Derek Jeter entered the 2010 season as a 35-year-old coming off one of his best seasons of his career and finished as a 36-year-old coming off his worst.
Expectations were high, as they always are, for Jeter this season. In 2008 he had a rough season (for him anyway), but insisted that injuries were to blame and quieted concerns with a strong 2009. But even the greats get old eventually and in 2010 we finally saw time catch up with him.
He started the season off well. In the month of April Jeter hit .330 with an .875 OPS. Just business as usual for The Captain. He started May with a slump, hitting .149 during the first 11 games of the month, but that was just a temporary period for Jeet as he hit .328 with an .835 OPS over the next 27 games.
His only real prolonged slump went from June 15 until September 8, a stretch of 75 games. During that time Jeter hit a lowly .234 with a .620 OPS. Things got so bad that Jeter, who normally doesn’t tinker too much with his swing, worked extensively with hitting coach Kevin Long to correct himself.
After working with Long Jeter appeared to get things straight. Over the final 19 games of the season he hit a healthy .342 with an .829 OPS. Thanks to that stretch, Jeter kind of salvaged his season. It certainly was one of the worst of his career, hitting .270 with a .710 OPS, but he was still among the best offensive shortstops in baseball.
His wOBA of .320 was 8th among all shortstops in baseball and even including his defense, his WAR was ranked 9th in the MLB. So while he may no longer be an elite shortstop, the Yankees could still do worse, much worse.
Jeter is currently in negotiations for another contract. It is believed that he will eventually settle on a deal in the 3-year $45-$65 million range. That’s certainly going to be an overpayment, but the Yankees have no clear replacement coming anytime soon (although Eduardo Nunez is a possible longshot).
Bill James expects a nice rebound year for Jeter in 2011. He projects him to hit .295 with a .775 OPS. Still not what he once was, but as far as shortstops go he would still be firmly entrenched among the best in the league.
As far as Jeter’s defense in 2010, he was so-so. His hands are still phenomenal as he committed only six errors, but his range dropped a decent amount from the year before. His 6.4 UZR was a career high (since they started tracking the stat), but that dropped to -4.7 in 2010, mostly due to range.
Jeter started strong, finished strong, and was terrible in between in 2010, but overall he is still a good player. Not elite, but as far as shortstops go the Yankees are doing well with him. One thing that the Yankees should address in 2011 is his place on the team. All season long, even during his 75 game prolonged slump, manager Joe Girardi refused to drop him down in the lineup. That should probably change next year. There is no reason to have him bat leadoff when Brett Gardner is a very capable leadoff type.
The key for Jeter’s next contract is whether or not he can bounce back. Obviously nobody except Barry Bonds can stave off old age, but if he works hard this offseason and doesn’t experience another big drop-off in 2011 the Yankees and their fans should be happy next year.
What are your thoughts on Jeter’s 2010 season and the possibilities for 2011?