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Joe Girardi says Derek Jeter will remain Yankees’ leadoff man

Feb 14, 2011, 3:16 PM EDT

Derek Jeter smiling

This morning Joe Girardi made it clear that Derek Jeter will continue to be the Yankees’ leadoff hitter despite coming off a career-worst season that included a career-low .340 on-base percentage.

Here’s what the manager had to say about leaving Jeter atop the lineup:

We signed him to be our shortstop and we signed him to be our leadoff hitter. And he’s got a pretty good track history of what he’s done in the game of baseball. I’m not really too concerned about him as our leadoff hitter. But as we all know in this game, you have to prove yourself year in and year out, no matter who you are. That’s just the nature of the game, and there’s always people trying to take your job.

Even while posting the worst numbers of his career Jeter’s batting average (.270), on-base percentage (.340), and slugging percentage (.370) were all above average among American League leadoff men, who hit .267/.330/.364 as a group in 2010. In other words, only in a lineup as strong and deep as the Yankees’ is his hitting leadoff really an issue.

Brett Gardner provides the clearest alternative to Jeter. He’s faster and offers far more base-stealing ability than Jeter, and easily topped his OBP last season by a .383 to .340 margin. Of course, Jeter posted a .406 OBP in 2009 while Gardner got on base at a .345 clip, so there’s no guarantee Gardner will be the superior on-base option this season.

When most people talk about batting order changes the focus tends to be on who’s hitting before or after whom, but the biggest impact of moving Jeter from the leadoff spot to, say, the ninth spot, would be far fewer plate appearances. Instead of leading off the game his first trip to the plate would likely come in the second or third inning, and last season the first spot in New York’s lineup batted 786 times compared to the ninth spot batting 632 times. By sticking with Jeter at leadoff Girardi is giving him an extra 100-150 plate appearances.

  1. Jeremiah Graves - Feb 14, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    Couldn’t they tell Curtis Granderson to stop swinging for the fences and turn him back into a leadoff man?!

    I know his OBP has plummeted the past two years, but I think that’s more a result of him become very homer happy than anything else. Plus his speed is pretty danged solid.

  2. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 14, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    I think this is one area Girardi has excelled. He swapped Damon and Jeter when Jeter couldn’t stay out of the GIDP. Last season he started ‘platooning’ the 2-hole with Granderson against RHP and Swisher against LHP, which seemed to work quite well.

    Truth is, on a day when all the regulars are playing, you can really put the Yankees in just about any order you want and they will mash.

  3. yankeesfanlen - Feb 14, 2011 at 3:50 PM

    If Kevin Long taught him anything at all about not swinging on the first pitch he may get his walk total up to his historical level.
    Just don’t have him batting second.

  4. Jonny 5 - Feb 14, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Jeter is no threat on the basepaths. His OBP is respectable for the spot, but he’s not going to get pitchers all worked up worrying he’ll swipe a bag. If I had a guy like Gardener to use, I would. Pitchers have to watch him, they’re less effective when he’s on base than with Jeter. The Yanks will need every tool at their disposal this season to stay in the hunt, and to ignore the obvious to placate Jeter could be the difference between a playoff spot or not. I say this is a “placate Jeter” decision anyway. Don’t know about the rest of you.

    • jh0088 - Feb 14, 2011 at 4:15 PM

      i absolutely agree with all of what you said

  5. jh0088 - Feb 14, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    I can’t say how many times I have talked about the need for Gardner to be the lead off hitter. I’m sick of hearing myself discuss this, but this is the worst possible idea. Jeter is a number two hitter. Gardner needs to lead off for this team. Gardner is the one who needs to get 100-150 more plate appearances in front of Jeter.

    Even if Jeter gets on base they don’t have a true #2 hitter who can show patience, bunt and hit/run. The only true #2 hitter on the team who can do all of those things is Jeter himself.

    Can you imagine the impact Gardner would have with 100-150 more plate appearances in front of Jeter? How does Girardi not see that. So what I really want to hear from the manager is what kind of production he expects from Jeter/Granderson vs what kind of production we would have seen from Gardner/Jeter?

    This is a real shame.

  6. uyf1950 - Feb 14, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    Big mistake. Gardner should lead off. He has the potential to make a lot more things happen.

    • pisano - Feb 14, 2011 at 9:10 PM

      uyf1950… I agree 100%, you know I didn’t like the idea of signing Jeter for more than a one year at a time contract and two years max. I hope he doesn’t get in the way while he’s still with the Yankees.

  7. aronmantoo - Feb 14, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    Jeter is a 7 to nine hitter. As far a a linup that mashes? With this starting rotation? There going to have to mash

  8. tucknrolle - Feb 14, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    Let’s play some baseball first and see where we are at. There is nothing stopping Joe from changing the line up through out the year. We have always had a good guy in the 9 hole to turn the line up over. Let’s just see how it plays, it’s a long season folks and things change. P.s. I like swish in the 2 hole..

    • jh0088 - Feb 14, 2011 at 8:01 PM

      Swisher is an all or nothing hitter. He doesn’t do the little things like hit/run, bunt or work counts that allow a lead off runner to make it to second or third with less than two outs. He gets home run happy and pull happy. He may have led off for Chicago once upon a time but for this Yankee team Swisher should be hitting 7th or 8th.


      • tucknrolle - Feb 14, 2011 at 8:26 PM

        Swish def. work the count. He takes a ton of pitches and fouls a lot of balls of too. He does get pull happy, but every year this guy improves. If you don’t believe me about is patience chec the stats of pitches seen over the past two years,

      • Kevin S. - Feb 14, 2011 at 9:43 PM

        You’re right, he doesn’t do little things like bunting that decrease run expectancy. He does big things, like getting on base and hitting for power, that increase run expectancy. What a jerk!

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