Joe Girardi is known for changing things around, using different players on different days and tweaking his lineup. However, in 2012, Joe needs to make a basic lineup and stick with it.
For the sake of this article, the starting positions will be:
C: Russel Martin
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Robinson Cano
SS: Derek Jeter
3B: Alex Rodriguez
CF: Curtis Granderson
RF: Nick Swisher
DH: Jesus Montero
When you look at this Yankee lineup, just when you think you're about to hit a weak spot, you get another guy who is is well capable of hitting close to .300 or knocking in 20 bombs a year. It is relentless, to say the least.
Gardner NEEDS to be at the top of the lineup. When he gets on base, he wreaks havoc. No one will deny that Brett has blinding speed; he is probably amongst the fastest few in the league and is one of the better base stealers.
I like Derek Jeter as much as any other Yankee fan, but the time has come to move him in the lineup. He doesn't have the speed anymore and he doesn't have leadoff numbers. Forget that he is Jeter and look at his numbers. They don't lie.
Jeter still deserves to be at the top of the lineup. He may not have the numbers he used to run up but he still hit .297 last year with an OBP of .355 and racked up 16 steals.
Many argue Jeter needs to be dropped in the lineup, but that is definitely not the case. The only reason I have him behind Gardner is because Brett possesses amazing speed, something Girardi needs to take advantage of.
Curtis Granderson is one of those hitters that you could probably plug in anywhere from 1-5 and he would do great. However, on the Yankees, batting third is the right spot for him. He has speed (25 stolen bases in 2011) so it keeps him close enough to the top of the lineup. He also has great power (41 homers in 2011) so he needs to be right in the heart of the order.
With Cano behind him, it will be hard for pitchers to pitch around him. With batting third, he'll come up into RBI chances quite often.
Put Robinson at cleanup. Generally, the best hitter on the team would bat third but Cano can rake in if he's batting fourth. There is no doubt that Cano is the best hitter on the Yankees, let alone one of the best hitters in the entire game.
He hits for average, he hits for power and he drives in runs—he does it all. The only knock you may have against Cano is that he doesn't walk enough.
However, Girardi needs to have him in the fourth spot. He would be hitting behind Gardner, Jeter and Granderson, often coming up with a great shot of having at least one of the three on base. Putting him here will make it very difficult for opposing teams to pitch around him, seeing as how Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira will be waiting on deck.
Sure, Alex may not be the same player he used to be, but he is still a home run hitter. He didn't have a great year in 2011, dealing with nagging injuries, but he guarantees he'll be back to his old form next year. I sort of believe him.
I don't think he'll be what he was, but I do believe Alex can still hit 30 homers and knock in around 100 RBIs for a few more years.
Whether you like him or not, ARod is one of the greatest hitters of all time, and he will likely end up in at least the top three in home runs for all-time (he's at 6 right now with 629).
This probably won't be a popular idea, but I think it is necessary. It is a pretty drastic move, going from third to sixth. However, Girardi has already been hinting that he will move Cano to third and Tex to fifth, so, if we take that as truth, it's not that much of a move.
Tex hits for great power (39 homers in 2011), but his average is getting weak. He only hit .248 in 2011, and .256 in 2010. He had some very good years in the past for average, hitting .308 in 2008 and .306 in 2007, but in the past few, we have seen a decline.
This is the one spot I wouldn't set in stone, but right now, it needs to happen. Moving Tex to sixth isn't a slap in the face, but it will definitely wake him up and motivate him. He is definitely the type of player who would handle this well and thrive, instead of letting it hurt him and decline more.
Ignoring what Swish did in the postseason (I know it isn't easy), he had a pretty decent year. He hit .261 and had 23 homers and 85 RBIs.
Now, imagine those numbers batting seventh. That sounds pretty good to me. Just when you think you get a break in the lineup, you get a guy who hits over 20 homers a year.
Having Swish in seventhth still gives Tex some protection. Swish has a great eye and isn't afraid to take pitches: managers will think twice about pitching around Tex to get to Swish because they may end up walking two guys in a row.
It's not very often you see the DH batting so late in the lineup, but it's not impossible. With a team as stacked as the Yankees, it's likely.
Montero NEEDS to be in the lineup every day. The Yankees have made it clear they don't want him to be the every-day catcher, whether it is for concern for his defense or they are just wary he will get hurt like recent star catchers such as Joe Mauer or Buster Posey (both of whom are likely moving to different spots; Bryce Harper never even got a shot behind the plate, instead he's in RF).
Whatever the reason, it is a good call. With a kid as talented as Jesus, you don't want to wear him down any faster and you would like him to avoid injury. So, in the meantime, allow him to be the DH. He can hit every day—well, every day they aren't playing NL teams on the road—and he can stay fresh.
Russell was off to a red-hot start last year, but he quickly cooled down and ended up with a .237 AVG, 18 homers and 65 RBI.
He is definitely a talented hitter, but the Yankees rely on him for defense. He isn't on the team to carry them offensively, although he can at times.
With a lineup as strong as the Bombers have, you can afford to have a guy like Russell in the lineup. He is still a good hitter, but he doesn't need to be a great hitting catcher like Mauer or Posey. He can afford to be a decent hitter and make his money with his glove like he did in 2011.
Expect this to be the game-plan with the Yankees for the next two years or so, keeping Martin around until they decide whether they want to have Montero, Austin Romine or Gary Sanchez as the catcher.