Jeter a natural in the leadoff spot

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When the Yankees signed Johnny Damon after the 2005 season, they thought they were getting a center fielder and leadoff man for the next four years. It didn’t quite work out that way. By 2008 his poor defense necessitated a move to left, and by 2009 he was batting in the two hole. The latter, however, was no fault of his. Rather, it was the idea that the lineup would be more efficient with Derek Jeter leading off, with Damon to follow. Joe Girardi said that he liked what he saw of Damon hitting second while Jeter was playing in the WBC, and in late March he made the switch.

As I noted just days before the move, there was good reason to flop the top two guys in the order. Not only does Jeter hit into a lot of double plays, but Damon is historically good at avoiding them. The switch meant a potentially huge swing in double plays, which are the ultimate rally killer. The move worked in almost every way, with Jeter flourishing in the leadoff spot and Damon having one of this best offensive seasons.

Just how well did it work? Walk Like A Sabermetrician examines how teams fared out of the leadoff spot, and finds that Derek Jeter tops most of the major categories. This includes OBP, runs scored per 25.5 outs, and runs created per game. Derek also destroys in the weighted OPS category, which gives a bit more of a boost to OBP than OPS+. You can check the whole spreadsheet here. I’ll be looking forward to more first-pitch hits from Jeter in the leadoff spot this season.

The stove gets hotter with updates on Sheets, Holliday, and Bay
Open Thread: Another stat
  • Lanny

    You won’t find many better 1-4 in history than Jeter-Damon-Tex-A-Rod.

    That is why Damon fits so perfectly on this team. Especially now that he can DH 70+ games with Matsui gone.

  • crawdaddie

    The reason why Jeter hits into a lot of double plays is because of his batting approach which tends for him to lead the league in hitting groundballs into play.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      That’s true, of course. And because he’s slowing with age, he’s beating out fewer of them. Which is all the more reason this swap made and continues to make sense.

      • Steve H

        Yes. In the Yankees lineup as the #1 hitter he is least likely to have someone on in front of him, which again is why the swap was made. And makes sense.

  • Jamal G.
    • radnom

      Holy crap, I just realized I was at that game.

      I didn’t know it was a milestone for the Captain until now.

  • larryf

    Grandy had 1 GDP in 710 plate appearances last year. The ultimate non-rally killer. You can’t teach speed. But if KLong could coach Grittner to get to 1B…..we could use that speed a bit better

  • Bob Michaels

    Having Jeter lead off was a major reason for the Yankees to sit on top of the Baseball World again. Kudos to Joe Girardi.

    • larryf

      The binder baby….the binder!

  • Guest

    I can’t remember the last time a switch like that worked so perfectly. Jeter hit into much fewer double plays, Damon continued to avoid hitting into double plays, and Damon got a ton of singles through the right-side because Jeter was on base so often and first basemen had to hold him on when he was.


    Its not likely to happen and it would probably be bad for baseball if it did happen, but I’ve thought of one 1-4 that would be better than Jete, Damon, Tex, & A-Rod:


    Why even try against that?

  • Greg

    If Damon is back, I’d go

    1. Granderson
    2. Damon
    3. Jeter
    4. A-Rod
    5. Tex

    • larryf

      maybe against righties I’d bat Grandy first and Jeter first against lefties

      • DP

        Jeter’s OBP vs. righties was about .025 better than Granderson’s last year, so no reason to do that really.

    • LI Kevin

      Granderson is better down lower with his power and low OBP.

      • KK

        This is true, and totally the point. The whole article was about how Jeter hits into too many double plays, and one of the earlier comments is about how Granderson DOESN’T hit into double plays. Why would you play Jeter lower? That’s like saying “hey, you hit into double plays a lot, now try for a triple play”

  • E-ROC

    Heh, during that 2005 season, Jeter was a better lead off than Damon. It was puzzling when Damon batted first while Jeter batted second. Jeter also had a horrible home-away split. Yikes!

  • Tmoney

    I still like Jeter batting leadoff because of his tendency to hit into dps. If no Damon, Granderson bats 2nd. If he is back then who would be the best protection for A rod? I would guess Posada or Granderson. Speaking of Granderson, is he going to have a Yankee press conference or is that just for big FA signings?

  • Mike HC

    Jeter would be a natural at hitting in any spot in the lineup. But leadoff is probably his best spot. And I always thought he would be an exceptional number three hitter two. We all know how great he was as a No. 2 hitter.

    • Mike HC

      too, not two

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      Yup. Jeter was awesome in the #2 hole.

      Gabrielle Union

      • Mike HC


  • nathan

    I know this is a hail Jeter thread… but i just checked in at the really good and the fans are freaking out.. though i lke the Mets being down.. some of the fans are so desperate that they are proposing trades that are beyond desperate

    Buehrle for Maine, Niese and others

    Agonzales for FCore(Fernando Martinez), Pelfrey, C- prospect (arent they all C-)

    they want to sign Wang and Sheets as their no 2 and 3.

    they want to trade Castillo and sign Hudson to a cheaper deal.

    they want to know how can Reyes be part of Halladay deal.. that question shud be asked by BlueJays fans..

    The Yanks can use a spare OF, bench guy and one reclamation SP + one Bullpen arm… but check out the needs of the Mets .. their fans are really screwed…

    C,1B, rotation spots 3-5, 2+ bullpen arms, LF. And if all that works out… a competent GM… quite a wishlist

  • KK

    If Damon isn’t back, I think Cano should move up to the 2nd spot – that’s where he was hitting during the ridiculous .340 season.

    Essentially, I don’t really like Damon or want him back, *shrug*