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Feb 252010

WFAN’s Sweeney Murti has a new blog piece up, one where he discusses Derek’s contract situation and asks people to check some of their assumptions on the aging core 4 players, specifically concerning Mr Derek Sanderson Jeter. He writes:

There’s another player, who at age 33, hit .336 with a .415 on-base, 20 home runs, 30 stolen bases. He tied his career-low for a full season by committing only 5 errors and won a well-deserved Gold Glove. It was probably one of the three or four best seasons of his career.

The next year Roberto Alomar’s OPS dropped nearly 250 points. Over the next three years he totaled 20 home runs and 28 stolen bases, and 24 errors, his lightning quick hands and feet no longer able to play at an All-Star level.

The scary part is this—go to Alomar’s page on baseball-reference.com and scroll to the bottom. Every player has a list of the ten closest players he compares to statistically for his career. The number one guy on Alomar’s list, the player he most closely resembles statistically…is Derek Jeter.

Don’t get me wrong…this is not me telling you that Jeter is going to hit .264 this year and fall off the map. I think Jeter has shown himself to be very conscious of what his body needs at this stage of his career and the work it takes to maintain this level of play. But when the skills erode (especially bat speed), they might go quickly.

I couldn’t agree more with Sweeney’s take. Coming off Alomar’s 2001 season, anyone who would have projected a big drop would have been called crazy, yet that’s precisely what happened. Most projection systems (CHONE/PECOTA/ZiPS) have Derek poised to have a good, if unspectacular season. It’s important to remember that while most projection systems take age into account, they are still an average of all potential factors. Recent seasons, age, player profile, etc. But when some players lose it, there’s nothing ‘averaged out’ about it. Their bat slows down, and they can no longer get around on the fastball. So they adjust and start sitting on breaking pitches. Pitchers notice this, adjust accordingly, and give the player a steady diet of nothing that he can handle. They challenge him with hard strikes in the zone (that he has to swing at) and the breaking stuff gets put in places where the batter can’t do much with it. Next thing you know, he’s having an awful season and most fans can’t figure out why.

This stuff goes on all the time in Baseball. Not just due to age, but sometimes a player will be hiding an injury which can affect his swing. With Pitch FX data, you can find a batter’s recent cold spot and attack it mercilessly (side note-That’s why many people over apply and misuse SSS. Advance scouting is all about gathering info based on small samples). Once opposing pitchers identify a weakness, they will pound you on it until you make them pay. Baseball is a game of constant adjustments. Once a player loses the ability to counter what pitchers are trying to do to him, his options dwindle and his career is coming to a close. That’s why Brian Cashman is smart not to sign Derek. An Alomar-style drop off this year would be bad enough on it’s own, having him signed for another 4-5 years after this at huge money would be brutal.

Another important note. In recent years, we have seen players doing amazing things at advanced ages, and have come to be more dismissive of the affects of age. We found out later that much of those accomplishments were chemically induced. We all assume Derek is one of the ‘clean’ players. If he is, then we should expect him to age the way players aged when I was a kid in the 70′s and 80′s. Back then, 35 was an age that fans treated with great caution and trepidation. Some defied the odds, but most fell by the wayside and were one step closer to their next game being at Old Timer’s Day. We would be wise to take an equally cautious approach with Derek this season.

18 Responses to “Murti-Jeter could decline quickly”

  1. I didn’t want to get sidetracked, but I don’t want anyone to think I don’t buy in to the concept of SSS. I do, it’s very useful when discussing who someone is as a player, and not letting a few bad weeks lead you to jump to conclusions. But smart Baseball people use small samples all the time. You didn’t need 100 ABs to tell you that Wade Boggs was over matched by Randy Johnson. Advance scouting is all about small samples. People who dismiss everything based on sample size are taking a valid concept and going overboard with it. It’s not that simple.  (Quote)

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  2. There is a long list of players that have had an outstanding year in their 34-36 years and then disaster, the next year or two. Conversely, you have a very few that are “Outlanders”, they were so talented that a small drop off is still better then the avg.(+) players, so it doesn’t show up to the avg. fan.
    I can’t see Jeter playing very much longer at Short Stop, the first two things that go is Legs and bat speed, once the legs go …everything else follows, very fast.
    Posada is a good example, at one time he was the best Fastball hitter on the team, this past year I saw him getting beat on the FB, hopefully it was just one of those years and he comes back this year.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    You have very good eyes, Ken. The stats that show how Jorge fared on each pitch type showed a decline against fastballs, and a big jump on change ups. That won’t last very long.  (Quote)

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  3. And, there are players like Ted Williams and Stan Musial who hit over .320 when they were 40.Every player is an individual.Robby Alomar’s lifestyle was very different than Jeters.
    Jeter’s power numbers might decline but he’ll be able to hit to the opposite field until he’s 50.I’m betting this will be a huge season for him and he’ll have another big one the following season and then you might see some drop off last 2 seasons of what I expect will be a 4 year contract.Of course if he’s chasing records at that point, the adrenalin and extra focus should carry him through those seasons also.Tony Gwynn batted .372 at age 37 also and never batted under .320 through age 41 and I view his batting style and lifestyle more similar to Jeter’s than Alomar’s..  (Quote)

