Could Derek Jeter Last Longer in the League?
Derek Jeter is leaving Major League Baseball on a high note. He's still respected by all in the baseball community, as evident by the standing ovation he received at the All-Star Game last week. Although retirement is a safe call by Jeter at this point in his career, could he last a few more years in the league?
Jeter the Hitter
The Captain is one of the best batters to wear pinstripes, with the sixth-best career average among qualifying Yankees at .311. He's first in hits and in the top-15 in on-base percentage, too. If the season were to end today, it would only be the sixth time Jeter has hit below .300 in his 20-year career.
The Yankee shortstop is one of nine shortstops hitting over .270, and is one of five in the American League. He also ranks in the top-eight among shortstops in OBP at .326, too. He is tied for 10th in hits, and ranks in the top 20 in runs, runs batted in and walks among all shortstops, so he's keeping pace with everyone else.
Jeter ranks among the top-five all-time in BABIP among players who’ve played at least 1,000 games since 1900, at a .352 clip. This year is his lowest BABIP since 2010 (excluding last year), and is only the fifth time he has had a BABIP below .320. Only once has he hit below the MLB average BABIP and that came last season, when he was injured. If you look at shortstops’ BABIP this year, Jeter has the sixth best in the league.
He has managed to swipe seven bags to this point, a respectable total if he can double that the rest of the way. Jeter’s definitely not the base stealer he once was, but that is not vital to his offensive contributions to the Yankees lineup.
Even though he has passed his prime, Jeter is still one of the best offensive shortstops in the league.
Jeter the Defender
Even though his trophy case is filled with gold gloves, there's no doubt the 40-year-old’s defense is not what it used to be, without even looking at the numbers. His age has caught up with his patrol of the six-hole, even though he showed a brief glimpse of vintage Jeter in the first play of the All-Star Game, where he nearly nabbed Andrew McCutchen on his way to first.
Jeter’s zone rating is the first number that jumps out as a problem. Prior to 2013, Jeter never had a zone rating below .750 and was typically above .800, like the majority of the starters in the bigs in 2014. This year, he has the league low among qualifying shortstops at .689. He's the only shortstop under the .700 mark and is 50 points behind Yunel Escobar, who is the second-lowest shortstop in zone rating. No qualifying shortstop has finished with a zone rating below .700 this century.
In addition, his defensive runs saved on average show the Jeter is one of the worst shortstop’s in the league in 2014. He ranks 23rd among 26 qualifying shortstops with a -8 DRS, but that wouldn’t even be the worst total of his career. Jeter has only had a DRS over zero once since 2003, and it was 3. According to FanGraphs' analysis, that is almost “Above Average” on their scale. In fact, Jeter’s worst DRS since 2003 is -27, which ranks far below “Awful” on the same scale. His second-best DRS, excluding last year and this year, was -9 (almost considered “Poor”) in 2010. The numbers show that Jeter’s defense has taken a hit in sync with his aging.
Is Jeter Making the Right Decision?
Even though his offensive numbers still hold well against other shortstops in the league, Jeter’s defense has begun to deteriorate to a point that hurts his team. One last stat to look at is Jeter’s WAR. In 2014 it's 0.4, 21st among all shortstops. This is only the fifth time his WAR has been below 3.0, and only the third time it was below 1.0, with the two times being last year and his rookie season.
Jeter’s decision to retire has come at a great point in his career. He's still good enough that no one will question that he has stuck around too long, but if he were to stay for another year or two, Jeter would be overstaying his welcome in the Majors.