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.