Derek Jeter: The Curious Downfall
When you glance at Derek Jeterâ€™s .261 batting average in 2010, the first thing you ask yourself is: do I need glasses. Why? Because, barring an extremely unprecedented surge, Jeter is on pace to hit below .300 since 2002. More concerning, it will be his lowest batting average since 1995, his first season, when he played just 15 games.
So what is it? What is happening to the Captain?
It isnâ€™t hard to find the problem. Jeterâ€™s line drive ratio is at a career low, his ground ball ratio is at a career high and his fly ball ratio is at a career low. Clearly, Jeter is all out of whack.
His HR/FB ratio is the closet to his career average of all his statistics. What that tells us is that, if he gets good wood on the ball, he still can hit it hard. The problem, though, is that he isnâ€™t getting good wood on the ball.
Why is that? He isnâ€™t being pitched any differently. He sees every pitch nearly the same amount of times as he had in the past. He also doesnâ€™t swing anymore than he had in the past.
A common argument is that Jeter cannot handle certain pitches anymore. However, Jeterâ€™s w values (a way of measuring a players success against a certain type of pitch) are equally down for every pitch, suggesting that his problem does not lie within one pitch, but within them all.
What we do find in 2010 that differs from his past is that Jeter is swings at a much higher percentage of pitches outside the strike-zone. To be exact, 28.4% of the pitches he swings at are out of the strike-zone, well above his career average of 20.4%, and a career high by far.
The ability to explain Jeterâ€™s decline is very good news for Yankee fans. If we could not pinpoint the problem, it would mean Jeter was simply losing his ability to play baseball. But his problem is not a physical problem (age), it is a mental problem. For some reason, Jeter has lost the ability to identify a strike.