As a team, the Yankees have one of the lowest strikeout rates in baseball. They came out of last night’s game with a 19.6% strikeout rate, below the 20.5% league average and the tenth lowest rate in the game. Guys like Derek Jeter, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Brian Roberts, and Yangervis Solarte have had little trouble putting the ball in play, and that’s five-ninths of the starting lineup right there.
And then there’s Brett Gardner. He has a career 18.2% strikeout rate and last season it was 20.9%, both of which are more or less league average when you consider baseball’s perpetually increasing strikeout rate. (MLB has set a new record high for strikeout rate in each of the last seven seasons.) This season as been different though. Gardner has a 24.4% strikeout rate, by far the highest of his career. His 6.1% swing-and-miss rate is also a career-high (but still below the 9.3% league average). He’s been piling up the whiffs in 2014.
Gardner isn’t oblivious to the strikeout issues he’s had these last few weeks and he’s working to correct them. He cites a mechanical flaw and says he isn’t planning any kind of major overhaul to his game. That would be a little silly at this point. From George King:
“I have been striking out too much,’’ said Gardner, who didn’t whiff Wednesday night against the Angels in Anaheim after fanning seven times in the previous four games. “My mechanics have been a little off, rushing the swing and swinging with my head moving. I have been swinging and missing more than I would like.’’
“I have to do a better job, but I don’t want to change my game. I have to be aggressive so when I get a pitch to hit, I put the ball in play and use my speed,’’ said Gardner, whose 31 Ks were tied for 22nd among AL hitters Thursday. “I felt better [Wednesday].’’
Even if you’ve never playing anything higher than Little League, you know that too much head movement during your swing is a recipe for swinging and missing. If you can’t see the ball properly, you’re not going to hit it. Gardner isn’t chasing more bad pitches or anything like that — 23.0% swing rate on pitches out of the zone, down from 23.6% last year — he’s just coming up empty when he does swing. The swing-and-miss punishment fits the head movement crime.
Gardner struck out 12 times in his first 40 plate appearances of the season (30%) and more recently he had a stretch with 11 strikeouts in 27 plate appearances (40.7%), which is just way too high, especially for a non-power hitter. He has gotten better as the season has progressed …
… but it’s clear there is still some work to be done. It’s not like Gardner isn’t hitting at all — both his AVG (.283) and OBP (.352) are better than last season (.273 and .344), he’s just hitting for zero power (.053 ISO) — he’s just struggling to put the ball in play. It’s actually kinda amazing he’s remained as productive as he has despite the high strikeout rate.
The most important thing is that Gardner isn’t chasing more pitches out of the zone. That would be a real big concern. Since his plate discipline seems to be fine and he’s identified a mechanical issue with his head, I think it’s only a matter of time before he snaps out of his swing-and-miss funk. It’s frustrating, I know it is, but as long as Gardner is getting on base, stealing bases (7-for-7 this year), and playing high-end defense, he remains a productive player for the Yankees and worthy of an everyday lineup spot.
Just like that, the Yankees have a three-game winning streak. Things sure turned around in a hurry, huh? Just as the Yankees planned, big offseason additions Masahiro Tanaka and Yangervis Solarte carried them to a 5-3 win over the Brewers in Friday night’s series opener in Milwaukee. Let’s recap the victory:
- Money Well Spent: It’s hard to believe the Yankees are paying Tanaka $22M this season to go 0-for-3 with three strikeouts at the plate. Luckily he can pitch a little. Tanaka allowed two runs on seven hits and one walk in 6.1 innings of work, striking out seven and getting eight ground outs compared to four in the air. Things got a little dicey in the sixth and seventh innings, but a well-timed double play and the bullpen helped him escape both jams. Tanaka now has a 2.57 ERA (3.07 FIP) in 49 innings this year. That’ll do just fine.
- Minor League Contract Well Spent: It is May 9th, and a minor league journeyman leads the Yankees with 18 RBI. That would normally be bad, but Solarte has been so damn good that it’s an overwhelming positive. He swatted his second career homer on Friday night, this one a three-run shot against Yovani Gallardo in the fourth inning. It was a hanging breaking ball, pretty much right in his wheelhouse. Solarte has come back to Earth a bit but he still has a .304/.387/.461 (135 wRC+) batting line. Once again, that’ll do just fine.
