My biggest problem with the idea is that it’s yet another decision being made on the basis of the largely unsupported theory theory that penciling A-Rod/Jeter into the DH slot more frequently will reduce the wear and tear on their bodies over the course of the season. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I think the problem with this theory is that, while it makes sense on the surface, it ignores the fact that the act of hitting (and running the bases) puts a lot of strain on the body and presents plenty of chances for injury. More obviously, despite the fact that the Yankees tried this last year, Jeter wound up straining his calf while batting, and A-Rod managed to play in just 99 games. You would think that this rather straight forward lack of results might cause us to rethink the premise here, no?
Of course, the other problem with this strategy is that it means less playing time for Gardner, with a good chunk of that time reallocated to Nunez. Gardner’s game isn’t flashy or eye-catching, and he has certain tendencies that make me want to pull my hair out at least once a week, but however he does it, he’s established himself as one of the most valuable players on the Yankees’ roster over the past two years. Nunez, on the other hand, doesn’t do much of anything particularly well, and though there have always been some people who have been high on his potential, he was a below replacement level player in 2011 according to Fangraphs. Maybe it’s just me, but taking playing time away from one of your best players and giving it to one of your worst players in order to facilitate a playing time plan that doesn’t even clearly work does not sound like a run maximizing strategy to me.
That said, in the spirit of Opening Day I’ll give it a chance. Gardner has exhibited a platoon split in his career, and Jones is both a very competent outfielder and a vastly superior hitter of southpaws than Gardner, so there’s no concern there. If Nunez can improve his game either defensively or at the plate against lefties, he might even make the change a neutral one at least, considering the relatively small number of plate appearances this plan will affect. The real question, however, will come if Nunez does not play well on these days, or if Jeter and/or A-Rod gets hurt anyway. If that’s the case, will Girardi and the Yankees abandon the plan, or will they stick with it even longer? Either way, we’re over three hours away from first pitch, and I’m already annoyed with Joe Girardi.
Welcome back, baseball.