Sep
28

Is there an advantage to the lineup flip-flop?

By

Yesterday Joe Girardi made a small lineup change that made many fans immensely happy. Robinson Cano, long thought of as an ideal No. 3 hitter, hit in that very spot, while Mark Teixeira, who has floundered at times this season, dropped back into Cano’s No. 5 spot. All parties seem to be on board with the switch. Teixeira himself even liked it, admitting that his left-handed swing needed work this off-season. The move certainly makes intuitive sense, but will that translate into tangible results?

One thing to keep in mind is that Cano, hitting mostly in the Nos. 4 and 5 spots this season, has hit with more runners on base than Teixeira, who has spent all but a few games at No. 3. Cano has also done a better job of driving in those runners, bringing home 21 percent of his 439 baserunners. Teixeira has driven in 17 percent of his 413 runners. So if Cano has seen more runners and has driven in more from his No. 5 spot, why move him?

Curtis Granderson helps put the issue in perspective. He has taken plenty of runners off base from the No. 2 hole, leaving fewer runners for Teixeira and Cano. Last year, batting mostly in the No. 5 spot, Cano came to bat with 470 runners on base, or 3.38 for every 5 PA. This year he’s down to 3.26 base runners per 5 PA. Teixeira is obviously more greatly affected, since he hits directly behind Granderson. In 2010 he saw 3.41 base runners per 5 PA, while this year he’s seen just 3.05 per 5 PA.

Of course, we can’t expect Granderson to continue his regular season home run pace in the postseason. That mitigates some of the baserunner issues, because Granderson won’t be taking them off base so frequently. In fact, as Granderson’s home run pace has somewhat slowed he’s taken more free passes. While his season walk rate is 12.4 percent, it has jumped to 14.3 percent in the last two months. That might give Cano a few additional opportunities with runners on base.

It does seem odd that the Yankees made this switch so late in the season. Cano has done fine work in the No. 5 hole. He has not only seen more runners on base than Teixeira in the No. 3 hole, but he has driven in a greater percentage of those runners. That would seem to be of importance come playoff time. But the Yankees can’t rely on Granderson’s homers as much, and that changes the equation slightly. It’s hard to predict where the runners will come from in the postseason, so it’s best for Girardi to set the order in the manner he sees as optimal.

As the numbers show, though, there’s not an enormous difference. Combine that with the unpredictable nature of the postseason (due to the small number of games), and it’s essentially a wash. Thankfully, all parties are on board with the move. That makes it a bit more palatable. We can only hope that it gives Cano just a few more opportunities to do what he’s done all season long.

Categories : Offense

42 Comments»

  1. Tiny Tim says:

    You can’t have a black hole in the 3rd spot. It’s only taken Girardi 161 games to realize this. Robbie Cano should have been hitting 3rd all season. You can’t have an .820 OPS 1st baseman hitting 3rd. Kevin Long has a new project this offseason.

    • Adam Parker says:

      You can’t? Didn’t the Yanks finish the season with the best record in the AL?

      Or do you mean you shouldn’t because…?

      • radnom says:

        Could you be more pedantic?

        • It’s not pedantic. When people say you “can’t” have something, it normally implies that failure would follow from it.

          Having an .820 OPS 1B hitting 3rd is fine when the rest of your team is amazing. Saying you “can’t” have that is an overreaction, and pretty meaningless.

          • vocabularry says:

            EGO?

            • Cris Pengiucci says:

              Not at all. The comment is correct. If you “can’t” have Teix batting third and still be successful, the Yankees would not have had the best record in the AL. End of story.

          • radnom says:


            It’s not pedantic. When people say you “can’t” have something, it normally implies that failure would follow from it.

            Do you honestly thing anyone here does not realize that the Yankees won the division? This is the definition of being a pedant. Any reasonable person would have understood the point he was trying to make and not responded with a technicality that is already obvious to everyone.

            Yes the Yankees can win with Tex batting third. Brilliant observation.

            • All we wanted to know was what Tiny Tim meant, in actuality. Did he mean in general, having an .820 ops 1b in the 3rd spot is suboptimal? If so, sure. He was unclear.

