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Sluggless Sluggers

If we are to believe that this is the post-steroids era, how much more can we reasonably expect from Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez? Sure, it is the middle of August when it makes most sense that older players–and in the Yankees’ case, younger ones too–slump. Still, Jeter and Rodriguez are both on the wrong side of 35 and are having the worst seasons of their respective careers. Older than 35, that used to spell the begining of the end of most players.  (Let’s not consider Mr. Rivera, okay; there are always exceptions.) The natural course of things.

Is this just a lull? The dog days of August when most every bat goes into a temporary funk? Will Jeter and Rodriguez finish the season strong and play deep into October? Can they bounce back next year? I think they’ve both got some good ball left in them, and perhaps even some surprises. But I also think it’s getting late early or at least earlier than it did ten years ago.

Tags:  Alex Rodriguez  Derek Jeter

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1 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 17, 2010 9:23 am

I think the hiters are slumping, will bounce back, and lead the team into October.
I'm more worried about the pitching.

2 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 17, 2010 9:23 am

Steve has some interesting numbers on Jeter's ground-ball and GIDP rates over at the Pinstriped Bible. Thing is, I thought Jeter was in his decline prior to '09, but he had a huge season last year, so now I feel like I can't rule out anything with him, though the list of big-hitting 36-year-old shortstops in major league history more or less doesn't exist.

3 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 17, 2010 9:46 am

36 is the new 40.

4 The Hawk   ~  Aug 17, 2010 9:49 am

This kind of talk makes my mind reel when I consider how much longer A Rod is under contract.

5 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:00 am

[2] Well, there's Luke Appling, but that's about it.

6 Yankee Mama   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:07 am

I don't envy Cashman. What do you do when an aging player in a contract year, who happens to be the face of the Yankee franchise (if not all of baseball) under performs to such an extent? This is not a win-win.

7 rbj   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:13 am

[3] Guess I picked the wrong week to be on wrong side of 45.

8 Raf   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:16 am

[2] To be fair, Jeter was in decline up until the 2009 season

9 Diane Firstman   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:18 am


at least A-Rod's contract is heavily front-loaded ... but yeah, it is troublesome to think of that bad hip 7 years more ...

10 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:19 am

I am much more concerned about Jeter for several reasons:

1) Arod plays a much more stationary position on the field.
2) Arod has always been a much better hitter, so he has a higher peak from which to descend.
3) Arod's BABIP is .275, almost 40 points lower than Jeter's. If that returns to normal, Arod wont be far off from his production level.
4) Arod seems as if he will be more willing to adapt his game as he ages. Also, we already know Arod is more willing to take a step back for the good of the team.

From as early as May, there was something very different about Jeter's approach and the quality of his at bats. At the time, I was hoping it was temporary, but as the season has gone on, it really does seem as if Jeter has started a rapid decline. If that's true, I hope he doesn't make it a difficult off season and/or next few years.

11 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:24 am

8) i'm not sure I agree with that. If you look only at the years 2006-2008 it appears that he was declining because 2006 was so good. But if you look at his numbers over a longer framesay 2003-2003-2009, no real decline is evident. For example, using OPS+ (as a quick and dirty tool):

125, 114, 125, 132, 121, 102, 132

In that context, 2008 looks like the outlier, not evidence of decline.

Now, 2008 and 2010 may indicate decline...and in any case, a 36 y.o. athlete is sort of always in decline. But I am still not convinced that Jeter doesn't have one or two surprise seasons left in him. That is not uncommon with great players.

What makes Cashman's job hard is not thst Jeter is clearly and predictably in steep decline, but rather the (nearly) opposite: the unpredictability of what the next couple of years holds.

12 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:30 am

[10] in at bats vs really tough guys, some batters like to hit the first good one they see, figuring the deeper they go, the less likely they are to produce anything. i'm not sure that logic is so sound, but i at least understand the impulse.

it seems like jeter has taken that approach to the whole season. like he's afraid of getting deep in the count. and he was never ted williams to begin with.

13 Diane Firstman   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:31 am

Furthermore, the FA shortstop crop isn't that appealing this off-season:
Alfredo Amezaga (33)
Orlando Cabrera (36) - $4MM mutual option with a $500K-$1MM buyout
Juan Castro (39)
Craig Counsell (40)
Bobby Crosby (31)
Adam Everett (34)
Alex Gonzalez (33) - $2.5MM club option
Khalil Greene (31)
Cristian Guzman (33)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (35)
Cesar Izturis (31)
Julio Lugo (35)
Jhonny Peralta (29) - $7MM club option with a $250K buyout
Nick Punto (33) - $5MM club option with a $500K buyout
Edgar Renteria (35) - $10.5MM club option with a $500K buyout
Jose Reyes (28) - $11MM club option with a $500K buyout
Miguel Tejada (37)
Juan Uribe (31)
Omar Vizquel (44)

You know the Mets will re-up Reyes. After that ... the next best SS is ... ?

