Derek Jeter claims his place atop the lineup

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(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

While Derek Jeter rehabbed his strained calf, a contingency of Yankees fans realized their greatest desire. For about three weeks Brett Gardner hit in the leadoff spot, and as expected he handled it with aplomb. In that span, from June 14th through July 3rd, Gardner came to the plate 70 times and hit .267/.362/.383, stealing seven bases and scoring 13 runs. His combination of on-base skills and speed made him a better fit as the leadoff hitter than Jeter, who had a .324 OBP and had stolen just seven bases in his 293 PA before getting hurt.

Alas, we all knew that Jeter would resume his duties as leadoff hitter once he returned from the disabled list. As Joe Girardi, king of tautology, is fond of saying, “he’s our leadoff hitter.” Every day, it seemed, people questioned why Gardner wasn’t hitting atop the lineup. The answer to that question was also tautological: he’s Derek Jeter. It became pretty clear that Jeter would own the role for the rest of the season if not beyond, OBP be damned.

For now, that’s not such a bad thing. Jeter went 0 for 4 on his first day back, but then he started to see some of the hits fall in on his way to 3,000. It seemed as though he slowed down after that, but that might just be perception. In reality he has come back with a fury since returning from the DL, going 23 for 71 with six doubles, a triple, and two homers — .324/.385/.521. In other words, he has, at least for the last three weeks, earned his spot atop the lineup.

In fact, things have gotten quite better since a slow April, during which Jeter hit .250/.311/.272. In 268 PA since then he has hit .282/.347/.402. That’s not quite up to par with Gardner’s .316/.394/.418 since the same date, but it certainly paints Jeter’s season in a better light. They’re leaving some base runners on the table, and they’re definitely losing a bit in the speed department, but having Jeter atop the order isn’t quite the abomination it’s been made out to be.

Just after Jeter’s recorded his 3,000th hit, Girardi went on to defend the captain. “Is he hitting .320 like he did in 2009? No, he’s not. But are you convinced that he can’t hit .320 in the second half?” He still has a while to go in the second half, but so far Jeter has answered the bell. At one point I might have answered yes, I’m convinced that he can’t hit .320 in the second half. A sample of just 78 PA shouldn’t sway my opinion, but I can’t help but think back to that old tautology. He’s Derek Jeter.

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  • CountryClub

    I mentioned this the other day, but the most impressive thing lately from Jeter is that he’s hitting the ball hard to right field.

    He has at least 7 hits to right over the past 4 games. And almost all of them have been hit with authority.

  • Hester Prynne

    It just amazes me how people on here bury Jeter, bury Posada and back they come. Baseball is a long season. These guys are all time Yankee greats and they’ll be there when it counts.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      I wouldn’t cite Posada as an example here. He’s not as bad as April, but he’s still having a crappy season and is easily the most replaceable player on the team.

      • Jesus Montero

        And I’m waiting to replace him.

        • Carlos Beltran

          Well keep waiting.

        • The Big City of Dreams

          You’re heating up. I take it you’re no longer bored.

        • MikeD

          Hope to see you starting August 1.

          I’ve been as a big a supporter of Posada as can be, but all good things…

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      I agree that baseball is a long season and that players frequently get written off way too early by impatient fans who assume that every slump/struggle is permanent and not just typical baseball randomness, but the notion that Jeter and Posada will “be there when it counts” because they’re “all-time Yankee greats” doesn’t really mean much.

      Bernie Williams was an all-time Yankee great, but that didn’t stop him from hitting .264/.326/.399, .315 wOBA, 89 wRC+ in 2005 and 2006 with poor CF defense, good for with a -3.4 fWAR (dead last amongst 138 qualified position players over that two-year span).

      People claim “it’s over” way too soon, but being a legendary future HoF player doesn’t grant you tribal immunity when the actual end actually strikes.

      • Foghorn Leghorn

        Brett Favre just knocked on your door and is going to punch you in the face.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          He’ll probably have blown out his shoulder by the time he gets here, I’m good.

      • Thomas

        Bernie played in the playoffs in 2005 and 2006. He went .211/.238/.316 in 21 PAs and .000/.000/.000 in 3 PAs, respectively. However, those games counted and he was there. Therefore, he was “there when it [counted],” so Hester Prynne is right and gets her “A” for the day.