              It’s not pedantic. You’re comment changed the direction of the whole thread, so thanks for that.

  2. MattG says:

    What is with Granderson, anyway? What an asshole! Stop taking runners off base!

  3. Heisenberg says:

    I know Granderson and Cano hit great against lefties this year, so it will be interesting to see how, in a short series, they do against the late innning LOOGYs that get trotted out.

    • DB says:

      I agree, also by grouping the lefties together it doesn’t force teams to use more than one LOOGY to go through the Yankee lineup. Theoretically, the opposing team could bring a LOOGY in for Gardner at 9, have him face Jeter, and then he has two more lefties. At least when Cano was 5th, if they wanted to leave in a lefty after Granderson they would be allowing Tex to hit from his better side and A-Rod to face a lefty as well. I would almost prefer to seeGranderson hit 5th because of his ability to hit homeruns.

      • Heisenberg says:

        Great points. I know it’s tired and they wont be making changes, but I would like

        Jeter
        Swisher
        Cano
        Arod
        Grandy/Tex

        Man though, as much as I like Swishers OBP in the #2 hole, it’s tough putting Tex or Grandy 6th.

        • DB says:

          I wouldn’t mind that lineup, and I think until Tex figures out how to hit left-handed again he probably should be batting 6th at least when a right hander is starting.

        • Nuke LaDoosh says:

          I like it a lot.
          Jeter
          Swish
          Cano
          Arod
          Grandy
          Tex
          Posada/Montero
          Martin
          Gardner

          • JT says:

            It’s quite funny how just 2 months ago, Girardi was an idiot for batting Jeter lead off and Gardner in the 9 spot.

            • David, Jr. says:

              Girardi is always an idiot, except for the inconvenient fact that they have easily won the American League East. However, he will be an idiot again as soon as they lose a couple of playoff games, and will remain so until they win the World Series.

              Actually, he is an excellent Manager who is at least a moderate Manager of the Year contender.

    • Heisenberg says:

      For Detroit.. Coke and Schlereth, both with good numbers vs lefties. I’d love to put $10 down on Grandy and Cano going back to back against Coke.

      For Texas, I’d love to see Rhodes or Oliver sent out there, but I wonder if they’ll go against the book and use Adams and Uehara no matter the handedness.

  4. Natron says:

    I don’t think it’s odd that the switch happens now, and I’m not at all surprised. Tex was hired to be the #3 hitter and given the money that goes with it. He has been in he 3 -hole since Day 1 and stayed there, despite his obnoxious decline for OBNOXIOUS POLITICAL REASONS.

    Because the Yanks cruised into a playoff spot, his presence in the 3-hole was fairly innocuous. But now, with a WS-trophy on the line, the Yanks simply cannot live with all those rally-killing infield pop-ups and his general suckiness. Luckily, Tex is saying the right things and taking it well. We’ve dealt with enough DRAMA QUEENS this season already (Jorge, Jeter’s off-season).

    The switch would have happened earlier if not for HUMAN REASONS. Humanity matters in baseball. It’s not all about advanced statistics. Now if only we could drop Jeter in the lineup….uggh….stupid politics.

  5. vocabularry says:

    For the month of September Granderson has an OBP of .299 and an OPS of .675. He is hitting .200 for the month and has struck out 24 times. Granderson is ZERO for his last 17. He is a marginal defender. Performance similar to the above is likely what you can expect from him in the playoffs.
    He is not an MVP candidate. He is likely not to garner even one first place vote, in spite of what is written about him on this blog day after day, after day.

  6. JohnC says:

    Betances is starting tonight. Josh Norris just tweeted it.

  7. Anchen says:

    One slight thing in favor of the change *if* Granderson doesn’t pick it up is having Cano ahead of Teix gives him the opportunity to drive in the runs that current Granderson is not driving in (Jeter on top and Gardner at the bottom).

  8. Rainbow Connection says:

    Remember when everyone here was mocking the Sox for changing their lineup around yesterday?

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