Monday, January 28, 2013
Countdown: 15 days to spring training
By Wallace Matthews
The groundhog never sees his shadow here at ESPNNewYork.com, and so our countdown to February 12 -- the day pitchers and catchers report to Yankees spring training camp in Tampa -- rolls into its sixth installment. Each day between now and then, Andrew Marchand, Mark Simon and myself will present a list dealing with a specific issue facing the Yankees this season. Today, we examine the 2013 prospects for Derek Jeter.
FIVE REASONS WHY CAPT. CRUTCH WILL BE CAPT. CLUTCH AGAIN
1. HE REGAINED HIS STROKE LAST YEAR
Not only does the batting average say so, but so do a lot of the advanced metrics used to gauge the performance of a hitter these days. In 2012, Jeter hit more line drives than he had in years, swung at fewer bad pitches, hit a greater percentage of his fly balls out of the park than he had in any other season of his career aside from 2005. Clearly, he was not just hitting the ball more often, he was hitting it with more authority.
2. AND WHEN THE STROKE RETURNED, SO DID HIS CONFIDENCE
As difficult as it may be to believe, Derek Jeter is a human being and subject to the same self-doubts as the rest of us. Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long told me he sensed Jeter had lost some of his immense self-confidence while struggling through his miserable 2010 season and the first half of 2011. But when he got off to a hot start last year, whatever fears he may have had that perhaps he was near the end of his career evaporated. No reason that should have disappeared over the winter, in spite of the broken ankle, but it's important that he get off to a good start once again in 2013.
3. IT'S HIS FRONT FOOT, STUPID
Just kidding about the stupid. But there certainly would be more concerns about Jeter's ability to bounce back if he had broken his right ankle, upon which most of his weight sits while batting and upon which he must pivot to generate power in his swing. After all the tinkering that was done with his stride the past few years, he doesn't do all that much with his left foot, anyway. It may be a different story in the field, but that's an issue for another day.
4. HE DOESN'T NEED TO RE-INVENT THE WHEEL
Unlike Curtis Granderson, who underwent a swing makeover in 2010 and probably is due for another one, all Jeter needs to do is pick up where he left off last season, something he has been remarkably good at doing for all but one season of his Hall of Fame-bound career. Jeter's consistency is one of his most striking traits, and one of the biggest reasons the whispers from some quarters that he must have ben juicing last year is so wrong and uninformed. With the exception of 2010, Jeter has been pretty much the same hitter his whole career. In 2012, he didn't suddenly go from a singles hitter to a slugger. He just did what he had always done, only better than he had in a while. Having learned my lesson last year, I say he can do it again in 2013.
5. HE'S DEREK JETER!
And if you think he doesn't draw motivation from that, or from the fact that so many of us, present company included, doubted his ability to improve on his 2010 season, then you haven't been paying attention for the past 17 years. Jeter is a stubborn cuss, especially when it comes to proving people wrong about him. I fully expect him to come to camp with a six-pack -- in his midesection -- just to make the New York Post look foolish.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: What are you expecting from Derek Jeter in 2013?