The one-two hitter platoon

2011 Season Preview: Joe Girardi & Co.
The RAB Radio Show: March 24, 2011
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

We know the Yankees and Joe Girardi have been tinkering with the lineup during the last few days of Spring Training, but there’s only so much tinkering that can be done. Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Robbie Cano are going to going to hit in the middle of the order no matter what, and it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson, and Russell Martin will follow them at some point. The only thing left to toy with is the top two spots of the order, and that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Brett Gardner, the team leader in on-base percentage last year, has been getting reps at leadoff over the last week or so while Derek Jeter slid down to second (in the lineup, not the position). It makes perfect sense; if Gardner’s going to get on base that often, he should do it ahead of the power hitters. But Brett is presumably going give way to Andruw Jones against lefties at least some of the time and rightfully so. He’s no world-beater against southpaws (.316 wOBA in his career, albeit in a relatively small sample) whereas Jones tore them to shreds last season (.402 wOBA). That makes for a sticky situation, because Andruw won’t be hitting leadoff against lefties (or ever), so Girardi will need to employ two lineups.

Last night’s game featured a familiar arrangement, with Jeter leading off and Nick Swisher hitting second, of course against lefty Jo-Jo Reyes. The rumblings of a platoon that features Gardner-Jeter versus righties and Jeter-Swisher versus lefties have been popular for about a week now, but is it the best setup? I think we can all agree that Jeter-Swisher is the best arrangement against lefties since the Cap’n absolutely destroyed southpaws last season (.382) and has for the last few years (.396 wOBA vs. LHP from 2007-2009 as well), but is Gardner-Jeter really better than Gardner-Swisher against righties?

The answer, as you probably suspect, is no. Jeter hit just .246/.315/.317 (.286 wOBA) against righties last year while Swisher tagged them to the tune of .285/.330/.547 (.376 wOBA). Over the last three seasons, it’s .285/.350/.383 for Jeter and .255/.337/.492 for Swish. If you want to do a 5-3-2 weighting system, where 2010 counts for 50%, 2009 counts for 30%, and 2008 counts for 20% (so the most recent season counts the most), you get .276/.340/.368 for the Cap’n and .265/.335/.513 for Swish. By pretty much any measure, the Yankees’ right fielder has the advantage because his big time edge in power output trumps the shortstop’s slight edge in on-base ability.

Of course you probably knew that already, plus the Yankees aren’t exactly in a rush to move Jeter down in the lineup anyway. He’s built up quite the bit of leeway and has plenty of rope so to speak, so it’ll take a total offensive collapse to see him moved down towards the bottom third of the order. But yeah, batting him first or second against right-handed pitchers is hurting the team to an extent, though it’s not a huge difference even over the course of a 162-game season. The Yankees faced a right-handed starter about two-thirds of the time over the last few years, which is a pretty normal percentage, so batting Jeter second against them instead of Swisher will probably cost the team something like five runs next year. It’s not ideal, but it’s hardly the end of the world.

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2011 Season Preview: Joe Girardi & Co.
The RAB Radio Show: March 24, 2011
  • Poopy Pants

    What a shame. If only the captain was a true team player.

    • nsalem

      Hope your being sarcastic. It’s not him filling out the line up card anyway.

  • Monteroisdinero

    I like Brett-the pitch count machine-batting first every day. Most ab’s/most pitches/best strategy.

    I also like a lefty batting second behind him against righties.

    Captain batting second 1/3rd of the time sounds about right.

    /this will never happen

    • dave

      Are you kidding me? Brett “I can’t hit the ball out of the infield” Gardner batting leadoff everyday.
      Too bad some Yanks fans are fooled by his “fools gold” 10 season which was due to his first half of the season until pitchers starting making him hit the ball.
      This guy hit .232 the second half of last year which is what you will get from him this year and ANYONE that thinks otherwise I will be more than glad to take your money.
      I guess everyone forgets this is the same guy that the Yanks though would be an everyday player the start of the 09 season. How did that work out?
      He is a good defensive replacement and a pinch runner.
      Let me know at all star break when the Yanks are begging for an OF to replace him.

      • Jobu The Voodoo Troll

        Take it easy, Champ. Why don’t you stop talking for a while?

        Yeah, sit the next couple plays out, if you know what I mean.

      • Poopy Pants

        “Are u kidding me? Derek “I can’t hit the ball out of the infield” Jeter batting second everyday.”

        Fixed.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Way to ignore the wrist injury.

        • Ted Nelson

          Also ignores OBP… Gardner was above .350 July, August, and September.