      • YankeesJunkie

        To Bernie’s defense all negative value he gave to his team was solely from defense his offense was okay those years.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          A .315 wOBA and 89 wRC+ is not “okay”, it’s markedly below average.

    • Johnny Nitro

      You know who else is an all-time Yankee great? Bernie Williams. Would you want him in the lineup?

      • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

        Yogi’s available for behind the plate

        • http://twitter.com/AnaMariana42 Ana

          If this weekend was any indication, he wouldn’t even have to crouch.

          /short joke’d

  • nsalem

    Plenty of other things to whine about for those who are so inclined.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      I’m much more upset about Brooklyn Lager not being sold at the stadium anymore. Such a shame; it was heads and shoulders above the other generic (overpriced) beers available at YS3.

      • Cris Pengiuci

        Hmmm, never got to try that. Too bad. Heading to the stadium in Aug for my 2nd visit. Guess I’ll still be stuck with generic overpriced beer.

      • nsalem

        See I told you so!!!

      • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/ Matt Imbrogno

        That’s disappointing.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        Why is it no longer being sold?

  • jon

    There would be nothing that makes me happier than when I no longer have to bitch about Jeter being at the top of the lineup.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      FACT: You never “had to” bitch about Jeter being at the top of the lineup in the first place. You chose to do that.

  • Adam Parker

    Thank you. El Capitan isn’t done yet.

    Keeping Gardner in the bottom half of our lineup is a good thing. Having real threats there gives us opportunities every inning to score.

    • jon

      I really dont care where gardner bats, as long as its in front of jeter so he can steal and avoid the GIDP

      1 jeter, 9 gardner

      1 gardner, 2 jeter

      • Cris Pengiuci

        Actually, of the regulars, only Swisher and Garner have batted into fewer DPs than Jeter. And since Gardner can’g hit after himself, it shouldn’t matter too much who hits before Jeter. Maybe Gardner has help Jeter’s GIDP stats, but I don’t know if you can do that analysis.

        • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

          Jeter’s also batted leadoff most of the season so you’d hope he was GIDPing less than others. Is there a site/a way to figure out, like, GIDP%?

          (Fun fact, your AL/NL leaders in GIDP: Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols.)

        • Sayid J.

          Yea, as Bex said, 20-25% of Jeter’s at bats have come as the leadoff man at the start of the game. Don’t confuse yourself, Jeter is still a GIDP machine when given the chance.

  • CP

    I think that Jeter would benefit greatly from playing a little less frequently. Let him rest 1-2 days a week, and I think he’ll be able to keep up his performance.

    • Cris Pengiuci

      I agree that regular days off would probably do him some good. With Chavez returning (and then ARod), Nunez should be used to spell him once or twice a week, especiially if it keeps him hitting over .300!

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    According to Baseball Musing’s Lineup Analysis tool:

    Jeter-Gardner-Tex-ARod-Cano-Granderson-Swisher-Posada-Martin: 5.272 runs per game

    Gardner-Jeter-Tex-ARod-Cano-Granderson-Swisher-Posada-Martin: 5.279 runs per game

    Gardner-Granderson-Tex-ARod-Cano-Swisher-Jeter-Posada-Martin: 5.306 runs per game

    http://rlv.zcache.com/whatevs_.....go_400.jpg

    • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      I had a discussion on twitter recently, must have been sometime last week, about the idea that maybe looking at a Jeter/Gardner platoon in the leadoff spot doesn’t make as much sense as installing Gardner as the everyday leadoff hitter and then platooning Jeter/Granderson in the 2-spot in the lineup. I think the only change I’d make to what you proposed is that when Granderson hits second against RHP, Jeter’d probably be 6th instead of 7th (just because we can’t have Derek Jeter in the bottom third of the lineup, because he’s Derek Jeter and all that).

      Then again, it seems (maybe someone with some more time can look at the numbers on this) that Granderson’s been hitting LHP a bit better the last few games after his SSS slump against LHP, so it might be a moot point.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        None of this is going to matter when we’re famous singers.

      • Mike HC

        I think you missed what he was proposing. He was proposing that basically any analysis of how to best set the lineup is pointless because of the minimal effect it will have the rest of the season.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Generally, yeah. The worst of those three lineups above is about 5 runs poorer over the course of the entire season over the best of those three lineups.

