What’s Wrong with Derek Jeter?

At 36 and just after signing a three-year deal, Derek Jeter is off to a horrible start in 2011. With 120 plate appearances Jeter has a wRC+ of just 57, and the main reason is his complete lack of power. Of his 27 hits only two have gone for extra bases — both doubles — leaving him with an ISO of 0.019, the worst in baseball.

The culprit for Jeter’s lack of power is his league-leading 72% ground-ball rate. In fact, since the start of 2010 Jeter has hit two thirds of his balls in play on the ground. That is far and away the most of any major league player, and considerably higher than the 57% he has averaged since 2002. WIth this big change in ground-ball rate I assumed that Jeter was swinging more at pitches low in the zone, but that is not the case:

Jeter is actually swinging at more at high pitches, but he is driving those into the ground much more than he used to. This change on pitches up in the zone looks to be the big reason for his higher ground-ball rate: pitches that Jeter used to hit for opposite-field, line-drive doubles are now ending up as ground outs.

Additionally troubling is the outcome on Jeter’s few non-grounders. Off his 27 FBs and LDs, he has just seven singles (both his doubles came on grounders). His wRC+ on opposite-field balls in play — usually where he does the most damage — is just 22 compared to a career average of 147. So even when Jeter does get the hit a ball in the air, he is not doing much with it.

Jeter had re-worked his swing during spring training, but quickly gave up on that and went back to his original swing. He will most likely not finish the season with the worst ISO in the leage and a sub-0.275 wOBA, but he needs to find a way to get some loft and power back in his bat. His seven-win 2009 season feels a long way off.




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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


50 Responses to “What’s Wrong with Derek Jeter?”

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  1. D4P says:

    His O-swing% has also gone up dramatically the past few years.

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    • Dave Allen says:

      This is a good point I didn’t bring up in the post. His OSwing is way up in the last two years, while his ZSwing is actually down. So far it seems like it hasn’t hurt his BB/K numbers, but it might play a part in his power problems.

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  2. Bobulated says:

    You answered the question in your first two words; “At 36…”. It will be interesting to see if he has enough pride to eventually retire if things don’t turn around this season or next or if he hangs on and tries to play out his “gold watch” contract.

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    • Jason B says:

      I kinda thought the same thing – he’s old, bat speed slows, reflexes slow. /end

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    • Rick says:

      The tank is empty. He’s a below average defender with a flair for the highlight reel. His bat finally got a little too heavy and now he just sucks. The best part is the Yankers are on the hook for two more years and they wouldn’t dare try to push their icon into retirement for fear of a fans revolt in the stands.
      I think we all saw the writing on the wall with his batting average and OPS were his lowest since his 1995 cup of coffee. His BABIP was a career low and so was his SLG. I don’t think anyone predicted this bad of a drop off, but the end is near.

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    • Luke in MN says:

      I think we’re a little quick to stick a fork in the old guys. Think Berkman last year; Thome the year before that. I think the question isn’t so much how old they are, it’s how long it’s been since they were good. Jeter is just 2 years removed from a 135 wRC+ and had a very solid bat for a SS last year. He’s going to generally get worse as the years tick by, but falling straight off a cliff at age 36 isn’t exactly what you’d expect when you were good at 35 and great at 34.

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      • walt526 says:

        “falling straight off a cliff at age 36 isn’t exactly what you’d expect when you were good at 35 and great at 34.”

        Jeter’s wRC+ was 95 to go along with below average defense that essentially offsets a good chunk of the position adjustment. At best, his 2010 is more aptly described as “mediocre” than “good.”

        He’ll improve, but his 2010 likely represents the upper-bound of what can reasonably be expected from him going forward.

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  3. CircleChange11 says:

    He’s topping the hell out of everything. It’s swing mechanics.

    In back to back days on ESPN, he was part of 4 “highlights” … 2 web gems by great plays by 3B’s, and 2 weak-arse infield hits (the countdown to 3000).

    All the pitcher were up and he topped them, very weakly, to 3B.

    Previously, IMO, those balls would have been lines drives oppo.

    It’s either a swing path (hands through the zone) and/or a timing issue. I don’t watch a ton of Jeter, so I have no idea if he’s not keeping his hands back or lower body ahead, etc.

    He is absolutely killing grass, and that is obvious whether one is watching his at bats or looking at his stat sheet.

    I don;t think age has anything to do with this. If anything, age might help Jeter since so much of his value comes from taking the ball the other way. Makes me wonder why he’s not just flicking those balls into right like usual. Has he ever had a lot of success pulling the ball?

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    • Bobulated says:

      Speaking as a collegiate ballplayer who then played men’s adult league baseball into my mid to late 30s; I feel reduced bat speed has a LOT to do with those worm burners. As my bat slowed down the pitches I used to yank down the line or into the left field gap began to top sharply to third then weakly to short. You know your bat is slower, you know you need to get it around. It contributes to a mechanical flaw as you begin starting early, getting on your front foot too soon adding loft to your swing and your timing is now a distant memory.
      I’m not trying to compare myself to a first ballot HOF player but just saying what I went through once I hit 35-36.
      Time waits for no man.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        The front foot too soon would be one of the things I’d look at for timing issues.

