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Yankees 2014 Roster Report Card: Derek Jeter

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Aw, Jeets.

Elsa

Grade: D

2014 Statistics: .256/.304/.313 (73 wRC+), 4 HR, 19 2B, -0.3 fWAR

2015 Contract Status: Retired.

I don't even know where to begin with Derek Sanderson Jeter. He was the face of Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees for nearly 20 years, and now his time is over. After breaking his ankle in game one of the 2012 ALCS, Jeter played just 17 games in 2013 as he tried to make his way back to baseball. And when he finally realized he was physically capable of playing, he decided it was time to end his career on his own terms in 2014.

Evaluating Derek Jeter's final season just in terms of raw performance is quite easy: he was very, very bad. Until the All-Star Break, there were ways to excuse this. He was hitting at 83 wRC+, just a few ticks off the league average for a shortstop, and he was still getting enough playing time in to adjust back to big league pitching. We thought that--maybe--he would break out of his slump. He never did. He instead hit a horrendous 59 wRC+ in his final 263 plate appearances, even despite having a few good weeks to end his career. Most notably, his power completely vanished. For reference, only Ben Revere had a lower Isolated Power this season, and he hit the first two home runs of his career this year. If we take a look at his batted balls for 2012 and 2014, we see this huge difference:

jeter_batted_balls

Jeter's ability to even get the ball out of the infield disappeared, and he hit almost no balls to the left side. After missing over a year and getting another year older, his bat speed had diminished significantly.

This would be just fine if his defense was passable, but we all know it is not at shortstop. Brendan Ryan seemingly warmed up the bench for everybody, while Jeter had plays like this one in April:

pasta_diving_jeter

Oops. FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference believed him only to be slightly below average defensively (-4 Defensive Runs Below Average and -0.5 dWAR, respectively), but Baseball Prospectus' FRAA believed him to be at -24.6 runs. Would it be that outlandish to declare that Jeter, a 40 year-old sub-par defender, was 20 runs below average? No, not at all. That's why I lean more towards BP's assessment, and that states that he was a -2.08 WARP player, good for the least valuable player in baseball and the 83rd worst season in the history of baseball.

This analysis could be seen as a huge indictment of Derek Jeter and the Yankees for his poor play and excessive playing time, but it isn't. Yes, the Yankees probably would have been better without Jeter, but they also greatly outplayed their Pythagorean Record so it's all kind of a wash anyway. The Yankees, even without Jeter, could have been barely above .500, even with a different shortstop. There was no way they weren't playing Jeter every day, especially with people paying for tickets and turning on the television just to see him. And to the Yankees' credit, they cashed in on a year where they missed the postseason with some more ticket and television revenue (Good luck with that next season!) and created some really memorable moments.

The moments, in my opinion, give Jeter a boost in my book from "incredibly horrible and sad conclusion" to merely an older player trying his best to end his career gracefully, and he certainly did just that. And as we all know, his final game at Yankee Stadium was one of the best games in recent memory, one that I'll certainly remember forever.

jeter_walk_off

Just for this game alone, all of that poor play was worth it. Derek Jeter was one of the greatest Yankees in the franchise's long history, one of the greatest shortstops in history, and a leader of one of the greatest dynasties in modern sports. He had a final season of very poor play, but his ability to make the best of a Hollywood moment never faded away.