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Feb 182010

Must be an old one. Alex plays 3B

At yesterday’s press conference, Yankee beat reporter Sweeney Murti asked manager Joe Girardi what his number one concern was going into the 2010 season. He replied that the biggest issue he has to iron out in his own mind, is the Yankee lineup. Here’s what Girardi said:

“I’m not concerned that we don’t have the players to do it; I’m concerned exactly how we place them. There is a ton of talent in that room. We have very good hitters up and down that lineup, but you want to try to find the right mix. … The concern is exactly where we put them, not that we don’t have the right pieces. I believe we have the right pieces.”

In my view, the biggest question is in what to do with Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson. 1-4 is mostly set (except for #2) we know Gardner and Swisher will be near the bottom, and Cano has to prove he can drive in runs to move up in the order, so he’s going to hit 6th or 7th. The real question in my mind is what to do with our two new additions, both of whom are very talented but bring different skills to the table.

So who’s your 1-9? I’ll start:

1-Jeter
2-Granderson
3-Tex
4-Alex
5-Johnson
6-Posada
7-Cano
8-Swisher
9-Gardner

That’s my lineup facing Righties, which of course is most days. Johnson hits #2 facing a Lefty and Grandy drops down to 8th with everyone else moving up a notch. I like the protection Tex gives Grandy, I like his speed at the top of the lineup, and his OBP is .367 facing Righties (Johnson .394). I think Grandy’s speed on the basepaths will make up for the .027 difference in OBP, and then some.

Now I know some will only look at the OBP and decide Johnson’s the better fit in the 2-hole. Solely looking at OBP is myopic. You have to also consider the complete skill sets of the players involved. Grandy’s a plus runner and on the flip side, Johnson’s a sub par runner. So the spread between the two players is big once they’re on the bases, and the difference between their ability to get on base is fairly small. With a difference .027 of OBP between the two players facing Righties, you’re talking about Johnson getting on base 1 extra time every 40 ABs, and generating about 1 extra run per month. I think that with Grandy’s speed he will score runs more often, even if he has a few less opportunities. There’s also double plays to consider. Granderson is an extreme fly ball hitter who grounded into a grand total of ONE double play last season. Nick Johnson, on the other hand, grounded into 15.

In my lineup, you don’t lose Nick’s bat. It’s not like Johnson doesn’t hit in my lineup. He does, so his OBP will be in there. Those who want Johnson hitting 2nd could argue that Nick being on base for the power guys behind him would add up to him scoring when Grandy was never on base to begin with. Which is true, but you hit more singles and doubles than you do HRs. Grandy can steal 2B and score on a single, score from 1B on a double when Nick would get stranded at 3B. I think the latter will happen far more often than the former, and more than makes up for the difference in OBP. Curtis’ speed means he can score in many situations where Nick will not. The idea is to score runs, not to get and base and be stranded.

Finally, I’m not married to this lineup. I can see Cano moving up and Posada moving down if things play out the way I suspect they will. But I want to smooth Curtis’ transition to the Bronx, since defensively I would put him in Left. So offensively, I want to make things easy for him. He’ll see better pitches with Tex on deck and his speed with make the run scoring at the top of the lineup more efficient.

(pic courtesy of SI.com)

11 Responses to “Joe Girardi-#1 Concern is Lineup”

  1. With a difference .027 of OBP between the two players facing Righties, you’re talking about Johnson getting on base 1 extra time every 40 ABs, and generating about 1 extra run per month.

    Don’t you mean plate appearances and not at bats? Seems weird to me to evaluate OBP on an AB rate…

    And how do you arrive at the 1 extra run per month? Math me, please.  (Quote)

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  2. Too much to get into on my phone, I’ll see you tonight @ RAB.  (Quote)

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  3. Hm. Saw this on RAB last night, wasn’t sure what my opinion was, slept on it, and here goes:

    After much consideration, I think I’m going to disagree, for a couple of reasons. For one, Tex + Arod (wish i knew how to make that little trademark sign) could very well combine for 80 home runs next year. They’ll hit a lot of doubles, too, but I’m just not sold that anybody hitting in front of those guys is going to be asked to steal a lot of bases. As far as scoring from first on a double or something to that nature, remember this is the Yankees lineup, not some other teams. It doesn’t stop at A-Rod. Posada/Cano/Granderson etc. are perfectly capable of knocking hitters in if they’re still on base post-A-Rod.

