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
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:
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:
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.