- Tacked On: Brian Roberts continued his hot hitting with a double down the right field line to score Brett Gardner for the team’s fourth run of the day. Mark Teixeira drove in their fifth run of the ninth with a ground ball. Pinch-runner Ichiro Suzuki scored from third after stealing third base. He replaced Carlos Beltran, who blooped a double. Tanaka was cruising early in the game, but those extra insurance runs are always appreciated.
- Leftovers: Adam Warren got a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play with men on the corners to end the seventh, then he tacked on a scoreless eighth as well. David Robertson struck out the side and allowed a solo homer in the ninth for his sixth save in six chances … everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least once except Derek Jeter, Teixeira, and Tanaka. Gardner, Brian McCann, and Beltran each had a base hit and a walk.
For the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. For some other stats, go to FanGraphs. For the updated standings, go to ESPN. These two teams will play the second game of this three-game series on Saturday night (yes, a Saturday night game, blargh) when CC Sabathia faces off against Kyle Lohse.
Setup man Shawn Kelley is day-to-day with a back issue, Joe Girardi announced. An MRI came back clean. He’s never had any back problems in the past, only a long history of elbow injuries. Kelley threw 34 stressful pitches on Monday and another eleven on Tuesday, though who knows if that contributed to his balky back. Adam Warren pitched the eighth inning on Friday and he’ll take over as setup man for the time being, just as he did when David Robertson was on the DL a few weeks ago. · (1) ·
Some notes and roster moves:
- OF Tyler Austin (groin) will be activated off the DL and in the Double-A Trenton lineup tomorrow, according to Matt Kardos. Between the groin problem and the nagging wrist injury last month. Austin has played in only 14 of the team’s 35 games this year.
- Both 1B Kyle Roller and RHP Branden Pinder have been promoted from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton, according to Josh Norris and Chad Jennings. Roller was moved up to make room for C/RF Peter O’Brien, who was bumped up to the Thunder yesterday.
- To make room on the RailRiders’ roster, RHP Yoshinori Tateyama was released and RHP Chris Leroux was sent to Double-A Trenton, according to Donnie Collins. Leroux was in the big leagues last week. Ouch. IF Corban Joseph has been placed on the temporarily inactive list, which usually means he had to leave the team to deal with a family issue.
- In other news, RHP Luis Severino made the “In The Team Photo” section of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. CF Mason Williams was in the Not So Hot section, unfortunately.
Triple-A Scranton (3-2 win over Durham)
- RF Ramon Flores: 0-3, 2 BB — 26/22 K/BB in 31 games
- 3B Zelous Wheeler: 2-5, 1 RBI
- SS Dean Anna: 0-3, 1 RBI
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K
- 1B Kyle Roller: 0-2, 2 BB, 1 K — nice Triple-A debut
- C Austin Romine: 2-4, 1 R, 2PB — he’s been hitting well of late, good to see
- RHP Joel De La Cruz: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 8/2 GB/FB — 50 of 77 pitches were strikes (65%)
- RHP Jose Ramirez: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 15 of 26 pitches were strikes (58%)
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — eight pitches, five strikes
Today is a good day. First of all, it’s Friday, and that’s almost always great. Second, it’s Masahiro Tanaka‘s day to pitch. That is always awesome. The right-hander has been the staff ace and has somehow exceeded expectations so far. I don’t know how he’s done it, but he has. Tanaka gets his first taste of the National League tonight, which means he’ll also have to hit. My prediction: 20-strikeout no-hitter and 4-for-5 with two homers and two doubles. Mark it down.
Tanaka will have to face Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez tonight even though the appeal of his three-game suspension was heard sometime earlier today. Apparently it takes a few days to hand down a ruling and he might be available all weekend. Bummer. Gomez was suspended for his role in a brawl with Gerrit Cole and the rest of the Pirates. The Yankees won’t have to face the injured Ryan Braun this series, so I guess we shouldn’t complain Milwaukee’s other great player is playing. Whatever. Here’s the Brewers lineup and here’s the Yankees lineup:
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- SS Derek Jeter
- RF Carlos Beltran
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- LF Brett Gardner
- 2B Brian Roberts
- RHP Masahiro Tanaka
Temperatures are in the mid-60s and it’s sunny in Milwaukee, so the Miller Park roof will probably be open for the game. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on My9. Enjoy.
