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Derek Jeter or Brett Gardner: Who Belongs in New York Yankees' Leadoff Spot?

April WeinerCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2011

Derek Jeter or Brett Gardner: Who Belongs in New York Yankees' Leadoff Spot?

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    One of the latest rumors coming out of New York Yankees spring training is who will be the leadoff hitter in the batting order. Will it be veteran shortstop and captain Derek Jeter or up-and-coming outfielder Brett Gardner? 

    At the beginning of spring training, Yankees manager Joe Girardi maintained that the No. 1 spot is Jeter’s.

    "We signed him to be our shortstop and we signed him to be our leadoff hitter. He had a couple of rough months last year [but by] September he was back to being Derek, I thought. So I'm not really too concerned about him as our leadoff hitter.”  

    It seems that many Yankees fans, according to a CBS New York online poll, believe that Gardner deserves the leadoff spot. At last check today, Gardner had just over 70 percent of voters listing him as the one who deserves the leadoff spot.

    Here is a look at who should bat in the leadoff spot.

The New York Yankees' Leadoff Spot

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    Derek Jeter batted in the No. 2 spot in the New York Yankees' batting order for years, until the 2009 season, when he was upgraded to the No. 1 spot.

    In 2009, Jeter was at the top of the batting order except for 15 games, with Gardner and Johnny Damon filling those other games.

    In 2010, Jeter was in the No. 1 spot again for all but 25 games. Gardner took over in his absence.

Derek Jeter 2009 and 2010 Stats

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    In 2009, Jeter hit .334 with an on-base percentage of .406. He hit 18 home runs, the most he hit since 2005. He had 212 hits, 107 runs and 66 RBI. Jeter had 72 walks and 90 strikeouts.

    In 2010, Jeter had an off year. Jeter hit .270, his lowest average and first time he'd hit under .290 since his rookie season in 1995. His OBP was .340. Jeter had 179 hits, 111 runs and 67 RBI. He had 10 home runs, his fewest since 2003. He had 63 walks and 106 strikeouts.

    He may have had a tough 2010, but it got better when he was working with hitting coach Kevin Long. He has reportedly been working with Long throughout the offseason to make sure he does well coming into 2011.

Brett Gardner 2009 and 2010 Stats

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    In 2009, Gardner hit .270 with an OBP of .345. He had 67 hits, three home runs and 23 RBI. He also played in fewer games than Jeter that season. Gardner had 26 walks and 40 strikeouts that season as well.

    In 2010, playing a bigger role, Gardner hit .277 with an OBP of .383. He had 132 hits, five home runs and 47 RBI. He had 79 walks and 101 strikeouts.

    Gardner had more walks last year than Jeter. He’s also faster than Jeter. He can steal more bases and round the bases faster, which is beneficial to the Yankees.

Lefty Vs. Righty

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    Brett Gardner bats left-handed. Derek Jeter bats right-handed.

    It is common knowledge that left-handed batters fare better against right-handed pitchers than right-handed batters do, and vice versa.

    It is also common knowledge that, like most people, the majority of pitchers are right-handed. So it is safe to say that a left-handed batter could be more beneficial in the leadoff spot than a right-handed batter.

The New York Yankees' Batting Order

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    The 2010 New York Yankees' first five batters went like this:

    1. Derek Jeter

    2. Nick Swisher

    3. Mark Teixeira

    4. Alex Rodriguez

    5. Robinson Cano

    If Derek Jeter is not given the leadoff spot, he will be put in the No. 2 spot. Instead of shifting all the batters down one, the Yankees would have to move Swisher down to the middle of the order, likely the sixth spot. The sixth spot is awfully low for a power hitter like Swisher.

    Alternately, an Internet suggestion was to relegate Jeter to the sixth spot. That's not realistic though because Jeter hasn't batted lower than the second spot in years.

    For the sake of maintaining the Yankees' batting order, it makes the most sense for Jeter to remain in the top spot.

Verdict

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    Jeter deserves the leadoff spot. It may not be a popular opinion, but let’s face it: Jeter is the face of the Yankees.

    He deserves to be in the leadoff spot as long as he performs like a leadoff hitter, whether or not the younger Gardner could perform better.

    Gardner, at 27, has many years ahead of him, likely in pinstripes. He’ll get his chance in that starting spot, but for now the seasoned veteran and captain deserves to keep his spot.

    Gardner can do just as much for the Yankees in a lower spot for now. If Jeter underperforms, though, the batting order can easily be altered.

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