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New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi Fails Creative Thinking 101

The New York Yankees lineup is failing miserably with runners on base this season.  In fact, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira are hitting a combined .192 with runners in scoring position (RISP).  Those three players represent the heart of the batting order (3rd, 4th, and 5th in the lineup).  As a result, the team often finds itself on the wrong end of games they should be winning.

Take last night’s 5 – 2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles for example.  The Yankees were 1-for-9 with RISP, including 0-for-4 by the aforementioned “big three”.  The Orioles, on the other hand, were 4-for-14.  That represents the difference in the game.

Time and again it has been the same old story for the Bombers, and manager Joe Girardi has implied that this 2012 version of the New York Yankees will score its runs via the long ball.  Perhaps it is time to change things up?

On April 20, 1977 manager Billy Martin, in an effort to “jump start” his struggling offense (the team was averaging 2.6 runs per game in starting that year 2 – 8), set his batting order by pulling names from a hat.  That day the New York Yankees scored 7 runs in a win over the Toronto Blue Jays, and promptly rattled off six consecutive victories en route to a 100 win season and the world championship.

I’m not endorsing the “wisdom” in pulling names from a hat, but I do believe some creative thinking is called for in an attempt to get this year’s team to improve its hitting with runners on base.  Clearly, the current batting order just isn’t cutting it, and it is early enough in the season to turn things around.

Much has been made of Joe Girardi and his religious-like obedience to what the statistics call for in any given situation.  He keeps the information in a binder that sits on the bench next to him for easy reference, and it seems to dictate his every move on the field.

It’s time to burn the binder Joe.  Take that binder and douse it with kerosene, then light it and walk away.  Now is the moment of the season when the New York Yankees can use a “push” offensively and the binder isn’t going to provide it.

What the manager needs to do is step back, find the guys who are hitting with runners on base, and get them into positions in the lineup where their hot hands can best be utilized.

Using last night’s New York Yankees lineup as an example, rather than having Andruw Jones (.231), Jayson Nix (.154), and Chris Stewart (.222) together at the bottom of the order, spread them out so that the opposing pitcher doesn’t have the luxury of knowing that he only needs to worry about the first six hitters.

The team’s hottest hitter this season has been Derek Jeter.  With RISP the team captain is hitting .300, so get him in a natural RBI spot and temporarily move him to third in the lineup.  Curtis Granderson is blessed with both speed and power, and has experience at the top of the order.  While Jeter occupies the “three-hole”, put “Grandy” at leadoff.  Using the same personnel that Girardi did with last night’s New York Yankees lineup, here is one suggestion for kicking the offense into gear:

1. Granderson

2. J. Nix

3. Jeter

4. Cano

5. A. Jones

6. Rodriguez

7. Teixeira

8. Nick Swisher

9. Stewart

I moved Nix to the second spot because he has some speed (career 16-for-21 in stolen bases), and makes contact (has only struck out 3 times in 13 AB).  You’ll also note Andruw Jones in the fifth spot.  He is there because with runners in scoring position his batting average is .333.  It seems that he rises to the occasion with men on.  I have shifted “A-Rod”, Teixeira, and Swisher to the lower half of the order to minimize their anemic production for the time being.

Again, this is merely one suggestion to briefly make better use of the more productive men in the batting order, as well as take some of the pressure off the New York Yankees that are currently struggling.  Certainly, common sense says that hitters like Rodriguez, Teixeira, and Swisher will turn the corner and hit the way they have in better days.  Cano has already started showing signs that he has put a dismal April behind him.

Until then, what could a little “educated experimentation” hurt?  With the lineup presented above, the power is distributed among each third of the New York Yankees order, and you have the better RISP hitters in spots where they can most effectively drive in runs.

The best managers in the game often “think outside the box” and go against conventional wisdom in turning struggling offenses around.  Joe Girardi needs to ditch the precious binder and use some “feel” and imagination before it becomes too late for a New York Yankees rebound.