DISCLAIMER: Yes, I know that the below issue is not one of the biggest problems for the 2011 Yankees. Their top 3 problems are: 1. starting pitching; 2. starting pitching; and 3. starting pitching. But it annoys me no less. So thank you for allowing me to take this space to vent. And feel free to join in.
The meat of the 2011 Yankee batting order is simply not Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. It is Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano. So why are they not our # 3 and 4 hitters?
Even more perplexing, why does Joe Girardi continue to split the fearsome Granderson-Cano duo by batting Mark Teixeira behind Granderson? What right-handed pitcher in his right mind would pitch to the AL MVP candidate when a black hole awaits behind him? If you think it is because Girardi is in love with the alternating righty-lefty lineup thing, please consider the fact that both Granderson and Cano hit better off of lefties than they do off of righties – indeed, they destroy left-handed pitching:
Granderson's 2011 splits:
vs. RHP: .270 / .385 / .562
vs. LHP: .278 / .353 / .630 (gaudy SLG fed in part by the fact that he leads the majors in HRs off lefties)
Cano's 2011 splits:
vs. RHP: .292 / .339 / .528
vs. LHP: .335 / .372 / .539
Now Teixeira's numbers vs. LHP (.309 / .392 / .586) are comparable or even better than both Cano's and Granderson's. But his numbers vs. RHP are not good enough to warrant his continued presence in the #3 slot (.220 / .324 / .469). They all but ensure that RHPs will pitch right around Granderson to go after Teix. And given how many more RHPs one faces than LHPs (consider that Teix has 401 PAs vs. RHPs and only 186 vs. LHPs), it means that about 70% of the time we get the .220/.324/.469 Teix at the plate and only 30% of the time do we get the .309/.392/.586 Teix.
On top of this, Teix is simply a streaky hitter. So while it is true that whenever he is slumping, a 5-HRs-in-6-games stretch tends to be right around the corner, it is also true that his slumps can be painfully extended – so that corner may well be 2, 5, 10, or 20 games away. By contrast, if you take pretty much any 2-week stretch of Cano's season he'll be hitting somewhere between .280 and .350 with strong slugging numbers. And the 2011 verison of Granderson is just one long hot streak.
So why does Girardi give opposing RHPs the convenient break of Mark Teixeira sandwiched between Granderson and Cano? Inertia.
In case you missed it, Mark Teixeira is compiling arguably the worst offensive season of his career. And it comes off of a 2010 season that was second only to his rookie season as the worst in his 9-year career. Because he manages to continue accumulating at least 30 HRs and 100 RBIs per season, this fact tends to get lost. But he is accumulating those numbers hitting in the cherished #3 slot of the Yankee line-up, where opportunities abound. That slot, and the extra PAs-per-season that go with it, should go to Granderson or Cano, at least until Teixeira proves again that he can be a consistent threat from both sides of the plate.
Now admittedly offense is simply not a big concern for the Yankees, so in the grand scheme of things this is quite minor, but it annoys me because like the dogged determination to keep AJ Burnett in the starting rotation, it reeks of money (or inertia) trumping merit as a way to determine who plays where. And it will annoy me more when A-Rod comes back (he still plays on this team, right??) and is automatically slotted into the clean-up spot with Teix firmly planted in the # 3 spot, further separating the Yankees' two best and most consistent hitters from one another.
The fact is that until A-Rod can stay in a lineup for more than 3 days at a time and begins to hit with power, and until Teixeira can reassert himself as a consistent threat form both sides of the plate, the Yankees line-up should be:
Gardner (yes he's cold now but his .345 OBP is fine for a leadoff man, esp. when combind with his speed)
Teix and Swish can be pretty much interchangeable depending on who is hot or you can bump Teix up when facing lefty starters, though you then know that in the late innings you are likely to get a RHP reliever inducing Teix into a rally-killing pop-fly. But as it is right now, opposing RHPs are getting a break because Yankee management doesn't seem to want to acknowledge who their best hitters are.