Jan
11

Should the Yankees move Cano up in the order?

By

(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

Despite down years from Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees still boasted one of the game’s best offenses in 2010. In fact, they led the league in OBP (.350, by nine points), wOBA (.347), and wRC+ (115), leading to an MLB-leading 859 runs scored, so yeah, I guess we should just come out and say they were the best offense in the game in 2010. That’s thanks in part to an MVP caliber effort from Robbie Cano, who at age 27 hit .319/.381/.534 with 41 doubles and 29 homers, good for a .389 wOBA and a 145 wRC+.

Cano did all that after the team issued a challenge in Spring Training, giving him a bit more responsibility by moving him to the fifth spot in the order rather than the sixth or seventh he’d been hitting for the last half-decade. No longer was he considered a complementary piece, the Yankees wanted to Cano to step up and become one of their cornerstones. He obviously responded quite well and now maybe it’s time to issue another challenge: should he be moved up again?

No, I’m not talking about batting him cleanup or even third, I mean letting him hit second in 2011. Mark Teixeira and/or Alex Rodriguez would not be displaced in this alignment, not that they should have any control over the matter. This of course assumes that Derek Jeter will leadoff, and frankly we have no reason to suspect he won’t right now. Just like everything else, there are both pros and cons for moving Cano up to the two-hole, so let’s go through them both…

The Case For

Perhaps the biggest reason to move Cano up to second is to simply get him more at-bats. Last year American League number two hitters came to the plate 10,376 times compared to 9,638 times for number five hitters. That’s a 7.7% difference, and although it sounds small, it’s the difference between getting Cano 600 plate appearances and 646 plate appearances. Yankees’ number two hitters received 9.5% more plate appearances than number five hitters in 2010, so the difference is even more substantial on a team-specific level. Robbie’s clearly one of the team’s best hitters, so you want him to come to the plate as often as possible.

"I'm this many times better than every other second baseman." (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Another reason is to “optimize the lineup,” so to speak. Traditionally, the number two hitter is supposed to be someone that can “handle the bat” while number three hitter is supposed to be the best hitter on the team, however The Book showed that the best hitter should actually bat second. The reason is that the number two hitter comes to the plate in situations that are just as important as the number three hitter’s, but he does so with greater frequency. Another reason is because the number two hitter tends to bat with the bases empty more often than the three-hole hitter, so he can help start rallies by batting earlier. The Yankees are fortunate enough to have several fantastic hitters, so moving Cano into the two-hole creates more opportunities for Tex and A-Rod to drive in runs. With Brett Gardner (presumably) batting ninth and Jeter first, Robbie will still have a ton of RBI opportunities himself.

A lesser benefit is that it splits up the lefties at the bottom of the order, something Joe Girardi always tries to do. Separating Cano and Curtis Granderson by one batter is one thing, since the opposing team could always have their lefty specialist walk the righty batter sandwiched between them, but with three or four hitters between them it’s a different story. Maybe this doesn’t matter since Cano traditionally kills lefties (.366 wOBA vs. LHP over the last four years), but anything that makes life more difficult for the opposing manager is okay in my book.

The Case Against

The case against moving Cano up in the order is pretty simple: if it ain’t broke, why fix it? He was an MVP candidate while hitting fifth in 2010, so why screw around with it and potentially ruin a good thing? Well, it’s a very simplistic view, because Cano was also extremely productive as (primarily) a seventh place hitter in 2009, but moving him up made him even better. Sticking him between Gardner and Jeter on the front end with Tex and Alex behind him could bring about another level production, who knows. If it doesn’t work out, moving Robbie back to fifth is as easy as writing a name on a lineup card.

Another thing to consider is protection for A-Rod, but this probably won’t be much of an issue. At least not as much as it is made out to be, anyway. The Yankees could simply plug Nick Swisher or Jorge Posada or Granderson into that five-hole and nary miss a beat. Personally I’d go with Swish in that spot, but that’s just me. No, they won’t produce like Cano did in 2010, but they’re not going to embarrass themselves back there.