J.J. Schwarz | C
Schwarz attends Palm Beach Gardens High School in Florida and starred for the Team USA club that won the 18U World Cup in Taiwan last fall. He is the son of former big league right-hander Jeff Schwarz, who received two cups of coffee in the mid-1990s but otherwise bounced around the minor leagues for most of his career. Schwarz is committed to Florida.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 193 lbs., Schwarz is one of the best all-around catching prospects in the entire draft. He’s a good defender behind the plate thanks to his footwork and overall receiving skills, plus he has a strong arm. A quick, low-maintenance swing and advanced approach give him the potential to hit for both average and power down the road. He isn’t fast at all, but that is to be expected. Schwarz has gotten high marks for his makeup and feel for the game. He has clearly benefited from his father’s instruction over the years.
In their latest rankings, Baseball America, Keith Law (subs. req’d), and MLB.com have Schwarz as the 45th, 71st, and 90th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. The Yankees love to hoard catching prospects and I don’t expect that to stop even with Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy, and Gary Sanchez at the upper levels. They don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) because of their offseason spending spree, but there is a chance Schwarz will still be available when their third round pick (91st overall) comes around, at which point I think he’d be a real coup.
For the first time this season, the Yankees are in a National League park for an interleague series. That means no designated hitter and lots of so-called strategy. The Yankees open a three-game set against the Brewers tonight, their first trip to Milwaukee since 2005. The last time they visited Miller Park, Alex Rodriguez hit his 400th career homerun (video). How about that?
What Have They Done Lately?
The Brew Crew come into this series with a 22-13 record and a +13 run differential. That’s the second best record in the game. They have hit the skids of late though, losing their last two games, four of their last five, and six of their last eight.
Manager Ron Roenicke’s club has a team 90 wRC+ and averages 3.97 runs per game, so it’s a below-average attack. That surprised me. For some reason I thought they were better. OF Ryan Braun (156 wRC+) is currently on the disabled list with an oblique problem and he is not eligible to return until next week. OF Carlos Gomez (147 wRC+) is healthy, but the appeal of his three-game suspension (stemming from a brawl with the Pirates) will be heard today, so he figures to miss at least one game this weekend. His rematch with Brian McCann will have to wait.
With Braun and potentially Gomez out, the Milwaukee lineup is headlined by C Jonathan Lucroy (117 wRC+), who is one of the most underrated players in the game. He’s a stud both at and behind the plate. 3B Aramis Ramirez (81 wRC+) is off to a really slow start, but you’ll hear him referred to as an “RBI Guy” anyway. Former Yankees 1B Lyle Overbay (79 wRC+) and 1B/3B Mark Reynolds (115 wRC+) are kinda sorta platooning at first, though Reynolds is seeing more and more time given his strong start (and Overbay’s poor start).
2B Rickie Weeks (78 wRC+) has been relegated to the bench in favor of 2B Scooter Gennett (97 wRC+). OF Khris Davis (75 wRC+) has a hilarious 35/1 K/BB, and SS Jean Segura (69 wRC+) simply hasn’t hit since about last June. He got off to such a great start last season but just stopped hitting all together. OF Logan Schafer (63 wRC+) has been playing regularly with Braun out. C Martin Maldonado (208 wRC+), OF Caleb Gindl (1 wRC+), and IF Jeff Bianchi (8 wRC+) fill out the bench and have been varying degrees of useful in limited time. It’s worth noting the Brewers have hit 36 homers this season, the fifth most in baseball. Miller Park is a big-time hitter’s park.
Friday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. MIL) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
Gallardo, 28, has rebounded from the worst season of his career wonderfully: 2.47 ERA (3.63 FIP) in seven starts and 43.2 innings, with excellent walk (2.27 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%), homer (0.62 HR/9 and 7.0 HR/FB%), and ground ball (51.8%) rates. He isn’t striking out many guys though (5.36 K/9 and 14.4 K%), and righties (.307 wOBA) are hitting him harder than lefties (.273 wOBA). Gallardo has reinvented himself as a two-seam fastball pitcher, using it more than ever before at the expense of his four-seamer. Both pitches sit in the low-90s. He also throws a mid-80s slider and an upper-70s curveball. Gallardo doesn’t have much of a changeup at all.
Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia (vs. MIL) vs. RHP Kyle Lohse (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Many Cardinals reclamation project pitchers fail to sustain their success elsewhere, but Lohse is the exception. The 35-year-old has a 2.72 ERA (3.25 FIP) in seven starts and 46.1 innings this year thanks to strong strikeout (8.16 K/9 and 22.0 K%), walk (2.33 BB/9 and 6.3 BB%), and homerun (0.78 HR/9 and 8.3 HR/FB%) rates. The grounder rate (39.8%) isn’t anything special. Lefties have clobbered Lohse this year (.372 wOBA) and righties haven’t touched him (.210 wOBA). An upper-80s sinker and low-80s slider are his two main pitches, though he’ll also throw an upper-70s changeup and a mid-70s curve. Lohse is really good, very Hiroki Kuroda-ian. Mixes it up, throws anything at anytime. His days of trying to throw fastballs by everyone are long gone.
By the way, expect Sabathia to get a massive ovation tomorrow night. He’s beloved in Milwaukee for what he did in 2008. Dude started four games in 12 days down the stretch and threw a 122-pitch complete game against the 97-win Cubs on the final day of the season to clinch the Brewers’ first postseason berth in 25 years. Ridiculous.
Sunday: RHP David Phelps (vs. MIL) vs. RHP Matt Garza (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Garza, 30, is a familiar face after all his time with the Rays. He has a 4.93 ERA (3.74 FIP) in his first seven starts and 42 innings with the Brewers, and the peripherals are okay: 7.50 K/9 (18.9 K%), 3.00 BB/9 (7.6 BB%), 0.86 HR/9 (8.5 HR/FB%), and 42.6% grounders. Lefties (.366 wOBA) have roughed him up pretty good so far this year. Righties (.281 wOBA) … not so much. Garza is almost exclusively a low-to-mid-90s fastball/mid-80s slider pitcher at this point. He throws a handful of mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs per start, but not nearly as many as he used to. It’s worth noting Garza has been dealing with a thumb issue (jammed it during an at-bat, hooray DH!) and has his last two starts were up and down.
The Brewers were off yesterday, so their heavily used bullpen was able to get some rest. RHP Francisco Rodriguez (1.05 FIP) has been dynamite this year, as have setup men RHP Tyler Thornburg (2.12 FIP) and LHP Will Smith (2.19 FIP). Smith might be the most dominant lefty specialist in the game right now. He’s held same-side hitters a .146 wOBA with a 46.2% strikeout rate. Crazy. K-Rod, Thornburg, and Smith are three of only 12 pitchers to appear in 18 games so far this season.
The rest of the bullpen includes RHP Brandon Kintzler (6.58 FIP), RHP Rob Wooten (4.96 FIP), and LHP Zach Duke (1.84 FIP). The Brewers are also carrying Rule 5 Draft pick LHP Wei-Chung Wang (8.81 FIP), who jumped from rookie ball (!) to MLB. Roenicke never uses him. Wang has appeared in only five games (seven innings) this year and they have all been super low leverage emergency mop-up situations. They basically roll with a six-man bullpen and a 24-man roster. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees relievers, then check out Disciples of Uecker and Brew Crew Ball for everything you need to know about the Brewers.
Baseball America published their first mock draft yesterday and it is free for all. You don’t need a subscription to read it. They have the Astros taking NC State LHP Carlos Rodon first overall despite his relatively disappointing spring. San Diego HS LHP Brady Aiken is the consensus top prospect in the draft right now, and Baseball America has him going to the White Sox third overall.
The Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) following their offseason spending spree, so they are not included in the mock draft. That stinks. It’s still worth reading because it gives you an idea of which players are being connected to which teams, and who could be left over for the Yankees when their pick does come up. Chances are they have their fingers crossed a top talent falls into their lap for whatever reason. · (1) ·
Big mailbag this week. Ten questions, so I tried my best to keep the answers short. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything and everything at anytime.