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  4. Sorry to double post but a better comparison to Jeter’s body might be Jeff Kent who is about 6’1 185 and had one of his best year’s at age 37 and had little drop off though some due to injury from his lifetime average stats through age 40.
    Why predict a downturn for Jeter when he has shown none so far.Last year was arguably one of his finest both at bat and in the field.
    Stupid.
    He deserves a 4 year deal, albeit not for more than $60 million IMO even though that will be a bitter pill for him to swallow based on other Yankee contracts before the economy crashed.  (Quote)

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  5. Not making any accusation here, but wasn’t Alomar’s the “era” of PED’s. Just saying….it is a possibility. Look at alot of others that used stuff and then fell off dramatically once they got off it.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    PED’s would help him maintain his performance, as it did with Bonds, Sosa and others. He didn’t break down physically (like Giambi did) he simply lost his bat speed. As I stated above, this was common in the pre-steroid era among players his age, and sometimes even younger.  (Quote)

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  6. There have been allegations that Alomar had/has AIDS and that he infected his then-girlfriend while still playing MLB…. it is possible that Alomar was sick when his stats fell off a cliff…..most hitters with long histories of success (who aren’t suspected of PED’s) don’t have their performance just stop, they fade away like Bernie Williams did…. DJ has good years and great years, and probably will remain at least “good” (i.e., league average or better) over the next 4 or 5 years….but he needs to be shifted to left field as soon as a viable replacement is found for him at SS  (Quote)

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    bornwithpinstripes Reply:

    Rocco i agree , to many issues with alomar, murti should go tell his BS to sweeney, who is this bum any way .. if any one knows this guy tell him jeters name don’t belong in his mouth..if jeter quit today we have a HOFer.. 5years 100mil.. should get to 3700 hits. this kid is in top shape ,loves the game, never dogs it…he is just built different . enjoy him along with Mo.. the money they give him means zero.. how many girls do you think wear his jersey, and come to BB games in every city??? little kids idolize him.. he pays his own way ..a one man draw..people should stop counting his money and start counting down his hits into history…I hope he plays to 4K hits…  (Quote)

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  7. Interesting subject for which precedent involving similarly skilled ballplayers is mixed. For each DiMaggio, Mays or Alomar Alomar who cratered suddenly you can point to Hank Aaron, Paul Molitor and Omar Vizquel-using Vizquel because he is a shortstop-who put up some of their best offensive numbers between the ages of 36 and 39. I think Jeter’s chances of sustained success are helped by the fact that he is playing with a team that should be in the pennant race for the duration of his career, thus keeping him motivated and stimulated.My best guess would be that Jeter performs at or near career averages for at least the next 2-3 years.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    The point of looking at a similarly skilled player is mainly finding someone with the same statistical profile. We don’t think of Derek as a high-strikeout guy, but he has averaged 111 per season. For a hitter who’s not a big power threat, that’s a relatively high amount of times to fail to make contact. If he loses some bat speed he figures to SO more, and now some of those opposite field singles get switched to outs, and all of a sudden he’s having a bad year.

    It doesn’t take much, the difference between a .300 hitter and a .250 hitter is one hit every 20 ABs.  (Quote)

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  8. Seems to me the thing for the Yankees to do is extend a two year offer to Derek. $30 mm is no insult, it is only practical at his age to keep them short. Easy enough to renew it when the time comes up.  (Quote)

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  9. Why all this need for speculation? why don’t we just let t play out? As I recall Jeter was supposed to fall off the table last season. BTW, chemicals are not the only reason why players last longer these days. Conditioning and medicine have also made advances since the 70′s and 80′s.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    That’s what we do here Rob, talk Baseball. Since there are no actual games to discuss were left with speculating, analyzing and debating.  (Quote)

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  10. You can’t offer Jeter less than 3-4 years becuase that’s what you gave Posada (who was a far, far greater risk) and MAriano.
    Jeter deserves a 4 year 60 million dollar deal, not more and not less.He’d be making less and he’d be affordable, especially when Posada comes off the books in 2 seasons and Yankees ask him to retire or move on.
    No way is Posada getting another deal with Montero, Romine, Higiasioka, Murphy & Sanchez and the Unheralded but talented Latin catchers playing in the Dominican Republic that yAnkeesare developing.
    You also can’t judge Jeter against guys from the 60′s and 70′s when many of the players were still smoking cigerettes and were done in their mid 30′s.  (Quote)

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  11. Lefty, the Yankees should make it policy, since you are quick to advise comparison to prior mistakes, to never contract beyond a year, once the player exceeds a certain age. I love Jorge, but four years at 36 was way too hopeful.  (Quote)

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  12. Yeah, and if Jeter gets hit by lightening, or hit by a Bus than his stats might go down too!  (Quote)

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