        For a hitter that goes the other way a lot, I would think timing issues would be less prevalent than for a pull hitter … but at this point anything is possible, and I have not viewed Jeter’s swing in steps.

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    • Eric says:

      Love is blind. Come on. He’s old and his bat has slowed down. You can see it from Yonkers

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  4. Anthony says:

    This year Jeter is hitting ground balls over 92% of the time when he pulls it. (79% for his career) He was at 88% in 2010.

    He’s late on fastballs and out in front of offspeed pitches, and as mentioned above, he’s not even hitting sharp grounders, he’s pounding the ball in the ground.

    As a Yankee fan I am very happy to seem him fly out every once in a while.

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  5. fredsbank says:

    towards the end… what is wBOA?

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  6. uclarob says:

    If you slide the pitch height reference lines up by 0.25 feet so they lie at 1.75 and 3.75 (feet?) may that not be more representative of his true strike zone. My only reasoning for this would be that you would get something more of a gaussian with the mean lying as the true heart of his strike zone, and the other reason being that he may be taller than average and would make sense to have his zone be correspondingly so. Thoughts?

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  7. watchesbaseball says:

    Part of the reason why his fly balls aren’t going for hits the other way is because teams are super shifting to right field. The RF is almost on the line when he bats.

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      another reason is that the outfield plays in for him because he really has not shown the ability to get the ball over their heads. so when he bloops one or lines one to the outfield, they can come in enough to snag it. once he hits a double to the wall or, if it ever happens, a home run, they will back up a bit more and he can drop a few more in for hits in the no man’s land in shallow outfield.

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  8. bowie says:

    is there a way to tell if pitchers have been adjusting to his heavy GB tendency yet in terms of pitch selection & location?

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    • TK says:

      I think you can generally assume teams do adjust – they have professional scouts. But to answer your question, I think there are graphs of pitch location. I don’t know where they are available, but I see them in fangraphs articles all the time. Sorry I am not helpful at all.

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  9. What’s wrong with Jeter? HE’S A BUM!

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  10. johngomes says:

    i love people with the berkman excuse. berkman actually hired a trainer in the offseason for the first time. jeter will be asking berkman for a referral at the all star game. and yes jeter will be voted in. what a shame. and yes its going to need more than berkmans trainer to get this done.

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  11. Still a good player just not a great one any more. Let’s see how the Yankees treat him in his golden years.

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  12. pft says:

    Only difference between this year and last year is that last year jeter got off to a good start in April.

    From May 1- mid September marginally better than what he is hitting now.

    The question coming into this year was if last year was just a bad year and if Jeter would rebound, or if it was a sign of age related decline. Looking to be the latter at this point.

    Jeter is the ultimate rally kiler for the Yankees at the top of the order. Time for Girardi to drop him to 8th in the order and go with batting order of

    Granderson
    Teixeira
    A-Rod
    Cano
    Swisher
    Posada
    Martin
    Jeter
    Gardner .

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    • RiverAce says:

      Tex hitting second? Posada 6? That lineup is insane. Girardi just spit his coffee.

      NEWS FLASH: this is what happens to typical athletes who DONT take PEDs. We are just not used to it after 10+ years of abuse by players.

      Gardner
      Swisher
      Cano
      Teixeira
      ARod
      Granderson
      Jeter
      Posada
      Martin

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  13. phoenix2042 says:

    if eduardo nunez goes on a tear while jeter sits out because of his hip, what happens when jeter comes back? obviously he will get the start, but it will look and feel rather odd to sit a hot player for a struggling one, especially when nunez plays much much better defense.

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    • Rev Boludo says:

      He is on a tear….5 errors in 27 innings. Unless he destoys the ball at the plate that will not be overlooked.

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  14. DodgersKings323 says:

    Called it when he got that fat contract, he’s old, now watch Yankee fans turn on him and Cashmen come under fire lol
    “We love you bro! Our leader and hero”……..*starts sucking*……”sit that bum down! We are here to win championships arrgghhhh!”

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    • Haha says:

      On the bright side, Yankees fans, your over-the-hill shortstop hits like the Dodgers in-his-prime first baseman.

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  15. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    What is wrong with Jeter? He is to proud to know when he should retire!!!

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  16. reillocity says:

    Considering how much the 2010-2011 Pitch Height vs Swing Rate plot looks like a woman’s breast and given how closely the 2010-2011 Pitch Height vs Ground-Ball Rate plot resembles the small of a woman’s back and rump, I’m thinking that Jeter has his priorities directed somewhere other than baseball now (specifically Minka Kelly). Not that there’s anything “wrong” with that.

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  17. epy0n says:

    haha A+ Reillodity. Seriously give Jeter until June you don’t just fall of this quick he is still very talented.

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  18. As I discuss in this piece…

    http://www.chrisoleary.com/projects/Baseball/Hitting/ProfessionalHitterAnalyses/SwingAnalysis_DerekJeter_001.html

    …Jeter’s got a mechanical problem. His back elbow is leaking forward and is causing the topped balls.

    He’s always had this problem, but he’s getting less and less able to work around it as he has gotten older.

