late June then the team has a problem and should make some changes. I’ve got a feeling that he’ll step up and record his usual numbers by season’s end. He’d better, it is a contract year after all.