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Brett Gardner could supplant Derek Jeter as the Yankees’ leadoff hitter

Mar 7, 2011, 5:59 AM EDT

Derek Jeter smiling

Mark Feinsand of the Daily News reports that, despite Joe Girardi’s stated preference of keeping Derek Jeter as his leadoff hitter,  “some inside the organization” want to see Brett Gardner at the top of the order and Jeter moved down to the two-slot.

There are two ways to look at this, I reckon. On the one hand, Garder’s on-base skills are pretty special. Unless Jeter returns to 2009 form and Gardner slumps, Gardner is almost certain to get on base at a better clip than Jeter.

On the other hand, there’s this. So you see, it’s not nearly as clear-cut as one might imagine.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Mar 7, 2011 at 6:12 AM

    Right or wrong, Girardi should be able to choose who he bats leadoff. That’s the manager’s job, not “some inside the organization”.

  2. Ari Collins - Mar 7, 2011 at 8:01 AM

    Seems like a poor idea, considering how many double plays he hit into last year. I know that lineup optimization doesn’t matter that much, but it’ll certainly LOOK bad if he hits into even more this year, with an extra hundred opportunities to do so.

    • Reflex - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:20 PM

      Just want to point out that batting leadoff would give Gardner 14-1/5 *fewer* opportunities to hit into a double play. You cannot hit into a double play when you are the first hitter at the plate.

      This dynamic should be considered when one judges how much fault a hitter has for hitting into a double play in the first place…

      • Reflex - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:22 PM

        That was meant to be 1/4 – 1/5 fewer opportunities. Not sure why it dropped my fraction….

      • uyf1950 - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:47 PM

        How about Gardner’s ability to break up DP’s with his speed for the batter batting 2nd. As you say there are obviously more things to consider then just the fact that the lead off batter can’t hit into a DP in his first at bat.

      • Reflex - Mar 7, 2011 at 1:35 PM

        Absolutely, that was my point. I just was trying to also point out that whoever hits first inherantly has fewer opportunities for double plays. Whether or not they hit into more probably says more about other skills, such as speed and ability to read pitchers, steal bases, etc.

      • uyf1950 - Mar 7, 2011 at 2:23 PM

        Reflex, I’m not sure your original comment is inherently correct. I may be wrong but your assumption does not appear to take into account the fact the the player batting first usually has more plate appearances then any other player in a teams line up. For example: Jeter had 634 AB in 2009 and 663 AB in 2010 The vast majority of those while batting 1st. Then take Crawford while playing approximately the same number of games both in 2009 and 2010 he had 606 AB in 2009 and 600 AB in 2010 while primarily batting 2nd in the order. Crawford had approximately 5% less AB in 2009 and 9% less AB in 2010.
        So I think this at least cast some doubt on the theory that just because a player bats first in the order that he can hit into as many DP’s as a player batting second because he doesn’t have as many opportunities to hit with men of base.

      • uyf1950 - Mar 7, 2011 at 2:26 PM

        oops – can towards the end of my last post should have been “can’t”. It should have read “order that he can’t hit into as many DP’s”.

  3. dirtyharry1971 - Mar 7, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    Whats with the stupid link to a fake news story from the onion? Why does msnbc continue to let this guy post articles?

    • The Common Man/ - Mar 7, 2011 at 9:25 AM

      Because the article was hilarious. Good God, is it just that it’s Monday, or are you always this humorless and miserable?

      • cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 9:44 AM

        Hey Common; don’t sweat that guy. He actually IS that miserable all the time. This is actually one of his saner, more lucid posts since he usually resorts to cussing out Craig or one of us for even being alive, never mind the what we wrote. Apparently his sense of humor is in his other, less cranky, pair of pants. I presume his issues stem from that ankle bracelet the parole board makes him wear; I guess the GPS signal interfere with the metal plate that protects what remains of his brains after all the crack he’s done (or something).

    • phukyouk - Mar 7, 2011 at 9:30 AM

      WHOA! that article was fake? DAMN YOU ONIION!

      • cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 9:45 AM

        looked real to me

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 7, 2011 at 11:22 AM

        I’m more pissed that it isn’t a real article. It’d be the first press conference Jeter gave that actually didn’t make him sound like a robot.

      • bigharold - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:44 PM

        That wasn’t real? It certainly added a perspective that needed to be highlighted.

        Funny, though, I always thought his middle name was Sanderson?

  4. uyf1950 - Mar 7, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    If Jeter’s propensity for hitting into DP’s continues and his OBP struggles continue in the early part of the 2011 season count on there to be enormous pressure on Girardi to move Jeter down in the line up. Besides at this stage of their careers Gardner is a much better alternative to lead off than Jeter. Gardner’s speed, base stealing abilities and his ability to work counts show he should be the one leading off. Now the only problem is convincing Jeter and Girardi that’s the case.
    One final comment my personal opinion is Jeter should move even further down the batting order then 2nd. If his struggles continue closer to 8th or 9th is more to my liking. I want to add one caveat to that. Then as Craig said in his piece “there’s this” I should let everyone know, no one on the Yankees has asked for my opinion or probably cares what my opinion is.

