Thursday, March 26, 2009

Derek Jeter to Lead Off: Manager Joe Girardi Makes an Interesting Switch

Derek Jeter has always been No. 1 in the hearts of every Yankee fan in the Bronx and across the globe.

However, he has always been associated with No. 2 in scorecards and anything associated with a baseball diamond.

Proudly wearing No. 2 on the back of a pinstriped jersey, he has also hit second in the Yankee lineup for seemingly his entire career.

In this tough economy, apparently even The Captain needs to ‘set the table’.

The move further hammers home the concept of Brett Gardner winning the center field spot.

Joe Girardi can now break up the back-to-back lefties of Gardner and Damon as the lineup turns over.

Jeter has generally had a much higher on-base percentage during his career than Damon. Jeter has posted a career .387 OBP in comparison to Damon’s .354 OBP.

Damon’s power numbers also add a greater dynamic to the No. 2 hole, as he can better protect Mark Teixeira.

Another interesting stat which helps to tell the story is the risk of the double play.

During their careers, Jeter has grounded into 195 double plays as opposed to only 73 for Damon. Both have played 13 full seasons in the Major Leagues.

These numbers are staggering, and have gone overlooked for quite some time.

Damon’s leadoff prowess and propensity to generate walks was being compromised by Jeter’s inability to avoid killing rallies with a ground ball.

An alarming 45 of his 195 double plays were created during the last two seasons alone.

Joe Girardi is attempting to ensure Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez (when healthy) as many RBI opportunities as possible in 2009.

Jeter strikes out at a higher rate than the typical leadoff hitter, but his savvy baserunning and ability to get on base should help to counteract that.

Fans and scouts had been calling for Jeter to be moved for quite some time now.

However, they had their sights set on the outfield, DH, or first base as opposed to the leadoff spot in the batting order.

Jeter’s range has declined in recent years, and the World Baseball Classic seemed to emphasize the point as athletically gifted Jimmy Rollins outshined him drastically.

Girardi has done a very smart thing here, and it should help to maximize the productivity of the revamped Yankee lineup.

As the Captain and unquestionable face of the franchise, no one else should step to the plate first in the new Yankee Stadium other than Jeter:

“Now batting…for the New York Yankees…number two…Derek Jee-tah…number two.”

It will be nice to hear Bob Shepherd announce New York’s opening day leadoff hitter.

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