Derek Jeter: full time outfielder? Never gonna happen

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This morning, at Brian Cashman’s little press availability, the Yankees general manager said that he envisioned Derek Jeter moving off shortstop and into the outfield before his new contract is up after the 2014 season.

It’s not a ridiculous thing to say at this point in time because (a) Jeter is unlikely to be able to stick at shortstop forever and no one would buy it if Cashman said he could; and (b) it’s not like Cashman can say today that Jeter’s going to be released when he can’t handle short anymore.

He also can’t say that Jeter is going to DH, because that would probably cause Jeter’s 2011 ego to be bruised. He can’t say Jeter’s going to third because A-Rod is still there and doing so would imply that A-Rod is the DH, which would cause A-Rod’s 2011 ego to be bruised.  From a public relations perspective at least saying — on this day — that the outfield is in Jeter’s future is probably the only option Cashman had.

But can it actually be done? Can Derek Jeter make the move from shortstop to a full time job in the outfield?

I’ll say this much: Jeter has become a substandard defensive shortstop, but he is still very good — at least to my naked eye — at getting popups and flies to shallow center or left field.  I don’t know if any defensive metric bears this out — he may suck at it actually — but he at least appears very comfortable doing it.  He doesn’t do all kinds of quick shuffle steps like he’s afraid of falling off a cliff. He seems to glide to those kinds of balls relatively effortlessly. That, combined with what seems like what is still a pretty good arm means that we can at least begin the conversation of him being an outfielder.

But let’s be clear about something: if Derek Jeter becomes a regular outfielder, it will be a move that is unprecedented in baseball history. Derek Jeter is entering his age 37 season. Between 1901 and 2010, there have been:

  • Exactly 16 players who have played as many as 100 games at shortstop and 100 games in left field.  None of them did both after the age of 35;
  • Exactly 17 players who have played as many as 100 games at shortstop and 100 games in center field. None of them did both after the age of 35;
  • Exactly 17 players who have played as many as 100 games at shortstop and 100 games in right field. None of them did both after the age of 35.

Maybe Jeter could be a utility guy who can cover the outfield from time to time, but there is no precedent whatsoever for a guy his age moving from the everyday shortstop position to an everyday position in the outfield. And no, Robin Yount — everyone’s favorite go-to guy on this subject — didn’t do it either. His last game at shortstop came when he was 28. Past the age of 30 he was an outfielder/DH with some occasional starts at first.

And that’s before you factor in Jeter’s bat, which unless he bounces back to 2009 form and stays there for the next four years, will not be stout enough to justify a position in the outfield.

Nice try Cashman, but I’m not buying what you’re selling. Jeter will be the shortstop until that’s no longer tenable, but after that he has time at third base, first base, DH, the bench or the unemployment line in his future.  To say otherwise is to predict that history will be made. And that’s not a safe thing to do even with a ballplayer as spectacular as Derek Jeter.

Joe Girardi won’t use Masahiro Tanaka in Game 7

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The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.

Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.

Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.

Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.