As most of the regulars here are aware of, my pet cause this offseason has been begging the Yankees to flip Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon in the lineup. As I have stated various times, my reasoning is the following:
The one element that supports keeping things as they are is Damon’s speed, as he is a much better base stealer than Jeter at this point. However, the remainder of the data points in the opposite direction. Unless Jeter’s poor season was a sign of a steep decline, Derek is better at reaching base than Damon, with a 30 point edge in OBP over their careers. However, Damon is less prone to the strikeout (12.1 K% to 17.1 for Jeter) and is significantly better at keeping the ball off the ground (1.33 GB/FB compared to 2.36). Essentially, this means that Damon is able to put up similar numbers to Jeter while making more contact and hitting fewer ground balls, both qualities that help avoid rally killing double plays and strikeouts from the #2 slot. Finally, Damon has a bit more power than Jeter, another element that suggests flipping them would lead to more runs.
If Joe Torre was still the manager, this would be a pipe dream. However, being that Joe Girardi is supposed to be more open to change and prone to using statistics, I thought that the logic of the move would eventually smack him in the face. Well, courtesy of Pete Abraham, this is the lineup for today’s preseason game:
UPDATE, 9:31 a.m.: Girardi just named CC the starter for Opening Day and the home opener. Joba will start the sixth game. They’re also toying with Jeter hitting leadoff with Damon second….As for Jeter hitting leadoff, when they were using Posada to hit leadoff to get him some at-bats when he started catching, they liked what Damon did in the No. 2. So they’re toying with the idea of using Jeter atop the lineup. Damon is a good pull hitter and adept at advancing runners.
According to Kat O’brien, this is more than just an experiment. Rather:
The Yankees’ lineup will have a new look this season.
Derek Jeter will be the leadoff hitter and Johnny Damon will bat second, a top of the lineup switch the Yankees will use for the rest of spring training.
Manager Joe Girardi said the reason for the switch is because the team likes how Damon has looked batting second in spring training games. As long as the Yankees like what they see over the final week of spring training games, the team will bring this lineup into the regular season.
The new look at the top of the batting order also is an indication that the Yankees will use Brett Gardner as their everyday centerfielder. Gardner figures to be the ninth hitter, and if Damon was batting leadoff opponents would likely bring a lefthanded specialist to face both hitters. Putting Jeter first splits the two lefthanded hitters.
Damon was called into Girardi’s office when he arrived Thursday morning and said afterwards he has no problem giving up the leadoff spot.
“I’m okay with it if it makes our team better,” Damon said.
Joe Girardi is awesome for even considering messing with the status quo. It is a small change, and it probably will not have a huge impact (According to David Pinto, three runs over the season). However, every win counts in a division as tough as the AL East, and if the switch brings even half a win over the season it will have been worth it. I’m torn between dreaming that Yankee management reads our blog and hoping that they came to this conclusion on their own.
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