The New York Yankees, until recently, have had several different batting orders, especially in the one-to four spots. Now, it appears they have settled into something that’s working quite well. If it holds, opposing pitchers beware.
New York Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, has struggled all season to come up with a lineup that complements the talents of his players. Injuries haven’t helped, but it appears he’s finally settled on an order for the first spots that is working and has the makings of a lineup that can do damage in the playoffs.
Brett Gardner has been durable, if not sensational, as the quintessential leadoff hitter for the team. Don’t look at his batting average (.257), look at his at-bats. Gardner takes a lot of pitches and is second on the team in walks (61).
His defense in left field is impeccable and includes nine assists with two double plays. As a bonus, he is third on the team with twenty home runs.
And with Jacoby Ellsbury relegated to the bench and Clint Frazier sidelined with an injury, Gardner knows the team is counting on him to play every day, forcing his cranky 34-year old body to be ready, no matter what. No doubt, Gardner is a candidate as the team’s MVP and slotted perfectly by Girardi.
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A more recent move by Girardi is to move Aaron Hicks into the two-hole. Since returning from injury, Hicks has been in a modest slump, but he continues to have good at-bats. Today, for instance, he hit two sacrifice flys driving in two runs in a losing cause against Detroit.
A long-time favorite of Girardi, Hicks, is more than capable of restoring his batting average to .290 or better, where it was before he lost 35 or more games. Hicks is also not prone to striking out and has only 55 in the 73 games he’s played. His job is to keep the line moving when Gardner gets on, and he is suitable for that job.
The most critical change
The rearranging of three and four spots has been the most significant change made by Girardi. Typically, the three-hole is reserved for the best hitter on your team, and there is no one better than Gary Sanchez at the moment.
Sanchez hit another home run today (catch the video here), his 27th, and has stepped into the role that Aaron Judge vacated after his torrid first half as the Yankees most volatile offensive threat. The relief from the pressure can be seen in Judge’s body language in recent days, if not in his production.
But that’s coming too. Judge’s strikeouts are not as futile, nor are they as many as they were before the change. The power is still not there, but no one can imagine that it’s up and disappeared forever. And pitchers are still pitching Judge with that in mind, as evidenced by his three walks the other night and two runs scored.
Put this together with the role players, some of whom like Ronald Torreyes, Chase Headley, and Didi Gregorius, who are also performing above the call of duty, and you have the makings of a lineup that can do some severe damage from here on in.
Call-ups and the need to rest all regulars in the latter part of September may cause a re-juggling of Girardi’s line as we see it now. But it looks like he has something to return to with the confidence he’s making the right choices when it’s time to begin baseball’s Second Season.
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