    • yankeesfanlen - Mar 7, 2011 at 9:16 AM

      Agreed, it would be unconscionable to move him just to 2nd, he’d be in the best position following Posada. Gardner hit .321 in the first 75 games last season til the wrist injury.
      This should be noted- perhaps Beep-beep (more respectable nickname than the Onion uses) is improving with his new stance.
      Unrelated note- Jorge Vasquez is a MONSTER!

  5. aburns77 - Mar 7, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    I don’t think Girardi will ever do this but if he does I think it’s a great move. As Gardner showed last year with his 5.4WAR he’s a very valuable player who despite a wrist injury managed to get on base at a good clip and steal bases which is exactly what this lineup needs. The projection systems show Jeter will be better this year and with adjustments I’m confident he will be, however until he shows a return to form the fact that he’s Derek Freaking Jeter should not dictate his lineup position. that said i don’t girardi has the guts to do that to Derek so I think this is a moot point

  6. cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    I simply do not believe this. I thought it was a crime for anyone to mess with Jeter in the state of New York? Aren’t you guys risking incarceration or something for suggesting Jeets do something that he might not want to do? For the record (and since you can’t lock up a Canuck for messing with Jeets) he needs to get his 36 year old behind down the order, all the way to 8th or 9th. Gardner is not only a great hitter and quick, he gives pitchers the willies; they get all nervous and either try to pitch him careful or blow it past him. The moment you get a pitcher making adjustments for you, especially when they don’t know you all that well, you can own them and that’s what the Yankees need. Someone unexpected, who’s quick and forces the defense to pay him some mind when he’s on base. This simply does not represent Jeets in any way shape or form. All that being said, Jeets might be a new man with that swing modification, so what the hell do I know? He might still have it. He is, after all, Derek F**king Jeter.

    • aburns77 - Mar 7, 2011 at 10:16 AM

      I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call Gardner a “great” hitter (much of his WAR is tied up in his defense which could fluctuate like it did for Nyjer Morgan from 2009 to 2010), but I think most rational yankee fans are not blind to the fact that he had a much better year than the declining and aging Jeter. The news of his swing modification is promising, but even if Gardner has a bit of regression this year i still think he’s a more valuable hitter than Jeter is right now. Nevertheless there is still a large constituent of Yankee fans that do see Derek as the same guy he was in 1999 and I think they along with the mainstream media will keep Girardi from making the best baseball decision for the team.

      • cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 10:31 AM

        aburns; I root for the Jays. There is NO ONE on that team as good with a bat as Gardner is with his bat. He’s a GREAT hitter compared to anyone on my team, including Bautista, who could do with hitting for a better average. Tell you what; we’ll trade you Celine Dion and Justin Beiber for him. Straight up, no need to send us cash or anything.

      • aburns77 - Mar 7, 2011 at 11:07 AM

        haha wow cur68 that’s quite an indictment of your jays there to say our number nine hitter is better than a guy who hit 50 home runs, and i think you’re not giving bautista enough credit. Sure he doesn’t hit for a great average and he probably won’t have a slugging percentage of .617 again, but even if Bautista has a reasonable regression he should still have an OPS of at least in the high .800s and be an excellent player and still dwarf Brett’s so-so .762. I’m a big Gardner fan and I think he can do an excellent job as our leadoff hitter, however considering that he’s already 27 I don’t see him becoming more valuable than he currently is

      • cur68 - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:15 PM

        Yeah man, I practice reality baseball. If Gardner is your # 1 hitter now, it’s only a matter of regular playing time and coaching before he’s well up there. He hasn’t peaked because he hasn’t played that much. Bautista showed what he could do with coaching and a regular job. Since Gardner is sort of the pre-job Jose I expect he’ll explode just like Jose did with the right role and some love from his manager. Like I said, if you don’t think he’s all that, trade him to the Jays. Beiber and Dion, straight up.

      • bigharold - Mar 7, 2011 at 12:56 PM

        “Nevertheless there is still a large constituent of Yankee fans that do see Derek as the same guy he was in 1999..”

        Not really but nor do we/they see him as a .270 hitter either. The real question is was last year the begining of a downward spriral that he can not recover from or was it merely an off year. While I do not see it likely that he will hit .320+ this season I don’t think it likely that he’ll hit .270 either.

        In the end his position in the line up will be determined by his performance but it isn’t nor should it be shocking that he’ll get the benefit of the doubt initially,. Because, after all he’s Derek F. Jeter.

  7. yankeesgameday - Mar 7, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    This is a topic that I have been talking about for the past year, so it is nice that the main stream Yankee media is finally catching up to me.

    While the team itself will be more successful, the person who could benefit the most from this move would be Jeter himself. With Gardner on base in front of Jeter he needs to do only three things to be incredibly successful this year. All of which fit into Jeter’s historical strengths:

    1. PATIENCE – If Jeter can take a lot of pitches it will allow Gardner time to steal second.

    2. SACRIFICING – Imagine Gardner steals second early in the count. Jeter can bunt him to 3rd where there will be only 1 out. Jeter’s average will go through the roof and he’ll hit .300+ batting behind Gardner.

    3. HIT AND RUN – Putting Gardner in motion and having Jeter hit the ball to the right side, one of the things he does better than anyone in baseball opens up more chances for Jeter to get hits (upping his average) and giving Tex and Arod runners on 1st and 3rd with no outs.

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