‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Remember when the “dynasty years” Yankees were highly-effective outfit with Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter at the top of their order?
Once Knoblauch reached first base, he was a threat to steal. When he reached second base, he would often be driven home by Jeter’s inside-out swing to the opposite field.
In 2012, the Yankees have something better and they’re not even utilizing it. In yesterday’s doubleheader, Ichiro Suzuki went 7-for-8 and stole four bases in the Game 2 nightcap.
Even at 38, Ichiro has more life in his legs than Knoblauch had in his early 30′s. His batting skills are far superior. Knoblauch was a .272 batter in his three years with Yankees, while Ichiro is a .317 hitter since arriving in New York.
Ichiro’s Spark Is Being Underutilized
He’s proven that he can spark the Yankees. Why not move Ichiro’s spark to his accustomed leadoff role and slide Jeter into his favored number two position in the lineup?
Ichiro still has the wheels of his youth and Jeter’s bat control hasn’t suffered with age. It’s vitally important to get the first run of the game, and having these men at the top of the Yankees’ order would give them a greater opportunity to score early runs.
The Benefit Of Moving Swisher Down The Order
Currently, Nick Swisher is getting the majority of at-bats in the number two slot. Swisher’s usual proficiency at getting on base has taken a hit in a slumping 2012 season. His on-base percentage has dropped 27 points, has drawn far less walks and struck out more often compared to his 2011 statistics.
Swisher’s 131 strikeouts are far too many for a number two hitter, whose job is to put the ball in play and advance base runners. The Yankees’ offense would be better served by leading off Ichiro and placing Jeter behind him as the Bombers’ number two hitter.
Moving Swisher down the order would also break up the number of lefty batters in the Yankees’ lineup, as he is a switch-hitter. It would also lengthen the Yankees’ power threat down the lineup. Swisher’s home run and RBI numbers are strong at 20 home runs and 79 RBIs.
Ichiro’s Tremendous Statistical Surge Since Joining The Yankees
Ichiro has roughly played a third of a season with the Yankees and he’s posted impressive statistics since pulling on the pinstripes.
In 53 games as a Yankee, Ichiro has 52 hits, nine doubles, a triple, three home runs, 19 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. His combined 2012 batting average has increased 16 points and on-base percentage has risen 14 points.
Multiply Ichiro’s stats by three and you would get an idea of what his numbers would look like over a full season — 159 games, 156 hits, 27 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, 57 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.
There’s one statistic that stands out negatively, and that’s Ichiro’s runs scored as a Yankee. Since joining the Yankees, he’s only scored 16 runs in 53 games, yet he’s driven in 19 RBIs. It’s uncommon to see Ichiro with more RBIs than runs scored.
That unusually low number is due to Ichiro batting in the lower portion of the Yankees’ lineup. Move Ichiro up the order and you’ll see him scoring runs at a more regular rate.
Joe Girardi would be wise to move Ichiro to the leadoff spot and bat Jeter behind him. It might just give the Yankees a game-changer in their race to capture the AL East.
Should Girardi move Ichiro to the leadoff spot and send Swisher down in the order? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.