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Now may be the time to doubt Derek Jeter
Not every player can go out on the top of their game, like Mariano Rivera did in 2013.
Derek Jeter is proving that lesson in 2014.
"Don't doubt Jeter!" is what history cautions. He's made a career of proving folks wrong. A 5-for-11 performance in Anaheim has given pause to many critics.
But it shouldn't.
Doubt Jeter because:
- His 18.3 percent strikeout rate is the highest it's been since his 15-game debut in 1995.
- His .065 isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) is a career-worst for seasons in which he's had at least 100 plate appearance. He'd only finished under .100 once -- in 2011 (.093). His career average is .133. The 2014 American League average is .140.
- His .327 slugging percentage is more than 30 points below the AL average of .392.
And teams are noticing that Jeter is more punchless than ever.
Of all pitches Jeter has seen this year, 68.4 percent are fastballs. The AL average is 57.7 percent.
Why is Jeter's percentage higher? Because other clubs likely don't think he can do damage with a fastball. And they might be right.
Of his five extra-base hits in 2014, three came on off-speed pitches and one, his home run, on an 83 mph cutter. The average speed of a pitch he drove for extra bases is 82.4 mph.
So pitchers pepper him with heat, and Jeter pokes the occasional hit to right field. His chances of pulling a ball for a hit are on the decline. Since 2002, he's pulled 31 percent of his 2,145 hits to left field. That number is down to just 25 percent this season.
The average AL pitch speed -- not fastball speed, pitch speed -- is 87.56 mph. But pitchers utilize more fastballs versus Jeter, so the speed of the average pitch he sees is 88.52 mph.
Among all qualified AL batters, Jeter sees the highest percentage of fastballs. Norichika Aoki, Dustin Pedroia, Adam Eaton and Dustin Ackley round out the top five. What does that quintet have in common? They aren't hitting for power. Those five have a .358 slugging percentage, well below the AL average of .392.
If you've been waiting to doubt Derek Jeter, now is the time to do it.
If you don't want to doubt him, you may want to close your eyes for what comes next.
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