    He needs to rebuild his swing from the ground up (and not just tweak his stride).

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  19. Fred says:

    What’s wrong with Jeff Francoeur?

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  20. Ozzie says:

    I am a die hard Yankee fan his failures are injuring the team but that has been true for the last 5 years his salary has NEVER matched his production. I have been saying that he is the most overrated player in sports history I’m glad that the rest of the sport world has finally caught up to me. Now as a Yankee fan we are stuck with him thanks to the Derek loving fans that scared the Yankees into making the most overrated player in the history of sport the highest paid short stop in baseball.

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  21. Russ Atkins says:

    Jeter is actually tipping the end of his bat forward as he begins his swing. That has to create a “loop” in his swing which leaves the bat level through the ball almost not at all. He has to “top” or “pop”. The “changes” they worked at the end of last year created the needed level arc through the ball. He’ll (they) will figure it out, he will turn around & I predict a .320 w/19HRs this year. He is too good, too determined to let stubborness (returning to what he thinks was his old swing, it’s not, look at his ’97 to ’09 swings) to get in the way.
    All this nit picking of not only the greatest Yankee SS, but of of the 5 best SS’s of all time!! Back off, I bet on the quality we watched since he arrived in NY.

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    • Actually, Jeter is one of the few guys who doesn’t have much of a loop in his swing (and that’s a bad thing). He’s trying to do a linear, pull the knob to the ball swing. That causes his back elbow to slide forward and then creates an excessive uppercut.

      Also, every good hitter has a loop in their swing. The problem is that Jeter’s is excessive due to how his back elbow slides forward.

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    • SF 55 for life says:

      Top 5 shortstop of all time? That’s highly debatable.

      Ripken, Wagner, Vaughan, Cronin, Larkin, Rodriguez, Davis, Appling, and Boudreau are probably ahead of him.

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  22. Ozzie says:

    Russ it’s people like you have stuck the Yankee with this overrated bum, you want to call real decline demonstrated by numbers nit picking. It’s amazing how numbers matter for every player except for Jeter. Decline in numbers for everybody means declining skills except for him. How can hope that he will hit .320 and 19 justify a 15mill salary. I know what answer is Derek lover will talk about the BS of the unmeasurables he brings. This guy is the only guy that his unmeasuranles matter more than his measurables. You live in a dream world if you think this guy is getting any were near 320 and 19. I love the Yankees but how long will we cover up the truth about a player who’s made milliones off of how good he looks in his uniform and his unmeasurables I congratulate him on his accomplishments.What I am saying is only a rant or hateing or jealousy to those who ignore the REAL decline of the most overated player in sport history as a Yankee fan I need him to do well but thats a dream.

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  23. beagamer says:

    The best thing for Jeter would be to have an on the field press conference as Gehrig and The Babe did ending it.

    There are just way too many factors involved to make it happen anymore and for him to want to continue is like this is just hard to watch and it has to be hard to play. Somehow he’ll eek out 47 more hits and ride into the sunset with his harem of celebrity girlfriends.

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  24. Ozzie says:

    Does anyone think he is going to leave all that money on the table even after he achieves the 3,000 hits. A stat that is a product of longevity overrated just like him. If he does leave all that money on the table he will be the first, as farr as I know to leave so much money. It would be shocking put finally he would end his hold up of the Yankee pockets.

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  25. Julio Moncion says:

    Isn’t there a chart somewhere of players swing speed (mph), to compare Jeter’s swings speed these days against, say 2 years ago? I appreciate the anaysis shown here and I’ms sure it tells part of the story. But watching games and seeing his AB’s its just plain obvious that he can’t catch up with the best fastballs anymore. I don’t think there is much you can do with adjustments in your swing, when you simply don’t have the bat speed anymore.

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  26. Packer says:

    Jeter is all out of kilter. He lunges at everything. Absolutely no power in his swing because he is so off balance. How many outs has he made to the second baseman standing in the same place, time after time? Has he even flied out to the left fielder yet this year? He never pulls the ball and when he does hit the ball to the left side, it is a weak ground ball to the shortstop. Either he has something seriously wrong with him or the game has just caught up to him because of age. We’ll have to wait and see. The Yankees are a loyal organization and will not give up on Jeter and Posada until they absolutely have to and maybe not even then. This says something about their organization. No wonder people enjoy playing for them.

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  27. Brian Wells says:

    Hopefully,Jeter`s pride and dignity will win out over his determination(and greed)and he will hang up his cleats at the end of this season.My man Albert Pujols isn`t exactly tearing up the league this year either and he is still in his prime!Prince Albert is well on his way to setting the all time record of hitting into the most double plays,if so it will be the only Major League the he will hold.Ouch!

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  28. John Galt says:

    Haven’t seen anyone talk about Jeter’s splits… 663AB last year and 123AB this year he’s put up an .850+OPS vs lhp and a .600 OPS vs rhp. Yesterday’s breakout game aside, I don’t think he’ll “figure it out” and dial it back to the year 2009. That’s a big enough sample size for Girardi to keep him in the two hole vs lhp and drop him to the bottom of the order vs rhp.

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