Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner, and the second spot in the lineup

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Last summer, Joe Girardi was forced to fill out his lineup card by putting the hottest hitters around Robinson Cano on a daily basis. That’s how guys like Thomas Neal, Ben Francisco, David Adams, Brennan Boesch, and Zoilo Almonte wound up starting games as high as fifth in the order. Alfonso Soriano settled things down late in the season, but for the most part the lineup was subject to change drastically each and every day.

This coming season figures to be different. Cano is gone, but the Yankees added two middle of the order bats to Soriano in Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. I expect those three to hit 3-4-5 in whatever order most days, or maybe we should add Mark Teixeira and make it 3-4-5-6. That seems very likely. The team didn’t give Jaocby Ellsbury over $20M a year not to leadoff, so he’ll displace Brett Gardner atop the lineup. Girardi’s biggest lineup question this year might be who the number two hitter behind Ellsbury and ahead of that 3-4-5(-6) group will be.

Traditionally, the number two hitter is someone who can handle the bat and bunt all do all that nonsense. For the Yankees, a team built around power hitters who play in a tiny home ballpark in a division full of tiny ballparks, the number two hitter should function as a second leadoff guy trying to get on base for the middle of the order. Furthermore, given Ellsbury’s speed, the two-hole hitter should also be someone who is patient and gives him a chance to run. If you’re not going to do that, it defeats the point of paying a premium to add an elite base-stealer. Ellsbury has to steal to really have an impact.

The Yankees have two obvious number two hitter candidates in Gardner and Derek Jeter. Jeter has been batting second almost his entire career and I suspect that as long as he’s healthy, he’ll open the season behind Ellsbury in the lineup. That’s fine. Jeter was very good in his last full season and he’s earned the opportunity to show whether he can do that again despite his age and the lost 2013 season. The Cap’n isn’t especially patient (3.78 pitches per plate appearance from 2011-13) and is very double play prone (GIDP’d in 19% of opportunities from 2011-13), two traits that aren’t ideal for the second spot in the lineup. That’s never stopped him from hitting there before though.

(J. Meric/Getty)

(J. Meric/Getty)

Gardner, on the other hand, is very patient (4.21 P/PA from 2011-13) and he rarely grounds into double plays (7 GIDP% from 2011-13) thanks to his speed. He’s a much better fit for the two-hole in that sense, at least against right-handers. Jeter has destroyed lefties his entire career and if he continues to do that in 2014, he’ll deserve a prominent lineup spot against southpaws. A Gardner vs. righties/Jeter vs. lefties platoon in the second spot behind Ellsbury seems ideal if Jeter struggles against same-side hitters.

The question is how long should the Yankees give Derek to prove he can still be a productive hitter given his age and recent injuries? A month? Six weeks? Half a season? I don’t know the answer and it probably depends on how Jeter looks during games. If he’s completely overmatched and unable to lift the ball — sorta like how he looked during his limited time last year — the team will have to pull the plug on him as a number two hitter sooner rather than later. At least against righties. It won’t be a pleasant move to make but it may be necessary at some point rather soon.

There has been a ton of research showing the two-hole is the most important lineup spot and thus your best hitter should bat second, but that only applies over a full season, and even then the impact is relatively small. Optimizing your lineup in such a way that it makes a meaningful difference across 162 games isn’t all that practical. Guys get hurt, need days off, get hot and cold, etc. The lineup can make a big difference in an individual game though; I remember at least two instances in which Cano was left on deck while the final out of a close game was recorded last summer (one, two). The Yankees have many reasons to emphasize pure patience and on-base ability from the two-hole this year and if that means Gardner, not Jeter is the best man of the job, so be it. The race for a postseason spot will be too tight to stick with an unproductive hitter near the top of the lineup for so long.

Categories : Offense


  1. Dalek Jeter says:

    I hate to be “that guy,” because I’m usually neutral to positive when it comes to the Yankees..but we all know Derek Jeter will play Shortstop and bat 2nd as long as he’s healthy, regardless of how he hits. One only really needs to look back to 2011 and the beginning of 2012 to realize that.

    • Dalek Jeter says:

      2010 to the beginning of 2011* Sorry…time flies years get mixed up.

    • RetroRob says:

      I understand what you’re saying, but I have a different view. The Yankees will remove Jeter from both the #2 spot and the SS slot if he fails. The question, as Mike noted, is how long will they give him. I say a half season, but ultimately it will come down to how bad he looks.

      Line up positioning bothers me a little less since I don’t makes a great deal of difference. I’m more concerned about the ankle and further diminished range.

