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Waiting on a Milestone

Last week, Tom Verducci profiled Derek Jeter in SI:

“In all my years playing with him,” says Paul O’Neill, Jeter’s teammate from 1995 through 2001, “I don’t think I ever heard him have one technical discussion about the mechanics of hitting. He keeps it simple. He just plays. It’s like he’s still playing high school baseball.”

…”I worked on staying inside the ball in the minor leagues and pretty much every offseason in Tampa with [coach] Gary Denbo,” Jeter says. “But he didn’t teach it to me. That’s just how it was: Keep my hands inside the ball. It’s still the same thing. A lot of people stay inside the ball, but I don’t know about to that extreme.”

Jeter’s hands-in approach relies on making contact with the ball so late—farther in its flight path—that he can hit even inside pitches to the opposite field with authority. Entering this season, on pitches he hit to rightfield, Jeter had a .479 average and a .718 slugging percentage.

“All these years he’s stayed true to what he does best,” O’Neill says. “He had a year or two where he started to gain some strength and turned on some balls, but for the most part he is an example of taking something you do that is good and making it great. In a time when there was pressure in baseball to hit more home runs, he never caved in to that.”

It’s a defensive-looking swing. Jeter hasn’t changed his approach all these years and shortly after he returns from the disabled list he’ll reach 3,000 hits. We’ll be there cheering him on.

[Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated]


1 Mattpat11   ~  Jun 21, 2011 10:14 am

and shortly after he returns from the disabled list he’ll reach 3,000 hits. We’ll be there cheering him on.

Well, unless you write for No Maas.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 21, 2011 10:38 am

Or you are Old Yanks Fan. LOL.

3 RIYank   ~  Jun 21, 2011 11:13 am

We'll be watching, with tears in our eyes.

4 The Hawk   ~  Jun 21, 2011 11:25 am

I've observed there is a weird strain of Yankee fan that doesn't like Jeter. For instance I just got an email about some tickets that are available from a family friend. He started the email with "How well the Yanks are playing WITHOUT Jeter?!? I think they also played real well when he was on the DL in 2003!"

****ing 2003?

5 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 21, 2011 11:50 am

4) I think it may just be that some fans see that Jeter is declining and want, more than anything, to have above average players at each position. They see the rest as nostalgia. It may also be because Jeter has had such a charmed career that some folks are enjoying him going through some adversity.

6 ms october   ~  Jun 21, 2011 12:03 pm

[4] there is definitely a strain of fans that don't like jeter.
most of them thought he was always over-rated (most of them profess to be sabermetrically inclined - so take a look at his career numbers, they are pretty fucking good). and now that he is in decline they are relishing it and want to put those nails in.

7 Sliced Bread   ~  Jun 21, 2011 12:59 pm

Those are amazing numbers, Jeter's slices to right field.
Alex, I wouldn't call his swing defensive-looking. Even without the insight of knowing he's basically trying to go that way, I've always admired Jeter's approach as confident, and aggressive. The result, line drives to right, could be misinterpreted as the result of defensive swinging, but I see him as very much an attack hitter. Even when he takes a pitch, he's tracking it to the glove, on the verge of pouncing.

8 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 21, 2011 3:20 pm

7) Excellent point. But that's why I said it is defensive-looking and not defensive at all.

9 joejoejoe   ~  Jun 21, 2011 4:21 pm

Jeter's swing is a bit like Agassi's return of serve. The advantage is supposed to be to the pitcher or server but the reaction/response is a type of attack.

10 Sliced Bread   ~  Jun 21, 2011 5:04 pm

8) sorry, I took defensive-looking as defensive. My point was probably more in response to Verducci's line about Jeter swinging like a man trying to swat at a bee in a phone booth. I thought that made Jeter's approach sound too defensive, and less attack-mode.

9) yeah, that's a good analogy.

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