Derek Jeter has gone back-to-back games without a hit only twice this season. He has not fallen into any sort of unthinkable slump, and he’s kept his batting average hovering around .250. Jeter hasn’t been especially good, but he’s generally done just enough to keep himself off the radar (considering this is the Yankees captain we’re talking about). He hasn’t faced quite the criticism that Brett Gardner faced a few weeks ago or that Jorge Posada faced a few days ago.
But it’s hard to miss the fact Jeter has just two extra-base hits. Eduardo Nunez has as many doubles as Jeter, and a .250 batting average isn’t exactly setting the world on fire.
“When I come to the stadium, I don’t try to think about what’s already happened,” Jeter said last night. “How I feel now, I feel good. I can’t change anything that happened in the first month of the season. Yeah, I didn’t swing the bat well. I probably was swinging a lot mainly just on my arms, and I wasn’t using my legs. I think as of late, I’ve been using my legs a lot better.”
Jeter’s past three seasons tell the tale of a declining line-drive rate. He’s always hit more ground balls than fly balls, but he used to hit line drives on roughtly 20 percent of his batted balls. Now it’s closer to 10 percent. Those missing line drives have turned into ground balls, not hard-hit balls into the outfield.
“You say, ‘We’ve got to start driving the ball,’” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “That comes from using your lower half and hip torque. We’ve got to get into that a little bit more, because that’s where it comes from. It doesn’t come from having quick hands. It comes from driving your legs and your lower half.”
Long said that, to some extent, the ground balls are inevitable.
“He’s obviously a guy who lets the ball travel,” Long said. “And when you let the ball travel, the ball’s going to be on the ground. That’s the mechanics of the swing.”
But Jeter’s driven the ball in the past, and he drove the ball a little bit last night. After the game, Jeter went further than before in admitting that he’s shifted away from some of the mechanical changes he made this spring, and he said the return has made him more comfortable. He’s hoping it makes him more productive as well.
“We made some adjustments early on this spring, and I sort of went back to some old ways,” Jeter said. “It’s a matter of getting the timing. I adjusted to having more time, and then I had to go back to adjust to how I used to be. It’s taken a while, but right now I feel good.” ‘
Here’s Jeter after last night’s game.
Associated Press photo