The double play component can’t be ignored either. Cano has grounded into no fewer than 18 double plays in his five full seasons, including 19 last year. Only Miguel Tejada, Albert Pujols, Michael Young, Yadier Molina, Derek Jeter, and Carlos Lee have more GIDP’s over the last five years. Hitting second will give Robbie the opportunity to kill just as many rallies as he can extend, which is more than he would be able to as a five-hole hitter.

* * *

The thing to remember is that the batting order really doesn’t have as big of an impact as we think it does, unless the manager does something stupid like bat his two worst hitters first and second and his two best eighth and ninth. As I said earlier, the Yankees have enough great hitters than Joe Girardi could pick the batting order out of a hat and still trot out one of the best offenses in the game, so Cano’s spot isn’t of paramount importance. A little optimization never hurt anyone though, and sliding Robbie up so that’s he’s starting rallies for Tex and A-Rod instead of cleaning up their leftovers is most likely what’s best for the team over the course of 162 games, and I’m for all for it.

Categories : Offense
  • omar_moreno

    I’d leave him as 5, with Jeter 2nd and GGBG leading off

    GGBG
    Jeter
    Tex
    Alex
    Robbie
    Jorge
    Curtis
    Swisher
    Martin

    • The Real JobaWockeeZ

      Our second worst hitter shouldn’t bat second.

    • Ultimate Yankee Warrior (James)

      Well, Jeter is the leadoff guy. That’s not changing. But then I’d radically clog the top of the lineup with OBP, something crazy like:

      1. Jeter
      2. GGBG
      3. Swish

      Clog the bases, and run up pitch counts, for the run producers:

      4. Teixeira
      5. A-Rod
      6. Cano

      Round it out with the guys to finish it off:

      7. Granderson
      8. Jorge
      9. Martin

      I know it won’t happen that way, but it’s fun to pretend.

      • Big Apple

        i like your lineup…

  • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

    The thing to remember is that the batting order really doesn’t have as big of an impact as we think it does

    This is why I wouldn’t move him. He was clearly comfortable last year, and while I think he’d be a beast anywhere from 1-9, there’s no point in changing it up because of the limited (if any) potential improvement.

    • CS Yankee

      Kevin Long has been talking differently this offseason & we all know that Joe likes the binder.

      Not much to see here, play around in ST & come out with a plan for the season…change it up on certain pitchers or slumps & go get 28.

    • The Real JobaWockeeZ

      He was clearly confortable hitting 7th in 2009. And I’m sure giving our best hitter more PA’s is not “limited” improvement.

      • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

        But batting order doesn’t have that big of an impact in general. He’s hitting 5th so he’s getting plenty of AB’s. If he was hitting 8th or 9th I’m all for moving him.

  • CS Yankee

    Need a LHP & RHP lineup, but if you can you don’t change 3-4-5…with that said if Teix & Cano are like 2010, I would consider a switch between them.

    Also, Sada to teh 8th!!…Swish or Grandy should be sixth.

  • TopChuckie

    If Tex starts like last season, and like usual, I’d move Cano to 3rd, just to get Tex out of there until he heats up.

  • Thomas

    The Book says your best three hitters should bat 1,2, and 4 with your best hitter batting 2nd. However, should you still bat your best hitter 2nd, if your lead off hitter (Jeter) is expected to be your worst (or at least bottom 3)? Or does it not matter?

    Just wondering.

  • Monteroisdinero

    To “optimize” the lineup, Gardner leads off every game and Cano bats second every game. Won’t happen but that would be optimization.

    • Accent Shallow

      The lineup optimization tool is designed to answer questions like this.

      The problem is that it will give you lineups that Girardi would never use, like A-Rod leading off.

      • Chris

        Based on last years stats, the optimal lineup wouldn’t really be that strange:

        1. Gardner
        2. Cano
        3. A-Rod
        4. Tex
        5. Swisher
        6. Posada
        7. Jeter
        8. Granderson
        9. Cervelli

        Looking forward to 2011, I think you could keep basically the same lineup (whoever catches bats 9th) and do quite well – although maybe swapping Jeter and Granderson would make sense.

