While it doesn’t make much of a difference at the end of the year, playing around with the lineup is something we always like to contemplate. I’ve said it a thousand times, and I’m sure every other writer on the site has, too: the difference between an optimized lineup and a non-optimized lineup is very small at the end of the year. Still, that doesn’t mean that changes shouldn’t be made at certain times. Is now a time for the Yankees to change the lineup a little bit? The focus is going to be on a few hitters, who all have top-of-the-lineup potential but either aren’t there or maybe don’t belong there. Let’s start at the top. (All numbers represent player totals BEFORE last night’s game vs. Detroit)
Brett Gardner started the year as the leadoff hitter; a slow start, however, forced him out of that role and re-relegated him to the bottom of the lineup. Since the Baltimore series (fun with arbitrary end points!), though, he’s been hitting well. Since 4/23, Gardner’s hitting .385/.543/.800. Obviously, that power isn’t going to stick around and while Gardner will likely always draw his fair share of walks, an IsoD that’s knocking on the door of .200 isn’t going to last either. But the point remains, if being cold moved Gardner down in the lineup, shouldn’t being hot move him back up in the lineup?
As we all know, Derek Jeter currently occupies the top spot in the lineup, and many (most?) of us aren’t exactly happy with that. Since that Baltimore series, Jeter is hitting .300/.356/.325. The power still isn’t coming around, but he is getting more hits. We should note, though, that a lot of those hits have been of the infield variety (12.1% of his total hits have been IF hits; he has 8 total on the year, trailing Ichiro’s AL leading mark of 9) and his line drive percentage is still low at 12%. He has cut down on the grounders a bit, down to 71.7%, but that mark is still the highest in the AL by about 6%. The only thing keeping Jeter in the leadoff spot right now is his name, and that’s not fair. He’s starting to come around, but it doesn’t look like getting him the most PAs on the team is going to be helpful going forward.
Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson have a platoon working in the two spot right now, which I’m more or less fine with, especially since Swisher is ripping lefties this year. However, I wonder if it’s time to consider a move up in the order for Russell Martin. He’s still hitting well and since the Baltimore series, he’s hitting .250/.368/.500. I don’t expect the power to stay there, but he’s coming around with the walks and that’s what’s needed towards the top of the lineup. Still, I can’t argue much with the Swisher/Granderson platoon in the two spot, and I won’t be devastated when Martin is not moved up in the lineup.
Here are two possible “lineup alternatives” the Yankees could employ:
1. Swisher, RF
2. Gardner, LF (reverse platoon split this year, career .356 OBP v. LHP)
3. Tex, 1B
4. Rodriguez, 3B
5. Cano, 2B
6. Granderson, CF
7. Jeter, SS
8. Posada, DH (.056 wOBA vs. lefties in ’11)
9. Martin, C (reverse platoon split thus far)
I would be nothing on either one of these lineups happening, but I think they’re still viable alternatives for the time being. Like everything else in baseball, the lineup should be something flexible. As long as you’re not moving the three best hitters–Tex, A-Rod, and Robbie–around too much, you should be alright.