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Derek Jeter: Should He Hit Leadoff When He Returns?

Derek Jeter has reportedly resumed workouts in Tampa, Fla. as he moves closer to returning from the calf strain that landed him on the disabled list. Jeter is eligible to come off the disabled list June 29, and should return right around that time if he does not suffer any setbacks.

The Yankee Captain will, of course, immediately resume his everyday duties at shortstop. The question manager Joe Girardi is already being asked is whether or not Jeter will also resume batting leadoff. Girardi has indicated that he will.

The question has to be asked not only because Jeter is hitting a pedestrian .260 with a .324 on-base percentage as he approaches the 3,000-hit plateau, but because of the way left fielder Brett Gardner is playing when he is in the lineup.

After a horrid start, Gardner is hitting .292 with a .371 OBP. He is hitting .415 in June and .467 the last seven days. With Jeter out Gardner, a lefty hitter, has been leading off against right-handed pitching and has been thriving. Gardner also has 14 stolen bases.

So, Girardi's protestations aside, is it time for the Yankees to move Jeter down in the lineup -- at least whenever Gardner is in it?

A cursory glance at the numbers shows that Gardner is having a better year, ad we know he has more speed. So, the inclination might be to quickly say yes -- move Jeter to the seven or eight-hole and let Gardner lead off.

I believe the Yankees will, eventually, move Jeter out of that leadoff spot. I don't believe, however, that they will consider it before he reaches 3,000 hits, becoming the first player to amass that total as a Yankee. Thing is, a deeper look at the numbers shows that despite Gardner's hot hitting the Yankees can make a valid statistical argument for leaving Jeter at the top of the lineup and Gardner at the bottom.

The Yankees have outscored their opponents, 103-61, in the first two innings of games this season. Jeter has had a lot to do with that.

  • Leading off games, which he has done 53 times in 2011, Jeter is hitting .391 with a .472 on-base percentage. Gardner has led off games 13 times this season and has hit just .167 with a .231 OBP and only two runs scored.
  • Leading off innings, including both the first inning and any other time Jeter or Gardner has led off, the numbers are virtually identical Overall, Jeter has a .344 batting average and .410 OBP with 19 runs scored leading off innings. Gardner has an identical .344 average with a .420 OBP with 13 runs scored in 46 plate appearances leading off innings.
  • Overall, Jeter is hitting .270 while batting first in the lineup with a .336 OBP. Gardner is hitting .255 with a .317 OBP.

For more than a decade, Jeter has been looked at as the guy who sets the tone for the Yankees. Despite the overall decline in his numbers the case can obviously be made that he is still doing just that, and that there really isn't much to be gained offensively flip-flopping Gardner and Jeter.

Your thoughts, Yankees fans?