          I don’t really care about lineups anymore. Jeter’s sucked asscheeks for the majority of the past year and a half and remained at the top of the lineup; the Yankees keep mashing out runs like they’re going out of style. A lineup with Gardner, Tex, ARod, Cano, Swisher et. al. will win ballgames whether Jeter is hitting 1st or 9th.

          I’ll worry about squeezing every single possible fractional run out of the lineup with peak optimization when I start rooting for the Mariners.

          • Cris Pengiuci

            Jeter’s sucked asscheeks

            I think I might like to see that (depending on who’s ass cheeks he was sucking). :-)

            • Mike HC

              I don’t think this came out like you intended.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                I don’t think this came out like you intended.

                TWSS

                • Mike HC

                  I knew I was leaving the door wide open for that.

                  (and this one too)

        • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          No, I got that, thanks. He’s been pretty consistent in pointing out that lineup changes probably don’t matter much, not like it’s a new concept I’m missing.

          • Mike HC

            “I think the only change I’d make to what you proposed”

            I was just going based on this. Didn’t mean to offend.

            • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

              No offense taken, just clarifying. I’m well-aware Eric is not so concerned with lineup composition.

  • Guns of the Navarone

    I think (especially for as long as A-Rod is out) that a Gardner/Jeter platoon should be employed at the leadoff spot.

  • Cris Pengiuci

    He’s Derek Jeter

    No, he’s “Derek Fucking Jeter”.

    http://www.onionsportsnetwork......ing,19407/

    Glad he’s back to his old form, at least for now. I agree, a few games should convince us that all is well and that he’s a .320 hitter again, but if he can continue to be productive through the end of the season, I’ll be thrilled. We’ll worry about next year, next year.

    • Cris Pengiuci

      should shouldn’t convince

    • Cris Pengiuci

      should shouldn’t convince

  • Rich in NJ

    I don’t think Jeter should bat leadoff v. RHP, but it’s not that big a deal this season. My greater concern is that Girardi is showing signs that he may be unwilling/unable to make decisions based solely on baseball considerations, which could be a bigger issue as Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeria and maybe even Mo continue to age over subsequent seasons.

    • CountryClub

      Unless Jeter stays hot the rest of the season, he wont be the leadoff hitter at the start of next yr (IMO).

      • Cris Pengiuci

        Yeah, but maybe your opinion and Joe Girardi’s are different.

        • CountryClub

          Very possible.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        I’ve got a dollar that says that Derek Jeter is still hitting either leadoff or #2 on Opening Day, 2012.

        • CountryClub

          Yes, I expect to see him bat #2.

          • Thomas

            I don’t know if they’ll move Granderson out of the two spot in the order, since Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Cano likely aren’t moving meaning Granderson would be down to number 6.

            I see
            Jeter
            Granderson
            Teixeira
            Rodriguez
            Cano
            Swisher
            Martin
            Montero/another DH
            Gardener

            • Rich in NJ

              Not to mention that Tex should not bat 3rd if his OBP remains at or close to .342…

              Which was my original point about Girardi. At some point, the current facts rather than rep need to govern lineup construction decisions.

              • Mike HC

                You gotta remember that Tex is a career second half hitter. There is a decent chance he will have the best post all star break numbers than anyone. I am a fan of Cano permanently moving into that 3 or 4 spot though.

                • Rich in NJ

                  That’s why I said “remains.” If he improves, fine. But if not, then that should be factored in because this is a player whose OBP was .383 just two seasons ago.

                  • Mike HC

                    He has been better. He has 2 homers and has driven in 8 over his past 4 games.

            • CountryClub

              Definitely possible. The one thing I doubt is Gardner hitting behind Montero. His speed would be hampered anytime Jesus gets on base in front of him.

            • Mike HC

              To me, it is pretty clear that against righties, Jeter should be hitting lower in the order. Partly because of his struggles, and mostly because of how good Gardner and Granderson are.

              • CountryClub

                I like Gardner a lot. But on offense he’s very streaky and his avg and OBP are ok but nothing special.

                • Mike HC

                  He obp’d .383 last year and is at .367 this year. Combine that with his insane speed and ability to see a ton of pitches, and you get an almost perfect lead off hitter.

                  • Cris Pengiuci

                    I love the way he works the count. Getting a pircher to through a ton of pitches early on can definitely be an advantage.

                    • Cris Pengiuci

                      through throw

                      (Can’t type correctly today)

    • David, Jr.

