Over at Beyond the Box Score, Jack Moore has an interesting writeup out about Derek Jeter’s 13 home runs in 2009. According to Moore and based on scaled comparisons of the two Stadiums, the new Yankee Stadium has significantly influenced Jeter’s power as most of the HRs Jeter has hit at home (Moore cites 10, but there have been 11 since the 10th) would not have been HRs in the House That Ruth Built. In fact, if Moore is correct and if there hadn’t been a switch in ballparks, between home and away games, Jeter would have hit only 5-6 HRs in 2009 (this is a cursory evaluation).
Now, Moore’s analysis is debatable due to scaling issues and other a variety of other circumstances (the HRs Jeter hit in 2009 could still have been extra base hits in the old Stadium), however, he hurts his post with the following conclusions.
With this boost in power, Jeter’s ISO has risen 23 points from last year’s mark. Jeter may be in a park that plays to his strengths as an opposite field hitter, but Jeter’s 35, and not much has changed outside of where he’s playing. Despite his increased production, it is still questionable whether or not Jeter’s career can continue after he can’t play SS any more.
These comments are far too general and lack a bit of nuance.
Sure, Jeter’s ISO (isolated power) has “risen 23 points from last year’s mark,” but last year’s mark was more of an aberration than an accurate representation of Jeter’s career norms. For example, Jeter’s ISO figures since 2005 have been 141, 140, 130 and, in 2008, 103. Which ISO doesn’t fit? The 103 was largely the result of a year in which Jeter was injured after being hit on the hand by a Daniel Cabrera fastball. It wasn’t a severe decline brought on solely by age. His career ISO is 142 so Jeter’s 2009 mark of 134 is inline with what he normally does.
On top of that, if Jeter is an opposite field hitter and the only change has been “where he’s playing,” then the ballpark should continue to help him as he ages, right? The park is helping him in the power department, that’s a given, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If Jeter were to sign with another team after 2010, maybe then you could worry about that, but he’ll probably end his career as a Yankee and in the new ballpark, so what’s not to like? Furthermore, Jeter has always been helped by Yankee Stadium—old and new—so there’s really no new issue here.
Also, I wonder if Moore is operating under the assumption that Jeter is still a poor defensive SS. “It’s still questionable whether or not Jeter’s career can continue after he can’t play SS any more,” he writes. However, Jeter’s defensive renaissance in 2009 indicates that he’ll be playing there for at least a few more years (if the gains we’ve witnessed in ’09 hold up, probably until he retires). His bat isn’t costing them anything at SS and he has been having his best year since 2006. For that reason, why question his ability to remain at the position?
In the end, I’m not sure what Moore meant by his final sentence(s). Based on what he has shown us in relation to Jeter’s home HR totals and ISO, I don’t think anyone is ready to seriously question Jeter’s ability to continue to play and be productive—not when he’s close to being a 5-win player at the age of 35.
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