Saturday, February 26, 2011

Robinson Cano Should Bat Third

Spring Training games are often meaningless. The regular players don't often play at the same time (especially with split squads) and they don't play the entire game. As a result, often the team that wins is the one with better rookie or second tier players and pitchers. But today, the Yankees played their first game of the spring and all of the regulars filled the line up (except for Cervelli at catcher) and it was telling that the Yankees still penciled Robinson Cano into the Number 5 slot. That slot made sense last year as he had to prove he could handle such a move and boy did he ever. But now that Cano has proven that he is one of the best players in the game, he should be batting third in the batting order.

And the Fan's reasoning isn't because the third position in the batting order gets roughly fifty more plate appearances a year than the fifth place batter. That would really only account for three or four more hits over the course of the season (assuming Cano hits around .320 and Teixeira hits .270). And it's not really because it would make the Yankees more formidable in the first inning, though that is important. The Fan's reasoning is that you want your third hole to contain your most dynamic and consistent hitter. And that's what Cano is on this team of superstars.

The main reason for this assessment is simply that it assumes Cano's rightful place as the Yankees' most dangerous hitter and in this writer's judgement, gives them a better line up. Here's why: Say you bat Gardner first (which the Yankees should do) and bat Jeter second. Then you have left, right, left, right with your first four slots assuming that Jeter is followed by Cano and then A-Rod. A-Rod protects Cano, who led the team in intentional walks in 2010, and Teixeira protects A-Rod. If any two of the first three batters get on (or all three), there is all kinds of speed to deal with and all A-Rod has to do is put the ball in play and watch everyone run. If you leave Cano in the fifth spot, he will be walked in a tight spot because managers will fear anyone in the Yankee line up from the sixth position on less than they fear Cano. With Cano in the third spot, he can always be aggressive and that's exactly when he's the most dangerous.

The ironclad line up of Teixeira batting third and A-Rod fourth is giving them only one or two batters at most to drive in. Put Cano in front of them and it can be two or three. Isn't that what you want for your sluggers? Teixeira isn't the best Yankee hitter. Cano is. So why is Teixeira anchored in the third spot? Plus, this Fan really believes A-Rod is going to have a big year. Cano has a better chance of getting on base than Teixeira does and that's who should be in front of your big RBI guy.

The Yankee line up is circular. There is a richness of hitting one through nine. So there is no chance you are going to make everyone happy. Granderson would be a Number 2 hitter on most teams or somewhere in the middle. With the Yankees, he has to bat anywhere from six to nine. The same is true for Posada at DH, Swisher in right field and Martin at catcher (assuming he gets physically well enough to play which this Fan is starting to doubt). The perfect Yankee line up has to account for the left/right aspect of the batters and putting people in positions to do the most damage.

If the Fan had the line up pencil, this would be the Yankee line up:

1. Gardner (Left)
2. Jeter (Right)
3. Cano (left)
4. A-Rod (right)
5. Teixeira (switch)
6. Granderson (left)
7. Swisher (switch)
8. Posada (switch)
9. Martin/Cervelli/Montero (pretty please).

Cano is not only one of the most dynamic hitters on the Yankees, but he is one of the best in the league. Leaving him in the five hole exposes him to being walked and it means less plate appearances over the course of the season. It also means less chances for first inning damage and the deathly slow Teixeira to clog up the bases in front of A-Rod. Cano needs to bat third and it's time Girardi made that happen.

Disclaimer: Yes, the Fan agrees that Jeter should bat in the bottom of the batting order, but you know that's not going to happen, so why discuss it? But saying that, until Jeter shows he can hit like he has in the past, the Yankees should flash the hit and run sign whenever Gardner gets on base.

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