14 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:31 am

[11] One other thing to consider is it was widely speculated that Jeter played hurt for much of the 2008 season. I don't think that is the case this season.

Also, although 2008 and 2010 are similar on the face, the peripherals seem to be a lot more scary this time around.

15 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:34 am

[12] Jeter has never been patient, per se, but he has mostly swung at strikes. That Jeter is seeing fewer pitches and swinging earlier in the count doesn't concern me as much as the fact that he is swinging at pitches out of the zone at a rate well above his career norm.

At first, I thought Jeter was pressing to put up big numbers in a contract year, but more lately think he realizes the decline in his bat speed and has adjusted by guessing. Instead of letting the ball get deep and fighting it off the other way, Jeter seems to be swinging at the ball on release, which has not only led to more swings at pitches out of the zone, but also more weak ground balls to short when he gets caught out in front.

16 ms october   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:35 am

[10] i agree with you that because arod is at 3b (which although it cost him the chance to be considered the best ss of all-time, it was a great long-term career move), that is a significant advantage over jeter; and also because of arod's significant power advantage of jeter his skills will age much better - but i don't know how you can be sure about point 4.

17 The Hawk   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:36 am

[10] How do we know A Rod is more willing to take a step back? The only thing that really comes to mind is moving to third base, which I don't consider a step back. Also I don't know if Jeter was unwilling there. I doubt the question was ever put to him.

One huge thing about A Rod you left out is his hip. Jeter hasn't had any major surgery.

I won't sweat Jeter going forward till I see that contract length.

18 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:37 am

[13] The medium-term answer is still Jeter. The real question, however, is can the Yankees keep batting him lead off? I agree that you can't make a change this year because of the disruption, but going forward, the Yankees have to seriously consider it. If Girardi does wind up leaving, the Yankees are going to need a manager with enough stature to handle their aging veterans. Considering he was their teammate, I am not sure Girardi is in a great position to sheppard Posada and Jeter through the end of their careers.

19 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:39 am

14) you could be right. But as I said in 2008, we are not going to know until next year at the earliest.

13) and it's a moot point, really, because declining Jeter (if it is decline) is still an above average SS.

My guess is that even if Jeter is no longer to be counted on as one of the team's top offensive players, he is still very likely to be a positive contributor for another couple of years, before his defense and declining bat finally combine to make him more of a burden than a contributor.

Now, is he willing to accept a new role as, say, a veteran presence, batting seventh or eighth in the lineup? Everyone assumes he is not, but we have no evidence one way or the other...he hasn't had to face that situation yet. My gut feeling is that talk of Jeter's damaging pride is exaggerated: he'll bat where they ask him to. So next season it is the job of the coaches to move hidown in the lineup, just like they did a couple of years ago when they moved him from the two-hole.

20 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:43 am

[16] Well, for starters, Arod already agreed to move from SS despite being a much better fielder at the position. He has also batted all over the batting order, so that seems to be a much less sensitive issue. Furthermore, after the steroid admission, Arod really does seem as if his only concern is being a good teammate and trying to do whatever it takes to win. As for Jeter, I really don't know how he'd handle a demotion in the lineup because he has always been so guarded. I kind of think he is protective of his image, but maybe that's wrong. Jeter has always been compared to DiMaggio in terms of personality, and we all know how Joe D. refused to make way for Mantle. I have a feeling Jeter will not take kindly to any suggestion that he is no longer the same player.

21 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:43 am

18) hey, we agree again ( see 17).

17) I'm not even going to sweat once I see his contract length and it's a year or two too long, which it will be. The organization is going to overpay Jeter in years and dollars, that is almost a certain fact. So, my only concern is how they deal with Jeter, say, four years down the road. Is he still going to be starting every day, or will he be the most expensive parttime player in the league.The latter I can live with.

22 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:44 am

[17] The hip could be a good or bad thing. Good if it means Arod will be better an extra year removed from the surgery, or bad if it means the injury will be chronic.

23 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:45 am

20) though he did agree to bat leadoff a couple of years ago, when one of the reasons stated explicitly for the move was because he hit into so many DPs. He took that implicit criticism well. Of course, that is different from dropping from the one or two spot down to the bottom of the lineup. I guess we'll see next year how he handles demotion...if he is forced to handle it.

24 The Hawk   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:47 am

[20] My point is that A Rod did do that but we don't know that Jeter wouldn't. Also, I think when you have two All Star shortstops and one position, the guy who was there first keeps it.

