In Sunday night’s Yankee/Cubs game, ESPN broadcaster Bobby Valentine stated the Yankees could move Derek Jeter to the 9th spot in the batting order when he comes off the DL. His reasoning is Brett Gardner is doing such a great job in the leadoff spot and Curtis Granderson is doing so well in the 2nd spot, so there is nowhere else in the lineup for him to go besides 9th. The question is would the Yankees actually have the guts to do it.
Valentine’s comments sparked a lot of sports talk radio debate on whether or not the Yankees should make the change in the lineup when Jeter returns. It was pretty mixed amongst Yankee fans. It seems like the older Yankee fans want Jeter to remain in the leadoff spot no matter what and the younger Yankee fans would like to see a change.
Despite what Valentine said, I do not see the Yankees moving Jeter out of the leadoff spot when he returns from the DL. The biggest reason why is his chase for 3,000 hits. That does not mean it will never happen though, but would be more likely to happen after he reaches the milestone, especially if he continues to struggle.
Jeter is not having a good offensive season so far. He is batting .260 with a .324 OBP which is low for a leadoff hitter, but there are other numbers which prove he has actually done a good job as a leadoff hitter.
In his 53 games in the leadoff spot this season, Jeter is batting .391 with a .472 OBP in the first inning. His numbers leading off in an inning are also impressive with a .344 batting average and .410 OBP. These numbers actually prove leading off innings is Jeter’s biggest strength this season.
Jeter’s main problem has been with men on base. He is only batting .179 with runners in scoring position. If he continues to struggle in those situations, it will not matter where he bats in the order, because his flaws as a hitter will continue to be exposed. Additionally, the batting order only matters in the first inning and after that the entire order changes based on what is happening in the game.
If Jeter continues to put up those numbers leading off games, the Yankees should just leave him alone. Gardner has shown recent success leading off, but it is only a short sample. Additionally, Jeter has a lot of pride and taking him out of the leadoff spot to bat 9th is a major shot to his ego. He will not be happy about it and might hurt the Yankees more as a team with an unhappy captain. He might act like he is ok with it and will give the company line, because that is what he does, but everyone will be able to read right through him. If he comes back and is doing a poor job, the Yankees would have every right to do it, but at this point he has not been as bad as some have made him out to be.