Joe Girardi has been dealt a much different hand this season, and he hasn’t been shy about shuffling the cards. In only 18 games, the Yankees’ manager has already used 13 different lineups, and, with the return of the team’s injured stars still several weeks away, the number of different combinations is likely to increase.
If Girardi’s head is spinning, he shouldn’t expect much sympathy from Rays’ manager Joe Maddon, who has already used 17 different batting orders. Of course, Maddon is used to juggling his lineup. In 2012, the eccentric Rays’ skipper came up with 151 batting orders, with no combination used more than three times. Clearly, Girardi hasn’t been pushed to that extreme, but with a unique lineup used in over 72% of the Yankees’ games to date, there has been a lot less stability in the Bronx so far in April.
Despite representing the highest rate of variety during his tenure, Girardi’s mixing and matching in April hasn’t exactly matched the creativity of Casey Stengel. Before the Old Professor took over in 1949, filling out the lineup card was academic for Yankees’ managers. In his initial season, however, Stengel’s rate of variety nearly doubled the previous high and then gradually peaked above 80% in 1957 and 1958.
Billy Martin was known as “Casey’s Boy”, so it’s no surprise that his 1983 Yankees surpassed Stengel’s claim to the greatest percentage of unique lineups in recorded franchise history. That season, Martin used 143 different batting orders, none of which were used more than three times. In addition, every single slot in the lineup boasted at least seven different occupants. Stengel would have been proud of his protégé.
Joe Girardi played on the only other Yankees’ squad to use a different lineup in over 80% of its games. In 1996, the catcher appeared in five different spots in the batting order, giving Joe Torre the flexibility to use 131 different combinations. Current catcher Francisco Cervelli has already batted in four different slots in the order, so perhaps Girardi has been having flash backs to that season.
Note: A qualified season equals 3.1 plate appearances per team games played.
The 2013 Yankees probably won’t feature the greatest lineup diversity in franchise history, but the team could end up with the fewest qualified hitters. Although six different hitters have amassed the 56 plate appearances needed to qualify for the batting title after 18 games, considering the combination of age, injury, and platoon tendencies currently on the roster, Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner seem like the only two locks to surpass 502 trips to the plate. If no one else joins them, or even Cano and Gardner see their playing time curtailed, it would represent the fewest Yankee hitters to have a qualified season in franchise history.
Until the Yankees welcome back their full complement of players, their skipper will have to keep his pencil sharpened and eraser handy because the team’s batting order is likely to remain in flux for the foreseeable future. So, will variety be the spice of life for the 2013 Bronx Bombers, or will all the daily choices give Joe Girardi indigestion? Either way, the Yankees’ manager is going to earn his salary this season.