It’s funny how fast jeers turn into cheers. Last year many were quick to write off Derek Jeter, after a slow start to the 2011 season shook the Yankees captain’s confidence in his swing and made it appear as if the end could have been closing in on the first ballot Hall of Famers career.
A year ago, Jeter didn’t resemble a player in his prime. After batting a career-low .270 in 2010, he carried a .256 average into July last season. After trying a new approach at the plate, which eliminated his customary leg stride, the 16-year veteran shortstop struggled early on and saw his numbers dip and his power decline. When he switched back to his old mechanics about midway through last season, Jeter began to find himself at the plate again. Besides a two-homer game on May 8th, he didn’t go deep again until that historic day, July 9th, when he went yard for career hit number 3,000. With his old swing restored and the pressure of 3K behind him, DJ3K began to hit like his former self. Now, his swing has carried over to the 2012 season– and he looks better than ever.
Entering this season, Jeter, who turns 38-years-old this season, made sure he reverted back to his old ways. Despite the Yankees’ ups and downs to start the season, the shortstop is the team’s top hitter so far, a testament to him not switching up his routine. He has six multi-hit games, which is tied for the most in the American League with three other players. He’s slugging a team-best .610, and has an on-base percentage of .395. His six RBIs place him third on the team. But, the power that Jeter has shown has perhaps been the most surprising part to his hot start. Forty percent of his hits have been extra-base hits, and he leads the team in that category. Jeter is now tied for the home run (4) and doubles (4) lead on the team and is batting .385. He has twice as many homers as Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez combined.
Starting with Jeter’s 3,000th career hit last July –which was the start of a magical five-hit day– he’s batting .344 with seven home runs and 46 RBIs. That’s 75 games. And over the Yankees’ past 162 games, of which Jeter played 123, he’s batting .307 (170-for-553) with nine homers and 65 RBIs. He’s batting average of .385 thus far makes it seem as if a batting crown is within reach.
On Monday, the seemingly ageless New York Yankees’ captain and Curtis Granderson hit back-to-back home runs off Minnesota Twins starter, and former Yankees’ pitcher, Carl Pavano. Jeter’s opposite-field shot marked his franchise-best 26th homer to lead off a game. Granderson followed Jeter’s drive with another into the right-field seats for the Yankees’ first back-to-back homers to start a game since September 2005, when Jeter and Robinson Cano did it. Yet, despite his continued hot streak the Yankees fell in the first game of their series with the Twins at Yankee Stadium. Jeter is still 19th in the majors’ all-time hits list and is now just 10 hits away from tying former Yankee Dave Winfield.
Jeter’s fearless belief in himself is his most admirable trait. The shortstop, who learned earlier Monday that he was being given an honorary doctorate from Siena, a college in Loudonville, N.Y., will get old someday, but it doesn’t appear that father time will catch up to the Yankees’ legend anytime soon.