Thursday, March 26, 2009

Forget the Exhibition Game - What About Who Starts The Yankee Stadium Home Opener on April 16th?

Earlier today, Nick excitedly posted about the previously announced starting pitchers for the Cubs vs. Yankees exhibition games on April 3 and April 4. Shortly thereafter, Joe Girardi upstaged Nick's post by announcing that CC Sabathia was starting opening day at Yankee Stadium on April 16 - idle speculation that Joba would start on opening day, be damned. According to Peter Abraham's breakdown of the first month's probable pitchers, it looks like the Yankees are already building extra off days into Joba's schedule, opening the door for Sabathia to start on April 16. It should be a memorable day in the Bronx.

Making things even more memorable, sources say that George Steinbrenner will be propped up Weekend At Bernie's style and will attend the first game at the "House That Big Stein Built." All jokes aside, he deserves to be there. Criticism over the stadium funding and the ticket prices are well deserved, but the stadium is going to be a palace - his palace.

Rounding out the day's news, Joe Girardi has apparently rediscovered his copy of Baseball Prospectus to make up for his Xavier Nady blunder. Derek Jeter batted leadoff in a Spring Training game today, while Johnny Damon followed him in the second spot of the order. Perhaps Girardi is providing the impetus that Jeter needs to stop sacrificing at bats by bunting, or hitting behind runners with disregard for his own chance of getting a hit. Jeter is still one of the best pure hitters in the league and needs to start acting like it. Wasting at bats after the leadoff guy gets on base is not the proper use of a man on pace to break the all-time hits record.

Maybe Girardi is sick of seeing Jeter hit into double plays. By batting Jeter leadoff, it is one less at bat that the possibility exists for him to do what he has recently become great at doing. Most likely, Girardi took a look at Jeter's career on base percentage of .385 and compared it to Johnny Damon's of .354. He even might have noticed that PECOTA projects Jeter to slug a measly .384 in 2009, while Johnny Damon mashes his way to a .422 slugging percentage. Whatever the reason is, Girardi got this one right.
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