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Captain crunching

It seems as if Mark Teixeira is headed towards putting up numbers more along the lines of what is expected of him.

And maybe, just maybe, we can say the same thing about Derek Jeter.

Jeter, after going 10-for-23 in his last five games against the Angels and Royals, is now hitting .278, counteracting the effects of a 3-for-19 post-All-Star Break start.

Derek Jeter

Shortstop
New York Yankees

Profile

Does Jeter still have a chance to hit .300? Definitely.

With 407 at-bats in the Yankees first 97 games, he's on pace for a 680 at-bat year (though the Yankees clinching a playoff spot early may diminish that number slightly).

If Jeter does wind up with that many turns, he'd need 204 hits to finish at exactly .300. That would necessitate him going 91-for-273 to finish the year, a .333 clip.

That, in Jeter's world is far from Mission Impossible. In 2008 he hit .344 from August 1 to the end of the season, which coincidentally, raised his average to .300 (he actually got above .300, but closed the year in an 0-for-11 funk). In 2009, he hit .358, which allowed him to finish at .334.

In fact, in four of the last six seasons, Jeter's numbers from August 1 on have elevated his end-of-year totals.

But what specifically would it behoove Jeter to improve upon in order to have a more "Jeterian" year?

Let's take a look at two details from pitch type data that have been determinants of Jeter's performance this season.

Derek Jeter

BA since 2004

He's Not Hitting the changeup

Looking at the numbers from both Fangraphs and our Inside Edge video scouting (which compiles data on every pitch thrown in the major leagues), and there's something to the idea that Jeter is having major issues with changeups this season.

In each of the previous six years, via Fangraphs' stats Jeter had a positive run value against changeups, meaning his performance against them contributed more to producing wins than it did to losing (ie: his hits against changeups were not just hits -- they were valuable hits) and the Inside Edge data bears that out.

This year, both statistics indicate a significant drop in performance. Our chart shows a significant decline in production.

Eight times this season, Jeter has struck out on a changeup. In 2008 and 2009, he had a total of four strikeouts on that pitch.

Inside Edge tracks a stat it calls "Well-Hit Percentage" making judgments on whether balls are hard-hit. While this is based on human decision-making, Jeter's large drop-off seems to run parallel to his performance. He's gone from hitting changeups well 29 percent of the time to just 11 percent this year.

Derek Jeter vs Changeups

Last 3 seasons

And it appears that word has gotten out. Jeter is seeing changeups twice more often that he did in the previous two seasons. He's seen almost as many in 2010 (142) as he did in 2008/2009 (167).

Over the month-long span from June 21 to July 20, Jeter got one hit and made 15 outs against changeups against the likes of Felix Hernandez, James Shields and Trevor Cahill, but he's singled on changeups from Joel Pineiro and Robinson Tejeda in the last five days, so maybe he's snapping out of that funk.

Hit the two-strike slider from right-handed pitchers

A right-handed pitcher with a good slider has caused a lot of trouble for Jeter this season and has been a contributor to his declining ability to reach base.

Most major leaguers aren't necessarily successful at hitting a good slider with two strikes, but Jeter got 13 hits over the last two seasons against righties who threw one in a two-strike count.

Derek Jeter vs 2-strike Sliders

From Right-Handed Pitchers in 2010

This year, he has none, for two reasons. He's not seeing them as frequently as he used to, and when he does see them, he's swinging and missing at those pitches twice as frequently as he did last season.

Jeter hasn't gotten a hit on any count against a right-handed pitcher's slider since June 13 when he singled vs Brian Moehler. Among the dozen pitchers who have gotten him out with one since: Jonathan Broxton, Brad Lidge, Jeff Niemann and Brandon Morrow

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There is one other aspect of Jeter's game that he could improve upon to finish with a more valuable season ...

Turn more balls hit his way into outs

This doesn't have anything to do with his hitting .300, but we're noting it anyway.

We wrote earlier this season that there were signs that Jeter wasn’t playing to the level he did in 2009 defensively. Those issues still exist.

According to Baseball Info Solutions plus-minus rating, Jeter rates a minus-8 on balls hit to the left of where the shortstop would typically play (ie: up the middle). Translated, that basically means that an average shortstop, hit the same balls in the same spots, would have made eight more plays to get outs than Jeter has.

An easy way to think this out: Remember the Web Gem worthy play Angels shortstop Erick Aybar made on a ball hit up the middle (with a spin-o-rama and throw) last week to throw Jeter out. Jeter's not getting to that ball as a fielder.

Earlier this season, Jeter’s numbers, on balls hit to the right of where the shortstop would typically play, compensated for the other issues he was having, but that’s no longer true.

On May 24, Jeter was a +7 on balls hit to the right of the shortstop’s normal position (ie: the shortstop/third base hole). Today he rates a 0, meaning that in the last two months, he hasn't been turning those balls into outs very well.

Overall, Jeter rates 31st in plus-minus at minus-3. It wouldn't do anything to his batting average to turn a few more plays hit in his direction into outs, but it might do something just as positive -- hurt his opponents numbers.