BTBS: Derek Jeter should bat No. 6

Over the next couple of days I’ll be optimizing MLB's best lineups by The Book. No, not the collection of traditional baseball heuristics, but an actual published book that statistically analyzes those traditional assumptions. Next up is the highest-scoring lineup as projected by ZiPS: the New York Yankees.

The 2010 Yankees Lineup

Ordered by OPS+.

I mentioned in the Phillies post that there is an argument to be made against putting either Shane Victorino or Jimmy Rollins in the leadoff spot. Today I’m going to make that argument by demoting Derek Jeter to the sixth spot, in favor of Nick Johnson in the leadoff spot.

Don't kill me yet. Here's why:

At the top of the order, getting on base is king, and while Jeter’s very good in that arena, Johnson is OBP royalty. And since Johnson will only be in the lineup against righties anyway, his offensive advantage over Jeter is even larger. Jeter has the ability to steal bases, but that ability is actually overrated in front of hitters who will walk (because a walk pushes the leadoff hitter to second base without the risk of an out) and pound out extra-base hits (often scoring the runner from first base). Jeter’s ability to steal bases would be more useful lower in the order, in front of singles hitters; not that the Yankees really have any of those on the team. In short, swapping 25 times on base for 25 stolen bases isn't a price worth paying at the leadoff spot.

Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are the two best hitters on the team, earning themselves the second and fourth spots in the lineup. Because their hitting profiles are so similar and A-Rod can handle righties as well as lefties, it doesn’t really matter where we place them. I’ll go with A-Rod batting cleanup because his stolen bases are more useful lower in the order, but if Joe Girardi wants to bat Teixeira cleanup because his horoscope mentioned bacon, so be it.

The next two best hitters go third and fifth. As this is the Yankees, they have four more "best hitters" in Jeter, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. Against righties, Cano and Granderson have the better bats, so Granderson takes the three-hole: He’s more reliant on home runs and less likely to ground into double plays. Cano hits fifth, as the Yankees have already announced.

Next comes Jeter, who can run wild on all the doubles hit by Swisher and Posada, although these three are so close that their order doesn’t matter much. (Having Jeter as low as sixth is going to get me in enough trouble, so I won’t slide him down any further.) Finally, Brett Gardner and his defensive talents set up shop in the nine hole. At least his OBP should be league average, helping roll over the lineup with plenty of runners on base for the big guns.

So says The Book:
1. Nick Johnson (L)
2. Mark Teixeira (S)
3. Curtis Granderson (L)
4. Alex Rodriguez (R)
5. Robinson Cano (L)
6. Derek Jeter (R)
7. Nick Swisher (S)
8. Jorge Posada (S)
9. Brett Gardner (L)

A longer explanation of some of the batting-order principles in The Book can be found in this article. Sky Kalkman writes for Beyond The Box Score.