      This. Another example would be Soriano. “He’s my eighth inning guy”, better not be translating on the part of the rest of the team to “This inflexible idiot is costing us games by living on these guys jocks.”

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        2009-present

        Reliever A: 152 appearances, 145.0 IP, 3.04/2.93/3.22 E/F/x, 3.56 tERA, 2.96 SIERA, 2.40 K/BB, .224 BAA
        Reliever B: 157 appearances, 153.0 IP, 2.71/2.88/3.51 E/F/x, 2.84 tERA, 2.93 SIERA, 3.25 K/BB, .186 BAA

        Reliever A is David Robertson. Reliever B is Rafael Soriano.

        Girardi is willing to give Soriano the benefit of the doubt that he can be a better reliever than David Robertson if given the chance, and I’m willing to give Girardi the benefit of the doubt that he’s right.

        That’s not an indictment of Robertson (whom we all know is awesome), it’s credit given to Soriano, who was one of the very best relievers in baseball in the recent past.

        • David, Jr.

          A reasonable position from you, as always, although one could also take the position that Soriano’s tenure with the Yankees could hold more weight than what he did in the past, along with the fact that a change would interrupt something good that Robertson has going.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            although one could also take the position that Soriano’s tenure with the Yankees could hold more weight than what he did in the past,

            Letting the 15 innings he’s thrown in pinstripes (and possibly while hurt) outweigh the 395 innings that came before that seems pretty silly.

            • David, Jr.

              Not sure I agree:

              A – Doesn’t seem to have handled it in New York at all. On top of that, arm problems.

              B – Lights out.

              3-2 key game.

              “Here is the ball, A. You are my guy.”

              He hasn’t earned the position back at all. I would just say that is puts both Soriano and Joe in a position where it had better work.

              • David, Jr.

                it puts …

  • Pasqua

    All those who will now run to their computers to type, “See! Tod you! All the Jeter bashers were soooo annoying!” will, quickly, be considered just as annoying as the “Jeter bashers.” And, in that sense, don’t we ALL lose?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      At least we can all agree on bashing Javy Vazquez.

      • Rich in NJ

        Well, he did agree to decline arbitration, which netted the Yankees a sandwich pick. ;)

        • CP

          Which the Yankees then squandered on the worst draft pick of all time in Dante Bichette Jr, who can’t even hit in the GCL.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            Should of drafted whomever the Sox took.

            • Crime Dog

              I think they successfully cloned and drafted Dustin Pedroia again.

              Clone and Draft. Better than Draft and Follow

    • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

      Meh, I think all but the most delusional Jeter fans, who probably don’t post here, aren’t going to say he’s OMG BACK based on a SSS. I don’t think I’m a crazy delusional fan of his but it’s awesome that he’s producing really well, and it’ll be even nicer when comment sections on totally unrelated articles don’t devolve into random Jeter bashing.

      • Guns of the Navarone

        Yeah, that’s basically what I take from this… I’m happy he’s producing and on a hot streak. I don’t think it should “solidify” anything.

      • nsalem

        I think he will; produce as long as he stays healthy which is a big if at a) 37 and b) because of the intensity which he plays the game and c) the way he dives into pitches.

    • Guns of the Navarone

      We do all lose. We lose because his recent 17 game stretch of .324/.385/.521 will completely overshadow (in some people’s minds) the fact that he’s been very close to terrible for over a full season now.

      From May 9th, 2010 – to the end of the season:
      .262/.339/.348

      From March 31st, 2011 – June 13th:
      .260/.324/.324

      Those look somewhat similar, no? That’s a combined 898 PA.

      These past 17 games mean VERY little to me. I’m just happy he still has enough left in him to go on a hot streak… which is all this is. The sooner he gets moved from the top of the order the better. People need to understand that the Yankees will be a better team when this happens.

      • Jim S

        I suggest reading TSJC’s analysis about how little the lineup matters over the rest of this season.

        Little enough that people should stop bitching about it.

        • CS Yankee

          Comment FTW

  • Brandon

    Jeter has been hot lately, but how many times have we seen him not come through when we need him recently? Too many. Also the BA since he came back does not tell the whole story. Hes hitting .272 since he came back not counting the 5-5 game. .222 before .292 after because hes been hitting these past couple games.

    • Mike HC

      Why wouldn’t you count the 5-5 game?

      • Jay

        This. The only thing worse than arbitrary start and end points are arbitrary subractions from the data.

