A phrase uttered far too often this season.
As a Yankees fan, its impossible to ignore Derek Jeter’s .264 batting average or .328 on base percentage, so to say that his offense play against expectations has been dismal is a bit of an understatement.
We’ve all watched Jeter make his bones throughout his entire career by hitting the ball the other way, often over the 2nd baseman’s head. Call it the inside out swing, punching the ball the other way, pulling his hands in, or a Jeterian swing, it’s as much of a Derek Jeter hallmark as the three sixty jump throw play he executes so routinely at short stop. But something is different this year: I feel like the guy makes most of his outs grounding the ball to the short stop, usually right at him, so the short stop doesn’t have to move.
What would make a guy hit the ball to the short stop instead of a line drive over the second baseman’s head? Off speed pitches and breaking balls, I would guess. Perhaps Jeter is seeing more of these this year than he has before, which makes me wonder if this is a product of leading off and who he’s hitting in front of. My thought is that when Jeter gets a fastball, he is more likely to hit it to right field, but when he gets an off speed pitch (change up) or a breaking ball, he’s more likely to be early and pull the ball rather than hit it the other way. What’s more, if he’s getting fooled by thinking a change up is a fastball, there’s all the more reason he would be early, and given a change up’s likely hood to sink, he’s topping it, hence hitting the ball on the ground – so every once in a while, he hits a ground ball to second.
I decided to hit fangraphs.com and see if I was right. The first thing I wanted to see was if I was right about all the grounders to short. I wasn’t able to find a spray chart to see where Jeter is hitting the ball, but I did notice that his ground ball/fly ball rate is at 3.67, dwarfing any other year in his career. The only other thing I checked out was the pitch types he’s been receiving in 2010, and low and behold, he’s received 9.1% change ups this year, the most he’s ever seen in a year by far since this data has been recorded (2002).
I know I’m probably not the first person to make this observation. In fact, I bet Yankeeist.com did this a long time ago, and they probably did it better. But that’s my theory – Jeter is seeing more change ups this year, and he’s not recognizing them. How you fix this, I have no idea. Good luck, DJ!