When ESPN Baseball Tonight analyst John Kruk said Derek Jeter can hit .400 earlier this month, everyone blew it off as crazy. Thirty-four games into the season The Captain is hitting a robust .420 and leading the Major Leagues with 34 hits. Since July 9th, 2011- the day that Jeter went 5 for 5 * and collected his 3,000th hit- he has 124 hits in 81 games, good for a .357 batting average.
Can Jeter hit .400? A lot has to happen and 18 games is simply not enough time to make a declaration. A .400 batting average is probably less attainable than Dimaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. With small ballparks giving fielders less ground to cover, specialized bullpens that are difficult to hit and the absence of amphetamines, the task has become even harder than it was when Barry Bonds was at his enhanced best.
...That brings me to Jeter. If there is someone that could do it today, it might be him. Putting the ball in play is the first key to reaching the elusive magic number. Jeter has a career .355 average on BABIP. For the non-statistically inclined, that means he collects a hit nearly 36% of the time when he makes contact. That is important since, unlike someone like Gwynn, Jeter is prone to the strikeout. He needs to cash in when he does make contact.
...The one big intangible is the pressure that would result if he was flirting with the record deep into the summer. The media focus on any ballplayer would be immense – ESPN lives for this kind of story- but the fact that he is Derek Jeter, plays in New York, is a future Hall of Famer and plays for the Yankees makes this the perfect media storm. Look at how everyone tracked his 3,000th hit. Jeter admitted the pressure of reaching the magic hit total wore on him. Could you imagine the hysteria if he was making a serious run at .400? It might make 3,000 hits look like a day at the beach.