Since Alex Rodriguez's absence due to knee surgery, the Yankees have gone 6-5. They have already lost more games without A-Rod than they did in the entire time Derek Jeter was out with his calf injury, in which they went 14-4. It just goes to show you that you really don't know what you have until it's gone. Rodriguez, though his power numbers were down due to his injury, was having a solid season batting .295. But more importantly, having the luxury of penciling in a brand-name like Alex Rodriguez into the cleanup spot each day made the lineup stronger. Even though power numbers were down, Alex Rodriguez was a huge threat in the heart of the Yankee order. And though the Yankee offense is made up of many All-Stars and brand names, it's not easy to replace a hitter like A-Rod.
I was frustrated with the offense one day after a tough loss, and I began thinking: why don't the Yankees DO something to shake things up a bit? Billy Martin wasn't afraid to be daring - he literally made a lineup by pulling names out of a hat, and they would win. My lineup proposal was not as random or drastic, but I had an idea that I thought would really help the team. And I was pleasantly surprised when the Yankees adapted my idea, and even more so when they scored 17 runs with it.
The move the Yankees made that I strongly advocated for was to bat Brett Gardner leadoff. Then Derek Jeter could slide comfortably into the second slot, where he had so much success in his past. Curtis Granderson, the Yankees home run and RBI leader, would bat 3rd. The Yankees won in blowout fashion the first night they used this. In the second game, Rich Harden pitched brilliantly, and the Yankee offense could not do enough, though they didn't appear completely out of the game as they had in games prior. The Yankees then faced a lefty pitcher and had many guys resting, so they had a different batting order. They face another lefty against the Mariners tonight in Jason Vargas, but I am curious to see what they do against the righties Doug Fister and Felix Hernandez.
I'm proud of the 1-2-3 that I suggested: Gardner, Jeter, and Granderson. They seem to match what I believe are the ideal qualities for their respective batting positions.
Obviously, the leadoff hitter should be a guy who gets on base. Speed is key in that spot as well. What I like in a leadoff hitter is the ability to put up good at-bats time and time again - meaning, seeing pitches, and being able to hit in pitcher-friendly counts. And no one in baseball has done this better than Brett Gardner. In 2010, Gardner saw more pitches per at-bat than any other player. He also was amongst the league-leaders in 2-strike hits, which shows that he has the right approach. He doesn't try to do too much at the plate, and he knows that all he has to do is get on base. Put the bat on the ball, and good things will happen. Once on, Gardner has the ability to steal bases with the best of them. Even though he has not yet fully mastered the art of the stolen base, he gets the job done. He was amongst the league-leaders with 47 steals last season. He leads the American League with 31 steals this season despite getting off to a slow start with both his bat and his legs. I am not alone in my belief that Brett Gardner should bat leadoff more often.
The number two slot in the order, especially in the Yankees lineup, is a fun place to hit. To me #2 should be for #2. Derek Jeter is ideal, and he's been successful there before. I believe that the number two hitter should be a guy who really knows how to handle the bat. And with 3,000+ hits, it's obvious that Jeet knows what he's doing. The number two hitter should be a contact hitter who is able to get the runner over by any means necessary. Since Derek Jeter strikes out way less than other potential number two hitters such as Curtis Granderson, he seems like a good fit in this spot. Some people like lefties in the second slot because they are able to take advantage of the hole in the infield where the first baseman is holding the runner on. But Derek Jeter is known for his inside-out swing, with the majority of his hits going to right field. So he takes advantage of that hole better than most players even though he is a righty. More often than not, Derek Jeter makes contact, making the combo of him and Gardy ideal for the hit-and-run.
The third spot in the batting order is usually where the best hitter goes. And this season for the Yankees, I believe Curtis Granderson is their best hitter - and a better fit for the 3-hole than the man who is usually there, Mark Teixeira. Granderson's batting average is over 20 points better than Teixeira's, and the GrandyMan has better home run and RBI numbers as well. The All-Star centerfielder hits from the left side, while Teixeira is a switch-hitter. But unlike most lefty hitters, Granderson is not neutralized by lefty pitchers at all. His batting average is just 3 points lower against lefties than it is against righties, and he leads with 11 of his 27 homers against southpaws. Teixeira, on the other hand, has more drastic splits. He hits for power against righties, but is hitting around .220. Against lefties, he bats from his natural side of the plate and hits for a better average, but the power numbers are down. Granderson is having the best season of his career so far, and the Yankees should take advantage of that by batting him third. I am not alone when I say Granderson is the offensive MVP of the first-half for the Yanks.
I am really looking forward to seeing what the Yankees do with their offense while A-Rod is gone. My idea makes sense, and they did score 17 runs one day with it. I think if they were to stick with my 1-2-3, they'd be successful. But even if they don't, I don't care - just as long as they win.
by Virginia Califano
Questions? Comments? Contact Virginia at firstname.lastname@example.org