Is Derek Jeter's "hot streak" just a mirage?

"No, Jeets" - Jim McIsaac

Jeter has hit near league average over his last 100 PA, but this could just be an illusion.

We all know that offense was Derek Jeter's bread and butter during the height of his career. Unfortunately, that's the biggest thing that this team is lacking, and Jeter is part of that shortcoming. Jeter is currently batting .271/.325/.329 (82 wRC+) with just nine doubles, one triple, and two home runs. That level of performance pegs him at 17th among 25 qualified shortstops in wRC+ and 20th in fWAR (0.6).

But, he may have turned it around. Since June 7th (his last 98 plate appearances), he's hit .300/.340/.378 (99 wRC+) with one home run and four doubles. The power doesn't look like it's ever coming back, but everything else? Possibly. Let's take a look at what sticks out in this stretch. Firstly, this streak is not being helped by his batting average on balls in play. His BABIP during this period has been .325, a mark that is 22 points under his 2012. Now, I'm sure part of that has to do with the diminished gap power Jeter possesses, but we can tell with the eye test that the BABIP isn't handing him these base hits. They, for the most part, aren't cheap shots.

However, I wouldn't go too far with that narrative. While they aren't cheap shots in the sense that they aren't bloop hits, that doesn't mean that they're scorchers either. While just about everything in this stretch is stable and normal based on his history (walk rate, strikeout rate), his isolated power is not. Jeter has a career ISO of .132 and sat at .113 as recently as 2012, but this year he has an ISO of only .058, and only .078 during these last 98 PA. Jeter hit 15 home runs and 32 doubles in 2012; he has only two home runs and nine doubles so far this season. According to Steamer projections, that is not supposed to regress in a positive direction. He is projected to hit three more home runs and ten more doubles for the rest of the season, putting him at an ISO of .070.

It's not like we should be expecting the moon from Jeter. He is in his last season and came off a year of major injury; it's no surprise that his bat speed and power have been sapped. If his hitting does flourish a bit more as we have seen lately, he could look to propel himself among the upper-half of shortstops in MLB. This will be difficult without the power, but it's certainly possible. He would have to maintain his high batting average and on-base percentage and make his game about constant singles and walks. For someone who was projected to do nothing, that would not be too bad.

I have two mindsets--follow the projections, and have faith in Jeter. I lean somewhere in the middle. While I know that Jeter has and could turn it all around (look at 2011), the projections are not pretty. Then again, this is an area that can be hairy for projection systems. When dealing with players on either end of the aging curve, there just aren't enough comps to provide a high-correlation prediction. Sometimes there are players like Bartolo Colon that just break your projection system for an older age. I don't think that Jeter is like Colon in that respect, but I think that he has it in him to prove the projections wrong, somewhat. If he could propel himself to near-league average, it would be a boon that the Yankees would certainly enjoy.

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