Much ado about nothing


Jeter-3-26-250.jpg
Via mlb.com:

 

Girardi said Thursday that he will use the rest of Spring Training to try out Derek Jeter as his leadoff hitter and move Damon to the No. 2 hole, believing that the Yankees may have accidentally happened upon something to increase production.

 

Probably not, Joe. Assuming something like consistency out of both hitters, the main change will be that, if you persist with that batting order through all 162 games, Jeter will bat about 20 more times than Damon. The lineup synergies don’t really exist, although there could be a placebo effect. The fun thing about this decision is that we will now get into the “after, therefore because” territory of logical fallacies. If Jeter hits .350, some people will cite the move as a reason. If he hits .250, the move will be the reason too. In the former case, he’ll be getting more fastballs. In the latter, he’ll be trying too hard to work the count. The same thing will go for Damon, and for the offense as a whole–if the Yankees are more potent this year, it will be cause of this change. It almost certainly won’t be, and if you think about it, there’s no reason that it should be–why should flipping one spot in the batting order lead to a vastly different outcome? It’s like saying that if you fry an egg with your left hand on the skillet instead of your right, the egg will taste better. It’s an insignificant change.

 

It is with matters such as this that we keep busy during our time here on planet Earth.

 

SO IS IT GARDNER?

Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Yankees “appear open to moving Cabrera.” This would seem to be an amazing bit of non-news, but if accurate, it does suggest that Brett Gardner will get the bulk of center field time going forward. Meanwhile, Cabrera is having a fine spring–in today’s game he went 2-for-4 to raise his batting average to .313 and also swatted his first home run (as did Nick Swisher, but enough about that). Melky’s skill and tool set is such that he’s going to have to hit over .300 to contribute, and if you believe he can do that in the regular season, grand. Be aware, however, there are very few true .300 hitters. Even for those batters who often reach the mark, there is a lot variance in there–some years of .285, which in Melky’s case would not be all that valuable, some years of .310, which would be. You end up taking the good with the bad with batting average-based players.

 

There are some teams who are so poor in the outfield that it makes sense for them to take a look at Melky’s spring, believe a little in spite of themselves, and take a flier on catching a rebound year. The Yankees are not in that position–they have better choices in Gardner and even Swisher. It now falls to Brian Cashman to figure out which teams are window shopping (the White Sox?) and see if he can get them to give up a bit more than they would prefer.

 

OFF TO RUTGERS

Tonight at 6 PM. Scroll down for details; hope to see you there.

10 Comments

As Peter Abraham points out, “The Yankees would never say this, of course. But Jeter hitting leadoff should cut down on his GIDPs. He has 45 over the last two seasons.” I contend that the entire suggestion is a ploy to get Jeter the first Yankee plate appearance (and hopefully the first AB, hit, double, what-have-you) in the new stadium.
There is more on the line here than people care to admit. Eighty-five years from now there could be a 90-year-old reminiscing on Jose Molina’s inside the park homer, the first home run ever at New Yankee Stadium, “The House that Mo(lina) Built”!

Well Steven, if we didn’t have the “where will Jeter bat” to worry about then we would have to deal with real issues like “world peace” lol! Have fun at Rutgers!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

You really are something. You make the biggest deal in the world out of minor differences in Swisher (hero) and Nady (zero) yet totally discount the importance of swapping Jeter and Damon in the order. If I wanted to bore you I could come up with 10 factors – physical, mental and record based – that could change the dynamic of the Yankee lineup – or not. But to be so disdainful of how we earthlings waste our time obsessing over swapping a Hall of Fame #2 hitter with one of the better career leadoff men of the past ten or so years… Yes, I understand that none of this matters in the grand scheme of the universe – other than Nick Swisher, of course.

I like this idea of Jeter leading off. Damon has just a little more power, and you want your power guys closer to the middle of the lineup. Honestly, I never thought lineup was that big of a deal. As long as the same 9 players are batting, we’ll be fine.

Steve, love your articles and analysis, which is why I’m surprised you didn’t at least acknowledge the likely reason, and potential benefit, of flipping Jeter and Damon in the batting order.

