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.