    • Farewell Mo says:

      I’d almost rather have Jeter bat leadoff than 2nd.

      It’s going to be maddening to see Ellsbury erased on DPs all the time.

      • yankeedude says:

        Big dream here. Jeter is at least somewhat himself and gets to hit toward a wide open right side of the infield with ellsbury stealing 40 times or so this season.

    • Dalek Jeter says:

      With that said, here’s hoping Derek comes out as his 2012 self and completely makes me look like a fool for ever doubting him.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner says:


      • RetroRob says:

        You certainly don’t look like a fool for doubting him. He’s 39 and is a SS coming off a broken ankle (twice) while missing almost all of last year, never once fully healthy.

        Yet, as Jeter himself alluded to recently, people have been predicting his demise for about six years now. Eventually they’ll be right, not that those people will be particularly smart. I’m just hoping there is another year in him, but his more than done his duty for god and country.

        I think he’ll provide on the offensive side, it’s the defense. Never his strong point, but his worsened, for the most part, as one would expect through his 30s, but there’s a big difference between being a -5 or even a -10. What happens if he’s a -30, but is still providing some offense. That’s where it gets tricky.

  2. The Great Gonzo says:

    Jeter batting second scares me, but maybe the hope is Ellsbury can do enough damage more often than not that Jeter the GIDP tendency might be mitigated. Ells tends to go early in a count, if memory serves, right?

    • Dalek Jeter says:

      My dream scenario is actually Ells hitting second behind Gardner. He may be a better, more aggressive baserunner than Gardner, but he’s also a better hitter.

      • The Great Gonzo says:

        Truth. Hell, I’d take Ells second behind Jeter if he kills too many plays batting leadoff.

      • Havok9120 says:

        Meh. I feel like if you’re going to try something like that you may as well go all out and move everyone in the order up a slot so McCann, Tex, et al are hitting 2-5 instead of 3-6.

        Lets not get mesmerized by complexity here; Ells and his OBP/steals need to be leading off unless all that power from a couple years ago makes a reappearance.

  3. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    I mean, I think Derek’s performance tells the tale here. Yes, I think he starts the season batting second because there’s not really much that a healthy Derek Jeter has done to lose batting atop the order. If something goes wrong then, yes, Joe has some tough decisions to make and there’s potential for both some Posada-like histrionics and the overprotection of a beloved player to the lineup’s detriment. I can see either happening. Getting to the end sucks that way sometimes.

    More importantly, though, unless Derek agress to bat 10th in the lineup RIGHT NOW, he’s not a team player and should expect a massive return on gift baskets.

    • I'm a looser and a trader baby so why don't you kill me? says:

      FotD™: Derek puts up a .250/.300/.335 line and bats 2nd. All season long.

  4. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    Also, Darren is offended by this post.

  5. Havok9120 says:

    I reserve judgement until we see how he’s coming along at the end of ST. If he looks by then to be on track, even if he’s not all the way back, I think he needs to be atop the order. Dude can rake.

    We can’t have GIDPs killing Ells value tho. If Derek Jeter; Groundball Hitter makes a return, he’s gotta be slotted lower.

    • KennyH123 says:

      Agreed. At the end of the day, if Jeter looks close to being back, he’s gotta start out batting 2nd. He’s a better hitter than Gardner by a long shot. He also hits to RF most of the time…much more than Gardner… giving Ellsbury a lot of first to third scenarios, of Ellsbury hasn’t already stolen 2nd. Nice setup for the 3-4-5 hitters to cash in.

      • The Great Gonzo says:

        Welllllll…. Saying Jeter ‘IS” a better hitter than Gardner is a tough call. Jeter’s body of work undoubtedly trumps that of Gardner and quite likely always will, but is 39 year old Jeter a better hitter than Gardner is his prime? That might be closer than we want to admit. I know, blasphemous to say such a thing anywhere near anything involving Pinstripes, and not very Polyanna of me…

        Time will tell, which I guess is the running theme of this post and comments herewith.

        • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

          Well it’s not necessarily NOT Polyanna, people sometimes underrate Gardner.

        • Havok9120 says:

          I agree there. It’s a could be a pretty close call.

          It should be noted, though, that even 2011 Jeter OBP’d only slightly worse than Gardner’s career average. But if he manages to have a career year to prepare for Free Agency….

          Just far too many unknowns.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          Agreed. Mike pretty much nailed it and we’re just agreeing with him with a sprinkle of Dalek Jeter’s way-too-easy semester thus far.

