Thursday, June 23, 2011
CINCINNATI—Ask him tomorrow and Joe Girardi’s answer will be the same as it was Tuesday and yesterday: When Derek Jeter returns to the Yankees, he is going to bat first.
“These guys have done a great job,” Girardi said of Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner, who after yesterday’s doubleheader split with the Reds are batting a combined .316 (12-for-38) in the leadoff spot since Jeter went on the disabled list. “I will put him in the leadoff spot. He has been our leadoff hitter all year.”
I re-ran CAIRO for the Yankees’ 2011 starters through yesterday to see how they project now. First, here are the team’s overall projections. I haven’t messed with run environment, but since this is a comparison in a vacuum it doesn’t matter.
Derek Jeter projects as the worst hitter on the team at this point, albeit only slightly worse than Brett Gardner and Russell Martin. I probably shouldn’t have to tell readers of this blog that using a lineup that ensures your worst hitter bats more than anyone else is not optimal.
That doesn’t mean Jeter shouldn’t leadoff some times. Here are the team’s projections vs. LHP.
|Team||Yankees||Vs. LHP Projected|
I’d forgotten how abysmal PREKL Granderson had been against lefties, although he’s bumped his projection up by about .020 wOBA against lefties this year. Jeter’s projection is very good for a leadoff hitter against LHP, and he’s actually hit slightly better than that vs. LHP so far this year (.299/.405/.403). A combination of high OBP and middling slugging is a good fit for leadoff.
The problem is that the Yankees only play about 1/3 to 1/4 of their games against lefties.
|Team||Yankees||Vs. RHP Projected|
This is the biggest problem. Jeter’s by far the worst hitter on the team vs. RHP. In general, each lineup slot gets about 0.1 PA more per game than the next one. So far this year the Yankees’ leadoff hitters have 349 PA and their #9 hitters have 279, which is effectively the same thing. So If Jeter’s getting 4.8 PA a game, the #9 hitter is getting 3.8. The Yankees have played 73 games this season, and have faced RHP in 1991 PA and LHP in 848 PA. If they face the same ratio over the rest of the year they’re looking at another 2427 PA vs. RHP and 1034 vs. LHP. I’ll use that as a proxy and say we should probably expect them to faced RHP in about 70% of their remaining 89 games. If Jeter hits leadoff and Gardner hits ninth in those games, then Jeter will come to the plate about 58 more times than Gardner. Since we have injuries/rest days etc., knock that down to about 50 PA.
The difference in run value of those 50 PA vs. RHP using Jeter and Gardner’s revised CAIRO projections vs. RHP which is calculated as Gardner wOBA vs RHP minus Jeter wOBA vs. RHP divided by 1.15 times 50 PA is 0.7 runs,
So yeah, as annoying as it is to see Jeter leading off, if he’s going to play anyway it doesn’t really matter all that much. Of course, you may think the projections overrate Jeter and/or underrate Gardner which widens the gap.
So no, batting Jeter leadoff against all pitching is not optimal, but it’s probably not going to be the reason if the Yankees fail to reach their goals this year.
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