New York Yankees: There's No Reason to Drop Derek Jeter in the Lineup
With every ground ball, with every out, the yells for Yankees manager Joe Girardi to drop Derek Jeter in the lineup grow louder. Not a day goes by without somebody saying Jeter needs to move out of the two hole and stop being selfish or stubborn or whatever adjective you want to use.
But quite frankly, there's no reason for Girardi to move Jeter at this point in the season.
Simplest of all, the backlash within the clubhouse would be huge. Let's not forget, Girardi is already in a difficult situation having to manage players who were once his teammates. When the Yankees first hired Girardi as manager, we knew this was going to be the issue.
Girardi was going to have to deal with two players, Jeter and Jorge Posada, whose skills are diminishing. Girardi made the decision to move Posada out from behind home plate soon after the 2010 season ended. Posada made it clear he didn't like the decision, but he accepted it.
It's different with Jeter. At the time Posada moved to DH, the Yankees had their eyes on other options. Aside from in-house candidate Francisco Cervelli, the Yankees also had several top catching prospects, including Jesus Montero and Austin Romine coming to spring training, hoping one of them could win a backup job.
They also added former All-Star catcher Russell Martin and immediately anointed him the starting catcher. Even if Martin's offense didn't return, his defense was a huge upgrade over Posada's. It just so happens that Martin's offense has returned, making the decision look all the better.
But where's the replacement for Jeter? So far this season, Girardi has batted Jeter both second and leadoff in the lineup. In seven at-bats leading off, Jeter is hitting .429 this season, as opposed to .148 in 27 at-bats in the second spot.
But for the season, Jeter is only batting .206 with a sad .300 OBP. His ground ball issues have also returned (3.83 GB/FB rate).
When Jeter has been out of the leadoff spot, outfielder Brett Gardner has taken his place. But Gardner isn't playing much better than Jeter this season. After posting a .383 OBP in 2010 (43 points higher than Jeter's .340), Gardner is batting just .167 this season and his OBP stands at .265.
Where's the upgrade over Jeter? Does Gardner have more speed at this point? Absolutely. But speed doesn't mean anything when you're not getting on base. On the season, Jeter's OBP is 35 points higher at .300.
So really, Jeter leading off isn't hurting the Yankees when their only other option, Gardner, isn't getting the job done either. And even with Jeter's down season last year, the worst of his career, he still managed to score more runs (111) than he did in 2009 (109) when the Yankees won the World Series.
The Yankee offense is more than capable of driving in a struggling Jeter when he gets on base.
But what about taking Jeter out of the two hole and dropping him even further in the lineup, to ninth perhaps?
Should Girardi drop Jeter in the lineup?
The first thought among Yankee fans is to bat Nick Swisher second behind Gardner.
Well, what is Swisher doing this season? He's only batting .219 with no home runs and six RBI. Like Gardner, his OBP (.289) is lower than Jeter's and his GB/FB rate isn't so slanted towards putting the ball in the air that it can't tip the other way (16 fly balls, 12 ground balls).
For his career, Swisher has been predominately a fly ball hitter (career 0.59 GB/FB rate), but right now, Swisher isn't doing enough offensively to really make any big change. Having Mark Teixeira behind him in the lineup might help his numbers, but having Posada batting behind him now isn't a weakness either.
Teixeira does lead the team with four home runs and 10 RBI, but he's only batting .182 so far and has just two hits in his last 21 at-bats.
Moving Gardner and Swisher into the first two spots in the lineup and dropping Jeter down isn't going to make any difference right now. The numbers just don't support the move.
If Jeter continues to struggle and hit the ball on the ground, while Gardner and Swisher begin to pick it up, Girardi can make the move more easily because he has actual reason. But right now, Girardi isn't getting enough production to justify the move.
And quite frankly, Jeter deserves the time he's getting to turn it around.
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