Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What is our ideal lineup?

Joe Torre is going to be given a wealth of hitters to score him runs. If things break his way, he could have the best lineup in baseball history. That does not mean he is without his challenges. Torre has just two regular right handed batters (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez) and one switch hitter (Jorge Posada). Beyond that, the Yankees have all left handed hitters.

Some of those left handers handle southpaws better than others. Bobby Abreu loses half his production. Robby Cano goes from a .363/.378/.581 hitter to a .287/.328/.372 hitter. Hideki Matsui loses about 50 points of OPS. Jason Giambi becomes a bench player (.213/.356/.472) against them.

Of course, there is good news. Johnny Damon pretty much hits lefties the same as righties. Derek Jeter (.339/.405/.533) and Alex Rodriguez (.301/.423/.600) kill them. Jorge Posada loses only a bit of production vs lefties.

The Yankees also have Melky Cabrera, for a young player, hit lefties pretty well (.286/.359/.365 vs .278/.361/.405 against righties) , which is a sign that he just might kill lefties in the future. Rule V pick Josh Phelps hit .288/.343/.551 against lefties.

This gives the Yankees some room to work. I don't see Joe Torre doing any real crazy lineup manuevering. It just isn't his thing. So I am going to post what I think is the optimal - and likely - "standard" lineup. After that I'm going to suggest one against lefties.

"Standard" Lineup

  1. Damon - He's leading off, even if he's be better served later in the lineup.
  2. Jeter - Maybe he realy is fit for the #2 spot? Don't mess with what's working
  3. Abreu - Right between the two big right handed hitters. Abreu will post a .410+ OBP, setting up runners for the big sluggers.
  4. Rodriguez - Arod came in to camp this year leaner, and I expect him to be meaner. His performance will look more like 2005 than 2006. With the L/R splits, he has to hit 4th.
  5. Giambi - Hopefully he takes to DH well.
  6. Matsui - His past reputation, and ability to hit LHP a little better put him above Cano.
  7. Posada - Need that switch hitter.
  8. Cano - .343 hitter batting 8th. Damn straight.
  9. Minky - I can't spell his real name.
  10. Bench - Cabrera, Phelps, Cairo
In a perfect world, I'd bat Cano 6th, but he won't. He won't get as many RBI opportunities and I would like him to, but the pressure will at least be off him.

Doug Mientkiewicz (had to copy and past his name) is an interesting figure. I have Josh Phelps making the roster over Andy Phillips. This means that Phelps and Giambi are our only alternatives to Mientkiewicz. Doug hits lefties and righties equally well - or not so well. He'll put up a reliable .350 OBP/410 Slg against them. Sucks for a 1st baseman, but his defense is the reason he is there. Against righties and when Wang is on the mound, he has to be in the lineup.

So, my lineup against lefties, when Wang is not on the mound:

  1. Damon
  2. Jeter
  3. Abreu - DH
  4. Rodriguez
  5. Matsui
  6. Phelps - 1b
  7. Posada
  8. Cano - Until he learns to hit lefties better (which usually takes until a player is 25-26), he has to sit back in the lineup
  9. Cabrera
  10. Bench: Giambi, Minky, Cairo

Yeah, Phelps moves up. I'm not totally excited about him at 1st, but it'll be a neccessity. If Wang (or if we really think it's neccessary, Pettitte or Pavano) is on the mound, personally I would sit Abreu and let Phelps DH.

When Posada sits, these lineups look significantly worse. What could the Yankees do to improve their overall situation? They could definately use a right hander who can play 1st base reasonably well (Cody Ehlers, please hurry!). Luckily, the only really dangerous starters in the AL East are Erik Bedard and Scott Kazmir. The Red Sox are all right handed, and the Blue Jays have just Chacin. The O's have Loewen, who killed the Yankees last year, but he was playing way over his head. I don't really consider Cassy Fossum much of a pitcher, period. So the Yankees lucked out.

Of course, specialized bullpens could hurt us. Joe Torre will need to bite the bullet and pinch hit for some of our better players late in games. Josh Phelps is going to need to adapt to this role.

One final note: if Andy Phillips makes the roster instead of Phelps, we get hurt a lot. He is a career .500 OPS against lefties. Sure, he can play 1st, but we need the potent bat of Phelps.