    The other thing is that Granderson’s speed has more value, I think, in front of Posada/Cano/Swish than Tex/A-Rod simply because the former are tremendous hitters and doubles hitters in particular, but much less dangerous when it comes to hitting the longball. I’d rather have Granderson on first with Cano or Posada at the plate than Nick Johnson. I’d still rather have Granderson on first than NJ in front of Tex/Alex, but the difference is less with the power of the latter two.

    For me, the ideal lineup would be the following:
    Jeter
    NJ
    Tex
    A-Rod
    Granderson
    Cano
    Posada
    Swisher
    LF

    I know that the conventional feeling (and probably most likely circumstance) is to bat Posada right after A-Rod to provide him with protection, but I don’t think anybody is going to be grooving him fastballs because the fearsome JoPo is hitting behind him. What I like about this format is that A) you’ve got (arguably) your third best power hitter behind A-Rod, but more importantly, you’ve got a guy who can score from first on a double in front of three guys who are going to hit a ton of doubles but not quite as many home runs. Swisher could fight for 30 homers again, which is why I have Posada, who figures to have the best OBP among Grandy/Cano/Posada right in front of him. Of course there is still the issue of Grandy’s weaknesses against lefties, but I’m not sure batting him in front of the pretty pedestrian LF corps would do anything but exacerbate that issue, since he’ll likely see more breaking balls there, and lefty breaking balls were pretty much his biggest offensive weakness over the last couple years.

    Overall, it’s a question that’s damn near impossible to answer correctly, but pretty much all of the answers equate to the yankees being pretty freaking awesome offensively next year. My preference is certainly to have Johnson hit 2nd, since his lack of speed will be less of an issue there than it would be hitting 5th or lower, where there are fewer home run threats behind him.  (Quote)

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    bornwithpinstripes Reply:

    flip cano and posada , cano, needs to be 7…8 or 9.. i agree  (Quote)

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  4. I’m on my phone, but if someone could head over to Fangraphs and get both player’s RSAA, particularly facing Righties, that would really be helpful.  (Quote)

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  5. Great post Steve, but I agree with Pete. I think Johnson should bat second solely based on his OBP and his contact rate. The Yanks will be able to hit and run with Johnson, which should hopefully neutralize all those double plays that Nick hits into. I also don’t think Johnson has enough power to bat fifth almost everyday. That could change though. If he comes out and shows he knows how to take advantage of the right field wind tunnel then maybe he deserves that five spot, but right now I think Jorge deserves that spot.  (Quote)

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  6. In less there is something egregious (like when Soriano hit lead-off), the lineup won’t really matter. Its a good topic to discuss, but it won’t have any real difference in runs scored.  (Quote)

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  7. The 15 DPs come out to almost the same rate as the extra time on base (1 in 38.something), so I see that as 6 of one and 1/2 dozen of another.
    I agree about speed being more important in the 5 hole in this line-up, but that runs against the grain of most MLB thinking.
    I think the main thing is whether Joe wants different line-ups vs RH and LH starters.  (Quote)

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    Ken (O.R.) Reply:

    I think I’ll go along with you, with one exception…Pete has Cano hitting 6th, I like that!  (Quote)

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  8. I loved Nettles, but the 3B gotta be Alex Rodriguez!  (Quote)

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  9. Granderson scores more runs per pa then Johnson for their careers so far. Cano hit well last year batting 6th so I hope he’s moved up this year. Swisher against lefties has a career .395 obp so he and Granderson should platoon the 2 hole with Johnson hitting 5th.  (Quote)

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