Under The Knife: Few obstacles in Jeter's way to join hitting legends
Derek Jeter is an all-time great, but even the greats get old. That's why they have Old Timer's Day, after all. Jeter's defensive quality might be debatable and his reputation certainly benefited from playing in one of the biggest media markets in the world, but even if his numbers are stripped of his famous name, they stand with some of baseball's legends. Jeter's more than 3,200 hits already rank him 14th all time, with Nap Lajoie (3,242 hits) and Eddie Murray (3,255 hits) well within passing distance this season, but where is he likely to finish when he finally retires?
With all due respect to the Yankees captain, 4,000 hits is almost surely out of the question, leaving Pete Rose and Ty Cobb safe as the only men to break the 4,000-hit barrier in MLB history. Jeter would need to post 200-hit seasons at least three more times to clear the mark and at least four times to pass Cobb; in the last 100 years, only two players over Jeter's current age of 38 have amassed more than 200 hits in a season and each only did it once: Paul Molitor had 225 hits at age 39 with the 1996 Minnesota Twins and Sam Rice had 207 at age 40 with the 1930 Washington Senators. Jeter may be a generational talent, but single-handedly tripling the number of 200-hit seasons by a player over the age of 38 would be beyond legendary.
I asked Dan Wade to look into where Jeter might end up. Using two projection systems, it's possible to demystify Jeter's likely path. Dan Szymborski's ZiPS system is one of the few projection systems that update during the season to account for hot starts and cold streaks, while Tom Tango's Marcel system is more adept at looking beyond the current season. The updated ZiPS projections have Jeter finishing this season just shy of 3,400 hits, which would leave him in ninth place with two years left on his current contract. Between 2013 and 2014, the Marcel projections believe he'll get about 300 more hits, leaving Jeter just a tick behind Hank Aaron's 3,771 hits when he's out of contract at the age of 40, though the Marcel projections are a bit on the optimistic side in this case.
Two things working in Jeter's favor of reaching Aaron's mark are his relative health and the Yankees farm system. Jeter's 131 games played last season was his lowest total since 2003, and he's on pace to reach or pass his career average of 147 games again this season. Traumatic injuries can happen to any player at any time, but the fact that Jeter doesn't have a nagging shoulder or back injury certainly makes his long-term playing time forecasts rosier. It's hard to imagine the Yankees pushing Jeter out before he's ready under any circumstance, but the fact that not one of their top-10 prospects according to Baseball America plays his position eliminates any incentive the front office might have to get the future started at the expense of the end of Jeter's career.
Past a certain point, age brings regression, and Jeter's hit totals should begin to slip as he hits and passes age 40. His high peak means that he'll be productive even during his decline, but as his hit totals decrease it will become easier to guess where he'll finish on the all-time hit list. Continued health and his desire to play beyond the end of his current contract are huge variables in this equation, but it's hard to imagine Jeter finishing any better than third or any worse than sixth, which certainly cements his place as one of the best hitters in MLB history. That said, it's hard to say what any player, let alone one who's lived in the limelight like Jeter has his entire career might do if he felt he was within reach of breaking a showcase record.
The issue for Stanton might be a bit worse than originally thought. Stanton tried to play through a meniscus tear, but finally the team and Stanton decided to get the issue taken care of. The surgery normally costs about a month (Sal Perez had a more delicate type of procedure, which is why he missed more time), but Stanton said his rehab is slowed by stitches. Stitches? Scopes normally don't need stitches, which indicates a larger portal was needed. Stanton will heal up and the portal size is just an indicator. A better indicator is when Stanton is out running again. There's no reason to think this will go past the six-week long end, but there's less reason to think he'll hit the four-week short end. More time that Stanton's out makes things harder on the Marlins as they make a playoff push in their new park.
The whole concept of the rehab period -- 20 days for players, 30 days for pitchers -- is designed to get them back into game shape without having to do it at the major league level. With starters ,especially, it's as pure to purpose as any part of the DL rules. The problem is that it doesn't always make sense. The Phillies get this and don't want to waste Roy Halladay's starts, time, or chances on minor league hitters. Halladay will be on a pitch limit, likely around 70 pitches, but getting those 70 pitches to help the Phillies is worth more than "building stamina." The idea that major league teams can't do something creative is crushed by near-desperate moves like this one. Halladay will be fine when he returns Tuesday, the Phillies will shadow him (likely with Kyle Kendrick), and over the next couple starts, Halladay should get back to his normal stamina levels. Imagine what a team could do if they planned it out.
I forget -- how many times has Lincecum been "done" or "back" this season? Lincecum's latest outing puts another notch on the positive side. The easy explanation is that he did it against the Astros, but let's look beyond the superficial. Striking out
Could a baby take out the Red Sox surge? Everything else seems to have gone wrong for the Sox, so something as simple as bending down to see a baby in a stroller is going against Gonzalez. Backs are very tenuous things, and Gonzalez felt his grab when he bent over. (We'll assume he bent with the back and not the knees.) Gonzalez missed Saturday but was back in the lineup on Sunday. Backs come and go, but the fact that the Sox medical staff was able to get control of this so quickly is a good sign. If they can keep him on the field and productive for the next couple days, we can consider this in the past. Look for any rotational deficits, like being late on fastballs, hitting the ball more to the opposite field (though Gonzalez does this when healthy), or shorting his follow throughs.
Cueto had to hate missing the chance to pitch against his pals the Cards. The Cards, I'm sure, will understand that a blister that didn't even keep him from pitching a side session must have been serious enough to miss a start. In fact, the side went so well that Cueto's penciled in for a Tuesday start. Blisters are a real problem, and I'm not suggesting that Cueto dodged the Cards, but the Cards wouldn't mind if you suggest it. Cueto's blister is enough to be worrisome in his next couple starts. Pitchers with blisters simply don't pitch as long, either because of complications or because their managers want to avoid those complications.
I've been on Toronto radio a couple times in the last few weeks, talking about why the Jays seem to have such a tough time keeping pitchers healthy. There's no easy answer, but there's also no evidence that the Jays have any idea how to change that or are even seeking a solution. (I'm sure they are, but there's no external evidence. That's what we call "a lot of talk" at this stage.) Santos is a new data point that says what they're doing now isn't working and needs to be changed quickly. Santos has been out since April with shoulder inflammation, but the Jays insisted there was nothing structurally wrong. They can't say that anymore, as Santos has a torn labrum that will require surgery. If you'd like to read more on what happened, I'll point you toward some new research being done by Dr. Stephen O'Brien -- you might recognize his name from
The Astros don't need to lose any offense. Lowrie's been a real find for Houston, hitting like the Red Sox once expected him to in a season where he's been mostly healthy. A sprained ankle like what Lowrie suffered is mostly just bad luck. The ankle goes one way, the force goes another and then it's pain, swelling and function. Lowrie shouldn't miss much more than the minimum, but the Astros don't seem to be able to play a man down for any period of time. That inflexibility is one reason some think that Brad Mills might not be there long-term. The Astros also lost Jason Castro to the DL with soreness in the knee he had reconstructed last season.