Author’s note: The last three times I tried to write a day game preview, the Yankees made last minute lineup changes. But I’m going to keep trying this anyway…
Because I spend so much time criticizing Joe “Joey Bullpen” Girardi’s bullpen mis-usage, his ineptitude with lineup setting flies under the radar.
Today’s lineup, in order is:
- Brett Gardner
- Aaron Hicks
- Aaron Judge
- Gary Sanchez
- Didi Gregorius
- Todd Frazier
- Chase Headley
- Jacoby Ellsbury
- Ronald Torreyes.
That is an awful effort by the manager. I’ll preface with a few things:
I get the Yankees have roster issues when facing left handed pitching – they aren’t very good against lefties – it isn’t really more complicated than that. That’s not Joe’s fault of course, that’s Brian Cashman’s. But that doesn’t mean Joey Lineup can’t maximize what he has. He usually doesn’t, and today’s lineup isn’t even close to what could be their best lineup and batting order.
Secondly, and as previously noted here, Gardner should not be leading off regardless of the pitcher on the mound. If you are still under the mindset of the speedy guy leads off because he’s speedy, I have bad news for you: Attempting to steal bases when your best hitters are coming up is bat shit crazy.
However, when slap hitting contact hitters are coming up, being on 2nd base is a huge advantage over being on first as you can score on a single, so a stolen base attempt is often worth the risk. (When Judge and Sanchez are coming up, it really isn’t that big of a difference if you’re on 1st or 2nd base – when Torryes is, there is a huge difference). Plus, no one has ever said “Damn, you took the bat out of Torreyes’ hands by getting thrown out trying to steal!” Gardner’s skill set – the ability to steal bases, the ability to draw walks and a little pop are very valuable in the 5th or 6th spot, mostly wasted in the leadoff spot.
Back to the roster: The Yankees have four players in today’s lineup with on base percentages below .300 against left handed pitching – Gregorius .299, Gardner .290, Headley .257 and Ellsbury .247. That’s not quite four easy outs in your lineup but it’s pretty close. Again, not Girardi’s fault but what is Girardi’s fault is putting two of the four within the first five batters of your lineup, and…
…Garrett Cooper is on the bench. I’ve been screaming from day one that Cooper needs to be in the lineup pretty much every day. There really isn’t a good reason to have either Chase Headley or Todd Frazier ahead of him on the depth chart. But on a day when you’re facing a lefty, with the aforementioned stats, having a righty with his track record on the bench makes zero sense. None. He can either DH which would put Judge in right field or he can play instead of Headley and his .257 OBP vs. lefties.
If it were me, today’s lineup would be unusual, but as I said that’s due to roster construction. That, and due to my proclivity to base decisions on data and evidence, not what John McGraw did in 1914. If you want to maximize your chances versus a left handed pitcher, this is what the batting order should be (this is with the 9 players Joey Lineup has chosen to play today – but as noted, I would have Cooper in there):
Quick notes: Frazier is a better all-around offensive player than Torreyes, hence him getting the nod to lead off despite his .326 OBP to Torreyes’ .360 vs. lefties.
I put Headley ahead of Ellsbury just to separate the lefties. Hopefully, Cooper will be hitting for one of them today at some point.
Now despite the issues of roster construction and the stats I mentioned, my lineup doesn’t look like a bad lineup to me. I think you’ve taken what could be a shit show and made it into something Drew Pomeranz may struggle with.
Thanks again to Baseball Reference for the stats.
And if you really want to understand lineup construction, read “The Book” by Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin. Or if you have a specific question as to some other aspect of my lineup I didn’t mention, ask away.