Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Is It Time To Switch Brett Gardner To Leadoff?
Brett Gardner is batting 324. His OBP is .404. second highest on the Yankees, and 77 points higher than Derek Jeter. He also has 23 stolen bases, by far the highest on the Yankees.
In short, he is the perfect prototypical and perfect lead off hitter.
Over his career, Derek Jeter’s batting average when batting first or second is exactly the same: .316. However, this year, for whatever reason, Jeter is expanding his strike zone and as a result, hitting many ineffectual ground balls. His O-swing % (swinging at pitches outside the strike zone is 28.9%. up from 22.0% last year, and up from under 20% for his career. Over his career, Jeter has a .261 BA on ground balls—effecting at shooting balls through the holes, especially to the right side. However, now with Jeter expanding the strike zone, he’s reaching and hitting balls softly to the right more than ever, and his BA for ground balls is just .221. Also, he’s hitting more ground balls than ever in his career—meaning he’s keeping it on the ground, and he’s hitting them harmlessly.
Who knows why? Could very well just be a slump. It probably isn’t the inevitable decline everyone is expecting to happen to Jeter—though it could be. Doubtful as that may be, I think a switch to 2nd might suit him well.
That said, Brett Gardner has made his case to be a lead off hitter. His OBP and speed make him perfect suited for the lead off position. And for a team slumping a little lately to score runs, having Gardner lead off a game might be a catalyst to
jump start an offense that hasn’t scored more than 4 runs in the last six games and is batting .238 for the last 14 games. At least for one inning.