Fitting Ichiro & Youkilis into the lineup

King: Yankees continue to talk to Raul Ibanez
Prospect Profile: Nick Goody

At some point in the next few weeks, the Yankees will get around to acquiring a regular DH and a right-handed platoon bat to pair with their all-left-handed hitting outfield. They might even acquire a real starting catcher, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. The third base and right field holes have been addressed with the signings of Kevin Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki, respectively, so the heavy lifting on the position player side of things is already complete.

Youkilis and Suzuki could not be any more different offensively, yet they both bring valuable skills. Youkilis doesn’t have the power he once did, but he’s still crazy patient and will provide tough at-bats each time up. Ichiro is a powerless speed-and- contact machine who puts the ball in play and dares the defense to convert it into an out before he reaches first base. Both guys are offensively valuable in their own way, and they both possess skills that allow them to hit in different batting order spots without looking out of place.

If the season started today, it’s fair to say that Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson would occupy the three-four-five spots in the lineup in whatever order. The catcher presumably bats ninth. Assuming Derek Jeter‘s fractured ankle heals up in time for Opening Day, he’ll bat either first or second no questions asked. That leaves the Yankees with this basic lineup structure…

  1. Jeter or ?
  2. Jeter or ?
  3. Cano, Tex, or Grandy
  4. Cano, Tex, or Grandy
  5. Cano, Tex, or Grandy
  6. ?
  7. ?
  8. ?
  9. Not Russell Martin

One of those ?s will go to Brett Gardner, two others to Youkilis and Ichiro. The other goes to the DH, whoever that ends up being. Ichiro initially batted towards the bottom of the order after coming to New York at midseason, but he eventually hit his way into the two-spot behind Jeter. Youkilis, on the other hand, also hit second with the White Sox after they acquired him from the Red Sox. They both have number two hitter profiles, it just depends on whether your a traditionalist (Ichiro) or saber-slanted (Youkilis).

Before we move any further, let’s quickly look at some platoon data…

wRC+ vs. LHP (2012) wRC+ vs. RHP (2012) wRC+ vs. LHP (2010-2012) wRC+ vs. RHP (2010-2012)
Gardner 446 21 103 106
Ichiro 80 97 87 96
Jeter 157 99 150 85
Youkilis 135 89 174 109

First off, ignore Gardner’s splits for this season because he barely played (only 37 plate appearances). Other than that, there are some rather drastic platoon splits here, particularly with Jeter and Youkilis. Those two destroy southpaws but aren’t nearly as productive against righties. Ichiro is worse off against lefties (especially of late) while Gardner shows almost no split. That info should be a consideration when Joe Girardi fills out his lineup card.

Given their mammoth production against southpaws, it seems pretty obvious that Jeter and Youkilis should bat one-two whenever there’s a left-hander on the mound. Assuming the Yankees sign a right-handed hitting outfielder to platoon with their left-handed outfield bats, that guy could hit sixth while either Gardner or (preferably) Ichiro sits. The DH goes seventh (that could be another platoon situation as well), the not-sitting outfielder eighth. That part is simple, but the lineup against righties isn’t as straight forward.

(Tasos Katopodis/Getty)

For one, Jeter’s platoon split is irrelevant. He’s going to bat first or second no matter what because he’s Derek frickin’ Jeter. Given Youkilis’ decline against same-side pitchers in recent years, he’s not the ideal two-hole hitter even though his production against righties is the best of the quartet’s over the last three seasons. Ichiro has the veteran clout over Gardner even though he may be a lesser hitter at the moment. Girardi could go with Jeter at leadoff and either Ichiro or Gardner at two against righties, or he could go Gardner or Ichiro at leadoff with Jeter at two to break up the lefties near the middle of the order.

Although Gardner is not the hitter for average that Ichiro is, he’s far better at getting on-base. He hasn’t had a sub-.345 OBP since his partial rookie season in 2008 while Ichiro hasn’t been above .310 (!) since 2010. The on-base split is even more drastic when we look at just right-handed pitchers, and you want men on-base for Cano & Co. It’s also worth noting that Gardner’s contact rate (90.6%) is actually better than Ichiro’s (90.1%) during the PitchFX era (2007-present). His strikeouts tend to be looking, as you know. Considering that Cano is likely to hit third and Girardi loves to split up his lefties, Gardner is the better choice to hit leadoff against righties even if he’s not the future Hall of Famer on a pricey two-year contract.

Everything kinda falls into place after that. Youkilis can hit sixth, the DH seventh, Ichiro eighth, and then the catcher ninth. Flipping Youkilis with DH is possible as well, though I’m working under the assumption that Granderson will bat fifth and the DH against righties will be a left-handed hitter. Gotta split dem lefties. You get speed and contact at the top and bottom of the batting order with the thunder in the middle against right-handers, but against lefties the thunder starts right at the top with this arrangement. Lineup things would change quite a bit if the ankle prevents Jeter from being ready for Opening Day, but that’s a not a problem worth worrying about yet.

King: Yankees continue to talk to Raul Ibanez
Prospect Profile: Nick Goody
  • Bavarian Yankee

    I’d go like this:

    against RHP:

    DH (today that would probably be Nunez)
    C (doesn’t really matter who’s catching)

    against LHP:

    DH (Nunez again)
    C (see above)

    The Yanks really need another decent RH bat.

    • CS Yankee

      Change Teix to the third spot and Cano as cleanup and that is where I would be at as well.

      Still, I really don’t get the lack of a decent catcher…to fake 3B with in-house options while resolving the two-position makes better sense to me.

      Youk is the only under 35 guy with a over 40 body in the pros that I can think of. Hopefully, he reaches the fountain-of-Jeet.