  • derek

    Granderson
    Cano
    Teix
    A-Rod
    Swish
    Posada
    Jeter
    Martin
    Gardner

  • Monteroisdinero

    Having Jeter bat leadoff only optimizes the no gidp to lead off a game. I predict Jesus will slowly move his way up the batting order. He ended up batting 3rd at Scranton after being 4th early in the season. He was “optimized”!

  • neil

    L LF Gardner
    R SS Jeter
    L 2B Cano
    R 3B Rodriguez
    S 1B Texiera
    S RF Swisher
    S DH Posada
    L CF Granderson
    R -C Martin

    Should give managers nightmares when playing match-ups during the middle innings.

    I would also bring back Nick Johnson for about $1 million for a bat off the bench, and sign Andrew Jones for 4th outfielder. The 2 of them plus Cervelli and Pena shouldn’t make a shabby bench.

    Then sign (Duchscherer or Kevin Millwood) and (Pettite or Francis) and call it an off-season.

    • Accent Shallow

      I would also bring back Nick Johnson for about $1 million for a bat off the bench

      I don’t think he gets an MLB deal at this point.

    • Big Apple

      nick johnson…are you nuts. cash would be better off throwing that million in the terlit

  • BavarianYankee

    my batting order would be this:

    Gardner
    Swisher
    Cano
    A-Rod
    Teixeira
    Posada
    Granderson
    Martin/Montero
    Jeter

    the big ? is Jeter. If he bounces back, then he’d bat 1st and Gardner 9th.

  • UncleArgyle

    I’m in favor of anything that gets Texeria out of the 3 hole.

  • steven

    id make my batting order
    1-lf gardner
    2-rf swisher
    3-2b cano
    4-1b tex
    5-3b arod
    6-dh posada
    7-ss jeter
    8-c martin
    9-cf granderson

    • Drew

      I was just about to suggest that lineup bravo that there are other smart people out there.

  • DLay75

    Your best hitter should always hit 3rd ( or so I’ve heard ) If that’s the case then Robbie should hit 3rd. I’m all for it.

    • Poopy Pants

      I agree. I’d rather have Robbie at 3rd then someone who doesn’t hit for half the season.

      • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

        If Tex doesn’t hit for half the season, then he’s the greatest hitter in baseball history for the other half.

        • Poopy Pants

          I agree.

          • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

            If only it were true.

      • CS Yankee

        Ideally,

        1-2 batters = high OBP, fast on bases
        3= high BA/OBP with some power but decent on the bases
        4th= high avg slugger, fly ball out hitter
        5th= lower avg (more k’s than 4th), power hitter
        6-9= depends on the team…either reset the table, continue with power, or a combination. This part of the lineup is most likely to change daily.

        The only two things I maybe see keeping Cano from 3rd in the order is Teix (the player he has proven to be) & Cano’s poor base skills.

        • pete

          eh. Ideally, 1-9 are fast, with tons of power and OBP.

  • Monteroisdinero

    I would like a lefty batting after Gardner all the time. Either Cano all the time or Swish against righties and Cano against lefties.

    Stolen base optimization. Gardy will never be thrown out by alot due to raw speed so every microsecond counts and I think any small hindrance to the catcher is worth it. Harder to see the jump and harder to get a clear throwing angle with a lefty batter in the box.

  • Son of Sekhmet

    This is how the Batting Order should be:
    Jeter (if he is hitting)
    Curtis Granderson
    Cano
    ARod
    MarkT
    JoPo
    Swisher
    Russell Martin
    Brett Gardner

  • ADam

    This will not be the opening day lineup, but the best one, IMHO

    Gardy
    Swish
    Tex
    Cano
    Arod
    Jeter
    Po
    Grandy
    Montero

  • BavarianYankee

    I don’t know why so many people want Grandy to be the leadoff-hitter. His career-OBP is average at best (his last 2 season even ugly) and he’s not stealing that many bases. His best tool is power, why waste it with nobody on base?

