The easy answer is shown above, but as a Catcher who’s turning 38 this year we’ll need a plan B. That’s where it gets to be an interesting debate.
First, let’s establish who our 1-4 hitters are. There shouldn’t be much debate about this:
Nick Johnson’s the #2 hitter, no matter who you want in the 5 hole. You want his 420 OBP (last year) to get as many ABs as possible, and the stuff about him ‘clogging up the bases’ is silly with the equally slow footed Mark Teixeira hitting behind him. Even if Tex makes out and Alex gets on base, Johnson’s speed still won’t be much of an issue because Alex doesn’t run much anymore since having hip surgery. Johnson will be the #2 no matter who you plug into the #5 spot in the order. You want ducks on the pond (Ugh, I hate that expression) for your big bats to drive in, and he gets on base as well as anyone in Baseball. Johnson’s excessive patience is more suited to batting in front of your run producers than behind them. When Jeter raps a single, Tex strikes out and Alex hits a double, you’re not looking for a walk. Especially if the batter behind him is someone like Curtis Granderson and there’s a Lefty on the mound. You want someone who will swing the bat and drive those men on base home.
Jorge Posada will be the team’s first choice to protect A-Rod. A switch hitter with power from both sides of the plate, he’s the ideal candidate. He also has enough patience to extend the inning for someone like Cano, who hits Righties and Lefties equally well and likes to swing the bat. But at this point in Jorge’s career, it’s reasonable to expect some drop off in production. Last season his walk rate declined and Strikeout rate rose, which often signals a hitter’s bat is slowing down. Some decline slowly, while others fall off a cliff. It’s impossible to know which category Jorge falls into, and it’s also possible last year’s decline was the result of injury and he’ll return to form this season. Possible, but I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.
My first choice after Jorge would be Robbie Cano, but it’s one I have trepidations about. The Yanks have tried in the past to put Robbie in the #5 hole when other players were injured, and he didn’t fare well. He maintained his batting average but his OBP and SLG declined, which tell you he changed his approach. He’s also had all sorts of trouble in high leverage situations over the course of his career. But I like the skill set he brings to the 5 hole and I’ll chalk those numbers up to young player who is learning the league and trying to fit in. He’s at an age (27) where he should be entering his prime, and I’ll assume that he will learn to relax in those spots as many players do.
Curtis Granderson would be another candidate for the 5 spot in the lineup, but a distant 2nd choice in my view. His power and swing should play well in Yankee Stadium, but his stark platoon splits are begging for the opposing manager to bring in a LOOGY in late inning situations. That will be tough to live with, and as the team is currently constructed we don’t have a suitable option on the bench to plug in for those situations, though I believe that will change by the time April rolls around.
Those are my choices, but who would you bat 5th? Anyone want to make the case for Nick Swisher?
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