Derek Jeter has his 3,000th hit. As of Sunday, the Yankees had no milestone-related reason to maximize his at-bats, and there had been a popular theory that Jeter would be dropped in the order after he reached the magic number.
But there he was on Sunday, back in the leadoff spot, right where he’ll probably be when the regular season resumes after the all-star break.
“There’s probably a good chance that he’s going to hit leadoff on Thursday,” Joe Girardi said. “Right now, he’s our leadoff hitter.”
Plenty of lineup construction research suggests that it really doesn’t matter very much. It’s the hitters that make the difference, not the order, but that doesn’t mean the question won’t linger. One way or another, the Yankees are going to have to answer it: Either they’ll stick with Jeter in the top spot, or they’ll give Brett Gardner another chance.
Right now, there’s not much reason to change. Gardner’s on-base percentage is 18 points higher than Jeters, and his batting average is five points lower. Gardner’s hit just .215/.298/.323 in 23 games as the Yankees leadoff hitter this season, while Jeter has been unusually productive — OBP of nearly .500 — when he’s led off a game. But Gardner certainly seems to be the more dynamic choice. He’s better at seeing pitches, taking a walk and creating havoc on the bases. Whether that’s enough to make a change remains to be seen.
Associated Press photo