It is time for Derek Jeter, one of the greatest players ever to wear pinstripes, to step down from the leadoff spot and return to the two hole to make room for the up and coming outfielder Brett Gardner.
There are no words to describe how incredible Jeter is, but every player reaches the point where they have peaked, the decline has possibly began, and a younger player comes along who is just better for the team looking solely at wins and losses. That player, unfortunately for Jeter, is Gardner.
The function of a leadoff hitter is to get on base and into scoring position for the center of the lineup to hopefully drive in. Looking at last year’s numbers, Gardner is the best option to lead off. Comparing the two, Gardner is the better player in nearly every major category that is vital to the ideal leadoff hitter. Keep in mind that Jeter had nearly 200 more at-bats than Gardner in 2010.
The 26-year old South Carolina native is clearly the better candidate for the leadoff spot. His type of play is tailor-made to be leading off. A high on-base percentage, ability to draw a lot of walks, work the count and the capability to steal 50+ bases are why Gardner is so perfect to be a leadoff hitter. In his 25 games in the leadoff spot in 2010, Gardner had 12 stolen bases, a .290 average and a .412 on-base percentage. If Gardner kept that going throughout the year, he would have had 78 stolen bases, a figure that would blow those of the Red Sox newly inked left fielder, Carl Crawford, out of the water.
It is a hard fact to take, but Jeter is not the best man for the job anymore. He should return to the two hole where he has enjoyed a great deal of success over his future hall-of-fame career where he will hopefully rebound from an underwhelming 2010 campaign. It is a tough move to make but it is something that is best for the team. If given a chance, Gardner could become one of the premiere leadoff hitters in the game.