The Top of the Yankee Order Isn't Missing Derek Jeter

The Yankee offense is cooking without Jeter

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Gardner's getting harder to deny at the top of the lineup.

    Derek Jeter's been on the disabled list for a week now and, despite the overly somber coverage that accompanied his strained calf, the world has continued spinning.

    It may have even started spinning faster, which has been very good for the Yankee offense. That's good for Joe Girardi, obviously, but it is going to make his job more difficult at some point in the near future.

    When Jeter went on the DL it offered the Yankees the chance to look at two things that they couldn't do when he was healthy. One of those things hasn't gone well, as Eduardo Nunez seems to have fallen under some kind of spell that bars him from making consistent throws to first base.

    The other thing was a different look at the top of the order and, as you probably gleaned above, that has gone very well indeed. Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner have posted a torrid .423/.559/.654 line in the leadoff spot since Jeter got hurt, and the Yankees are scoring 6.71 runs a game in that span, up from 5.16 per game with Jeter as the regular leadoff man.

    That's a very small sample size, obviously, but two things mitigate the brief moment that we're discussing. It is the kind of sample that you'd like to keep experimenting with over a longer period of time because of how much Jeter has struggled this season and Gardner has been looking like the right man for the job for the last two months.

    After getting off to a brutal start, Gardner has been as good an on-base man as there is in all of baseball. He's hitting .344 and has a robust .422 on-base percentage since April 23rd, both of which are easily the best on the team in that period.

    Jeter is almost certainly not going to put up numbers like that once he returns to the lineup and that is going to make it very hard for Girardi to keep on putting his name on the top of the card as if no one can notice the disparity between the two players. No one expects an immediate change to the order, but once Jeter has 3,000 and a chance to get his legs under him after the injury, the questions will start coming fast and furious.

    That's tough for Girardi because one thing Jeter has proven over the years is that he doesn't take kindly to any criticism, implied or direct, of his game. Trying to manage such a move in the middle of a pennant race would be suicidal, but it might also be necessary if the team really is committed to doing everything possible to win this season. 

    At the same time, Gardner is making life very easy for Girardi. Moving Jeter simply because of Jeter is a mess for a variety of reasons that make varying amounts of sense, but moving him because there's a clear way for the Yankees to get better that has nothing to do with Jeter is the best case scenario.

    It's an easy answer for Girardi and it becomes tough for Jeter to put up much of a fight because he's always been a guy who avowed winning over personal issues. Is that enough for the Yankees to pull the trigger if the best way forward remains so clear a few weeks from now?

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.