The Yankees have been slumping, seeing a 10-game lead on July 18 dwindle to just one today. Since the All-Star break, the Bombers are 24-25—a sub-.500 team.
No. 1—Derek Jeter, SS
Derek Jeter has been the Yankees' best hitter all season. Even though he's gone cold over the last week, he's still hitting .315, including .388 as the leadoff hitter in the first inning with five home runs.
The Yankees are a better team with Derek Jeter leading off and getting on base in front of their power hitters, and he's the guy who they (and fans) want to see getting the most at-bats on the team.
No. 2—Nick Swisher, RF
Swisher is the perfect No. 2 hitter for the Yankee lineup. He has power, particularly hitting lefty in Yankee Stadium, but he also has a great eye and a career .360 on-base percentage (.356 in 2012).
He's been hot, too. He's 32-102 (.314) since August 7 with six homers.
Nick's speed isn't great, but he can drive in runners and reach base in front of the heart of the lineup.
No. 3—Robinson Cano, 2B
Robinson Cano is the Yankees' best all-around hitter, so he should be put close to the top of the order to get him as many at-bats as possible. What's been lost with Jeter's great season and injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira is that Robbie is probably having the best season of his career.
He's hitting .303 with a .366 on-base percentage and a .910 on-base plus slugging percentage, both of which would be the second highest of his career. He already has 28 home runs, which is just one shy of his career high.
Robbie has been the stabilizer in the middle of a Yankee lineup that has seen A-Rod and Teixeira miss periods of time with injuries and Curtis Granderson's average plummet to .235.
By batting Cano third (instead of fourth), switch-hitters Swisher and Teixeira are split up in the lineup, making it difficult for opposing managers to match up relievers with Yankee hitters.
No. 4—Mark Teixeira, 1B
Even though Tex's numbers have slid a bit this year, they haven't gone down from 2011 as much as you would think, and he's still one of the team's best power hitters.
In 119 games, he has 23 home runs, which would put him on pace for about 30 if he was able to play 162 games. Also, as noted above, by hitting Teixeira in the cleanup spot, the Yankees' order from two through six would be a switch-hitter, lefty, switch, righty and lefty, making it difficult for opposing managers to matchup against.
The key is getting Teixeira back on the field. He's been out for about a week with a strained calf but hopes to play this weekend in Baltimore.
No. 5—Alex Rodriguez, 3B/DH
He's not the hitter he once was, but Yankee fans learned over the last six weeks how important A-Rod is to the Yankee lineup. With the Yankees struggling, the team really missed his right-handed bat.
Rodriguez is no longer capable of hitting 50 home runs in a season, but prior to being hit in the hand by a Felix Hernandez fastball, A-Rod was putting together a solid season. His .803 OPS isn't the best on the team, but it should be good enough in this lineup. He also has 15 home runs in 95 games, which would project out to 25-30 over a full season.
He returned to the lineup yesterday, going 1-for-4. Ideally, he would play third base with a lefty on the mound and DH when Eric Chavez plays against righties.
No. 6—Curtis Granderson, CF
No. 14 has really struggled lately. He's seen his average drop from .251 on July 28 to .234 today and has only hit six homers in that time.
But he's still one of the best power hitters the Yankees have, having hit 41 long balls last year and 35 so far in 2012. In almost any other lineup, Curtis would hit near the top of the order, but in the Yankee lineup he doesn't get on base enough to justify hitting him so high.
Granderson came out of Saturday's game with hamstring soreness and was kept out on Sunday, but pinch-hit in the ninth inning of yesterday's game against the Rays.
No. 7—Eric Chavez, 3B/Eduardo Nunez, DH
With Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones' poor hitting in the second half, coupled with Eric Chavez's success filling in for Alex Rodriguez for the last six weeks, Chavez has emerged as the clear choice to platoon in the Yankee lineups versus lefties.
The picture isn't so simple with right-handed hitters to face lefties. Steve Pearce? Casey McGehee?
Andruw Jones has been the guy all year, but since August 1, he's just 6-56 (.107) with just one home run.
My choice would be Eduardo Nunez, who was sent down to the minors earlier in the season to work on defense, then missed time with injury. But he's always been a good enough hitter to play, and that's what the Yankees need now.
No. 8—Russell Martin, C
Somehow the Yankees keep sending out a starting catcher who's hitting .199, but they really don't have anybody else.
Chris Stewart has done a fine job as a backup but does not have the bat to take over the starting job, Austin Romine has missed most of the year with an injured back, and fan favorite Francisco Cervelli is hitting .246 in Triple-A.
The Yankees will have a decision to make this offseason as to whether or not they bring back Martin, but for now, he's the catcher. At least he's managed to post a .303 on-base percentage despite his .199 average.
No. 9—Ichiro Suzuki, RF
Ichiro's not as fast at Brett Gardner or even getting on base as much as Gardner did in 2011, but he fills the role Gardner played in the Yankee lineup.
By hitting Ichiro ninth, the Yankees get a second leadoff-type hitter in the lineup after the first trip through the order. The plan is to have Ichiro come up, reach base and then have Jeter, Swisher, Teixeira and Cano coming up after him to move him over and drive him in.
The Yankees are in deep trouble and have flaws outside of their lineup, but this is the order one through nine that I would send out if I were Joe Girardi trying to keep the team on top of the AL East.