For the first time since June, the Yankees will be without the benefit of the designated hitter, a big part of their offense. That role has been Hideki Matsui‘s this year, and he performed admirably, posting a .274/.367/.509 line across 526 plate appearances. He didn’t play an inning of outfield all season, though, bringing into question his role for the next three games.
It appears that Girardi has ruled out the possibility of starting Matsui in the outfielld. Carig reports that Matsui could play the outfield in a double switch situation, which would place him in the outfield for the first time since June 15, 2008. Yet there seems to be only one scenario where a double switch would make any sense.
The double switch involves a manager substituting a position player for the pitcher, and a pitcher for a position player. This only works if 1) the pitcher’s spot is due up in the next inning, and 2) the position player leaving the game isn’t due up before the pitcher’s spot. This creates a problem for the Yankees, because their lineup will probably look like this:
Cabrera and Swisher at the bottom of that lineup make the double switch tough when it involves Matsui. If, say, Cano makes the last out, the pitcher would be due up but two of the double switch candidates are due up first. All Girardi could do at that point is to sub the relief pitcher for Johnny Damon, which staves off the pitcher’s spot by only two batters. If the Yanks put two men on base in the next inning, the pitcher comes up any way and you’ve just pointlessly lost Damon’s bat.
If Cabrera makes the last out it creates another tough situation. In a double switch the pitcher would come in for Cabrera, meaning the substitution would have to play center field — no way that Swisher or Damon does at this point. That means Gardner, who would hit after Swisher to start the inning. Unless you absolutely needed the reliever for multiple innings, wouldn’t it just make sense to pinch hit Matsui in the nine spot and call on another pitcher for the next inning?
It could make sense if Swisher makes the last out of the inning. Matsui would then sub for the pitcher and take over in right field. He would also lead off the next inning. But in that scenario, if the game is close, Girardi would probably pinch run Gardner for Matsui if he got on. At that point he’d be better off just pinch hitting with Matsui, since the move commits to less. Then if Damon makes the last out of that inning, you could insert Hideki into left and leave the pitcher in the two hole. You could do that in the double switch scenario too, I suppose.
Going through double switch situations is something new for us fans of AL teams, and it’s certainly an exercise. The problem in doing this is that to double switch with Matsui would hamper the defense. Straight pinch hitting assignments could work better, unless there’s a serious lineup alignment issue. Then, and only then, should Girardi double switch. If he doesn’t need the reliever for multiple innings, straight pinch hitting is the way to go.
The one scenario I can see this working is in a straight pinch hitting situation. If Matsui pinch hits for the pitcher and Damon makes the final out of that inning, Girardi could send Matsui out to left and insert the new pitcher into the two spot.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few scenarios (and might have even botched some). This is where I love the comments.