Derek Jeter: Why the New York Yankees Captain Should Not Bat Leadoff in 2012
Derek Jeter is the greatest shortstop in New York Yankees' history. He is the franchise's all-time hits leader, and he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He is known for his intelligent play and numerous clutch performances. In short, he is the face of the New York Yankees.
That being said, Derek Jeter should not be at the top of the order for the 2012 Bronx Bombers.
The days of the Yankee captain being a solid leadoff hitter are over. Over the last two seasons, Derek has stepped to the plate at moments when the Yankees needed a rally started or extended and has only delivered a ground ball to the left side of the field—a result of either being too anxious or having poor mechanics at the plate.
Even though his second half of the 2011 MLB season showed improvement, a closer look at the numbers over the past three seasons reveals a gradual decline and supports a move down in the order for the Yankee shortstop.
One telling statistic for any leadoff hitter is on-base percentage (OBP). A key responsibility for any batter at the top of the order is to get on base. The more times you can reach base, the more rallies you start, and the more opportunities for the big bats behind you to come to the plate and drive you home.
In 2011, Jeter ranked 48th in all of baseball with a .352 on-base clip. While not poor by any means, it is not "leadoff hitter" worthy. Teammates Nick Swisher (23rd) and Curtis Granderson (31st) were more likely to reach base.
Another quality looked at in lead-off hitters is the ability to draw walks. As the old adage goes "a walk is as good as a hit" and, with a leadoff hitter it particularly rings true. When you start an inning by reaching base, you immediately force the pitcher to split his attention between the batter and you. It becomes an instant disruption for your opponent and an instant advantage to your teammate in the batter's box.
For the 2011 season, Jeter ranked 96th in base on balls percentage placing him fifth on the Yankees behind Swisher (8th), Granderson (17th), Mark Texeira (32nd) and Brett Gardner (44th). Clearly, drawing walks was not Derek's forte.
Further examination of some other key statistics (all referring to Jeter in the leadoff position in the order) for the past three seasons, provided by ESPN's website, give a picture of Jeter's gradual decline.
OPS(on base+ slugging pct)
Stolen base pct
Not only has his average dropped as a leadoff hitter, but his OPS and stolen bases have declined. In addition, he is now hitting ground balls at almost two times the frequency of fly balls. These are all trends you do not want to see from the man at the top of the order.
At his first media session of the spring training season, manager Joe Girardi said he "..anticipates Jeter leading off." As he gets the opportunity to review the numbers, he may want to reconsider.
Derek Jeter has provided countless heroics for the Yankee faithful, and in all likelihood will continue to do so, but all the heroics in the world combined cannot fight the onset of "Father Time." It is time for the New York Yankees' manager to put loyalty aside and move Derek to a more suitable spot in the batting order.
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