Should Girardi consider a lineup shuffle?

Lineup's 3-4-5 spots hitting just .174 through ALDS Game 2
10/09/2012 12:05 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Alex Rodriguez is hitting .111 with five strikeouts in the Division Series so far.(AP)
After a close loss to the Orioles in Game 2 of the ALDS, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he has no plans to shuffle his lineup for Game 3 and beyond.

Truth is, as Jon Lane mentioned earlier Tuesday, that the Yankees didn’t produce as a team on Monday night, going 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and leaving 10 on base, six of which were in that dreaded scoring position.

But going beyond that, one must look at who it is that’s leaving these runners on base, and see if maybe a shuffle could help the team break out of a RISP funk that has plagued them seemingly all season.

For the first two games, the Yankees have rolled with basically the same lineup; the only changes from Game 1 to Game 2 were Girardi flip-flopping Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson in the 7th and 8th spots and inserting Eduardo Nunez in as the DH instead of Raul Ibanez.

There is, however, certainly reason for Girardi to change his mind and make a bigger switch on Wednesday night, but in doing so, he’ll have to eschew reputation in favor of production.

The team’s hottest hitter, Robinson Cano, ended the season on a tear, and has been in the cleanup spot both nights surrounded by Alex Rodriguez hitting third and Nick Swisher hitting fifth. However, looking at both recent results and reputation, one could argue that neither seems to be the right fit fot those spots right now.

In the ALDS so far, Rodriguez is 1-for-9 with one walk and five strikeouts, while Swisher is 1-for-6 with two strikeouts, two walks and a sac fly to his credit. Twice on Monday night, both men were unable to produce in big spots with runners on, and as a microcosm of the “when it rains it pours” mentality, it was A-Rod and Swish who made the first two outs in the team’s big ninth inning in Game 1 (even if Swisher’s out was a sacrifice fly).

Even if you don’t believe that baseball is a game of “what have you done for me lately” and point to Mark Teixeira – who is 4-for-8 in the ALDS after going 4-for-his-last-32 during the season – Rodriguez and Swisher’s track records in particular aren’t the best; Swisher is now hitting .169 in 130 career post-season at-bats, while A-Rod is 10-for-59 with 17 strikeouts since his breakout 2009 postseason.

Now, it’s not fair to place all the blame just on those two; after all, stats say that Cano himself is 2-for-8 after hitting .619 in his last nine regular-season games, Curtis Granderson is just 1-for-7 with three strikeouts, and outside of his big Game 1 home run, Russell Martin is 0-for-5 with two walks.

You can’t move them all down, because someone has to hit somewhere, and Girardi understands that slumps happen.

“I believe these guys are going to come through,’’ Girardi said about his lineup after Game 2. “I believe they are going to have good at-bats. They are going to keep putting runners on and they are going to break through.’’

The Yankees did “break through” in the regular season, winning 95 games despite all the adversity they faced – but when it comes to the postseason, staying the course sometimes isn’t the best option, because eventually there won’t be a tomorrow.

Should Girardi choose to embrace that thought, then the thought of maybe moving Teixeira and/or others up while sliding Rodriguez and/or Swisher down is also one that may be of merit…because if the collective “they” fails to produce again on Wednesday night, then the fact is that Girardi and the Yankees will likely be facing that “no tomorrow” situation on Thursday.

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