Brett Gardner is the Opening Day leadoff hitter for the New York Yankees. Gardner will bat leadoff for the full opening series against the Detroit Tigers, giving the Yankees a much different look at the top of their order than in 2010. Last year it was shortstop and team captain Derek Jeter who always batted leadoff, but apparently the Yankees thought it was time to make a change in order to get more base runners.
According to ESPN, manager Jo Girardi is making this change in order to play the match-ups that could present an advantage for the Yankees. Girardi cited “The job that he did against right-handed pitching last year. He was second on our club in on-base percentage. His ability to disrupt defenses, the pressure he puts on a pitching staff, his ability to score runs, we thought it is a pretty good fit. He is going to lead off on [Thursday] and we talked about Jete leading off against lefties. “
That just about says it all, meaning that Gardner will bat leadoff against right-handed starters, and Jeter will bat leadoff against left-handed starters. When Jeter bats leadoff, Gardner will be hitting ninth, and when Gardner leads off, Jeter will be in the two hole. The reasoning seems pretty obvious, as Gardner hit .287 against right-handed starters last year, but could only hit .252 against the lefties. This will definitely give the Yankees a better chance at the top of the order each night.
Some might take this as a slight to Jeter, especially after the rough season he had in 2010. Jeter hit just .270 with 10 home runs and 67 RBI to post some of the worst statistics he has had in a number of years. It started talk about whether he was aging, and that was also a talking point during the offseason contract negotiations between New York and Jeter. Now everyone seems happy, though, and Jeter is simply better suited as the No. 2 hitter against right-handers.
For Gardner, this is the chance to really break out, and he could step up to stardom during the 2011 MLB season. He was a full-time player for the Yankees in 2010 when he posted a .277 batting average and 47 stolen bases, but those are numbers that could be improved upon. He had just 32 extra base hits last year as well, but fantasy baseball team owners should expect those stats to increase quite a bit if he is given the chance to hit first in a potent Yankees lineup.
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