    • dalelama

      Not at all, this line up is worse than the one that ended last season in disgrace. 1965 here we come again.

    • Yankees Insider

      I’d switch it up a little and do:

      SS JETER
      2B CANO
      1B TEX (comeback season)
      3B YOUK
      C ROMINE

      SEE HOW I SWITCHED GRANDY AND GARDNER. I still think GRANDY will get traded.

  • Ted Nelson

    I imagine Girardi will continue hitting Gardner 9th as a double-lead off guy, but I guess it depends how bad the C hits.

    While I don’t have the evidence to say he will, I am hoping the Yankees have information we don’t that leads them to believe he will be closer to the hitter he was in NY than in Seattle. A mechanical change he made, knowing he was depressed in Seattle, whatever. While we can’t assume that missing information exists (they might have just re-signed him for marketing reasons, Denise reasons, or taken a blind guess that he’d improve), there is a possibility that it does.

    • LitFig

      Wait…Ichiro was dating Denise Richards? No wonder he struggled in Seattle!


      • MannyGeee

        Had a case of the Charlie Sheenz…


  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    I think Ichiro is going to be better than we generally and statistically think. Better lineup, better ballpark, better weather, more 1st/2nd row HR’s. His speed and throwing arm will endure and he is a fitness freak and true professional hitter. He’ll steal and beat out double play grounders and keep innings alive.

    10 HR’s less than Swish in 2013 who will not have the Yankee Stadium advantage presumably….

    • LK

      10 less HRs than Swisher would mean 14. Ichiro’s career high is 15. Expecting him to essentially duplicate that at age 39 is unrealistic in my opinion, even with the ballpark switch. Remember, Safeco was much tougher on righties power-wise than lefties.

  • Nick

    What about stealing a LaRussa idea.
    Bat the catcher seventh, and then bunch Youk, Ichiro, Jeter, and Gardner 8-2. Puts all of the table setters in a row before the big bats

    • Cris Pengiucci

      This would assume Girardi takes some chances and does things in what could be conceived as a less analytical way. I don’t see that happening.

      Personnaly, I think there’s a reasonably strong argument for that, but I’m guessing Youk doesn’t bat lower than 6 (against RH pitching) unless he shows that he’s toast and bats 2nd against lefties.

      • Ted Nelson

        I don’t think he’ll do it 8-9, but he’s done it at 9 with Gardner quite a bit, and I think Ichiro as hitting 9th when he first came over.

    • MannyGeee

      You may as well bat the heavy hitters 6-7-8 then, run a chance of that happening in the 2nd inning instead of the rest of the game.

    • Laz

      But that also means fewer ab for bottom. I’d put Ichiro 9th to have a decent speed threat, but have catcher right before him.

  • Adam

    What is ?’s WAR?

    • Cris Pengiucci

      The better question is what is his wRC+ for this exercise.

  • Brad

    How much does everybody hate bleacher report? They just spit out total ignorant nonsense without any kind of insider info. Newest gem: the Yankees are trying to trade Sanchez, Williams, Bichette Jr for Justin Upton. Please…

    • jjyank

      Honestly, I don’t even bother with a rumor that’s not reported on MLBTR.

    • Laz

      BR is trashy website. They have really low standards, it seems like they let anyone with a computer write.

      Also, Upton to Yankees doesn’t make sense. If they wanted to trade for Upton they wouldn’t have signed Ichiro. $13M/2 is not 4th outfielder money, they view Ichiro as the RFer, plain and simple.

  • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

    For the 1-2, against lefties I’d have Jeter / Youkilis, and against righties I’d bat Gardner / Jeter. Chicks dig guys who can work the count.

  • Jacob

    There were points last season I thought Derek should have hit 3rd, swisher fourth and put the others anywhere else because they were not driving in the runs. As crazy as it is

  • MannyGeee

    “Derek Jeter to teh nine-hole” in 3……2……

    • jjyank

      Well chances are he’s gonna be in one of those holes.


  • Darren

    I’m not looking forward to another season of Grandy ABs. Jesus those got difficult to watch even BEFORE the maelstrom of cold diarrehea thas was the Yabkee bats in the playoffs.

    • Darren

      Let’s go YAB-KEES! clap clap clap-clap-clap (also what happens if you bang the Spice Girls)

    • Mr. Sparkle

      The Granderson at-bats were certainly difficult to watch, but on the flip side, at least they usually didn’t last too long.

  • Howard of the Bronx

    i think Alfonso Soriano batting sixth makes everyone better–and cubs will pay most of his salary

    • Laz

      If they pay most of his salary they want prospects back.

  • jesse

    I’d like to see it like this:

    vs RHP:


    vs LHP:

    DH (Hopefully Scott Hairston)

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals


  • Dropped Third

    I like the ichiro signing. I bet he can hit .280+, 10 dingers with 20+ steals and stellar defense. He takes care of him self and that could slow his decline. He’s no Nick Swisher but he is a pretty good replacment and an exciting player. Plus he brings all those valuable veteran presents.

  • sangreal

    Was there a Yankee blogger meeting this morning or something? Chad Jennings had the same idea:

    • Bavarian Yankee

      he almost copied my lineup. Almost. ;)

  • Jersey Joe

    Is it just me or would Juan Rivera be a cheaper and about as effective as Hairston?

  • Betty Lizard

    I’m pleased with my off-season rehab. I can now write “Youkilis” with just a slight twitching.

  • Pudge

    Any word about Hairston signing?

  • Jayfoot

    SS – JETER
    2B – CANO
    1B – TEX
    DH – ???
    C – ???

    I hate the idea of catcher with body speed batting ninth.