"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankees 10, Phillies 2

For the second game in a row, the Yankees broke a close game open with a late surge, this time in the form of five eighth-inning runs keyed by Nick Swisher’s first home run of the spring. Final score: 10-2 Yanks.


R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Johnny Damon (LF)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
L – Hideki Matsui (DH)
S – Nick Swisher (RF)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
R – Cody Ransom (3B)
R – Jose Molina (C)
S – Melky Cabrera (CF)

Subs: Justin Leone (1B), Doug Bernier (2B), Angel Berroa (SS), Ramiro Peña (3B), Kevin Cash (C), Todd Linden (RF), Brett Gardner (CF), John Rodriguez (LF), Shelley Duncan (DH)

Pitchers: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Edwar Ramirez, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, Jonathan Albaladejo

Big Hits:

Homers by Hideki Matsui (1-for-4), Cody Ransom (1-for-3), and Nick Swisher (1-for-3, BB). Doubles by Derek Jeter (2-for-4), Robinson Cano (1-for-2), Todd Linden, and Kevin Cash (both 1-for-1). Melky Cabrera went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

Who Pitched Well:

Phil Coke struck out the only two men he faced. Edwar Ramirez struck out two in a perfect sixth inning. Jonathan Albaladejo pitched a perfect ninth. Brian Bruney worked around a double for a scoreless seventh. Jose Veras pitched around a pair of singles for a scoreless eighth.

Joba Chamberlain walked three in his 4 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on a pair of solo homers. But he only gave up one other hit, struck out three, and the homers were by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.


Melky Cabrera had a nice day, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs while Brett Gardner went 0-for-1 as a sub. Nick Swisher put something in the bank with his first spring homer and yet another walk. Ramiro Peña went 1-for-2 while Angel Berroa went 0-for-1. Phil Coke, Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras, and Jonathan Albaladejo combined for this line: 3 2/3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K.


Joe Girardi shocked the world by naming CC Sabathia the starter for both Opening Day of the season and Opening Day of the new Yankee Stadium, but the real news is that Girardi is leaning toward swapping Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter in the batting order. Some folks have derided Peter Abraham’s analysis, but Pete is all over this one:

Let’s look at this dispassionately.

Derek Jeter’s career’s OBP: .385

Johnny Damon’s career OBP: .354

Derek Jeter GIDP the last two years: 45

Johnny Damon GIDP in last two years: 9

So Jeter should get on base more often and have fewer opportunities to ground into a double play. This would seem to make sense.


Beyond the numbers, this move reflects what we all know to be true: Jeter has become more of a singles hitter. He had 39 extra-base hits last season. His previous seasons:

2007: 55
2006: 56
2005: 49
2004: 68


It also seems that this decision is related to another. Brett Gardner is almost certainly the center fielder and will hit ninth. Hitting Jeter first separates two left-handed hitters in Gardner and Damon. Girardi considers matchups critical to his lineup decisions and tries his best to make decisions tougher on the opposing manager.

So now the lineup is:

Jeter R
Damon L
Teixeira S
Matsui L
Posada S
Cano L
Nady R
Ransom R
Gardner L

And when Alex Rodriguez returns, the back-to-back righties at the bottom will go away.

I took an in-depth look at the Jeter/Damon batting order issue back in March 2006, concluding that it was really a non-issue as the difference between batting first and second was a mere 18 at-bats over a full season:

By the most basic logic, a line-up that puts Jeter ahead of Damon is a better line-up because of Jeter’s reliably superior on-base percentage. However, based on a projection using Jeter’s career OBP of .386 (his 2005 mark was .389) and Damon’s road OBP from 2005 of .342, the difference between the two line-ups is a grand total of less than 0.8 outs over the course of 162 games. That’s zero-point-eight, or a fraction of one out. Bear that in mind the next time you find yourself getting worked up over the top two spots in Torre’s batting order.

Still, as Pete points out, the move makes a lot of sense for a variety of reasons. Jeter will get on base, avoid double plays, and protect Gardner from lefty-on-lefty matchups. Damon will hit for more power and drive Jeter and Gardner in, which also benefits Damon in his walk year.

We may have the WBC and Jorge Posada’s shoulder to thank for this as it was with Jeter away from the team and Posada leading off to maximize his at-bats in games he was catching that Girardi noticed Damon’s viability as a number two hitter. Jeter’s always been praised for his ability to hit behind the runner because his natural stroke is to right-field, which for him is the opposite field. Well, Johnny Damon is a similarly skilled lefty pull hitter with better wheels. Works for me.

For what it’s worth, Jeter has put up almost identical batting averages and on-base percentages in the first two spots in the order over the course of his career, but he’s slugged 12 points higher from the leadoff spot. Then again, Damon’s down about 20 points across the board in the two-hole. Not that any of that means anything.

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1 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 27, 2009 1:04 am

Well, I'm on board with that projected lineup. I sleep comfy now zzzzz...

2 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 27, 2009 1:53 am

The bottom third of that lineup frightens me..no Molina but still..

