‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Derek Jeter’s performance on Monday night proved there is still plenty of youth in his old bones. After all, 37 is just a number and not an expiration date.
There were times throughout the season where Jeter’s average hovered around the .250 mark and his bat appeared too slow. Many were quick to point out the questionable logic of awarding an aging middle infielder a 3-year, $51M contract. Is Jeter overvalued? On paper, certainly yes but when has Derek Jeter’s value ever been defined by pure statistics?
Well, Jeter’s stats are now on the rise. In a matter of two months, his average has increased 27 points to a respectable .282. It’s an encouraging sign but again I stress that evaluating Jeter isn’t always about numbers.
He’s earned the trust of Yankees fans for his ability to stand up and deliver in important situations. That is Jeter’s bread and butter. It is ultimately what the Yankees captain is judged upon. You could pick out plenty of shortstops around baseball who hit with greater power and are more athletic but ask them to step into Jeter’s shoes and most would wilt under the spotlight.
What I found worrying about Jeter this season was his diminished aptitude in these situations and statistics proved it. Even after Jeter collected the go-ahead RBIs that earned Monday’s 7-4 victory over the Royals, his average with runners in scoring position stands at .234. A number that makes ugly viewing but signs are there to see that Jeter pulling himself back toward prominence.
He seems to be a more spry and energetic player than in months past. Earlier in the year, Jeter’s bat speed appeared to be diminished. Powerful hurlers could sneak a surging fastball past him and when he did make contact it usually resulted in a weak grounder.
Life has now returned to his swing and there couldn’t be a clearer indication of his resurgence than his 3-4 performance Monday night. Jeter put on a show, driving balls past Royals’ fielders that evening. The aforementioned go-ahead RBIs in the 6th inning was a vintage Jeter moment. His classic inside-out swing stroked a drive over the Kansas City outfielders and gave the Yankees a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
It wasn’t only Jeter’s bat that looked improved but also his all-around play. He made a few tough plays and completed some difficult throws, harking back to the days of his youth. Jeter and Robinson Cano combined for a finely turned double-play in the bottom of the 5th to save A.J. Burnett from further damage as the bases were loaded.
Not only did Jeter provide the winning hit but also contributed to a game-saving double play. Who knows how Burnett would have reacted if Eric Hosmer beat Jeter’s throw to first and the inning continued?
This is exactly why you want Derek Jeter in your lineup. His flair for delivering clutch play either in the field or at the plate is something you simply can’t teach.
What do you make of Jeter’s contributions Monday night? Is his renewed clutch play just a glimpse of former glories or a reason to believe he’s on his way back to his best? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.