Barring some sort of devastating injury, shortstop Derek Jeter will become the first player in New York Yankees franchise history to reach 3,000 hits this season. He is just 74 hits shy of that landmark as the 2011 season begins.
The question really isn't whether Jeter will reach the 3,000-hit plateau. That is a given. The question is how productive will the 36-year-old Yankee captain be en route to -- and beyond -- the mark?
Jeter, of course, had the worst offensive season of his 16-year career in 2010, hitting .270, with a .340 on-base percentage, .370 slugging percentage and .320 wOBA (weighted on-base average). All of those are well below Jeter's career averages.
Jeter is working on small swing changes with hitting coach Kevin Long and is, as you would expect, optimistic that 2011 will be better than 2010.
Is Jeter kidding himself? Is the .270/.340/.370 line what we should expect for Jeter going forward? How much improvement can be expected from a player who is obviously on the back side of his career?
I think Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger is right when he points to 2008, when Jeter hit .300 with a .363 OBP and .408 slugging percentage as what we should hope for. It is highly unlikely we will see him repeat the .334/.406/.465 from 2009.
That, roughly, is what Bill James projects for Jeter in 2011. Carig asks if fans would be satisfied if Jeter met James' projection -- .295/.365/.410/.344.
Speaking for myself I know I would. How about you?