NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 13: Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees looks at third base while batting in the top of the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on August 13, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Derek Jeter has posted big numbers so far in the second half, and in so doing has proven that there's still some life left in his old creaky bones.
This is a very poorly timed blog post, given that Derek Jeter just hurt himself and will miss a handful of games. But if nothing else, Jeter's being sidelined gives us an opportunity to pause and appreciate what he's done over the past several weeks.
You'll recall it wasn't too long ago that Derek Jeter was limping his way to hit number 3,000. He got it on one of the biggest days of his life, but he woke up that day batting .257, with two home runs and a .649 OPS through 66 games. Most everybody was looking forward to Jeter's imminent accomplishment, but at the same time, the dominant dialogue was about how Jeter was a shell of his former self, and how the Yankees were going to face the uncomfortable situation of cutting back the playing time of the franchise's most visible player.
It's safe to say that dialogue has been put on the shelf. Jeter reached 3,000 during a five-hit game on July 9. Since July 9, he's batted .361 with an .893 OPS. Because July 9 was so close to the All-Star break, we can conveniently break Jeter's season into first half/second half splits:
In the first half, we had Bad Jeter. Hit-everything-weakly-on-the-ground Jeter. In the second half, we've had Good Jeter. Hit-a-lot-of-balls-on-the-ground-but-also-a-lot-on-a-line Jeter. Even though a ground-ball rate of 59% is high, it's in line with what Jeter did during his best offensive seasons, and that line-drive rate is enormous. Unsustainably enormous, granted, but lately Jeter hasn't just been getting lucky. He's been hitting the living snot out of the ball.
At 37. Early on, it looked like Jeter's bat was toast, but all of a sudden his season numbers are average, or even above-average depending on your metric of choice. They're certainly above-average for a shortstop. No, 40% of his balls in play won't keep finding holes, but this is a guy with a .355 career BABiP. If his second-half BABiP is too high, his first half BABiP was too low, and when you combine everything, Jeter comes out looking all right.
Derek Jeter presumably isn't Derek Jeter anymore. He is, again, 37 years old. But this run goes to show that there's still more life left in his bat than it seemed just a few months ago. While he can't keep up this hot performance for very long, it's proof he still has the ability. Which means the Yankees shouldn't have to make things weird for a while yet.
Incidentally, my favorite explanation for Jeter's torrid hot streak is that he's finally comfortable again after putting the pressure of the 3,000 pursuit behind him. My entire life, I've been led to believe that Derek Jeter is impervious to pressure of all varieties. Why would he suddenly succumb to this one? But that's a topic for another day. It doesn't matter so much why Jeter has rebounded; what matters is that he has rebounded, and that will make a lot of people feel a hell of a lot better.