From Marc Carig, on Jeter’s 35th birthday:
Here’s my conclusion: While he turns 35 on Friday, an age in which baseball players should be on the slow train toward decline, Jeter’s played this season as he’s a man in his late 20s.
Jeter is hitting .308/.377/.451 with an OPS+ of 117. According to baseball-reference.com, this is just a tick below his career OPS+ of 120. Jeter’s overall value with the bat, according to weighted on-base average (or wOBA, which attempts to measure total offensive production) is at its highest levels since 2001. His wOBA in 2001? .378. Now? .377.
Meanwhile, his 17 stolen bases are already his most for a season since 2006.
And then there’s his defense, the area for which he has been repeatedly flogged. Judging from Ultimate Zone Rating — which through the years has been an unflattering way to evaluate his glove — Jeter has found a way to recapture the skills he showed as a 28-year-old.
Let’s look at Fangraphs. In 2002, when he turned 28, Jeter recorded a UZR/150 of -0.3, and then watched as it remained on the negative side until this season, in which he’s posting a 3.3, his first positive rating ever in the UZR era. According to the metrics, Jeter is actually saving the Yankees runs as opposed to costing them.
Keep in mind that one component of UZR looks specifically at range and nothing else. Called range runs, this number attempts to represent how many runs a fielder is saving or costing his team, based strictly on how much ground he’s covering.
In 2002, Jeter recorded a 0.1 and didn’t get back onto the positive side of the ledger until … this season. He’s at 0.3.
Jeter’s home/road power splits are fairly pronounced, so it may make a bit of sense to be skeptical of his power numbers. However, he does have an equal number of doubles at home and on the road, suggesting that he may have just had a few doubles turn into home runs in the Yankees cozy new park. And, as I noted
on Opening Day, Jeter was never really in a major decline in the first place:
2006 was one of Derek Jeter’s best seasons, and was out of line with the seasons surrounding it. The data Mike posts is therefore a bit misleading. Jeter’s 2007 numbers are actually right in line with 2001-2005. When looked at in this broader context, he has had one season of decline, during which he really only had one terrible month following an injury skew his numbers. RLYW looked at the splits and found that his numbers would look somewhat better if that month was taken out, although they would still represent a decline.
The point is that one bad season does not a trend make. Is it possible that Derek is on the downslope of his career? Certainly. However, at this point, we do not have enough evidence to support that notion. Let’s see how 2009 before we decide that he is finished.
Thus far, Jeter’s 2009 has looked very good. He is driving the ball with a frequency that reminds me of 2006, and looks considerably more agile in the field. With half of the season gone, Jeter is making a case to continue as the shortstop here in New York once his current contract ends.
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