No one can accuse Joe Girardi of lacking creativity when it comes to filling out his lineup card. The Yankees have used so many different batting orders this season, Girardi seems to be testing the law of permutations. However, last night, the Bronx Bombers' skipper did more than just stretch the limit of his 25-man roster...he set it all the way back to 1957.
By batting David Phelps in the eighth slot, Girardi became only the fourth A.L. manager since the advent of the designated hitter to fill out a lineup with his pitcher batting higher than ninth. Although the tactic is not uncommon in the National League, and was put to particular use by Tony LaRussa, who hit his pitcher eighth in 355 games between 2007 and 2011, the sight of an American League hurler batting in front of a position player was a startling occurrence. Just ask Austin Romine.
Note: Sonnanstine batted third because of a lineup card error.
Girardi's lineup was not only unique in the context of the American League, but on a pinstriped scale, it was historical. The last time the Yankees had a pitcher bat eighth or higher, Don Larsen leapfrogged Bobby Richardson in a game against the White Sox on August 28, 1957. Unlike last night, however, no one probably batted an eye lash when Stengel revealed his batting order. That season, Larsen's OPS+ of 81 dwarfed Richardson's rate of 58, so there was good reason to promote him in the lineup.
Larsen is best known for his perfect game in the 1956 World Series, but the lefty was also one of the best hitting pitchers in team history. Among all Yankees' hurlers with at least 100 plate appearances and three-quarters of all games played as a pitcher, Larsen's career OPS+ of 89 ranks second in franchise history. His seven homers also rank fifth among franchise pitchers, and he owns the distinction of having belted a pinch hit home run. Considering his credentials as a hitter, the only thing curious about Larsen batting high in the order is why Stengel chose to elevate him on only 10 occasions during his career.
Note: Based on a minimum of 100 PAs and at least 75% games as a pitcher. Tannehill, Brockett, Ford, McGinnity, and Shantz all had a limited number of plate appearances at other positions.
With C.C. Sabathia on the mound this afternoon, what kind of lineup will emerge from Joe Girardi's infinite creativity? Maybe he'll really break the mold and bat the left hander sixth or seventh? In Sabathia's younger days, that might have been a viable option. However, since donning the pinstripes, the ace has been living off his past reputation as a productive hitter. In 17 plate appearances as a Yankee (an admittedly tiny sample), Sabathia has only managed two singles, so the only contribution Girardi should expect is from the mound. Besides, with the injury hex hovering over the team, the last thing the Yankees need is their big lefty running the bases.