Joe Girardi finally pulled the trigger on a lineup change that many of us have been pushing for since last year. I know there has been a lot written about on various blogs suggesting that different batting orders have very little effect on the number of runs scored. However, moving Cano up to 3rd and Teixeira back to 5th has a lot of merit to it.
Cano is the best hitter on the team and belongs in the 3-hole
First off, I always like to bunch my best hitters and this year, Granderson & Cano have hands down, been the 2 most effective offensive players. It gives Cano much better protection with ARod and Teixeira batting behind him instead of Swisher and Posada. More than anyone in the Yankee lineup, Cano is the one that needs the most protection. Unlike most of the big Yankees hitters, Cano is not a patient hitter. He is not disciplined enough to take a walk or wait for his pitch when a pitcher is trying to avoid him. Teixeira in the 5-spot, is more apt to take a walk if he isn’t getting his pitch.
Tex has also lost his claim on the 3-hole. Usually, the third hitter is the best all-around hitter who hits for average and power. While Teixeira is still a big power threat, he is anything but a good all-around hitter. He’s no longer the .300 hitter he was a few yrs ago and has now hit a meager .256 & .248 over the last 2 seasons. And he’s even worse against RHP hitting a putrid .224-.325-.453 this season and .244-.342-.457 last season. Since the Tigers have all righty starters and their 3 top bullpen arms are righty also, having a guy who hit .224 vs RHP in the 3-hole is not a good look.
One part of the change that many feel is a no-no is putting two lefty hitters back to back in Granderson & Cano. And if you add in Gardner in the 9-hole it creates a L-R-L-L which would seem like a great place to bring in a lefty reliever, especially in Yankee Stadium where lefties flourish. However, in this series, I think this is a trap that I hope Jim Leyland falls into. As I mentioned earlier, Detroit has all RH starters and their top set-up men Joaquin Benoit & Al Alburqueque are RH. The Tigers have 2 lefty set-up mean, Phil Coke & Daniel Schlerth, who the Yankees have roughed up in the past. I will be ecstatic to see Leyland tap his left arm on his way to the mound in the middle innings. The L-R-L-L could be the trap that is too tempting for old Jimmy not to fall into and lead him to bring in his 8th or 9th best pitchers.
While Gardner struggles vs lefties, Jeter parties like its 1999 vs LHP, hitting .349/.423/.523 against southpaws this season. Everyone knows Granderson hit more HRs (16) vs LHP than any hitter in MLB, but does anyone know he even has a better batting average too? He hit .272/.347/.597 vs LHP and Robinson Cano is also a better hitter versus same armed pitchers going .314/.354/.525. We already know switch-hitting Tex is much better hitting from the right side and so is Nick Swisher. In fact the only hitters in the lineup who hit RHP better than LHP are ARod, Posada & Russell Martin. Posada can be pinch hit for with Montero so I am hoping to see Coke or Schlereth often in this series. Unfortunately, I think Leyland is a too good a manager to bite on this and will limit the exposure of his lefties in this series.
Tex and Swish need to hit this postseason
In any event, the new lineup puts ARod, Tex, Swisher & Posada hitting 4th thru 7th. They may be the key to this series. What do the Yankees get out of those 4 hitters? ARod is an enigma at this point. He’s looked totally out of sync the last few weeks and is clearly not 100% battling knee and thumb injuries. As I talked about in a previous article, the Yankees usually lose in the playoffs when ARod struggles and win when he hits.
Tex & Swisher are both in their 3rd seasons with NY and have both struggled in the post-season the last 2 years. Teixeira has hit .170 in 88 post-season ABs as a Yankee and Swisher’s been even worse hitting .148 in 81 ABs. They need to hit and Posada also needs to produce because he is keeping a very capable bat in Jesus Montero out of the lineup. In my opinion, the key to the series is the production the Yankees get from the middle of their lineup. On paper, the Yankees biggest edge over Detroit is that they have the deeper and more balanced lineup. But if these hitters don’t produce like they are capable then they Yanks lose that edge. So if the Yanks win this series, someone other than the top 3 in the lineup has to come through.