On Ransom, and Possible Lineups Without A-Rod

According to Pete Abe, the Yankees plan to have Cody Ransom play third for the time being in A-Rod’s absence.  They might explore outside options, but seem willing to proceed with Ransom as A-Rod mends.  I don’t think it’s such a bad idea, depending on the asking price that teams may demand for a commodity teams know the Yanks need, even and especially if only short-term.  Should he play a month and hit around .270/.330, with 2-3 HR and 12-15 RBI, probably from the eighth or ninth spot, that wouldn’t be so bad from Ransom as long as the rest of the team is performing well. This story at NorthJersey.com might help explain why Ransom has seemed so calm to Pete Abe when discussing filling in at third.

To me, the others on the roster are the key.  Ransom just needs to play a steady third and chip in with some offense.  I expect the regulars to be there–Jeter, Damon, and Posada (if healthy).  The key players to me are Teixeira, who usually starts slowly and who may still bat third, Matsui, whose playing time has been significantly limited the past three years (2006: missed 111 games with the broken wrist; 2007: missed 19 games with knee problems; 2008: missed 59 games with bad knees), Cano, who was awful in the first half last year, and Nady, who has power and can hit for a decent average but doesn’t draw a lot of walks, and whom I wouldn’t expect to top last year’s .305.  Should these players start well, the Yanks stand a very good chance to make up for A-Rod’s very productive bat.  If not, the rotation will need to carry the club even more.

As the link above attests, Girardi is apparently inclined to keep Teixeira batting third even without A-Rod, leaving open the possibility that Matsui might hit cleanup.  I’d love that–if Matsui is healthy–for the guy quite simply hits and drives in runs.  Yet right now, his health is far from a given.  Posada wouldn’t be a bad clean-up hitter, either.  Plus, putting two switch hitters back-to-back would make life difficult for most teams.  With A-Rod out, Cano stands to move up.  Presuming all other parties are healthy, which is presuming a lot, an Opening Day lineup might look something like this:

  • Damon LF
  • Jeter SS
  • Teixeira 1B
  • Matsui DH
  • Posada C
  • Cano 2B
  • Nady/Swisher RF
  • Ransom 3B
  • Gardner/Melky CF

One intriguing possibility might be putting Gardner, should he be the starting CF, at lead-off and bumping all others down a spot.  The advantage of that would be the terrific speed at the top, that Damon and Jeter could handle hitting #2 and 3, and there would still be considerable power in much of the rest of the lineup while the top manufactures runners and runs.  However, doing this would mean that Gardner would have to be on base at least 1/3 of the time, and hopefully more.  Additionally, while Damon has pretty decent power, it would also make the top three spots light in the power department.  Power would essentially be sacrificed for speed.

Until Little G shows he can hit with regularity, I think it would be best to have Gardner ninth.  He would have Damon behind him after the first time up anyway, speed at the bottom as well as the top is fine with me, and it would offer a more balanced distribution of power throughout the rest of the lineup instead of having lots of pop first come with the clean-up spot, instead of the three-hole.  If Gardner were frequently on base, it would present the Yanks with a very good dilemma with the lineup.  Until the team’s speed shows it can threaten almost as consistently as its power, the lineup should be built around its core–power (broadly conceived with extra-base capability, not necessarily just home runs).  Hopefully, Gardner can win the CF job and complement a club still power-oriented.

Published in: on March 8, 2009 at 9:42 pm  Comments (8)  

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  1. I see that Girardi will probably keep Teix at 3 and have Matsui at 4 per Pete Abraham’s blog.

    Hmmm…I WAS thinking of something before I saw that. I was thinking

    Damon, Jeter, Swisher, Teix, Posada, Matsui, Ransom Cano, and Gardner.

