Projecting the Yankees' Starting Lineup for a One-Game Wild Card Playoff Game
The magic number for winning the American League East is seven for the New York Yankees as they carry a 1.5 game lead on the Baltimore Orioles, but its been proven in baseball over and over again that no lead is safe.
Manager Joe Girardi's team has had several different looks during the 2012 season, whether it be switching lineups or the ever-changing starting rotation that has fallen victim to many injuries.
But if it came down to one game for to save their season, what would the Yankees' lineup look like?
1. Derek Jeter-SS
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I've said numerous times this season that the Bombers should give Ichiro a shot at leadoff to add some speed at the top of the order, but because Jeter's numbers are that good in the leadoff spot, a change isn't really necessary.
Jeter has a team-leading OBP of .367 and that's about as good as any team can hope for from its leadoff hitter. Sure, he isn't as fast as he used to, but Jeter gets on base like nobody else on the team.
All around, Jeter is having a great season in 2012. He's hitting .321 with 15 homers and 57 RBI while leading Major League Baseball in hits with 208.
There's no doubt Jeter is still at the top of his game and it's tough to argue that he doesn't deserve to be this team's No. 1 table-setter.
2. Ichiro Suzuki-LF
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Girardi has finally begun experimenting with Ichiro in the No. 2 hole after the Bombers' outfielder has been scorching hot at the plate.
Ichiro was AL Player of the Week recently after going 15-for-25 with two homers, five RBI, and six stolen bases. His OBP was a robust .630 during that time and The Yankees' skipper didn't have a choice but to put Ichiro at the top of the order after the week he had.
So now it's almost a foregone conclusion Ichiro will stay at the top of the order and it makes perfect sense. Ichiro adds more speed, as well as gives the Yanks an ability to play some small ball and move runners over by other means than a homer.
For now, Ichiro will be swinging away and combined with Jeter, the Yanks could have two runners on in the first inning on a regular basis. That means a ton of RBI opportunities for the heart of the order and more runs for New York.
3. Alex Rodriguez-3B
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A-Rod doesn't have the same power he used to, but he can still handle the bat and that's what makes him perfect to hit third in the lineup.
The Yankees' third baseman has 18 homers and 56 RBI while posting a .272 average. Had Rodriguez not missed a little over a month during the 2012 season, he could easily be on his way to a 25 homer, 80 RBI season.
In the No. 3 hole, Rodriguez could feast off opposing pitching if all goes to plan with the Bombers' new 1-2 punch at the top of the order, not to mention having great protection behind him.
New York would be much better served having a hitter like A-Rod in the No. 3 slot who has more than an all-or-nothing approach at the plate.
4. Robinson Cano-2B
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Cano has the best combination of power and hitting ability on the Yankees.
Although his average has dipped under .300 this season, Cano is still putting up good offensive numbers with 30 homers and 80 RBI.
The Yankees' second baseman has the ability to take a game over with his bat and that's exactly why he's ideal to hit cleanup. He can give A-Rod adequate protection and has superior power to bring home multiple baserunners with just one swing.
5. Nick Swisher-RF
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It was a tough decision to make, but Swisher is a better choice to hit No. 5 in the Yanks' order—at least during the 2012 season.
Swish has remained healthy throughout the year and while he's had his down parts of the season, he's done a great deal to keep supplying runs for the Yankees while their big hitters have been in the training room.
In 2012, Swish has a .262 average with 24 homers and 89 RBI.
Starting the month of September, Swisher was struggling, but, since then, he has picked up his offensive game with consistent at-bats. The Yankees' outfielder has gotten a hit in each of his last seven games, going 10-for-26 with three homers and eight RBI.
Mark Teixeira would normally be the first solution to this spot in the lineup, but when he returns it might take some time for him to shake off the rust and that leaves the Yanks' better served moving Tex down a spot in the lineup.
6. Mark Teixeira-1B
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Teixeira has missed every game during the month of September, so when he returns there's no telling which Tex the Yanks will get. Until they figure it out, Tex should hit in the No. 6 hole.
This season, Tex hasn't hit for an ideal average (.255), but has slugged his way to 23 homers and 81 RBI. Had he not missed so much time, Tex would be on his way to a 30 homer, 100 RBI season.
He is another one of those raw power bats that can drive the ball out of the park in a hurry.
