In a 7-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox that featured a dominant Chris Sale, New York Yankees Joe Girardi made an interesting lineup maneuver that can benefit the team down the road.
By Emmanuel Berbari
For the last two years, with the exception of injury, it has been Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner in the one and two spots in the lineup nearly every day. There has been no spontaneity and no creativeness. When Joe Girardi penciled Gardner into the seven hole for Friday’s game against Chris Sale, the New York Yankees had already taken a step in the right direction.
Stagnation and susceptibility in baseball are often caused by an inability to think outside the box. Managers are so fixed on stacking their best players in one area of the lineup that they forget the big picture. The susceptibility has hurt the Yankees with regards to left-handed pitching and has certainly had negative effects on the lineup as a whole.
Let’s face it. Locking a player into one spot in a nine-man lineup is not the brightest of decisions. Stacking two left-handed hitters at the top of the lineup, regardless of capability, defies common logic and has hurt rather than helped the team. Joe Girardi showing the willingness to place Gardner down in the order and space things out against a tough lefty can only mean good things once Ellsbury returns.
The current reality is that Gardner a .229 hitter and Ellsbury was at .260 prior to the hip strain. How does this make them invincible? What makes them the only top of the lineup guys on the roster? Gardner’s career OBP against left-handers is .346 and Ellsbury’s is .343. This is not special at all for guys at the top of the lineup, particularly when you are stacking them.
I would go as far as saying that no one’s spot in the lineup should be a guarantee. It should depend entirely on the day, the matchup, and splits. If the Yankees are truly a research and sabermetric-based organization as they claim to be, this would be fitting.
It is proven that right-handers see the ball far better off left-handers and vice-versa. If a given day says to bat Brian McCann ninth because he would space the lineup, why wouldn’t you go for it? Because it looks bad? When the Tampa Bay Rays revolutionized baseball with over shifts they probably had to overcome a fear of looking bad. Look how it worked out for them and the sport.
Take your raw power bats and place them at number two, five, and eight in the lineup instead of three, four and five. This provides equal protection to even the lesser guys in the order and instills fear in an opposing pitcher top to bottom. Never will they have the capability of taking a breath, not concerned about who is due up. This sounds logical despite skippers scaring away from it.
Yes, Jacoby Ellsbury gets paid over $20 million a year to lead off, as does Mark Teixeira to clean up. With that being said, this is an overly used phrase that doesn’t make true sense. What makes more sense would be: Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira get paid over $20 million a year to produce.
Production, whether it is at the top of the lineup, bottom of the lineup, or coming off the bench. Players, managers, and front office guys have lost light of what production truly means and what handing out a multi-million dollar salary is worth.
Brett Gardner being in the seven hole gave the Yankees the best chance to beat Chris Sale, regardless of the outcome. The only aspect of a switch-hitting heavy lineup that wasn’t spaced was the power hitting, but that is Girardi’s prerogative.
So if you are an optimist rather than a pessimist, you can take the fact that Girardi dropped one of his most trusted players down in the order as a positive from Friday night’s contest. Perhaps it will lead the path to a move creative lineup card in the coming months.