• Should Yanks Bat Jeter 1st & Damon 2nd?

    Posted by on March 26th, 2009 · Comments (4)

    The buzz in Yankeeland today was all about the report that Joe Girardi is considering having Derek Jeter bat lead-off (in his line-up) this season – followed by Johnny Damon (who has usually batted lead-off while playing for New York).

    I love hearing logic about who should bat second in a line-up. As a new baseball fan, back in 1973 and 1974, I read many stories about how Ted Sizemore was the perfect number-two man – because he could handle the bat and was willing to move runners along, etc. And, I can also recall how, back in 1980-1982, Billy Martin would bat Dwayne Murphy second – offering that Murphy, as a left-handed batter, would block the catcher’s view of Rickey Henderson leading off first and also make the catcher throw over him trying to get the ball to second on a steal attempt. Also, I’m more than sure that many thought, back in 1990, that batting second helped Ryne Sandberg see more fastballs – and also reach a career high in homeruns that season.

    But, from what I’ve seen on this news today, the bigger item here is around Derek Jeter batting lead-off – more so than it is about Johnny Damon batting second. Many Yankees fans think moving Jeter to the top spot in the line-up is the smart move because he hits so many ground balls – which he does – and he lacks power and hits into many double-plays, etc.

    But, you know what? It really doesn’t matter, between Jeter and Damon, in terms of who hits first and who hits second (in the Yankees line-up). Here’s why:

    Lately, Derek Jeter reaches base about 36-39% of the time. And, lately, Johnny Damon reaches base about 36-38% of the time. So, that’s a push. And, both Damon and Jeter are good baserunners – with Damon attempting more steals than Jeter, again, lately. However, the Yankees are not about stealing bases – at least in the top half of their line-up. For New York, it’s more about the first three guys getting on base and then the next three guys trying to hit an extra base hit. And, that’s the Yankees M.O. – offensively speaking. Also, consider this…how many Plate Appearances (PA) the Yankees first and second batters earn in a season, over the last three years:

    	1st	2nd
    2008	762	748
    2007	793	777
    2006	785	768

    Big difference between batting first and second, huh? What’s the difference?

    It’s a difference of .097 PA per game. Or, one PA every 10.3 games. That’s like a difference of…nothing.

    So, whether Jeter bats first and Damon bats second; or, if Damon bats first and Jeter bats second, both of these guys are going to get the same number of PA either way – and both will reach base about 37% of the time. And, the impact to the Yankees line-up will be no different either way.

    Anyone who wants to make a case that this potential line-up switch is a good or bad thing for the Yankees is trying to make themselves look smart.

    Now, if you were going to bat Derek Jeter fourth, or, if you were going to bat Johnny Damon eighth, then I could see the reasons to get your feathers in a bunch. But, just flip-flopping the two at the top of the line-up? Hey, it’s no biggie…really.

    Comments on Should Yanks Bat Jeter 1st & Damon 2nd?

    1. yagottagotomo1
      March 26th, 2009 | 11:16 pm

      Except that at this point, Damon is likely to hit for a bit more power, and Jeter hits a lot more groundballs. I am not sure why you brush that aside so easily. Dave Pinto said that statistically, it gains three runs a season, and that is before considering the ground ball issue. It is probably worth half a win, which is plenty in this tight a division.

    2. Pat F
      March 27th, 2009 | 12:08 am

      “Anyone who wants to make a case that this potential line-up switch is a good or bad thing for the Yankees is trying to make themselves look smart.”

      You read minds, and know why people think what they do? What if some people just have a different opinion, and think it does matter?

      Especially because you didn’t consider all of the data. You just looked at the data (PA and OBP) that fit your argument. You didn’t look at things like GB%, XBH upward/downward trends, or the fact that Jeter has grounded into 45 DBP’s the last two years to Damon’s 9, a difference of 18 double plays per season. Just based off of that alone, being that these players are going to bat next to each other no matter what, it is going to mean eliminating baserunners less often, because Jeter undoubtedly eliminated Damon more the last two years than Damon would have eliminated him. That could be the difference in at least one game over the course of the year. And in an ever more competitive division, we need to get every win we can.

      I’m not saying it is definitely going to matter, either. But to dismiss it as if there is no possible argument against it and claim that anyone who disagrees “is trying to make themselves look smart” is really silly. Especially when you didn’t take a comprehensive look at the issue as is possible, and others with reputable sites have postulated that it might matter.

    3. Evan3457
      March 27th, 2009 | 1:20 am

      I just got off the phone with Joe OldLineSportsGuy and he told me this:

      Dis move is stupid. Jeter’s a #2 hitter, and Damon’s a born leadoff guy. Dat’s da roles dese guys have had forever and ever.

      Youse risk messin up deir heads, and for what? So some statistikal slob says de Yanks gain 3 runs. So big deal.

      Youse wanna stop them Jeter DP balls? Have Joe Girardi hit and run and more, and let Derek hit ‘em where dey ain’t. Have him bunt more, and move the guys over. Besides which, none of dem DP balls ever came in a key spot. Jeter’s too clutch for dat.

      So what if Damon has more power den Jeter at dis pernt? De Yanks ain’t payin’ eider one of dem guys to hit homers anyways.

      This is what stat goofs like Girardi can never figger. When a guy’s got a job an’ he’s good at it, leave him alone.

      If it ain’t broken, den don’t fix it for no reason. Dat’s what I dink, anyways.

      See youse at the park. Well, if I still had a job, I’d see youse dere.

    4. March 27th, 2009 | 7:33 am

      Steve, I think you’re right about line-ups not really mattering that much. That said, if this switch means that Derek Jeter hits into even one fewer double play, it will be worth it. Cause I’m really freaking sick of seeing him hit into double plays.

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