The Yankees are currently in first place in the American League East, but that’s not what fans are talking about at the moment. They’re not talking about how the Yanks are playing better than the heavily favored Red Sox or about Curtis Granderson’s MVP-caliber season or even Jesus Montero being stuck in Scranton. They are talking about Derek Jeter.
Heading into 2011, I was expecting a bounce back year from Jeter. He was coming off a career low slash line of .270/.340/.370 and even though I had no reason to believe that the aging captain just had a flukey season, as a die-hard Yankee fan, I just wanted to dream. And through the first half of the season Derek gave people a reason to think that he was certainly declining.
In April, he hit .256/.313/.278, in May he hit .274/.338/.371, and in June he was at .239/.314/.304 until getting injured and hitting the 15-day disabled list. While rehabbing in Tampa, he made a slight tweak to his swing, according to the DJ3K documentary that aired on HBO. Jeter did look much better when he came off the DL as he was hitting balls with more authority and to the gaps, kind of like he did in the good old days.
After the All-Star Break and after he got his 3000th hit, he continued to hit. So far in the second half, he is hitting .336/.393/.443 with a wOBA in upper .300’s as opposed to one hovering around .300 as it was in the early part of the season. The answer clearly lies deep within the numbers. If we take a look at the captain’s stats this year as opposed to 2010, one can see that he is hitting more line drives and less ground balls, something that backs up the fact that he is hitting the ball with more authority.
The thing that is so crazy about this is that he hasn’t really changed his approach at the plate. He is being just as aggressive as ever, walking around the same amount, and is swinging through the same amount of pitches. Instead, I think it lies with the way he is hitting the fastball. Last season, he posted the wFB of 1.4 and that is now up to 3.7 this year. With that, his runs above average have gone up with almost every other pitch. I don’t know if he is quicker to the ball or what or if he’s reading pitches better, but whatever it is, it’s working.
What’s going to be interesting to see is whether or not Jeter can sustain this type of performance. He is no doubt red hot right now (.395 BA in last ten games), but can he keep his current season average (.290) through the rest of the season, the playoffs, and beyond 2011. A lot of people thought the Bombers would have a dead weight at shortstop for the next two plus years and that might still be true, but at least this little hot streak will give us something to dream on for the time being.
Here are some notes from before today’s game:
- A-Rod and Derek Jeter have both pulled themselves out of the All-Star Game. Rodriguez has that sore knee that he’s been nursing and he went for a pre-cautionary MRI today. Jeter said that he feels he needs more rest after just getting off the disabled list with the calf injury. Only three Yankees remain on the team.
- Nick Swisher is now day-to-day with a sore left quad.
- Brian Gordon has been bought by a team from Korea and is now gone.
All-Star rosters were announced today and the Yankees have six players going to this year’s game. Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson will each start at their respective positions, Russell Martin will be a reserve, and Mariano Rivera will of course be the closer. Unfortunately, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and David Robertson got snubbed, but whatever.
Here are some big time injury reports:
- Jeff Marquez was placed on the disabled list with a sore shoulder and Buddy Carlyle was called up to be the long man in a corresponding move.
- Derek Jeter has reported to Tampa and has started some basic exercises, but hasn’t fully tested out that strained calf yet. He plans to resume baseball activity later this week.
- Eric Chavez is taking batting practice and fielding ground balls, but still is only allowed to do limited running.
- Rafael Soriano had a throwing session earlier this week and it went well. He didn’t feel any pain and after a full week of intense treatment after he felt pain, he is making progress and hopes to be back juts after the All-Star break.
- Bartolo Colon has started a throwing program and will probably be back right when his fifteen days are up as long as his hamstring feels alright.
Derek Jeter is eligible to come off the disabled list on June 29 and until then, the Yankees are gonna have to get by with Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson atop the order. But when Jeter comes back, should they make a change back to the old way?
Brett Gardner got off to an awful start in the lead off spot posting a hitting line of .188/.273/.391 for the month of April. And now so far for the month of June, he is batting .423. Not only has his batting average risen this month, but his OBP is at about .500. We all know that Gardy has wheels and isn’t the ideal lead off man a guy with speed and good on base skills? This being said, since Brett has seemingly put it all together, it would be best for the team if he was the lead off guy. I would give the Yanks some of that explosiveness that they miss out on in being an older team.
If Jeter were not to return to the lead off spot, the next logical place to look the number two hole. However, this poses another problem because Curtis Granderson has been putting together quite a season out of the second spot in the lineup. I’m a big believer in the thought, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” With this, Granderson has been the best hitter from the start of the season and moving him down in the lineup might not be the best idea.
So does this mean that we finally make the move of putting Jeter down in bottom three of the lineup? I’m not sure about that. Joe Girardi does seem to want to preserve his legacy, but a .260/.324/.324 isn’t exactly getting it done. Maybe they wait until he gets to 3000 before moving him down just so he can get the extra at-bats or maybe they try to platoon. Jeter does hit lefties a lot better than rightites (.299/.405/.403 against lefties). Maybe they use the fact that Gardner is a lefty to platoon him and Jeter at the top of the order.
I honestly think they should go with the latter option that I have provided because it somewhat allows Jeter to have his pride, but also helps the team. This really is a sticky situation and I’m hoping it doesn’t wind up getting to messy in the end.
Update (6:13pm): Jeter has finally been placed on the 15-day disabled list and is eligible to come off on June 29.
Update (4:25pm): As it turns out, the Yanks haven’t made a decision on Jeter going to the disabled list yet, and won’t until after he sees Dr. Ahmad tonight. He will miss at least a week either way so I don’t see why they wouldn’t free up the extra roster spot. Either way Pena has been called up to replace one of the thirteen pitchers the team was carrying.
Original (3:00pm): Via Sweeney Murti, the Yankees have placed Derek Jeter on the 15-day disabled list and brought up Eduardo Nunez. This is definitely the right move because you’d rather be safe than sorry and also it frees up the extra roster spot. Pena has been the everyday shortstop for Triple A Scranton to start the season and is already in the clubhouse.
(Update): Jeter was sent for an MRI which revealed a Grade I calf strain. That is the lowest severity of any strain. The Yanks said they will decide what to do tomorrow, but a trip to the disabled list might happen.
(Original): Derek Jeter was lifted from tonight’s game with an apparent leg injury coming out of the box in his at-bat in the fifth inning. It didn’t look good and Eduardo Nunez is his replacement. Stay tuned for updates.