By James Ward
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Is it 1999?  Did Derek Jeter bathe in the fountain of youth in the offseason?  He sure is playing like it.  Actually, he’s playing better.

When April came to an end, Jeter was batting .389 with four home runs and 13 RBIs, statistically one of his best Aprils ever.   His 37 hits in April led all of baseball, and the total was the most he has ever had in the season’s opening month.  Also, his .389 average was the second-highest April batting average of his career.

Jeter didn’t stop with a good April.  Through six games in May, Jeter has raised his average to .397, which leads the Majors.   Jeter also continues to lead the league in hits.  He isn’t just getting ground-ball singles either; he’s getting extra-base hits.  On May 4th, Jeter hit his fifth home run of the season.  In 2011, he didn’t collect his fifth home run until July 9th, for his 3,000th career hit.  In 131 games last year, he only hit six home runs, but this season he is driving the ball like he did a decade ago.

Since Jeter collected his 3000th hit, he has hit like a player in his prime, not in his decline.  Last April, fans wondered if Jeter would finish out his career as a platoon player, and if the remaining years on his contract would be a burden to the club.  No longer.  With the way he is raking, now people will wonder if he can reach 4,000 hits.

Jeter always seemed like a guy that wouldn’t stick around to break records if his career was in decline.  When he signed his contact extension after the 2010 season — statistically the worst season of his career — it was thought to be the last contract of his career.

Not many people thought Jeter would be productive for the duration of the contract, including the Yankees, as evident by the negotiation process.  Not only does Jeter look like he can be productive at the plate for the remainder of the contract, but it also looks like he’ll finish it at shortstop.  Although his range is slightly diminished, he is still as sure-handed as ever, and he still makes every play.

No one is as good as they look when they are playing their best, and no one is as bad as they look when they are playing their worst.  Jeter won’t hit .400 this year, but he looks like he can hit .330 with 200 hits and 100 runs scored.  He is still one of the best hitters in the league, and after a dip in production last year he’ll have the numbers to prove it this year.

How long do you expect Jeter to keep up this incredible pace? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…


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