3 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Mar 27, 2009 2:10 am

After Rodriguez is back the bottom third will be Cano, Nady/Swisher, Gardner.

4 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 27, 2009 2:47 am

[3] Counting the games..I like Gardner but the carriage turn back into a pumpkin real quick with him I think. Well, I like to get my cynical thoughts out now so am all glss-half-full when the season starts! (at least until Burnett gets his first tummy-ache and misses a turn..)

5 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 27, 2009 2:59 am

[4] Even for me, the above post was an apalling mix of bad typing, grammar and spelling..ah well, this time of night no one around to Banter with anyways on this lazy Friday afternoon at an empty office.. Where on earth is thelarmis?? Lost in the Blue Note archives perhaps..

6 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 27, 2009 6:52 am

Having Jeter bat lead off makes a lot of sense. His stat line between the two slots is nearly identical, so for him, it doesn't matter much, unless you think the 2-3 fewer DPs he's likely to hit into will have an impact (one side note...Johnny Damon has been extremely proficient in avoiding DPs for his whole career). Ultimately, however, it just makes sense within the configuration of the lineup as a whole, as Cliff illustrated. Also, with Damon in front of Tex/Arod, he may get more fastballs, and at this point, he probably has more HR power than Jeter, especially with the short porch in right.

Of course, there is one very big downside. This switch now makes Arod's earlier comments about Reyes a dig at the Captain!

7 ny2ca2dc   ~  Mar 27, 2009 7:00 am

[6] That bastard! ARod planned it this way all along! Muster the pitchforks; cut him!

8 monkeypants   ~  Mar 27, 2009 8:10 am

[6] Sweet--it's all A-Rod's fault retroactively. The man transcends linear time! Hah!!

9 Biscuit Pants   ~  Mar 27, 2009 8:39 am

[8] He's a regular Dr. Manhattan . . . without the dangle . . .

10 Shaun P.   ~  Mar 27, 2009 9:19 am

NoMaas also makes an excellent point, supporting Pete Abe on the Jeter leading off thing. I had no idea that Jeter led all of baseball in groundball rate last year. To back that one up further, when Jeter comes up with Gardner on first, given Gardner's speed, that should make GIDP for Jeter even less likely.

[6] Well done william!

11 Ken_P   ~  Mar 27, 2009 9:21 am

Does anybody else find it funny that when the Yankees signed Damon, one of the main arguments was that they needed a true leadoff hitter so that Jeter could reclaim his rightful number 2 slot? Where are all those people now, I wonder?

12 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 27, 2009 9:34 am

[11] More interesting to me is that many thought it would be a bad deal for the Yankees, but things have turned out pretty good (assuming Damon doesn't fall off a corcoran). Even though he didn't pan out in CF, Damon's numbers over the past three years seem pretty fair for $13mn player, especially if you give him credit for being a pretty good LF'er. Now, after the economic downturn, $13mn is too much for a player like Damon, but I don't think you can retroactively hold that against the Yankees.

13 ms october   ~  Mar 27, 2009 9:55 am

[11] one thing is when the yank's signed damon, jeter was coming off a year (2005) he slugged 450 (483 damon's first year), with 19hrs and 15gidp.
now he is coming off a year he slugged 408 with 11 hrs and 24 gidp.
i think the decline of jeter is exaggerated, but it is hard not to notice that he is not much of a power threat anymore and the gidp are getting severe.

[12] i think damon has mostly given good value. but that he didn't pan out as a cf was big - and leads back to the beltran discussion, it is been a huge blackhole for the last few years, and it may have hamstrung not getting a power hitting lf such as manny, dunn, etc. this year or others previously.

14 PJ   ~  Mar 27, 2009 10:30 am

"Not that any of that means anything."

/making fun of Cliff mode on

Whew! I'm sure glad I read all of that then!

/making fun of Cliff mode off

They look very good, in all areas! I give Girardi credit for the good camp, but I question some of his roster choices, like all of you...

I hope they can still get off to a great start, even without Alex. I believe if they stay relatively healthy (read as not more than two of three on the DL at any one time, and no serious injuries requiring 60 days or more), they should be a force to contend with from day to day, and that's all I can really ask for.

I sure hope those of you who get the chance to get to the new stadium can go without shelling out $3K for a seat! If it were me, I'd go for the $350-ish seats in section 120, and even those are quite pricey...


15 The Hawk   ~  Mar 27, 2009 11:46 am

It seems a little misleading to have DP stats for these two head to head when Jeter got more chances (I'm guessing) ... I'm sure he grounded into more, esp. last year but still.

16 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 27, 2009 11:56 am

[15] Fair point. Last year, Jeter batted with a man at least on 1st in 188 PAs, while Damon did the same in 105 PAs (I don't know the breakdown by 2 and <2 outs). Still, Damon's number of DPs is much lower than Jeter's, so I think any analysis would show the latter more prone to the twin killing (perhaps evidenced by Jeter only have a marginally lower DP rate as a lead off man: 1 per 56 PAs, instead of 1 per 46 PAs)

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