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Derek Jeter to bat second for Yankees, with Brett Gardner leading off

Mar 29, 2011, 1:40 PM EDT

derek-jeter-and-brett-gardner-yankees Getty Images

Derek Jeter was the Yankees’ leadoff man in 137 of his 155 starts last season, but manager Joe Girardi announced today that Jeter will hit second in the Opening Day lineup, with Brett Gardner replacing him in the leadoff spot.

Anything involving Jeter inevitably leads to big headlines, but ultimately the switch is pretty meaningless. Leadoff hitters end up with slightly more plate appearances than No. 2 hitters, while No. 2 hitters end up with slightly more RBI opportunities than leadoff hitters.

Either way, both spots involve coming to the plate more often than everyone else in the lineup and setting the table for the sluggers. And while Jeter was primarily a leadoff man last season he’s actually hit second far more often throughout his career, logging 56 percent of his total plate appearances in the No. 2 spot. And his numbers are identical, with a .313 batting average and .839 OPS leading off compared to a .314 batting average and .840 OPS hitting second.

To me this move is more about Gardner getting a promotion from the bottom of the lineup to the top of the lineup following a very strong season that included a lofty .383 on-base percentage and 47 steals. If the Yankees feel like he’s capable of repeating those numbers the leadoff spot makes all kinds of sense, and since Jeter has more power than Gardner it’s also natural to bat him second.

One negative aspect of Jeter hitting second is that he’ll get more opportunities to ground into double plays after ranking fifth in the league with 22 last season despite batting at least once per game with no one on base, but Gardner tries so many steals (and is fast enough even when he doesn’t take off for second base) that the impact could be minimal.

  1. mrhojorisin - Mar 29, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    Another reason this move is meaningless is that Gardner batted ninth often last season, so this move maintains that Gardner-Jeter connection in the lineup. Only difference now is that the Yankees will get it in the first inning. And from what I’ve read, Jeter prefers batting second. So, you’re right- the only reason it’s news is because Jeter is involved.

  2. Ari Collins - Mar 29, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    Will probably lead to a couple fewer runs scored over the season. NBD.

  3. uyf1950 - Mar 29, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    I think this is a good thing. Gardner gets to use his god given talents better and more often batting first. That’s his speed and his ability to stay out of the DP a little better then Jeter. Is it a huge change? NO, but sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest differences. Just my opinion.

  4. Reflex - Mar 29, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    As I poitnted out in the previous thread, grounding into a double play is more a fact of opportunity than special batting skills. The Yankees get on base at a high rate, thus hitters on that team have more chances to ground into a double play. I’m sure the Mariners were among the lead leaders last year in avoiding double players. But that is due to Ichiro being the only guy who could get on base, not some sort of hitting magic.

  5. Jonny 5 - Mar 29, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    I like this move, Gardner has some Wheels. Jeter, well his are falling off but he can still hit well. It’s a no brainer that should have happened last season imo.

  6. yankeesfanlen - Mar 29, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    I’ll withold judgment until if we see if Jeter’s “corrections” include avoiding hitting into DPs.If so, it’s a positive move, and could also work if Brett steals second early in counts.

    • Reflex - Mar 29, 2011 at 8:54 PM

      If Gardner fails to get on base at a decent clip then you’ll note that Jeter’s ‘corrections’ include avoiding hitting itno DP’s. If Gardner gets on base at a decent clip, then you will note that like most players who get a lot of ground ball hits each year with players on base ahead of them, Jeter hits into a lot of DP’s. Funny how that works.

  7. rapmusicmademedoit - Mar 29, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    As long as Jetes is getting fitted for another ring no one will care and this
    is more about having the speedier Gardner bat ahead of Jetes.

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