        • I'm a looser and a trader baby so why don't you kill me? says:

          I love Pollyanna close calls.

  6. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    I knew a couple of Catholic school girls back in the day who thought the two-hole was most important as well.


  7. Kyle says:

    i would go with a line-up like this against RH pitching

    CF Jacoby Ellsbury
    LF Brett Gardner
    RF Carlos Beltran
    C Brian McCann
    DH Alfonso Soriano
    1B Mark Teixeira
    SS Derek Jeter
    3B Kelly Johnson
    2B Brian Roberts

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      But not Alphonso Soriano.

      Could happen. A bit too forward-thinking for our New York Yankees, I think, but I see where you’re going.

    • Dalek Jeter says:

      That’s a really good line up, but unless Jeter and Teixeira are done to the point of being replacement level the line up is probably going to be more a long the lines of:

      CF Ellsbury
      SS Jeter
      RF/DH Beltran
      1B Teixeira
      RF/DH Soriano
      C McCann
      3B Johnson
      2B Roberts
      LF Gardner (the best/most accomplished 9 hitter since Cano broke in)

      • Havok9120 says:

        I don’t think McCann will hit that low. I can definitely see Tex batting 5/6 for awhile until he shows the wrist is good to go.

  8. Dicka24 says:

    I’m a certifiable Jeter Bromantic, and I think I would employ the 2-hole platoon between Gardner and Jeter. It has to be about what’s best for the team, and to me, Jeter vs lefties, Gardner vs righties, is the ideal way to go. Will the team do that? I doubt it. It will be Jeter’s spot to lose. I just hope they would at least let Jeter know that they’re thinking of doing it (privately), so that it’s not a surprise should it happen. Jeter hits a ton of ground balls, and he would really hurt Ellsbury in a man-on-first situation. Ellsbury/Gardner 1-2 vs righties would be amazing imo. The speed, contact, on base ability, pitch count qualities are chub inducing to think about.

  9. LK says:

    I don’t really disagree with anything in the article, but it seems like a foregone conclusion to me that Jeter will be hitting 2nd until he proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s cooked. My only worry is that it won’t stop even then, but we can deal with that if and when we get there.

  10. TWTR says:

    Constructing the lineup based on the handedness of the starting pitcher makes the most sense. I think Girardi will do that by May 1st.

    • Havok9120 says:

      I agree that I think he’ll manage the lineup based on platoon splits. I just don’t know how far he’ll drop Jeter if he looks unusable against righties.

  11. EZ says:

    Move the 3-4-5-6 group up one spot and let Beltran hit second. He’s as good OBP as Gardner/Jeter and will still have plenty of power behind him. But he gets an extra PA every handful of games as a result, a good thing for best all round hitter in lineup. And with Gardener at #9, Beltran will still get the benefit of double leadoff all other times through the order.

  12. cr1 says:

    My Jeter daydream for this season: he plays generally well with intermittent flashes of in-game brilliance but finds it so tough to force his middle-aged body to function at this level that he realizes it is time to go and calls it a career at the end of the season, fading away tastefully with the farewell histrionics limited to maybe a month (not a year!).

  13. Eternal Spring says:

    Either of those line-ups is an offense I look forward to watching. I might even be able to purge last season from my memory. Could you see a third version, where Gardner and Jeter swap 2 and 9 on righty/lefty pitchers?

  14. LarryM Fl says:

    I would opt for the platoon system. Jeter vs. Lefties and Gardner vs. righties. When not batting second Jeter could move 7,8 or 9. Gardner goes 9 on lefty days.

    This team will be about Girardi’s ability to plug the round pieces in the round hole. The team can win but is not laden with talent to just let then play. Blemishes exist throughout the lineup. All egos must be checked at the door. Also Girardi needs the stones to think team first.

    • I'm a looser and a trader baby so why don't you kill me? says:

      That’s really the problem wrt Jeter as I see it. The only realistic alternative to 1/2 is 7/8/9. Barring an absolutely catastrophic performance I can’t see Jeter hitting 7/8/9. And even then I sort of can’t see him hitting 7/8/9.

      • RetroRob says:

        He could bat 7,8 or 9. The Yankees just have to put him in that spot. He’ll do it. They’ve never asked him and he’s certainly not going to do it. Why would he? Professional athletes are amazing competitive and confident. They’re generally the last to know when it’s over. Jeter, of course, has yet to give the Yankees a reason to move him.

  15. cr1 says:

    Meantime the team makes it to the WS, of course…

  16. The problem with the Yankees is that they never think outside the box. They would never have figured out the infield shift until a visit to Tampa Bay convinced them that it could have a devastating effect on the other team’s offense which relied on dead pull hitters.