I disagree with your assessment of what A Rod's concerns appear to be, but that's just conjecture either way.

It's true though about Jeter; how he will handle this is a mystery. To a point, A Rod has shown some flexibility.

25 ms october   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:47 am

[20] he moved to 3rd because he wanted to get the f out of texas. he offered to move to 3rd so he could come to the yankees - let's not make this more than that.

i think presupposing what jeter will do is unfair.
he moved from the 2 spot last year where he was presumably comfortable to leadoff and we didn't hear anything about that.

26 ms october   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:50 am

[23] to follow-up on that, jeter also worked with a special trainer or something a year or two ago to improve his lateral movement when cashman criticized his defense.

27 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:54 am

[24] Fair enough. It's probably more accurate to say we know Arod is willing to take a step back, but aren't as sure about Jeter.

[25] I don't that's fair. Arod wanted out of Texas, but he still subjugated himself. Not many players would do that, not to mention all-time greats. Maybe we can't give Jeter a demerit for not offering to make the move, but Arod absolutely deserves the credit.

As for Jeter moving from #2 to #1, I don't think that's even a demotion. Jeter has moved between both roles throughout his career.

28 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:58 am

20) He has also batted all over the batting order, so that seems to be a much less sensitive issue.

This is basically not true. Here are the number of games Jeter (2254 games) and Arod (2277) have played by spot in the batting order:

Jeter: 707, 1255, 128, 1, 1, 1, 44, 26, 91
Arod: 8, 502, 725, 851, 106, 2, 8, 9, 60

Jeter has basically been a top of the line up guy his entire career except for his early career, batting 1-3 in 93% of his games. Arod has been a middle order guy his entire career except for early in his career, batting 2-4 in 91% of his games (batting 2-5 in 97% of his games).

Neither has ever had to face demotion in the batting order for an extended period.

29 ms october   ~  Aug 17, 2010 10:58 am

[27] yeah he deserves credit for being willing to move - but it wasn't a totally selfless decision on his part either - he wanted out of texas, once he couldn't go to the sox and it was clear the yankees were the only team he would want to go to that would be able to take on a huge chunk of his salary, he recognized he needed to be willing to move to 3rd in order to make it happen.
now he could have created a shitstorm by insisting that he stay at ss, and i give him credit that he didn't force the yankees or jeter's hand with that move.

30 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:00 am

28) in fact, if anything, Jeter has had MORE experience batting low in the order, and if this suggests anythingit's that he might be MORE willing to accept that role again.

31 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:01 am

[26] I don't doubt Jeter will do everything in his power to get better. I just have my doubts if he will ever look at himself in a diminished light (like last night, for example, when I thought he should have been taking two strikes regardless of location).

32 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:05 am

[28] I don't know if I agree with that. Being moved out of the #3 or #4 hole is a demotion. Those are the two main positions in the lineup, even if only symbolically. When you are moved from those spots to #2 or #5, it has a conotation that doesn't exist when bouncing between #1 and #2.

33 Yankee Mama   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:06 am

Does Jeter not work with Kevin Long? Is his lack of plate discipline encouraged? Everyone else is expounding on how valuable Long is to their hitting. There never seems to be any reports of Long working with Jeter to improve his approach. Is he beyond reproach? Just wondering.

34 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:06 am

[30] Jeter batted lower in the order early in his career, so I don't think that has much bearing.

35 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:08 am

31) that makes no sense. He would only strive to get better...especially responding to specific criticism...if he saw himself indi inished light. And your evidence to the contrary, that he should have been taking at 2-1 regardless of location, is tendentious at best: it is only your supposition that he should have beetaking, and your supposition that Jeter's self reflection can be deduced from a single pitch. And it was a clear strike too.

36 ms october   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:10 am

[33] yeah that is something i am curious about - you don't hear near as much about jeter working with long than you do with other players working with long.

37 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:11 am

[33] That's a good question. We have heard about Long working with just about everyone but Jeter.

38 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:13 am

34) and Arod batted lower in the order earlier in his career. You are right, it has no bearing on whether either player would accept a demotion later intheir careers. But you were the one who raised the argument (positing that prior batting order experience is a guide to future willingness to accept demotion). But in any case, as I demonstrated in 28), your claim that Arod has batted all over the lineup relative to Jeter is incorrect or at least greatly exaggerated. So yes, I agree with you, the entire line of reasoning is probably fruitless, which again undercuts one of your assertions in 20).

39 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:19 am


Before yesterday’s game, Jeter and Long got together to watch video of Jeter’s swing.

Long noticed two flaws with Jeter’s mechanics:

1. As someone who has become infamous for inside-outing pitches into right field for opposite field hits -- which comes because Jeter sits back and waits for the ball to get deep in the zone -- Long observed that Jeter was overcompensating by going too far back, which caused more forward movement.

