Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Optimizing The Platoon-Heavy Lineup

The announcement of the Mark Teixeira injury was the latest blow in the battle between the baseball gods and the health of the Yankee players, one that will leave the lineup even shorter and less flexible than it already was with Teix still active.  The Yankees made a move to add Steve Pearce to the roster yesterday, but that's hardly enough to make up for the loss of Teix in the middle of the order.  A post by Mike Axisa on RAB yesterday on how the Yankees can go about managing the lineup with Teix and A-Rod out caught my attention, in particular Mike's idea of just playing to the platoon splits:

"With Teixeira out of the lineup, the Yankees would have four players for four spots against righties — Dickerson, Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez, and Eric Chavez. Chavez has to play third and Ichiro an outfield corner; that’s the easy part. Having Dickerson around allows them to keep Ibanez at DH and put Dickerson in the other outfield corner while the switch-hitting Nick Swisher plays first. Against lefties they would have Andruw Jones, Casey McGehee, Jayson Nix, and the recently-acquired Steve Pearce for those same four positions: Jones at DH, McGehee at third, Nix in left, and Pearce at first with Swisher in his usual right field."

It's not ideal in the sense that there will be a lot of guys not getting regular at-bats, but with the collection of slightly-below to slightly-above average platoon hitters the Yankees have at the moment, it's probably the best option to maximize the lineup's output potential.  If you'll allow me a moment to put on my manager pants, here's how I would build off of Mike's suggestion and create the 2 platoon lineups.

Lineup vs. RHP:

1) Jeter- SS
2) Swish- 1B
3) Cano- 2B
4) C-Grand- CF
5) Chavez- 3B
6) Ibanez- DH
7) Martin- C
8) C-Dick- RF
9) Ichiro- LF

- He still isn't swinging the bat all that well, but there's just no justification for hitting Granderson below any of the platoon guys.  With the 3 guys ahead of him all hitting well, at least he'll have opportunities to drive in more runs when he does connect.

- As long as Eric Chavez is healthy, he should hit in the 5-hole.  He had a good night at the plate the other night and is still the best run-producing option out of the non-Cano or C-Grand lefty bats.

- The inclusion of C-Dick gives the Yankees a pretty good defensive outfield, something they really haven't had all season since Gardner went down in April.

- As bad as he's been, I'd still put Martin 7th just to break up the train of lefties and give the opposing manager something to think about if/when he tries to go LOOGY against the bottom of the order late in a game.

Lineup vs. LHP:

1) Jeter- SS
2) Swish- RF
3) Cano- 2B
4) Jones- DH
5) C-Grand- CF
6) Pearce- 1B
7) Martin- C
8) Nix- 3B
9) Ichiro- LF

- The Yanks ruined Mike's dual-platoon scenario by sending McGehee down to make room for Pearce on the roster, so unfortunately they are going to have to put at least one left-handed hitter in the lineup against LHP.

- That being the case, I would go with Ichiro.  He doesn't hit lefties worth a lick, but he can still play defense and can still be a threat on the basepaths if he does get on.

- Andruw Jones needs to wake the hell up, and hitting behind Cano should help that.  Even having a down year against southpaws, Cano still gives pitchers something to think about and there could be situations where they'll pitch him more carefully, which could give Jones some pitches to hit in situations with runners on.

Jeter, Swish, and Cano are the clear-cut 1-3 hitters in any lineup card Joe writes up right now, but the rest of the spots behind them are going to be interchangeable until A-Rod a/o Teix come back.  The upcoming roster expansion will give the Yankees more options, but even those options aren't enough to make up for the loss of power in the middle of the order.  The best thing they can do is try to keep the lineup as deep and balanced as possible and make up for a shorter batting order by having good defensive teams on the field.

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