Daniel asks: I know the whole spiel about him being a smart, patient hitter with postseason experience and success as a clutch hitter. But, are you honestly at all worried about the way Carlos Beltran has looked thus far? This is year one.
I’m not worried yet, but I would be lying if I said Beltran’s age and the potential for a rapid decline wasn’t in the back of my mind. His slump can be traced almost exactly to the day he flipped over the wall in Tampa. He went into that game hitting .327/.368/.673 (176 wRC+) in 57 plate appearances, flipped over the wall, sat out a game after having an MRI on his shoulder and wrist (came back clean), and has hit .172/.229/.266 (33 wRC+) in 70 plate appearances since. Maybe the fall fouled him up and his shoulder isn’t 100% even though there’s no structural damage. At least then we’d have an explanation for the slump. I’m not worried yet but I am monitoring the situation. That’s probably the best way to put it.
Uke asks: Assuming the Yankees let Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano walk after this season and make Beltran the semi-permanent DH, who could take over the RF AB’s? Do Adonis Garcia and Ramon Flores have a role on this team next year?
These are the Yankees, so we can’t rule out a free agent signing as Plan A. This offseason’s crop of free agent outfielders includes Melky Cabrera, Seth Smith, Colby Rasmus, Norichika Aoki, Nelson Cruz, Michael Cuddyer, and Nate Schierholtz, among others. I don’t think re-signing Soriano will be off the table either. Among internal candidates, I would think Zoilo Almonte is first in line for regular playing time. Slade Heathcott and maybe Tyler Austin could be factors if they get healthy, stay healthy, and play well the rest of the season. Flores has been dynamite in Triple-A — it’s interesting he’s spending time at first base again, they might be letting him get re-familiar with the position before a potential big league role later this year — and he’d be in the mix as well. I’m not really buying Garcia as an MLB option, but that’s just my opinion. Because we’re talking about the Yankees, I’d bet on those right field at-bats going to player acquired from outside the organization.
Anthony asks: Do you think that the Yankees would ever demote CC Sabathia to the bullpen if he continues to struggle? Mike Mussina, borderline Hall of Famer, was once demoted to the bullpen in an effort to figure stuff out. If Sabathia continues to pitch poorly, is it crazy to think he could be in the bullpen for a week or two?
I do think they would send Sabathia to the bullpen — Mussina got clobbered in three straight starts (20 runs in 9.2 combined) and was sent to the bullpen for exactly one appearance before rejoining the rotation back in late-August/early-September in 2007 — but I don’t think they’re there yet, not even after last season. For starters, they don’t really have anyone to take his rotation spot right now. They’d have to wait until Michael Pineda returns. Sabathia’s also four years younger than Moose was in 2007 and I think there’s less of a “holy cow he might be done forever” panic. I think we might see him skip a start first, then a stint in the bullpen. Sabathia’s made adjustments and has had stretches when he’s looked pretty damn good this year (usually four or five innings within a game), but nothing seems to be working.
Shep asks: If you had to pick one player on an MLB roster to be a player-manager, now or in the future, who would it be?
Pete Rose was the last player-manager (1984-86 Reds) and I don’t think we’ll ever seen another one again. There’s too much that goes into managing these days between running Spring Training, keeping tabs on workloads, looking up splits, shift data, the whole nine. Doing all of that and preparing to play seems like too much for one person, even with an excellent coaching staff. That said, if I had to pick someone to do it today, I’d probably go with Yadier Molina. That is based on nothing in particular, he just seems like a good candidate. Justin Verlander maybe? A starting pitcher-manager might work best since he’s sitting on the bench doing nothing four out of every five games anyway. I could maybe see the Mets trying it with David Wright. Maybe. Fun to think about.
Kristofer asks: Given both the uncertainty of the 3B position in the years to come and the fact that the Yankees are willing to extend big money to international players still in their 20s, is Jeong Choi a possibility for them this offseason? How does he project?
Choi, 27, was recently dubbed the “David Wright of Korea,” and Jon Heyman reported that he intends to come to MLB as a free agent next year. No posting system nonsense or anything, he’s a true free agent. Choi is hitting only .268/.343/.383 with three homers in 32 games this season, but it’s early and last year he put up a .316/.429/.551 batting line with 28 homers. He’s hit along those lines since 2010. Keith Law was on our podcast recently and said he heard the David Wright comparisons aren’t accurate at all, and that Choi is more of a utility infielder than anything in MLB. That’s just one opinion and it’s pretty much all we have on the guy. I do think the Yankees will check in on him just because he plays a position of need, but I would expect them to target a known quantity (Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, etc.) if they’re going to drop decent money on help at the hot corner.
