Friday, August 1, 2008

Things that make you go "hmmmm"

Save all your C+C Music Factory singing for the comforts of your own car (with the windows up). This really made me sit back and say "hmmmm, really?" Really.

You know who Ivan Rodriguez is a lot like as an offensive player now? Derek Jeter . They both are extreme groundball hitters these days who have had their power greatly diminished. Among players with 300 plate appearances, Rodriguez ranks third in the majors in the amount of groundballs hit to every flyball (2.56) and Jeter is sixth (2.41). Jeter has six homers, Rodriguez five. They both -- amazingly -- have six steals. Pudge ranks 115th in OPS (.756) and Jeter is 123rd (.747). Rodriguez has a .295 batting average/.338 on-base percentage/.417 slugging percentage compared to Jeter .284/.348/.400.
Remember when Jeter was good for 20 HR, a .315+ BA, 20 SB? Just sayin', I'm starting to wonder where he's going to be in 2 years. Will he remain at SS, defying logic to preserve a memory? Will he be too proud to consider a position move? With the Yanks desire to both keep their aging stars too long (unlike Boston, who is OK with letting their heroes go: Damon, Pedro, now Manny) and keep Jeter as the face of the organization, will the aura of Jeter be something the Yanks can't maneuver around?

Ernie Banks moved from SS. So did Ripken. Yogi moved from behind the plate. Robin Yount was an all-star SS before becoming an all-star CF. Baseball history is littered with guys who moved from the positions that defined them so they could prolong their careers. Why should Jeter be any different?

Could Jeter play left field? He won't have the power to man 1B, but it would keep him in the infield. There's no chance ARod could move back to SS, swapping with Jeter. Unless, of course, Jeter LOBBIED for it, which seems more than unlikely. And even if he did, could ARod do it? He's not getting younger, and with a desire to remain healthy to pass Bonds in a few years, 3B is probably less physically demanding. Would Jeter move to 2B, swapping with Cano? I don't think Cano has that sort of range, either.

In a few years, Damon, Matsui, Abreu, Giambi, etc. will be gone. Will Jeter allow himself to become the full time DH? Will his pride get in the way? I have no idea. I would like him to stay at SS, but with age and declining range, we must begin to face the inevitable.

Just so long as it doesn't devolve into a Favre-like unwinnable tug-of-war...


Osmodious said...

Wow, Jason...a lot of stuff to think about in there!

First off, let me say that I have to disagree with you on likening Jeter to Pedro, Manny and even Damon. Yes, they were heroes to an extent, but Jeter is different than them...he is the FACE of the Yankees, a homegrown talent (not a trade or FA acquisition) that wanted to be a Yankee from practically birth. Different animal altogether (also the reason that Pettitte can give up 7 runs and STILL get a decent ovation when leaving the game).

That said, his forthcoming decline is certainly a conundrum. On the one hand, I have to imagine that, being such a 'go TEAM go' kind of guy, he will try to do the 'right' thing...however, he is also human and an athlete, so might have some blind spots in terms of his own performance (though I think Jeter will tend more toward the former than the latter).

One other thing to consider is that stats don't tell the whole story on Jeter. His average could be much higher over his career if he had focused more on his own personal stats than on winning...he is the master of the 'productive out' (moving runners, etc.). This is also why he has never been a huge HR hitter...he certainly CAN hit them, when he wants to swing for power, but he rarely thinks it is the best thing to do in a situation (he recognizes the greater probability of striking out when 'going for it').

So, where does that leave us? He can either move to another position as his fielding declines, and stay the hitter he is...OR he can reinvent himself as a different kind of hitter (and still move to another position). I see him as a potentially great 1st baseman...I've always thought he'd be a great CF, but the age factor is bad for that position, too. Left field seems like a good compromise, but I really see him more in the infield than out there alone. Oh, and 3rd base is obviously out, unless ARod went to the outfield (which he has the arm for), which is doubtful, and 2nd is intriguing, but that is filled, too (and I'd rather see him at 1st anyway).

I think he will wind up at first, and change his hitting style a little to get more power (still retaining his ability to go to RF). At first, he will still be in the infield to act as the Captain, and his fielding ability will be an asset over there (I know most people think you don't need to be a good fielder over much better are teams that DO have good 1st basemen, though? Tino saved how many runs & games over the years?).

Jason said...

Yes, Jeter is the homegrown face, but let's also face (no pun intended) it, Pedro and Damon were the face of that 2004 team, along with Papi, Schilling and some dude playing in LA (not Nomar!).

I'm glad you took the time to post, Os, as it's a heady discussion. I think he would make a great 1B due to his athleticism, which he'll retain. And yes, I realize that's what separated Tino from most other plodding-type 1B of the era.

I still think 2B would be great for him, but with Cano there, I doubt a swap makes sense.

It's a touchy topic. We Yanks fans still love Jeter, love what he does and respect the things he doesn't try to do (as you illustrated). We love the respect he shows the game, its history, his peers, his managers.

What remains is seeign how he handles his transition into the twilight of h is career. Will he be able to handle it with the grace, dignity and aplomb that he's handled everything else so far? I'd like to believe so, but we just don't yet know.

Osmodious said...

I just can't see him making any type of Favrian blunder, but I'm not sure that Torre's expert tutelage extended to gracefully moving along, either.

It's actually a little exciting to think of Jeter making a 'wrong step', you know? I mean, he has been almost pin-perfect his entire career. Can you imagine the headlines if he refused to move from SS (assuming he declines to the point where he hurts the team...Tejada is still there and he's like 45 or something, as is Vizquel, and Jeter's a better career hitter)? The NY Post would rip him a new one, as would the Daily News...I think the Times would try to be a little classy and say something like, "Jeter is human, after all".

E-5 said...

There were a few other "average guys" who made the move at that time in their career:
Mantle, Berra, Killebrew, Bench, Fisk, and a few others in the HoF. It always has been and always will be the right thing to do. The only caveat is the player has to be the type that understands the game, loves the game and wants only to be in the game; in the uniform; in the locker room. He needs to remain one of the "guys". This is the time it stops being about the money. The exceptions are also easy to see, just rad anything about Di Magio.

I think you'll see Jeter is one of those guys...