Tagged: center field

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.