To the mats with reader mail

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 No. 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.– javamanny

Hey, I did allow for the possibility of a placebo effect, which takes care of your “physical, mental, and record-based” factors (what’s a record-based factor, anyway?). The point remains that small lineup changes, and maybe even big lineup changes, are more about psychological than real-world benefits. Many studies have been done of this subject, and the results consistently show that the difference between the least-optimal lineup (leadoff with the pitcher or Jose Molina or someone like that) and the best is only a few wins. The difference between the optimal lineup and the second-most optimal lineup or the third-most optimal lineup is nonexistent. As I said yesterday, it’s always possible that someone muscles up and hits .350, and when that happens, you or someone like you will write in and say, “See? It’s all because of the lineup change!” But you won’t really know. Given all this, swapping Jeter and Damon isn’t a significant move at all.

What is not nonexistent, however, is the impact on the bottom line, wins and losses, created by the manager’s decision to play one player over another. At his 2006-2007 best, Swisher’s offense and defense combined to make him a six-win player. At Nady’s normal rate of production–that is his whole career except for the first 89 games of 2008, he was a one-win player. This is anything but a minor difference.

Let it not be said that we don’t agree on anything, javamanny. I am definitely “something.”

Just imagine in the spiral bands of the Milky Way Galaxy we have a speck 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 beginning to suspect Arod is an android.–midcoaster

That was kind of my point. Flipping one lineup spot is about as infinitesimal a change as you can make… Also: A-Rod is a cookbook.

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… –budboy

You raise some fair points, budboy (as did the others who raised them), and all of them may mean something to the bottom line this year, but what value in terms of wins and losses do you want to assign to them? I will concede that many small things can add up to a big thing, so perhaps Joe Girardi has made a move that will pay off in some way, but a lot of dominoes would have to fall in precisely the optimum way for it to mean very much at all.

As for Swisher in center field, sure, some of the time, if the Yankees are smart about it. When CC Sabathia is pitching, probably not, when Chien-Ming Wang is pitching, sure, and with the other three guys you check which way the wind is blowing before making a decision.

Just wondering, how suicidal would it be to platoon Nady and Gardner? Now before you jump down my throat thinking I want X in center, stop and breathe. Against righties, run Gardner in center and Swisher in right. Against lefties, Swisher roams center for six innings giving way to Gardner and Nady starts in right until Swisher slides over (assuming a lead.) The preponderance of right-handers would mean, what, 35 partial games in center for Swisher?? I think this set would be the team’s strongest getting the most PAs for the best on-base guy and Nady shots vs. lefties. –Greg D.

It makes sense to me, but Joe Girardi may not want to think that much. See also the adjustments for the starting pitching made above–Sabathia is more of a fly ball pitcher, so you might want your best ballhawk on the field for his starts, regardless of the opposition’s hander. Of course, that would be Gardner and Swisher regardless, but the world ain’t logical or we wouldn’t be talking about this.


  1. wnybirds

    Do you play fantasy baseball? Wanna join my league? Based on years of reading your column, I get the strangest feeling you would be very interesting competition.


    One thing that I dont think studies and sabermetrics can do very well is explain lineup impacts. Sure you got those adjustments for parks and stuff but there are some things you cant quantify and conclude. For instance if a guy is batting in front of Albert Pujols, pitchers could have a different approach. They are going to challenge the guy, give him something to hit and hope to get him out instead of face Pujols. Things get even more complicated when you factor in runners on, the pitcher on the mound, manager strategy, changes to the lineup. etc. All these are going to affect the numbers that sabermetricians use. So while I agree that Moneyball does make sense, there is like Joe T would say “a heart beat to the game”. Jetes leading off may or may not create a whole more runs but I don’t agree that it is simply just a few more at bats.


    gardner’s speed will help the picthers he will be able to get to the shallow fly balls and balls in the gap which will cut down on pitches thrown so maybe they can go deeper into games swish will help the team but not in center defence will help more beside speed on the bases gives opposing pitches more to worry about tampa boston both have strong dee we need that for the pitches

  4. letsgoyankees

    I love Gardner. I think he has a real shot at hitting 300+ with a 400+ OBP-perhaps not this yr. since he’s a rookie, but in a couple years, I think it’s definitely possible.
    I also like that Gardner is ultra-clutch. 2 walk-off hits his rookie yr.! Unbelievable.

  5. dachshund4

    Gardner should be the CF against lefties also. At least until he proves he cant hit them. Melky is not very good from the right side. Nady, should play until he can’t hit. Damon can still hit & run. That is about all. He would be the DH if it wasn’t for Matsui, whom we missed terrible last season. Melky & Swish can fill in whenever needed. At least this season we have options. #27 coming!!!

  6. iamanycguy

    I’m willing to give it a chance. Maybe Damon can beat out groundballs that would have in the past been double plays.

  7. iamanycguy

    I’m willing to give it a chance. Maybe Damon can beat out groundballs that would have in the past been double plays.


    Steve Goldman writes: Many studies have been done of this subject, and the results consistently show that the difference between the least-optimal lineup (leadoff with the pitcher or Jose Molina or someone like that) at best is a few wins.

    Here’s a news flash, you nerd; sometimes the difference between a playoff team and non playoff team is a game or two or a few.

    Please, readers of this blog and many others, don’t buy into this garbage about sabermetrics and computer models, etc., etc.

    The only reason guys like Goldman believe in this tripe is because they have never played the game past the ” everybody gets to hit ” Little League stage. This gives them a way to try to sound like they know what they are talking about when it comes to fielding a decent, winning baseball team.

    They are like lawyers that make the most simple arguments into 10 page treatsies that make your head want to explode.

    Baseball is really not that hard to understand, IF you have played it before. The eyes are all telling. It is impossible to judge whether Derek Jeter has no range at all by watching him on television or looking at ” defensive ” formulas.

    Watch him when you are at a game. He might be positioned differently because of the count, the batter, the score of the game, etc. These ” formulas ” look at general categories such as, Jeter caught only 550 out of the 700 grounders hit his way while Julio Lugo caught 575 of the same 700 grounders hit his way.

    That doesn’t mean Lugo is a far better SS, just because he caught 25 more grounders than Jeter in a comparable number of chances. To think that is just ludicrous.

    I can’t believe they have a link to something as ridiculous as this guy on the YES site. It’s an abomination.

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