2. He was pigeon-toeing his feet instead of squaring them up to home plate....  

He just wishes Long had approached him sooner.

“I just wondered what took him so long,” joked Jeter, no pun intended.  

Long believes Jeter, who also drove in a run and scored a pair himself, is going to become more consistent at the plate.

“He’s going to have to fix these mechanical flaws, but that part I’m not really too concerned about,” Long said. “I think he’s as tough as anybody who’s ever played.”

That was from July. So, here is one example, presenting a mixed bag. jeter did not go to Long, but was willing to work with him when Long approached him (is Grandy going to Long the norm or the exception?). Long recognizes some mechanical flaws, but thinks they are fixable.

40 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:20 am

[38] Torre moved Arod to #2 and #5 quite frequently (and as far as #8 in the playoffs). Because that is recent history, I do think it has bearing, whereas Jeter batting #9 as a rookie does not.

I also do not think you demonstrated that my claim was incorrect, although I could have been more clear. As Yankees, and since they established themselves as stars, Arod has batted throughout the lineup, while Jeter has mostly resided at #1 and 2.

Your analysis undercuts the strawman you created, but not the argument I was making, which admittedly could have been clear.

41 ms october   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:20 am

[39] thanks mp - that is interesting to read.

42 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:22 am

[39] Missed that...thanks. Whether he approached Long or not, I'd give him credit for taking the advice. Of course, if he was waiting for Long to approach him, why not make the first move? I have a feeling that comment was really just said tongue in cheek.

43 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:25 am

40) it was your lack of clarity that created the straw man, then, not my response to it. And for what it is worth, it was widely perceived that Arod responded very badly to his playoff demotion, which once again undercuts your assertion that Arod would respond better to demotion than Jeter.


44 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:26 am

Sorry for the long URLs...too lazy to use tinyurl on my iPad. OK, back to work.

45 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:48 am

[43] I am willing to take all the blame for the confusion. I also don't think a high profile demotion all the way to 8th is relevant, especially because it occurred while Arod was undergoing a much larger crisis of confidence. It's revisionist to suggest Arod didn't perform well that game because he was demoted. Considering that the Yankees were bounced immediately, I am not sure how one would even measure his response.

46 OldYanksFan   ~  Aug 17, 2010 11:49 am

ARod's 2009 Post ASB: .310 .394 .518 .912 - 1 HR/19 ABs.
Considering the surgery, that ain't that far off from what we would expect.
So.... why would his hip be worse now than then?
And didn't his Doc say his hip was A-OK?
So good he didn't need the additional surgery he was initially looking at?

I believe the Yankees keep non-DL injuries close to the vest.
If they announced ARod was 'somewhat disabled', it would make trading for a UINF or BU3B very tough.

The question with ARod is: is there something physically wrong?
He looks in fantastic shade. Jeter looks thicker through the waist then ARod.

In terms of Jeter's contract... you pay him what the market will bear... and you reward him/compensate him separately for his 'Yankee Status'.
I'd prefer then give him a salary 3/$36m and a bonus of $24m in stock then give him 3/$60m. (Not to dodge taxes but to make a statement).

I like that Cashman doesn't just throw money at players the way George did. Cashman has shown he won't pay too much, or give up to much (talent) to get players. I'm tired of other teams asking for the moon and then accepting a lump of coal from any other team.

Our money is definitely an advantage, but the Yankees have proved you can't simply buy the WS. Ya gotta do the other things right, and the players have to perform (much like their overperformance last year, compared to their underperformance this year).

47 Yankee Mama   ~  Aug 17, 2010 12:02 pm

[39] Asked and answered. Thanks. Aside from mechanics, it's Jete's overall approach that needs shifting. It feels like he has temporarily ( we hope) lost his feel. I'm sure he'll get his rhythm back.

48 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 12:17 pm

[40] Torre moved Arod to #2 and #5 quite frequently (and as far as #8 in the playoffs)

[45] I also don’t think a high profile demotion all the way to 8th is relevant

Make up your mind.

49 monkeypants   ~  Aug 17, 2010 12:18 pm

[46] you pay him what the market will bear…

Ummmm...whatever they end up paying him in terms of (too much) money and (too many) years IS what the market will bear, right?

50 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 17, 2010 12:22 pm

[48] That was mentioned as an aside. Didn't mean for it to obscure my larger point.

51 The Hawk   ~  Aug 17, 2010 1:47 pm

My impression of Torre's movement of A Rod was that it was primarily a psychological tool. I'm not sure what bearing that may or may not have on A Rod's response to a physical decline-based "demotion".

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