This made the rounds yesterday, with personal fave Mark Fiensand getting the scoop. Yankee manager Joe Girardi opened up camp a few weeks ago saying he was leaning toward Derek Jeter leading off again this year, but there’s a growing sentiment among the Yanks that Brett Gardner is ready to assume that role. Here’s a quote:
“The lineup is best with Gardner leading off,” the source said. “Don’t be surprised if it winds up that way.”
Brett Gardner is a prototypical leadoff man, he gets on base at the highest clip (.383) of any Yankee starter. Once there, his blazing speed (47 SB) gets him into scoring position and distracts opposing pitchers. The Yanks feel the 1st half of last year (.398 OBP) is even more indicative of his true level, since he hurt his wrist mid season on a Clayton Kershaw pitch and his offense suffered thereafter. As we all know, the Yankee manager is a big fan of Gardner:
“He’s been great wherever we’re put him because of his ability to get on, and it doesn’t take a lot to score him,” Girardi said. “He can get to third base by himself pretty easily at times. He’s a huge asset because he’s good at scoring runs.”
Gardner has also worked with Kevin Long and made some adjustments to his swing similar to that of Curtis Granderson last year which he hopes will add some explosiveness and power to his swing. An added benefit to Gardner’s speed is the Yanks are less exposed to the DP with Derek and his extreme ground ball tendencies. A man standing on 1B should theoretically benefit Derek as well, since the opposing First Baseman will be holding the runner and leave open a hole for the classic Jeterian inside out swing. But that was true last year with Gardner batting 9th and Derek leading off, and we all know what happened last year with Jeter. In a small sample of ABs, he was actually worse last year with a man on first than he was overall, which is indicative of how frustrating a season last year was.
An argument could be made the best Yankee lineup would have Nick Swisher (.359 OBP last year) as the #2 and Derek Jeter (.340 OBP last year) way down in the lineup, but we’ll need to see if the adjustments Derek has made with Kevin Long can return him to his career .385 OBP ways. But make no mistake, this is a make or break year for Derek. If he picks up where he left off last year, a mid season drop in the lineup will be in order. It won’t happen before #3000, which is only 74 hits away. But after that milestone is out of the way, it will be time to take a fresh look at Derek and his place in the lineup.
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