Friday, April 3, 2009

Jeter to lead off for Yankees

Since March 26th, manager Joe Girardi has been batting Yankees' captain Derek Jeter first and leftfielder Johnny Damon second. The flip-flop allows Jeter to utilize his on-base skills to create more runs and Johnny Damon to increase his run production. Girardi recently announced that the move would continue during the regular season.

Ultimately, I expect little impact on the offense. Jeter has a better career on-base percentage [OBP] than Damon [although Jeter's dipped last season with his average], but Damon clearly has more power at this phase in their careers. Girardi must be hoping that Johnny Damon's solo home runs will turn into two-run shots at least some of the time this year. And Damon is likely to still be good for 15-22 home runs this season if he is healthy.

I also expect the move to mean more runs scored for Jeter. He will get on base with nobody out more often, and this will impact his scoring opportunities especially when he can get extra-base hits. It never hurts to have a lefty up with a runner on second and nobody out. A ground ball to the right side of the infield places the runner at third and gives Mark Teixeira a chance to drive him in with a fly ball. The Yankees need to generate more offense without the solo home run, so this strikes me as a useful juggle.

Expect to see Jeter steal some more bases this season as well. Last year, he went 11 for 16 [68.8 percent], a career low in steals and attempts for a full season. But Jeter still has not lost much speed, so it is likely that with more opportunities, he will fare better. In his career he is 275 for 350 in stolen base attempts [78.6 percent].

Call me crazy, but I also expect Jeter to have a better season than he did last year. He looked much more comfortable at the plate in the second half of the season, and I attribute his early struggles to injury more than decline [Jeter has a nasty habit of getting hit in the hand with pitches because he dives out over the plate when he is getting ready to swing]. I expect his numbers to be much lower than the premium Jeter seasons [1998, 1999, 2000 and 2006 come to mind] but still considerably better than his 2008 average of .300.

And on a less baseball-influenced note, the move means that Derek Jeter will have the first Yankees' at-bat in the new Yankee Stadium. In terms of cosmic correctness, it seems only fair that the man with the most career hits at the old ballpark gets the first crack at getting the first one in the new park. And let's be real, if the last stadium was the House that Ruth Built, the new facility is the House that Jeter Built.

No comments:

Post a Comment