Joe asks: Which prospect has come from nowhere to turn heads so far this year?
I don’t think the Yankees have had one of those guys this year, someone like 2006 Edwar Ramirez or 2008 Al Aceves, who just showed up in a box score one day and dominated right away. 1B Mike Ford with Low-A Charleston might fit the bill. He was an undrafted free agent out of Princeton and is hitting .327/.400/.475 so far. Maybe RHP Jaron Long, hitting coach Kevin Long’s son? He’s got a 3.33 ERA (2.61 FIP) with a 20/5 K/BB in 24.1 innings for the River Dogs this year. He’ll probably wind up with High-A Tampa later this year after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State.
nycsportzfan asks: Hey Mike, was wondering what kinda heater Tyler Webb has, and who has more promise between Webb and Dietrich Enns?
Enns, the team’s 19th round pick in 2012, had that ridiculous first half with Low-A Charleston last season (0.61 ERA and 1.52 FIP in 44.1 innings) before coming back to Earth in the second half, and he’s a low-90s fastball guy with both a curveball and a changeup. Webb has been solid since being the club’s tenth rounder last year, pitching to a 3.62 ERA (~2.25 FIP) in 49.2 innings. He’s another low-90s guy with a slider, plus he supposedly hides the ball well with his delivery. I’m not sure who has more potential between the two — they are both fringy prospects, to be sure — but I think Webb’s two-pitch mix might help him get to the show as a lefty specialist.
Jack asks: Nick Rumbelow, Nick Goody, Danny Burawa, Mark Montgomery, Diego Moreno, Branden Pinder. Can you offer your assessment of any of them ever making any significant impact (to the extent that a reliever is able) in the bigs? They all seem to be pretty good prospects (and actually putting up good numbers).
Moreno’s not a prospect. He’ll turn 27 in July and is a pure arm strength guy. The other guys are prospects and you could almost pick names out a hat if you want to rank them. Montgomery’s prospect shine has dimmed following last year’s shoulder trouble, and of course Goody just came back from Tommy John surgery. Burawa has had some non-arm injuries and probably has the nastiest pure stuff of the group — he was pumping 97-98 with a 90 mph slider in camp — though Montgomery’s slider is the best individual pitch, if that makes sense. Rumbelow has mid-90s heat and a good curveball, and so far this year he has 18 strikeouts in nine innings with Low-A Charleston. Pinder’s a fastball/slider pitcher who lags behind the other non-Moreno guys for me. Goody, Burawa, Montgomery, and Rumbelow can definitely be late-inning relievers at the MLB level if everything comes together. They’re not quite what David Robertson was during his prospect days but they’re not far off either.
Drew asks: When was the last time that Derek Jeter batted not in a top 3 lineup spot? Rookie season? Mid-90s?
The last time Jeter started a game in a lineup spot lower than third was July 10th, 1999, when he batted cleanup against the Mets. Here’s the box score. That was a one-game thing. He batted third or higher every other game that season. Before that, you have to go back to the second to last game of the 1997 season, when he batted seventh. Here’s that box score. And finally, the last time Jeter started a game as a nine-hole hitter was the final game of the 1996 season. Here is that box score. My hunch is no, we won’t see Jeter bat lower than third this season.
Liz asks: Given Jeter’s retirement at the end of the season, who do you see stepping in (and up) to fill the Captain’s shoes?
Do you mean the next captain of the team? The Yankees went eight years between Don Mattingly’s retirement and naming Jeter captain, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there was a similar (or even longer) wait this time. I don’t see an obvious captain on the roster right now — what the hell do I know about what goes on in the clubhouse anyway? — and that’s not a knock on the guys on the roster. I just don’t think the Yankees will rush into naming another captain. They’ll want it to be someone who will be around for a while and I’m sure they’re prefer a homegrown player. That’s not a must, just a preference. My bold next captain prediction: John Ryan Murphy. Boom.