Derek Jeter's 2008 season was really a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Captain didn't look all that great. He pulled into the All-Star game, which he started, mostly because of the lack of good offensive SS's in the AL this year with a batting vital of:
From a traditional standpoint, that's pretty damn good for a shortstop. But Derek Jeter isn't a prototypical defense-first, light hitting shortstop. He's an offense first shortstop and has been one of the better hitters in the Majors for his career. So when he put up that line in the first half, I think some of us were disappointed with Mr. Jeter's offensive output.
In the second half, though, Jeter returned to his normal hitting state, putting up this vital from the ASB on:
While the power didn't really show up like I thought it would, the average and on base percentage were right on with his career numbers.
This left me thinking, what would Derek Jeter, one of my favorite players of all time, one of the reasons I love baseball as much as I do, do in his next season? Was this the beginning of the end? Were all those innings from March to late October finally catching up to him?
Obviously, I could rely on projections, like the ones found at fangraphs.com but where would the fun be in that? I'd rather just do some number crunching on my own. So what I decided to do was take the ten most similar players on Derek's Baseball-Reference page and see how they did in their age 34 seasons (Derek's 2008) and compare it to how they did in their age 35 seasons.
There are obviously ten players there but I only used seven for a few reasons: Arky Vaughn lost a bunch of years to the war, Bill Doerr retired after his age 33 season and Ryne Sandberg only played 57 games in his age 34 season before missing his age 35 season entirely. The players I did use were: Barry Larkin, Allen Trammell, Ray Durham, Kirby Puckett, Jay Bell, Joe Torre, and Bill Dickey.
I used only the most basic of metrics--AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS/OPS+ for this "study" so bear with me on the numbers. What I did was take those numbers from the comparable players 34/35 seasons and add them together, finding the differences, then added those numbers to DJ's 34 total to "predict" what he'll do in 2009. For brevity's sake, I'll list only the differences by player:
Barry Larkin: AVG: -.016, OBP: -.007, SLG: -.084, OPS: -.091, OPS+: -33
Allen Trammell: AVG: +.054, OBP: +.018, SLG: + .104, OPS: +.122, OPS+: +24
Ray Durham: AVG: -.075, OBP: -.065, SLG: -.165, OPS: -.260, OPS+: -62
Kirby Puckett: AVG: +.003, OBP: +.017, SLG: -.025, OPS: -.008, OPS+: +1
Jay Bell: AVG: -.019, OBP: +.001, SLG: -.037, OPS: -.036, OPS+: -5
Joe Torre: AVG: +.059, OBP: +.041, SLG: +.049, OPS: +.090, OPS+: +32
Bill Dickey: AVG: +.011, OBP: -.014, SLG: -.044, OPS: -.053, OPS+: -1
Averaging out the differences it came to:
So if we add those totals to Derek Jeter's total 2008 of: .300/.363/.408 we would get:
That low of an OPS has not been league average for DJ's entire career. So, if he were to in fact put that up, which I believe is a reasonable projection considering his age and position, for the first time in his career, Jeter's full season OPS+ would be under 100. For the first time, the Captain would truly be a below average hitter.
Obviously, my study is incredibly elementary and doesn't take into consideration more than a few rate stats or adjust player performances for league averages, but it's just a fun little thing to do. Hopefully Derek far outplays my projections and has a fantastic season in the new Yankee Stadium.