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The Last Hurrahs

Jeter stood before reporters today and voiced his frustration with cheaters.

“One thing that’s irritating and really upsets me a lot is when you hear people say that everybody did it,” Jeter said. “Everybody wasn’t doing it.”

So I've been thinking about Derek Jeter's steady decline since his age 32 season in 2006.

Jeter at 32, posted the second best season of his career: 132OPS+, 301TB, 2nd in MVP voting.

Willie Randolph had 3 great seasons: 133 OPS+ at age 25, 121 OPS+ at age 32, and a 126 OPS+ age 36 season fueled mainly by a sudden 80 point jump in BABIP.

Yogi kept his bat well into his baseball dotage.  At 25 he caught games, played more and posted a 135 OPS+.  He posted an OPS+ between 110 and 142 every year through age 36, averaging 127 OPS+ over that span.  Oh yeah, he caught 133 or more games 7 straight years, and 121 games an 8th year.  Outlier.

The Mick was obviously on a different planet as a slugger with an incredible (and underrated) batting eye.  But Mantle's career transformed after age 32.  Mantle averaged an OBP+ of 189 in 149 games for his 7 seasons from age 23 to 29 and enjoyed a bounce-back 143 game 178 OPS+ at age 32.  Yes, I'm considered his MVP winning age 30 196 OPS+ a down year in an inner-circle Hall of Fame career.  But in the 518 games Mantle played in his 4 seasons after turning 32, he never came within a long foul ball of his prime performance, and retired embarrassed by the decline of his batting average.

What should we expect from Jeter this year, age 35?

While I don't expect his declining BB (77-69-56-52) to rebound, if they hold steady, I think there's a good chance his SLG will rebound (.450, .483, .450, .408).  The power outage seems directly related to being hit on the hand.

.305/.360/.450 will put his OBP+ closer to his 120 career line than the league average mark he posted last season.

That should thoroughly polarize the already murky extension debate.