          • dave

            Hey Ted.
            Come back to me at the all star break when he is hitting in the .230’s like he did the last half of last year and tell me how you like him. We won’t have to wait long now will we.

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

        I laughed.

      • ADam

        My Guess that he wants Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez platooning in Left???

    • Mister Delaware

      Probably worth noting that, if you only had spray charts to go by, you’d think Jeter is a lefty. I love the idea of him having more room to work with on the right side with Gardner reaching base, at a minumum, 90% of the time.

  • OldYanksFan

    I think his is that rare situation where he is being BOTH sarcastic and straight at the same time. If this were anyone but Jeter, Swish would be batting 2nd (against RHP), and our SS 9th.

    But this IS Derek Jeter. And everyone is scared shitless of offending him. I honestly believe if George were still here, you might hear this conversation.

    George: Derek, I think it’s best for the team if you bat 9th against RHP.
    Derek: Sir… I must respectfully disagree.

    George: Well… I think Girardi wants to bat you 9th against RJP.
    Derek: Geez… Girardi is a great guy… a great manager… but I’m afraid he’s mistaken on that one.

    George: Well… you’ll do what’s best for the team, right?
    Derek: OF COURSE! And that would be batting 1st or 2nd depending on if I’m see a RHP or LHP. I always do what’s best for the team. I’m famous for doing what’s best for the team…. right Sir?

    George: Well…. I… err….. ummm….
    Derek: So it’s settled, right? You, the Boss want me batting 1st or 2nd, correct?

    George: Well…. I… err….. ummm….
    Derek: Good! And we never have to speak of this again. Correct Sir?

    George: Well…. I… err….. ummm….
    Derek: Great! And Sir…. break it to Girardi gently.

    • RL

      My laugh for the day. Thank you!

  • http://myspace.com/bksmalls Smallz

    If Jeter returns to being Jeter we dont even need to have this convo. I think you should start the year with Jeter batting leadoff every game and Grandy/Swisher batting 2nd. If he struggles than try out the Gardner move. At least give Jeter the oppurtunity to keep the leadoff spot, dont just dismiss it because of what he did last year.

  • Monteroisdinero

    He can’t steal bases, hits into tons of double plays, is not selective at the plate and has become a groundball to 3rd/short- machine.

    Of course he should lead off. At least until he turns 37!

    • nsalem

      “The ground ball machine” you are so eloquently refering to is only a year out from a 334/406 season. Either Jeter is regressing or was hurt last year or even possibly both. Nobody knows the answer to this (though I imagine Girardi could make a more educated guess than you, I or anybody else reading this) and most of our questions will be answered shortly by Jeter’s on field performance. Though many consider Jeter’s performance in 2010 awful he was right there in the mix offensively with the lead off men on the other playoff teams. Derek at his worst still gets on as often or more than Andrus, Span, Phillips and Rollins. Even at his advanced age he has a better chance to get back to a .380 OBP type season than most players in the league. In the event he in a regression we will know soon enough and then the adjustments can be made. He has been so good for so long maybe consider seeing how he does this year rather than killing him for what he did last year. This may prevent you from having to remove your foot from your mouth.

      • Monteroisdinero

        But does he get on base as often as Gardner who plays for OUR team, not the Rangers/Twins/Phillies etc. I am only concerned about our team. So good for so long works if we discard the last 3 months of last year with no reported injuries. He will get the benefit of the doubt of course. You are right that time will tell.

        • nsalem

          Hard to answer. Was Jeter injured last year or is he indeed regressing? I have no idea. Will we see the Gardner we saw in the first half of last year or the second half. I think his poor second half was due to injuries so he will be closer to what he was in the first half. Another question about Gardner is can he raise his game another notch by learning how to bunt effectively and learn how to steal bases by reading pitchers better rather than relying on his burning speed. Also is Gardner injury-prone and will he be constantly effected by nagging little injures. Once again time will tell.

      • Nedro

        “we will know soon enough and then the adjustments can be made.”

        This. There are 162 games. Jeet stumbling out of the blocks won’t kill the season, as long as Joe G. isn’t afraid t make necessary changes. On the other hand, he has seemed reluctant to do so in the past. I guess we’ll see soon enough…

  • NJYankeeFan

    My concern with Gardy batting first and Jeter 2nd is all the times Gardy is going to get erased on double plays.
    Jeter doesn’t take a lot of pitches and Gardner tends not to run early in the count so I think this could be a recipe that inevitably gonna create a call for Jeter to bat at the bottom of the lineup.

    • Monteroisdinero

      As it should be!

      Next thread please.

    • Ellis

      Great point – here’s hoping Gardner starts running a lot more, and a lot earlier.