One of the greatest players in Yankees and Major League Baseball history, Derek Jeter has carved his legacy batting either leadoff or second in the lineup. Unfortunately for Yankee fans worldwide, the days of Jeter hitting opposite field line drives and delivering in the clutch are few and far between, and in all likelihood soon to be over.
Despite his great achievements and a contract that almost forces manager Joe Girardi to play him high in the lineup, it would be best for the Yankees to bat Jeter ninth. The emergence of Brett Gardner has given the Yankees a capable replacement for Jeter at the top of the lineup.
While Gardner, like Jeter, has struggled at the start of the 2011 season, he has all the qualities of a prototypical leadoff man in the majors. He hits for contact, turns routine singles into doubles, has a great knack for drawing walks and has top-end speed on the bases.
Two years ago, Jeter could do all of that in his sleep. Now, at 36 and playing in a physically demanding position, he can’t.
In 2010, Jeter instead demonstrated an inability to hit the ball out of the infield as well as hit into an uncanny amount of double plays. Jeter has also lost his ability to bunt, another important part of hitting in the two-hole. A great example was the Texas game last year in which Jeter failed to bunt Cano to second and eventually grounded into a double play.
Playing Gardner at leadoff allows Nick Swisher, who outside of Robinson Cano was the Yankees most consistent hitter last year, to hit in his preferred position of second. With Gardner at No. 1 and Swisher at No. 2, the rest of the lineup falls in place: Teixeira at No. 3 followed by A-Rod at 4, Cano at 5, Posada at 6, Martin at 7, Granderson at 8 and finally Jeter at 9.
Where Should Derek Jeter Bat?
Playing Jeter ninth also gives Joe Giradi a great option as “the second leadoff man.” Ninth hitters are often defined as a poor man’s leadoff hitter, essentially a leadoff man with less speed and a lower on base percentage. In other words what Derek Jeter is today.
Like every Yankees fan, I want nothing more than to see Jeter bounce back and produce another great season—like he did as recently as 2009. But after watching him last year as well as through spring training and early on this season, it seems the time has truly come for him to move down the lineup.
Jeter is without a doubt a proud player, and one look at his resume will tell you why. However, he has always put the team before himself and done everything in his power to help the Yankees win games. Now the Yankees need him to do something more, or in this case a little less—namely, sacrifice some at-bats and move down to the ninth position.
At the end of the day, Jeter will be the one who makes the call on whether he bats ninth or not. Just like he has done for 16 years in the pinstripes, I’m sure he will do the right thing.