Hey, so, remember when we all thought Derek Jeter was pretty much done after 2010 and a weak start in 2011? Well, for at least the time being, Jeter is proving us wrong. Going into yesterday’s game against the Rangers, Jeter was hitting .319/.361/.423/.784/110 OPS+. He was also sporting a .344 wOBA and a 113 wRC+ while leading the American League in total hits. Oh and he’s 38 years old. The last time someone that age (or older) led the American League in hits was Paul Molitor in 1996 with 225 at age 39. That year, Molitor played most of his games (143) at DH; he played the other 17 at first base. Jeter is a shortstop. Whatever we may think of his fielding ability–or lack thereof–the fact that he’s as old as he is and still physically able to play shortstop day-in and day-out is remarkable. How remarkable is it? I went to the Play Index at Baseball Reference and entered a search for players who had 85% of their games at shortstop from age 38 on and only 11 players showed up. They were:
Honus Wagner, 1912
Derek Jeter, 2012
Bill Dahlen, 1908
Ozzie Smith, 1908
Bobby Wallace, 1912
Omar Vizquel, 2005
Barry Larkin, 2002
Rabbit Maranville, 1930
Dave Bancroft, 1928
Bones Ely, 1901
Only two of them, Wagner and Jeter, have been “above average” offensive contributors by OPS+. If we don’t adjust for position, Wagner and Jeter are the only ones to have an OPS+ of 100 or better. Wagner’s season was ridiculous, at .324/.395/.496. That led to a robust 144 OPS+. And though Jeter is 16 points ahead of the third place finisher, he’s a full 34 points behind Wagner. Obviously, this speaks to just how good a hitter Wagner was. But just as importantly, it reminds us of how great Derek Jeter is. He’s not only producing at a rate above league average, but he’s doing it at an up the middle position, just under two years shy of his 40th birthday. If we compare Jeter and his .784 OPS to the average AL shortstop and his .671 OPS, Jeter looks even better. His roughly position adjusted OPS+ goes to 116. So Jeter is hitting 10% better than the overall league average and 16% better than the average AL shortstop. Again, he’s 38. Thirty-eight.
Taking Jeter’s age into account is a bit of a double-edged sword. Is this the proverbial dead cat bounce or just the delaying of the inevitable? Right now, I don’t care. Despite my previous reservations about him and his performance, I’m thoroughly enjoying his 2012 season. Keep it up, Derek. Keep it up.
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