Every fan, critic, and analyst believe they can construct a lineup better than everyone else. They believe the manager has little knowledge when it comes to establishing the most bestest lineup in the whole wide world, but in fact, managers have much more experience and know the inner workings of their team better than anybody. After this past season, the Yankees have had much turnover on the positional side leading to a different, but potentially more contact-oriented 1-9 than in previous years. Let’s have ourselves a look-see into this upcoming season’s lineup:
After a magnificent 2012 campaign hitting .316/.362/.429, Derek Jeter will likely remain the leadoff hitter. Jeter’s not a normal 38-year-old shortstop, and being the face of the franchise he’ll continue hitting in the spot regardless of how he’s doing. His age brings many question marks, but he’s been proving people wrong for two years now. Saying that, the last two years he hasn’t gone into the season with a major injury (fractured ankle), so it remains to be seen if he can recover and produce at the same level.
The number two spot in the order can go a couple different ways. With a lefty on the mound, Kevin Youkilis might make sense. Incumbent second slot hitter, Curtis Granderson makes contact around 72% of the time, while Youkilis almost at a 82% clip. That extra 10% is huge over a season, and traditionally a hitter in this spot moves runners over and sets the table for the next three guys. Being a career .298/.417/.511 hitter against lefties helps too. Against righties, I would pick either Ichiro Suzuki or Brett Gardner. Both have demonstrated patience and both are slap hitters who have a chance to make the defense at least sweat on double plays.
The third spot should belong to Robinson Cano, he’s the best Yankee hitter, and the best hitter on the team belongs in the third spot. Manger Joe Girardi loves playing matchup games, but Cano’s platoon splits aren’t hugely different (.290/.338/.453 vs lefties compared to .317/.358/.527 vs. righties). The last two seasons he’s experienced a little more trouble with lefties (.239/.309/.337 in 2012), which might lead Girardi choosing Mark Teixeira to take the third spot in the order when a lefty starts.
Speaking of Tex, the fourth spot in the lineup belongs to him. The switch-hitting first baseman has had some issues the past few years by becoming a bit too pull-conscious, which has led to an uptick in strikeouts and decrease in batting average. He’s still an all-star caliber player who can deal some serious damage in the middle of the lineup. Over his career he has mashed lefties (.301/.389/.541) more so than righties (.269/.361/.521), he’s also had about double the plate appearances facing righties than he has lefties, so take that for what it’s worth. Hopefully, the last two seasons can be chalked up to bad luck, because the Yankees really need him to find it at the plate again.
The fifth spot should go to Granderson, until Alex Rodriguez comes back. Granderson’s power plays right into this spot. After referencing his contact numbers, you could make a case to shoot him down to the sixth spot, but why waste all the potential two- and three-run home runs? It remains to be seen if he can keep his power stroke (.290 and .260 ISO in 2011 and 2012, respectively) intact as he ages. Coming into 2013, his affinity for striking out basically banishes him from the two-spot. An inning looks much different with a guy on first with one out, than a guy on second with one out. Without getting too geeky on you, it’s almost a 15% increase in potentially scoring a run.
The sixth slot is another platoon spot for the Yankees. The newly signed Matt Diaz can take over here against lefties, with whom he has a career .324/.364/.498 slash line against. The aforementioned Youkilis can be slotted here as well against lefties. As for a bat against righties, that remains to be seen. The Yankees offseason isn’t over yet, and with Raul Ibanez jetting to Seattle, the Yankees might look for a righty mashing DH-type in the coming weeks/months.
Things get a little dicier (as they normally do for every team) the further we get down in the order. The seventh spot can go many different ways. I can see Youkilis here against righties and Ichiro against lefties. It’s a tough spot to predict because you can have the catcher (whoever that will be) in this spot and then Ichiro and Brett Gardner in the next two spots or you can break those two up since they are both lefties. The latter is probably what I would do.
Since the Yankees don’t know who their starting catcher will be, I’ll slot him here regardless of who is pitching. Finally, we are left with Brett Gardner in the ninth spot, which will satisfy those who believe in the “second leadoff hitter” theory. It’s not something I subscribe to, but with Gardner there, he is more than capable to holding onto that role.
So with that in mind, here is how the Yankees lineup will look like (according to me):
- Righty-Mashing DH
- Brett Gardner
Lineup construction is so tiring, I can only imagine what a manager has to go through with keeping egos in check on top of fielding a winning ballclub. I’ll flip it to you, our loyal readers, who would you put where, and why?
Stats courtesy of Fangraphs