Monday, October 15, 2012
Our Game 3 plan? Sit Nick Swisher
By Andrew Marchand ESPNNewYork.com
The Bleacher Creatures hurt Nick Swisher's feelings, saying some mean things this weekend. A fan favorite felt betrayed and, even though he is a big, strong professional athlete, he started a fight he can't win.
But if Swisher thought being blamed for Derek Jeter's injury or chants of goodbye were bad, the words that ought to come from manager Joe Girardi's lips should be worse.
Nick, take a seat.
Nick Swisher's postseason struggles at the plate are no secret. And his defense? See above.
The American League Championship Series isn't over, it just feels that way. The Yankees have lost two games, not four.
To win, Girardi must think outside the Binder to beat Justin Verlander and the Tigers. It starts with Swisher and managing his team like the nothing-to-lose underdog it is now.
By starting Brett Gardner, the Yankees would improve their defense in the big Comerica outfield.
"It is a possibility," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said of the move on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's The Michael Kay Show.
Since Swisher is a .167 hitter in 177 postseason at-bats anyway, including 4-for-26 (.154) this year, you really aren't losing anything offensively.
Girardi has been hesitant to start Gardner because he's taken just three major league at-bats since April due to his elbow injury. In normal circumstances, this would be a logical reason not to play him.
Still, there is logic in putting Gardner out there for Game 3, too. Gardner is 5-for-11 against Verlander. He also has walked three times against him, making his on-base percentage .571 in 16 plate appearances.
Even if the speedy Gardner can get on just once, this is the right move. He is the Yankees' biggest threat on the basepaths, giving them a better chance to win.
Swisher's career postseason on-base percentage is .284 and he is a .180 hitter (61 at-bats) against Verlander, so if Gardner failed to reach base, there is a pretty good chance it would just match what Swisher would have done -- just with better defense.
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While we are thinking radically, it is time to put Curtis Granderson on the bench, too. Granderson can't make contact.
Granderson is the Eddie Lee Wilkins of baseball. When shoot-first Wilkins played for the Knicks, we liked to say that if he passed, at all, it should count as an assist.
When Granderson actually connects bat and ball, he should be given first base. He has struck out 14 out of 26 at-bats in the playoffs. It is abysmal, making you wonder if his sight is fine. Seriously.
With Granderson seated next to Swisher, it would allow for an outfield of Gardner in left, Ichiro Suzuki in center and Raul Ibanez in right.
Ibanez is not a great defender and he is not very good against Verlander (3-for-29), but he is the hottest, most clutch hitter on the team and has to be in the lineup.
Really, we are choosing Eric Chavez over Granderson. While Granderson is hitting just .200 in 20 at-bats against Verlander, Chavez has really owned Verlander in his career. He is a .360 hitter with a .920 OPS in 20 at-bats. This season, Chavez is 6-for-10 off Verlander. Hitless in his 11 playoff at-bats so far, Chavez would be the DH for Game 3.
Why play Alex Rodriguez at third over Chavez? Well, A-Rod had a couple of good at-bats on Sunday, including a hit. A-Rod is 4-for-6 with two homers against Verlander this season. He is due to hit a home run, something he hasn't done in 93 at-bats, dating back to Sept. 14.
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To Rodriguez's left, we would love to put Eduardo Nunez in the lineup. Nunez is exciting and could make something happen. However, that could easily be something bad rather than good, so we have to stay with Jayson Nix, even if there is little chance he will do anything against Verlander. Nix has one hit in 11 at-bats against Verlander, but he is more likely to catch and throw better than Nunez.
The order of the lineup is always overrated. It is about who is in it, not necessarily when they hit. Still, this is how we would compose it:
At the top should be Ichiro (.309 in 57 at-bats versus Verlander), followed by an outside-the-box choice -- Russell Martin (.438 on-base versus Verlander in 16 plate appearances). Robinson Cano should precede Mark Teixeira, Ibanez, A-Rod, Chavez, Gardner and Nix.
This nearly preserves Girardi's love affair with a lefty-righty setup throughout.
It is a lineup that shouldn't include Swisher. A man who thought the fans' love was unconditional may have started his last game as a Yankee. He shouldn't be out there to begin Game 3.