Tagged: Derek Jeter

What We Can Learn From Vladimir Guerrero This Off-Season

By Eriq Gardner //

Over the past few years, thanks to tight purse strings and perhaps the waning influences of PEDs, there’s been a youth movement in baseball. More than ever, teams are reluctant to lock up older superstars to big contracts.
Nevertheless, we all tend to get a little too down on older players coming off of bad years.
Take Vladimir Guerrero, for instance.
One year ago today, Guerrero was coming off injuries and a lousy season. In 2009, he appeared in only 100 games and hit just 15 HRs and 50 RBIs. The Los Angeles Angels didn’t express much interest in re-signing the one time American League MVP. Neither did fantasy owners.
We all know how that turned out. Signed to a one-year deal by the Texas Rangers, Guerrero had a tremendous comeback season. He hit 29 HRs and 115 RBIs with a .300 batting average.
Many attribute his newfound success to the favorable hitting environment in Texas. But Guerrero wasn’t the only veteran coming off a disappointing year who shined in 2010. Other 30-year-olds who provided a nice dividend included Adrian Beltre, Coco Crisp, and Brett Myers.
If fantasy owners tend to underestimate older players, I can think of three good reasons why.
First, while it’s true that player performance tends to gradually deteriorate for thirty-somethings, the slope from superstardom to retirement is rarely a smooth downward descent. One bad season doesn’t have to follow the next. Yes, the macro-trends may support lesser performance in a player’s 30s, but in the micro-sense, predicting what’s going to happen one season to the next is not as pat. 
Second, a season’s worth of baseball is an arbitrary sample set. And a small one, too. Even 162 games of baseball can’t tell us whether a ballplayer is responding to the influence of Father Time or is just having a bad year. 
Third, bad seasons by older superstars tend to soak up a lot of bad press. This is especially true of those whose contracts are up and who are searching for a new job. Athletes make tens of millions of dollars, and we’re all very sensitive to washed-up ones who don’t earn their paycheck.
Fortunately, all this provides a nice buying opportunity. As a “value investor,” I’m watching older players especially closely this off-season. 
I’m definitely curious where Lance Berkman ends up this off-season. He’s nowhere near the hottest commodity in the free agent market, but he’s only a couple seasons removed from 29 HR. 18 SB, and being selected in the second round of most fantasy drafts. This season, he only hit 14 HRs, but was plagued with some bad luck. If there’s any player who screams, “the next Vladimir Guerrero,” it might be Berkman.
Similarly, Magglio Ordonez, Derek Jeter, Derrek Lee, Manny Ramirez, and Javier Vazquez are all potential values heading into 2011. These players could fall victim to overreaction to their poor seasons and could be attained cheaply heading into the next season. No, I wouldn’t sign any of these players to a long-term contract, if I was sitting in a major league front office, but fortunately, most fantasy owners only have to make single-year analysis. Given that, I like the odds.
For more on Lance Berkman and other older free agents, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.

Derek Jeter’s Bleak Future

By R.J. Anderson //

Derek Jeter is a free agent by name only. The Yankees’ only conundrum in re-signing their captain will be similar to the ones the Bombers faced with Andy Pettitte last offseason: how long and for how much?

Those questions are not easy to answer in this case, because Jeter’s marketing power and brand are unrivaled. The Yankees’ own brand would not suffer from losing Jeter – they were popular before him too, you know – but they have no reason to pass on him (despite diminishing skills) because a sunk cost is no big deal to New York.

Jeter’s 2010 season represents a massive disappointment. Fresh off a season in which hit .334/.406/.465 with 18 home runs, Jeter failed to come near those numbers. His batting average slipped under .300 (to .270) for the first time since 2004. His on-base percentage fell below .350 (.340) for the first time in his career – the same can be said of his slugging percentage ending at less than .400. Jeter still managed 10 home runs and 18 stolen bases, but his mediocre stats and slap-hitting ways might represent the future more than Yankees fans would like to believe.

In June, Jeter will turn 37. No shortstop (defined by having played at least 50% of their games at the position along with 300 plate appearances) aged at least 37 has ever hit more than nine home runs in a season. Since 1970, only 20 shortstops met that qualification after turning 37, with the highest batting average being .295, the highest on-base percentage being .367, and the highest slugging percentage being .419. Over the last three seasons, Jeter’s line: .301/.369/.414. Meanwhile, only two of those players finished with an OPS above the league’s average.

In other words, Jeter’s not likely to get much better than he’s played lately as he ages. The crowd perception is that Jeter will get a deal worth three years at roughly $15 million per year. Even though three years does not seem like a long time, one has to wonder if Jeter’s increasing immobility at shortstop along with the presence of prospect Eduardo Nunez will result in the Yankees moving Jeter to the outfield or full-time DH before the contract expires. Moving him becomes a definite if the Yankees foolishly give in to Jeter’s supposed desire for six years. Consider the idea admirable – in the sense that Jeter loves to play and really wants to test the limits of his icon boundaries – but also insane.

As for your fantasy docket, one would expect him to be undervalued entering next season, and there’s something possibility for a bit of positive regression after such a huge year-over-year drop. Still, in most leagues Jeter’s name value will inflate his bidding price beyond a reasonable range.

Tread softly and do not be afraid to let him go. Unlike the Yankees, you have a choice.

For more on Derek Jeter and other free agents, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

Is the Captain on His Last Legs?

By R.J. Anderson //

Nearly 50 games into the regular season and Derek Jeter does not look like Derek Jeter. It starts with his .275/.319/.399 slash line, which looks like it belongs to Jeter’s backup in any given year. Jeter is walking in fewer than 5% of his plate appearances – a career low – and striking out more than in recent years. Is there any upside to keeping the Yankees’ captain, or is this the beginning of the end?


Jeter is seeing significantly fewer pitches than normal. Between 2005 and 2009, Jeter’s seasonal low for pitches per plate appearance was 3.72, this year it’s 3.59. Making matters worse is that Jeter is hitting nearly 70% of his batted balls on the ground. Given the limitations of batted ball data – i.e. whether the ball is being hit hard, or softly – it’s impossible to say whether Jeter is replicating his trademark out (the slow grounder to shortstop) more often than usual. Two things are certain: 1) Jeter’s .300 BABIP is well below recent norms and 2) Jeter is swinging outside of the zone more than he ever has before. That could be a sign of pressing or a sign that Jeter’s plate approach is waning.

While Jeter should not be expected to continue to perform this poorly heading forward, the reality is that he is a soon-to-be 36-year-old shortstop. Mike Axisa of the wonderful River Avenue Blues site recently tweeted that only three 36-year-old shortstops in the last 50 years have posted an OPS+ of 100 or better. Those three were Barry Larkin, Ozzie Smith, and Luis Aparicio, three of the all-time positional greats.

Deciding whether to sell low on Jeter or not might be the most difficult decision some fantasy owners will make this season. Simply put, there’s no right answer. Yes, he’s old for a starting major league shortstop. But he’s also coming off a fantastic season and is one of the finest talents to ever take the field. The best news might come from 2008. Jeter had similarly poor outings in April and May — posting OPS of .654 and .715 respectively – before hitting his stride and finishing as an above-average hitter. That was just two seasons ago, so it’s certainly not impossible to think Jeter could do it once more.

For more on Derek Jeter and other struggling veterans, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.