There's no doubt that Tex is about as good a No. 6 hitter as a team can hope for. The Yanks' first baseman might not get a ton of hits, but he makes the most of each one.
7. Curtis Granderson-CF
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The power train continues with the Yankees' center fielder. How many teams can say they've put a 40-homer, near 100 RBI bat in the No. 7 hole of its order? None.
It's a unique situation for the Bombers that puts Granderson where he is in the lineup despite his overwhelming 40 homers and 95 RBI.
The first reason is the depth of the Yankees' order which is unlike almost any other in the MLB. The other reason is because Granderson's average is a depressing .229.
It's clear the Grandy man is the biggest culprit of taking an all-or-nothing approach at the plate on this team and it has seriously hurt his average and overall standing as a hitter.
Because of that and his propensity to strike out, Granderson shouldn't be given a more important role in the lineup unless he can get hot and stay more consistent at the plate.
8. Russell Martin-C
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It's been a disappointing season for Martin's average, but 19 homers and 49 RBI aren't exactly abysmal for a catcher.
Martin won't carry this team offensively, but he can get a big hit now and then as evidenced by his game-winning homer against the Oakland Athletics last week.
Despite his .206 average, Martin can still be productive at times and is a respectable No. 8 hitter.
9. Eduardo Nunez-DH
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Because A-Rod is the Yanks' best third baseman and the playoffs are not the long haul of the regular season, the DH slot will be open during the postseason and that's ideal for Eduardo Nunez.
Nunez has proven time and time again to be a terrible fielder, but there's no debating he can handle the bat. Raul Ibanez could be another option for New York to fill the DH slot and hit in the No. 8 hole, but Nunez makes more sense for a few reasons.
Girardi likes his lineup to turn over well, so having a guy like Nunez hitting ninth gives him the opportunity to do just that. Nunez is a good hitter and has excellent speed that could set up a big inning if he leads off with the top of the order behind him.
On top of that, the Yankees' lineup is filled with low-average hitters already and Ibanez's inclusion in the batting order just piles on another all-or-nothing hitter.
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There's nobody on the planet most Yankee fans would rather have on the mound in a big game than Pettitte.
CC Sabathia has proven to be inconsistent in the playoffs during his tenure in the Bronx, and in the 2012 season, and the Yankees Universe simply doesn't know Hiroki Kuroda well enough to trust him the most despite having a stellar 2012 campaign.
Pettitte hasn't had much time on the mound this season because of an injury, but when he's been on the mound, he's been the Bombers' best pitcher.
The 40-year-old is 5-3 with a 2.71 ERA in 11 starts. Pettitte would be well-rested for a big game because of the short amount of time he's been on the mound this season, but Pettitte also has the most playoff success and experience of any pitcher on the team.
For his career, Pettitte is 19-10 with a 3.83 ERA. As recently as 2010, Pettitte looked good in the postseason after posting a 1-1 record with an ERA of 2.57 in two starts at the age of 38.
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Sori has done an incredible job filling in for Mariano Rivera this season and his numbers prove it. The Yankees' closer for 2012 has racked up 42 saves while pitching to an ERA of 2.10.
Dependability has also been a plus, as Sori has only blown four saves.
Robertson has had another solid year as the team's setup man and he will continue that job in the 2012 postseason.
At 2.84, Robertson's ERA is a full run and a half higher than it was in 2011, but is still very respectable. D-Rob has always had a great knack for getting himself out of pressure-packed situations and he'll need that unique skill pitching in October.
Rapada should be Girardi's go-to left-hander out of the bullpen and he's earned his role over Boone Logan.
The left-hander is the king of fractional innings and Rapada's ERA (2.87) is superior to Logan's (3.69).
Phelps has seen his fair share of time in the starting rotation and bullpen this season, but when looking at his bullpen numbers, there's no doubt the rookie has been successful in that role.
In 21 appearances out of the 'pen, Phelps is pitching to a 2.43 ERA with 31 hits allowed and 41 strikeouts in 40.2 innings pitched.
Upon coming off the DL this season, it was thought Joba Chamberlain would give the Yankees' bullpen a boost after it was shortened by the injury to Rivera.
But he's done exactly the opposite and has done everything in his power to sabotage his chances of being a key arm in the Yanks' bullpen in the postseason.