    • Mister Delaware

      Opportunity cost? Its better to homer with men on base than not, but its better to get to the plate with no one on rather than not at all.

      • Mister Delaware

        (That reads like a moron philosopher.)

  • Mister Delaware

    Yankees last year by lineup position …

    1st: 786 PA, 12.3%
    2nd: 773 PA, 12.1%
    3rd: 749 PA, 11.7%
    4th: 731 PA, 11.5%
    5th: 706 PA, 11.1%
    6th: 689 PA, 10.8%
    7th: 667 PA, 10.5%
    8th: 646 PA, 10.1%
    9th: 632 PA, 9.9%

    So the gap from 5th to 3rd was 43 for the season, about 1 PA every 4 games, not monumental but nice enough, especially considering Cano plays most every day. I fall in the “A little optimization never hurt anyone though” camp.

    • Monteroisdinero

      but the gap from 1st to 9th is huge and is scary with a continued demise of the Captain. 154! that’s alot of opportunities for Gardy.

  • Jacob

    I’ve got my lineup as:

    Gardner, LF
    Jeter, SS
    Cano, 2B
    Rodriguez, 3B
    Teixeira, 1B
    Swisher, RF
    Posada, DH
    Granderson, CF
    Martin, C

  • http://twitter.com/themanchine Bruno (The Manchine)

    what it will be:

    Jeter
    Cano
    Tex
    A-Rod
    Swish
    Granderson
    Posada
    Martin/Jesus
    Gardner

    what it should be:
    Gardner
    jeter
    Cano
    A-Rod
    Tex
    Swish
    Granderson
    Posada
    Martin/Jesus

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

      if Cano bats 2nd I will… do something crazy

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    i stopped reading at 10% more Robbie Cano…

    Gardner to the 9th, Joba to the 8th.

  • Darl

    Not happening, but I’d like to see the first 4 batters be:

    Swish
    Cano
    A-Rod
    Tex

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    …you guys forget: Jeter NEEDS all those plate appearances to get his 3000 hits. that’s going to be a marketing bonanza. he’s batting top two this year and next. just hope for rain.

  • peter

    how about:

    gardener
    swisher
    cano
    arod
    texeira
    posada
    jeter
    granderson
    martin

    • Monteroisdinero

      a good lineup against righties. I would change it against lefties.

      Gardy
      Cano
      Tex
      ARod
      Montero
      Swish
      Posada
      jeter
      Grandy

  • UYF1950

    Would love to see Cano move up in the order. This is what I would like:

    L LF Gardner
    S RF Swisher
    L 2B Cano
    R 3B Rodriguez
    S 1B Texiera
    L CF Granderson
    S DH Posada
    R -C Martin
    R SS Jeter

    Unfortunately, I know that neither the Yankees or Jeter will move him that far down. At least not in 2011 or 2012. But in reality based on his 2nd half numbers in 2010 he is no longer a lead off or #2 batter.

  • mick

    Of course they should move him to third. You always bat your best hitter third. If Giradi had done that last year the Yankees would have won the division quite easily.You dont wait 50 games like he did with Tex.No one has a birth rite to bat in a certain position.When a hitter is hot he should be batting in an important position. When they are slumping move them in a less important position.I still cant believe the Yankees did not win the division. Only because of the manager.

  • HawaiiDave

    I don’t know how you got information that the #2 hitter comes up in “important” situations with, “greater frequency”. There is certainly no known way to predict when an important situation would occur. No line up spot comes up in pressure situations more than any other, its a 9-way tie.

    Having said that, I have been posting in 3-4 different places since last April (especially Yankee blog) that Cano and Tex should be switched. Cano is the best hitter on the team. He should bat 3rd. Tex can put up power numbers but now that the AL scouts know his weaknesses, he will probably remain a .250 hitter. I watched every Yankee game last year and I hate to say it, but whenever Tex came up in a “important” situation, I prayed for him to walk.

    I read that Girardi needed to leave Tex batting 3rd because of ego problems. It’s a sensitive situation. Gimmee a break. Bat Cano 3rd and Tex 5th…let em suck it up and take one for the team.