The 2011 performance of Derek Jeter continues to be a contentious point for many Yankee fans, and it seems like there’s a good chance it will remain so considering that (a) the Yankees clearly aren’t interested in upsetting the apple cart, (b) my own research showed that the net gain of moving him out of the leadoff slot was minimal to the point of probably not being worth the internal strife it might cause, and, (c) he’s actually been hitting surprisingly well since returning from the DL, although he’s still significantly below average against righthanders.
However, this isn’t meant to disparage Derek’s performance against righties as much as show that the Bombers aren’t the only team in MLB apparently willing to punt the leadoff slot against righthanders. The following chart shows MLB’s four worst everyday leadoff hitters vs. righthanded pitching by wOBA:
Yikes. The White Sox, Mariners and Cardinals are currently employing hitters that fare just as poorly if not worse than Jeter wOBA-wise. Although if we adjust for park and league…
…Derek appears to be the second-worst leadoff hitter against righthanders in baseball right now. Now in fairness, we’re looking at his entire season in these charts, and as our own William noted earlier today Jeter’s performance against righthanders has been a lot better in the month of July, but one improved month does not a season make. I remain skeptical that Derek will be able to continue to hit righties at a .283/.333/.396 clip, given that he hit .246/.315/.317 against righties for the entire 2010 season, an execrable slash line that ostensibly continued right up until this very hot streak.
I know I previously concluded that swapping Derek and Brett Gardner would end up resulting in a one-win upgrade at most, but with Gardner at 119 wRC+ against righties and Derek at 70, not to mention that the Yankees will probably end up facing somewhere in the neighborhood of twice as many righties as lefties over their final 62 games, I do wonder whether continuing to hit Derek in the leadoff slot against righties will result in a tangible loss in potential run creation.
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