Jeter has become much more double play prone in recent years. By moving Jeter to lead off, it eliminates one potential double play scenario. Even better, Damon is one of the most difficult players in the game to double up; indeed, he is one of the ten most difficult players EVER in the history of MLB to double up. (Credit to John Walsh: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/blog_article/incredibly-more-on-double-plays/).

Add in that Damon has more HR power than Jeter, so there is now a slightly increased chance of a two-run HR as opposed to a single shot. Last, if Gardner is the #9 hitter, he can steal bases at a high rate, also reducing Jeter’s double play opportunities, and he also can get down to second base to potentially break up the double play.

This may only add a few extra runs during the course of the season, but that’s exactly what a manager should be trying to do. Maximize every opportunity, and it seems clear that this flip has some merit in the thinking.

Just imagine in the spiral bands of the Milky Way Galaxy we have a spec of dust orbiting a star we call the Sun in which there is a Nick Swisher and a Jeter and Damon flip flop. Makes you wonder what might be going on in the M31 Galaxy – although I am begining to suspect Arod is an android.

Here’s the other thing about Jeter that i’ve noticed over the years. He changes his approach at the plate when he bats leadoff.

I noticed it several years ago, and it’s mostly anecdotal (though i think his OBP, BB/PA and pitches/PA are all higher in the leadoff slot). I think he actually becomes a better hitter, because he focuses more on the important things
(like getting on base) and less on the stuff like productive outs, bunts, and moving runners along .

That’s the downside to a truly selfless, team guy like Jeter. When he gets in his head that the #2 guy is supposed to advance the runner, he actually changes his approach in a way that makes him less effective. I can’t prove, offhand, that this is so, but i really think it may be the case that a switch to leadoff would be healthy for him.

Actually, moving Jeter to lead-off makes sense in a number of ways going forward. In particular, it would enable them to keep the R-L-R-L line-up going when A-Rod comes back, if they want to bat A-Rod 3rd and Tex 4th. It also seems likely that Joe plans on having Gardner in CF batting ninth and this prevents back-to-back lefties with Gardner & Damon. This predicts the following line up: Jeter, Damon, A-Rod, Tex, Matsui, Posada, Cano, Nady/Swisher, Gardner/Swisher.

As for moving Melky, if they do trade him to the White Sox,
what do you think of getting Josh Fields (3b, of) in return? He’s 26 years old with power and a good athlete (played QB for OK State). Perhaps, he could provide insurance for Ransom and plug into an OF spot next year.

Steve – Love you, man, but you wasted about 250 words on this topic without ever saying anything analytical or insightful about the pros/cons of such a move. I’m leaning toward pro for the following: 1) I agree with others about Jeter’s increased propensity for GIDP; 2) no one has mentioned the lefty/righty thing: with Gardner projected in the 9 hole, that would give you l-r-l in the 9-thru-2 spots (nice!); 3) Damon is more of a pull hitter – with Jeter on first base (and the first sacker holding him on) this increases the likelihood of more ground ball hits by Damon in the 1st-2nd hole; 4) Finally, I also generally agree with the points about Damon’s bigger power/run production potential. O another note, did you just imply that – Swisher was a better option in center than Melky? Nick Swisher? Come on…..

I agree with those of you that say this could cut down on Jeter’s GIDP rate, but there is another glaring reason to flip Jeter and Damon in the lineup.

Jeter’s and Damon’s raw numbers indicate that despite Damon being a career lead-off hitter Jeter is the better lead-off hitter when it comes to leading off a game or an inning.
Leading off a game:
Jeter (448 PA) .354/.408/.561(link)
Damon (1519 PA) .274/.345/.389(link)

Leading off an inning:
Jeter (2059 PA) .336/.391/.530 (link)
Damon (3083 PA) .292/.356/.438 (link)

Batting 1st in the lineup:
Jeter (2132 PA): .315/.389/.471 (link)
Damon (7159 PA): .289/.355/.438 (link)

It makes you wonder if Girardi looked at these numbers and saw the same thing I did.

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