    So here is the outside the box solution to the batting order question. Bat Jeter 9th when playing at home. Send Brendan Ryan out to play defense the first two and possibly three innings. Jeter pinch hits for Ryan first time Ryan bats. Better defense for the Yankees, added rest and shortened games for Jeter.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      Mind blown.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

      Leaves you open to a Jeter injury though, then being stuck in the later innings with Nunez or who knows.

      I’d love to see more teams think like that though.

      I think a more realistic scenario is Ryan comes in after Jeter bats in the 7th/8th.

    • TWTR says:

      Girardi makes a lot of unorthodox moves, again, although some can question why he does it.

      Two examples: He started Bruney over IPK when there may have been a rain delay in a game v. KC in 2008. He put Wells at 3B.

      • The Great Gonzo says:

        You know whats funny? The first thing I thought of when I read the words “The Yankees never think outside the box” was that IPK/Bruney game.

        Not that it worked or anything, but it was in fact unorthodox.

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      You play a lot of video games, huh

    • I'm a looser and a trader baby so why don't you kill me? says:

      Interesting idea professor.

  17. jdecola says:

    Jacoby should be #2 hitter for the same reason that Cano was!!!

  18. Tom Blair says:

    Jeter has his number 2 spot in the batting order until it makes sense to move him. Why not start with Gardner, Jeter and Ellsbury. It seems like putting Gardner in the 9 hole is a waste of talent.

  19. monkeypants says:

    The article forgets that Jeter batted primarily leadoff in his last healthy (and last excellent) season, 2012. Now, that was largely because of the injury to Gardner that year left the Yankees without a Legitimate Leadoff Hitter (TM), which is not the case this year, with both Ellsbury and Gardner on the roster. Jeter was also the primary leadoff batter in 2010, despite Gardner (and Granderson, if we want to stereotype) on the roster as potential leadoff hitters. OK, Grandy was more a slugger, and Gardner was then unproven, so he was stuck in the bottom of the lineup. Even in 2011 Jeter played about three times as many games batting 1st as he did batting 2nd (with Gardner again ending up at the bottom of the lineup).

    OK, let’s go back to 2009, Jeter’s last great season. He batted leadoff 147 out of 153 games he played, pushing Legitimate Leadoff Hitter (TM) Johnny Damon into the two-spot all year.

    All this is to say, Jeter’s “customary” spot in the lineup the *since 2009* has been the leadoff spot, not the second hole. It would not be surprising at all if Girardi bats Jeter leadoff, followed by Ellsbury #2 and Gardner #9 (that BS wraparound lineup logic), or maybe Jeter-Gardner #1-2, and Ellsbury in teh middle of the lineup if he slugs at all, and depending on how stinkorific Teixeira is.

    • Farewell Mo says:

      I’d hate to see Jeter batting behind either Gardner or Ellsbury since he hits into so many DPs.

      Gardner especially never seems to run early in the count. Maybe Ellsbury is more aggressive which be very beneficial if he’s at 2nd with all the ground balls Jeter hits to the right side.

      • Havok9120 says:

        It would make me skittish as well.

      • monkeypants says:

        If you recall, that was one of the reasons for moving him to #1 back in 2009: so that he could avoid hitting into so many DPs, even though it was downplayed a little publicly. Even though Jeter is not an ideal leadoff hitter, because he is aggressive, for his career he has actually hit better in the #1 spot. I would actually prefer that he bat first, unless of course he performs poorly, then he should give way and bat near the bottom of the lineup. Anyway, after the first time through, it doesn’t matter so much.

  20. Mike HC says:

    I really don’t think Jeter should get the benefit of the doubt regarding anything this season. I worship Jeter. He is by far my favorite athlete. But if he can’t outhit Gardner, he shouldn’t be at the top of the order. And if he is limping around SS, along with a weak bat, he shouldn’t be playing at all. I hope Jeter defies all odds and kicks ass this year, but he shouldn’t get anything if he is not the best player for the job.

    • Havok9120 says:

      Even then, the question is do you assume he WON’T outhit Gardner (thus starting the season with him way down the order) or not.

      It’s not as if Spring Training is a good indicator of such things. Especially with a player so rusty.

      • Mike HC says:

        While you are right about Spring Training, I would still base my decision on how they look. If Jeter looks rusty, then I would bat him at the bottom of the order until he proves he has shaken the rust off. Let him get his timing back and then if he is the Jeter of old, move him up.

