Derek Jeter’s off-the-plate approach
Okay, okay—I’ve beat this one to death, I know. But, with the first half of the season nearing an end, and with Derek Jeter stuck at a mediocre triple slash of .281/.348/.405, I thought it might be best to highlight the Yankees’ heralded Hall of Famer’s questionable plate discipline, at least once more before the All-Star break.
On the year, Jeter has walked 8.3% of the time, a number that is higher than both his 2007 and 2008 marks. However, though Jeter is collecting his walks – his career rate is actually 9.0%, so he’s not far off – the real problem has been the pitches he’s swinging at and not making contact with. In 2010, Jeter has swung at 28.6% of the pitches he’s seen outside of the zone. His career average in that regard is 20.0%. Compared to last season, Jeter’s outside-of-the-zone swing percentage has increased by almost 7.0%. Making matters worse is that Jeter has not put more of these balls in play when compared to previous years. For instance, in 2009, Jeter swung at 22.2% of the pitches he saw outside of the zone and he made contact with those pitches 65.1% of the time. In 2010, however, Jeter is swinging at 28.6% of the pitches he sees off the plate – an increase – and is making contact with them only 65.4% of the time. So, relative to last year, while Jeter has swung at more balls this year – or at least in the first half of this year – he has not put them in play more (or much more, I should say). Herein lies the issue, really. If Jeter swung at more balls and did more with them, we wouldn’t be as critical. He’s not doing that, though, as his off-the-plate chasing isn’t generating contact.
Based on these numbers, one could argue that Jeter’s eye has begun to wane with age. Another person, perhaps one with more faith, could argue that Captain Intangibles is merely experiencing a simple statistical deviation. I’m inclined to believe in the latter at this point, as Jeter’s O-Zone percentage has gotten better with each month after an awful April – 34.4% in April, 29.2% in May, 25.4% in June – so maybe he’s simply taking a little longer to find “it” this year. Going forward, we should keep an eye on that rate, though. It will be central to this season, and will also be a factor in the offseason negotiations between Jeter and the Yankees.
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