By Mark Simon
There comes a point at which performance overrides reputation. But the Yankees have stubbornly clung to the idea that Derek Jeter should still be hitting in the top two spots in their lineup.
It is extraordinarily tough to come up with any justification for this, with a month remaining in the season and the offense, for the most part, floundering.
Jeter currently has the second-most at-bats on the Yankees team, and he has a .629 OPS.
On almost every other major league team, the player who has the most or second-most at-bats rates as one of the team’s best offensive players or has a skill set (such as the speed of Jose Reyes of the Blue Jays, Billy Hamilton of the Reds and Dee Gordon of the Dodgers) that warrants the opportunities provided.
Within the AL East, the top two hitters in at-bats for each team are:
Every one of those players has an OPS at least 75 points better than Jeter’s.
Additionally, there are only three players who hit worse when they hit first or second overall than Jeter: Cabrera (.578 OPS as a No. 1 or No. 2 hitter), Omar Infante of the Royals (.606) and B.J. Upton of the Braves (.611).
Video review also doesn’t help Jeter’s case. One service that rates every batted ball as either hard, medium or soft has Jeter with balls that registered as hard-hit in 8.6 percent of his at-bats. That’s the second-lowest of any batting-title qualifier in the majors, ahead of only Adam Eaton of the White Sox. Jeter’s 55.5 percent “soft-hit” rate is better than only Ben Revere of the Phillies and Jean Segura of the Brewers.
It has been a rough month for Jeter, whose 0-for-4 on Thursday against the Tigers dropped his August slashline to .216/.237/.278.
Now some may ask, what’s the alternative at this point in the season?
We actually came up with one based on a simple premise: ranking the Yankees hitters by their August OPS.
A simple flip-flop of Gardner and Prado would accommodate the desire for speed at the top of the lineup, and it would get Gardner the volume of at-bats his full-season stats warrant.
It seems unlikely the Yankees would consider such maneuvering at this point in the season. And there’s plenty of debate on just how important the order of a starting lineup is. But at this point in the season, a shake-up seems like a necessity — unless you want to continue being compared to the Astros and Padres.