    I know Swisher at 3 (RF) is pushing it a bit. The average isn’t the best (career .244) but he does show patience. (97, 100 and 82 walks in the past three years). That patience could enable Damon and Jeter to run. Plus he takes pitches in front of Teix, enabling Teix to see more pitches. Although not a 100 RBI guy, Swisher did go 35/95 a few years ago and has put up 21-35-22 and 24 HR. The other reason I set this up is to have switch hitters at 3-4 and 5 to drive the other team and manager crazy. I put Cano 8th for two reasons. One, to split up the lefty bats. Two, to split up Ransom and Gardner so that the bottom has a little beef. He protects both of them.

    But if Girardi keeps Teix at 3, it matters little.

  2. If Swisher’s average were better Mike, I’d be for his batting third. As it stands, though I pegged Swisher to be low in the order, one could make the case for his being higher because of his terrific patience. His Spring OBP of .474 is outstanding, almost all because of his walks. But with his hitting still sluggish, I’d put him lower. He could still be 5th or 6th and be productive. I wouldn’t mind Matsui batting third, but feel he’d be better suited 4th or 5th behind Teixeira and/or Posada, for them all to benefit from each other’s protection.

    I see why you’d want Cano eighth in such a lineup, since we saw how weak 7-8-9 lineup bottoms can be rally killers and goose-egg producers. But while I like Ransom, my concern is whether or not he can consistently deliver with the batters ahead of him on base. Other than a good deal of last year, Cano historically has.

    I think what a lot of this discussion shows is how crucial the role players will be to the Yanks success–Ransom, Swisher, and Gardner (or Melky, preferably the former). Turning over the bottom of the lineup is so important. If Gardner can be a de facto lead-off hitter from the nine-spot, the Yanks will have something good going. They need to minimize the dead spots, and last year’s team had a few at any given time. They never clicked for any prolonged period. That has to change, and can even without A-Rod.

  3. Swisher’s average bothers me too. But it was that or Cano third and Cano’s lack of walks bothered me. There’s always Posada, but I didn’t want that.

  4. Yeah Mike, there’s no way I’d put Cano third either. Once he shows he can take walks, great. But we’re still waiting for that. I agree about not putting Posada there for the same reason I would be reluctant to put Matsui third. I don’t think Matsui is as slow as Posada even with bad knees–who is? I think Jose Molina may give Posada a good race. But Posada and Matsui just don’t have the speed I’d like to see in the three-hole. Teixeira is no speedster but is mobile enough, and a bit more than they. Maybe Matsui’s knees will be decent enough since he’ll DH most of the time. But I’d really rather not have the top third of the lineup dragged down on the base paths if at all possible.

  5. Gardner must be reading and thinking he is a #3 hitter. LOL 🙂 Another HR today? What’s that about?

  6. It’s great stuff Mike. Just great. I’d like to see some work out there (i.e. media story) about some possible off-season focus on his using his lower body to drive the ball, something he needed to develop last season, or any other adjustments. I just love how he’s thrown himself into the CF hunt. It’s very encouraging. Imagine if he can be a guy to steadily get on base. As you know well, the Yanks would have a rather different, and very positive, make-up. The home run pace is unsustainable, but I’d be more than happy if those ST homers become regular-season extra-base hits. He’s driving the ball, a huge addition to his game.

    I’m thrilled for the guy, and for what potential he may hold for the Yanks.

  7. …and as we know, if he gets gap power and hits those gaps, it’s not two….it’s three bases.

  8. Exactly, Mike. That’s why I phrased it generally, extra bases. With Gardner, ANYTHING can become extra bases, and gap power is as you mention good for a triple (or a Granderson, which I’d gladly change to a Gardner if and when the time comes). Guys like Gardner remind me of Willie Wilson, with whom nothing could be misplayed. If it went 10 feet away from an outfielder, if the ball caromed even lightly off a leg, if it was blooped, that was two automatically. If it hit the gap, especially on the turf they had in KC then, count on three–if not his thinking inside-the-park homer. If Gardner can achieve gap power, his hits will put the Yanks in a position where, at worst, productive outs mean a run.

    Melky just doesn’t add that; not even close. I’ve got to thank you for introducing me to Little G, Mike. I’m totally partisan in the CF race, I’ll admit it.

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