        • nsalem

          How about arbitrary electrocutions

    • CountryClub

      Right, but it’s very clear that his approach is as good as it’s been all yr. He’s obviously seeing the ball well right now. We can only hope he stays hot for the rest of the yr. Probably not likey to happen, but it’s possible.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      When you take out the good stuff, he’s bad!

      • nsalem

        and when you take out the bad stuff he’s good!

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        If you don’t count her recent death, Amy Winehouse is one of the most non-dead people alive today.

        • YanksFan in MA

          I’d say that an alive Winehouse was still dead inside, thus severely lowering her alive score.

  • Mike HC

    I would bet against Jeter hitting .320 from here on out, but hopefully he has a good second half.

    In the beginning of the year, I do remember that you (Joe), predicted Jeter might get off to slow start before he starts picking it back up.

  • Cris Pengiuci

    Joe can clearly see the future. Got any lottery number picks for us Joe? Maybe not this week’s numbers, but winning numbers for some time in Oct/Nov will do just fine! :-)

  • Total

    Given how little lineup order actually affects run scoring, Girardi is exactly right to keep Jeter at the leadoff spot.

  • Adam

    I think the Jeter bashing is even more deflating because of its larger insight into (much, though certainly not all) Yankee fandom. Sure this does of course exist elsewhere, for other teams. But it just rings as that much more annoying, spoiled and entitled, especially the more venomous comments. Also…you are cheering for a team 20 games over .500. Perspective, please.

  • mike

    whether Jeter hits .260 or .320 is basically irrelevant if Tex and Arod arent producing to their historical norms, and probably is completely irrelevant if Arod isnt 100% when he returns

    • nsalem

      I think it’s what Colon, Garcia, Nova, Hughes and Burnett produce which will be the most relevant factor.

    • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

      How is it irrelevant? Based on some comments I’ve seen the fact that Jeter was hitting so poorly before is the reason we’re not fifty games above .500 already.

      (But really, Tex and A-Rod are likely more important to the team, but if you’re going to claim the difference between Jeter pre-DL and post-DL, SSS that it is, is “completely irrelevant,” well.)

      • nsalem

        Well at least we know that Arod has 17 more Home Runs to hit and 48 more runs to drive in.

  • Watcha Talkin’ About, Willis?

    Umm, yeah, about that “Can’t even hit in the GCL” bit:

    http://web.minorleaguebaseball.....pid=605142

    • nsalem

      Dumb Luck The kid can’t hit.

    • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

      I dare say they were being sarcastic.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Lloyd Christmas: What was all that “one in a million” talk?!?

    • Anchen

      Yeah we’ll see, hopefully he proves all his detractors wrong. He does seem to be taking walks which is encouraging, something his father never really did. Good luck to him and hope to see him up in a few years mashing.

    • CS Yankee

      That .454 OBP needs to improve as he is only a kid.

      What a year…
      1) started with nothing but walks & outs
      2) started getting hits
      3) started raking

      Great start, very mature approach. Well done, DBJ!

  • Multiple Personalities

    Of the core three writers, Jo Po is by far the worst with the sentimental stuff…

    • Mike HC

      Kabak is a cold as ice Harvard lawyer.

      Axisa can get pretty emotional in the game threads.

      Joe has a pretty good balance I think.

    • YanksFan in MA

      There is nothing wrong with that. As long as it doesn’t revert to trying to get Melky back or waxing poetic about the clutch hitting of Miguel Cairo I think we can handle a little sentimentality in this cynical world of sports blogging.

    • CS Yankee

      Ahh, BS!

      They are 3-for-3 in calling it like it is…Mike pulls the heaviest load but they all produce great articles (quality wise) and totally leave out the homerism. The guest writers are a little more “fan based”, but it is all good.

      I wouldn’t accuse any of the of being Sterling or Kay.

  • MikeD

    Rest Jeter once a week or so, and do it against a tougher righty, and/or day game after night game, or right before or after a day when the entire team is off, and rotate him into the DH slot every once in a while. He keeps himself in great shape and is still a young man by human standards, but not by professional athlete standards. He’s now 37 and playing a demanding postion. Well-timed and planned off days will benefit both Jeter and the Yankees.

    I’m pretty sure Jeter is not capable of hitting .300 anymore over the course of a season, but I’d like to believe he’s still got a .275/.350/.400 line in him.