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Gardner, Not Jeter, Should Leadoff



By Paul Catalano ~ February 15th, 2011. Filed under: Digest Contributors, New York Yankees.

Yesterday’s Spring Training press report didn’t have nothing much to say. Joe Girardi said the platitudes as did Brian Cashman. Not much except for this:

“We signed (Derek Jeter) to be our shortstop, and we signed him to be our leadoff hitter,” Girardi said. “And he’s got a pretty good track history of what he’s done in the game of baseball. He had a couple of rough months last year. The month of September he was back to being Derek, I thought. I’m not really too concerned about him as our leadoff hitter.

Why?

In almost every single way, Brett Gardner is the perfect leadoff man over Derek Jeter. As for Girardi’s comment about Jeter being back to his old self in September, that’s not entirely true. It is true that Jeter batted .287 in the last month, which is better than he batted in any month since April. But .287 isn’t what you want out of Jeter.

Jeter can’t draw walks like he used to; Gardner can. Jeter can’t run like he used to; Gardner has speed to burn. Take September, Jeter’s best month since April—he had a .375 OBP. In September, with a severely sprained wrist and his worst month of the year, Gardner’s OBP was a .372. In that month—his best OBP month all season—Jeter stole 3 bases. In his worst month, with a sprained wrist, Gardner stole 8 bases.

I get it, Jeter is the Captain. The face of the franchise. But would it be such an insult to him to bat 2nd? With Teixeira behind him? And trying to drive in Gardner with slaps the other way as Gardner creates a hole on the right side of the field? Doesn’t that make more sense?

Gardner was 8th in the league in OBP, 3rd in steals, 10th in walks and 9th in runs scored. All batting 9th in the lineup. The man is a born leadoff hitter. Jeter at this point in his career isn’t. And it shouldn’t be a slap to the captain. He has batted 2nd more in career than in any other spot over his career. So it’s not a big move.

I admire Girardi’s loyalty. He played with Jeter and has a bunch of respect for the Franchise. But batting Jeter first is a mistake

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Paul Catalano is an aspiring sportswriter who’s day job is as Production Manager for Field & Stream, Outdoor Life & Shot Business magazines. He has written often for his own blog at And a Player to be Named Later since 2007. His articles have been picked up by Dugout Central, Foxsports.com, Lindys.com among others. Before that, Paul got married to the lovely Elizabeth Ryan, got his Master’s in Writing from Emerson College, attended his first Yankee game at 9 years old, got his first base hit at 5 years old and was born.

2 Responses to Gardner, Not Jeter, Should Leadoff

  1. Frank Russo

    Paul,

    I totally agree here, but before we judge this decision, let’s wait and see. If Jeter’s problems continue this season at bat, there is a good chance Girardi can use it as a an excuse to flip-flop the two. (I Hope)

  2. Russ

    I agree 100%

    I’ve been saying this all off season. Gardner MUST be the lead off man in 2011. Not only would hitting him lead off stretch the line up, but by using him in there, as a LH hitter, it allows you to move Cano up to the #3 hole and still separate all the lefties.

    On top of that, Jeter has always been an ideal #2 man. What is his biggest strength as a hitter? It’s his ability to take the ball the other way. By hitting Gardner first, you in theory, force teams to hold him on and open up the hole on the right side thus helping Jeter even more.

    I have no doubt in my mind that a line up of….

    Gardner LF
    Jeter SS
    Cano 2B
    A-Rod 3B
    Texiera 1B
    Posada DH / Swisher RF
    Granderson CF
    Swisher RF/ Posada DH
    Martin C

    Makes the most sense and not only at the top but also at the bottom. Putting a switch hitter after Granderson also lessens the possibility of the opposing manager using his best LRP against him. Hitting Martin 9th, takes a lot of pressure off of him, and should, in theory, allow him to relax at the plate.

    I just don’t get Girardi’s thinking in hitting Jeter 1st. I fail to see the baseball logic in it and it seems totally sentimental to me. Also, he’s simply a better prototypical #2 hitter than either Granderson or Swisher despite Swish’s strong OBP. Plus, Cano would have more protection with A-Rod behind him than he did hitting 5th. After the year he had last year, wouldn’t it be necessary to change the line up just to avoid teams pitching around Cano, which is what will happen if he hits 5th again no matter if Posada or Swish is behind him in the 6th spot?

    I just don’t see the logic in Girardi using the same line up as last year.

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