  21. Greg c says:

    Yankees captains are supposed to go to the manager and ask to move down in the order when the time comes.

    • Mike HC says:

      Personally I don’t think Jeter has any responsibility to ask to be moved down. But if Girardi does bat him at the bottom of the order because he isn’t hitting, he should take no issue with it, and continue to lead the team by example. Not become disgruntled.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      I’m glad you think so. I have no clue what to do with that piece of information.

  22. mick taylor says:

    this should be the lineup ellsbury, jeter, soriano, beltran, mccann, texiera, roberts , johnson, gardner

    • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

      Actually the lineup should be Mick, Keith, You, Bill and Charlie.

      Since Brian Jones is dead, after all.

  23. Caballo Sin Nombre says:

    The Yankees will win nothing if their main goal is to satisfy Jeter’s ego. I don’t care if Hal wants to throw money at hime, but Girardi should put together the lineup that will win the most games. It’s called the World Championship, not the Derek Jetership.

  24. jason says:

    Why not go with
    1 jacoby
    2 gardner
    3 jeter
    4 beltran
    5 texiera
    6 soriano
    7. Mcann
    8 johnson
    9 roberts

  25. TLVP says:

    I think it would actually be easier for the team to start with a platoon of Jeter and Gardner at the second spot and point to an easing in after the injuries than to do it after weak performance from Jeter. It’s a much bigger issue to do a change in response to poor performance than as a cautious return from injury

  26. Darren says:

    I’m sure it would make all of you assholes real happy if the Yankees shit on Jeter the same way they shit on Bernie and Posada. Maybe Girardi can drop Jeter to 9th for the first time on a Sunday night game against the Mets. That’ll show him who’s boss!

    • Mr. Roth says:

      I’m sure it’d make your asshole really happy if Jeter was grounding into double plays all year out of the 2 hole and Girardi leaves him there out of “respect.”

      Your asshole would probably love that more than a young Greg Maddux’s swollen throbbing member.

  27. Mikhel says:

    “Last summer, Joe Girardi was forced to fill out his lineup card by putting the hottest hitters around Robinson Cano on a daily basis. That’s how guys like Thomas Neal, Ben Francisco, David Adams, Brennan Boesch, and Zoilo Almonte wound up starting games as high as fifth in the order.”

    Vernon Wells started 35 games as 4th or 5th when he was immersed in a slump from June to Sept 30th (he started as 4th/5th in more than a third of the games after May).

    Wells batted 0.137 AVG / 0.154 OBP / 0.350 OPS in the last 13 games of June that it baffled me to watch him start regularly as high as 4th.

    Judging by that I think it is hard to anticipate whether Derek will be 2nd in the order or not, most of the “strategy” of JoeG doesn’t make sense.

    • Mikhel says:

      Forgot to add:

      Vernon Wells
      as 4th bat: 0.231 AVG / 0.280 OBP / 0.555 OPS / 9 RBI in 27 G
      as 5th bat: 0.250 AVG / 0.303 OBP / 0.709 OPS / 21 RBI in 46 G

      Overall as 4th/5th: 0.243 AVG / 30 RBI in 73 G, 20 BB, 49 K

    • fin says:

      So, if you’re Joe G. what do you do that makes the Yankees a playoff team. Seems Joe did pretty well by out performing the pythag, by 9 games. You seem to be a dueche, honestly.

  28. fin says:

    Hey, Mike! I almost always agree with you. The last time I disagreed with you this much was trading for Ubaldo in the day. I think Ells will out War Cano over the next 7ys . I’m betting on him being healthy and mature, as I assume the Yankees are. You get Cano playing in Seattle, being healthy and mature.

    I love the ells signing! You have the advantage as no one is as healthy Cano.

    • fin says:

      Been skying. Havent had time to post much. The downfall of this Yankkees team is Beltran. Stupid as it gets. Why the fuck would u sign a 79yr old fielder when you have 30 of them in a row? Eventually, you realize 78 yr olds wont repeat their prodijuousnees at 79.

  29. fred robbins says:

    That there is all this talk about Jeter only proves the point that Yankee Brass, management, ownership, all of them, are afraid to put the team ahead of Jeter. And that is pretty disgusting. Joe Madden would never tolerate this kind of shit, but then again, he has a team of players who run out every ball and will do anything to help win a game. This will be another lost year and until a useless pitching coach like Mr R. is gone, the Yankees will continue to be a team where it seems pitchers get worse every year until traded when they then become good again working with other coaches. How is that Phil Hughes never improved> and the same can be said for most of the teams pitchers

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.