The Yankees have a sparkling 37-22 record in the wake of their 4-2 victory over the Orioles Wednesday night, and of the nine spots in their lineup, guess which has performed the worst offensively?
OK, I threw you a bit of a trick question there. The number nine spot is the worst. But the third spot, largely occupied by Mark Teixeira, ranks eighth of nine, with a .336 on-base percentage and .385 slugging percentage.
Teixeira went 2-for-5 Wednesday night, scoring a run in the sixth after a single and slamming a seventh-inning double. It didn't represent a resounding follow-up to his three-hit outing Tuesday, at a time when many Yankees fans are actively searching for sources of concern.
And so the topic is drifting away, but it's not quite gone: Should the Yankees drop Teixeira in the batting order? Will they?
The answer to the second question is "No." As for the first question, I'd say, "Not as long as the Yankees keep winning."
Although Joe Girardi and his coaching staff use statistical analysis about as thoroughly as any team in baseball, Teixeira's security at the third spot speaks more to the humans involved in the equation than any numbers.
"When you do something like that, too, you're talking about taking a guy who's been there for a long, long time and now messing with his psyche," Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long said before the game. "Not really a good idea."
Added manager Joe Girardi: "A lot of times, we look at the big picture. A lot of times, people look at the now. We have to manage people over a long haul, which makes it different."
I suppose the Yankees could flip-flop Teixeira with fifth hitter Robinson Cano, who has been the team's most valuable player so far. That wouldn't dramatically disrupt the Yankees' desire to break up their lefty hitters, at least not until (or if) Nick Johnson returns from the disabled list.
The Yankees just don't see it, though.
"There are certain guys in our lineup who we're probably not going to move," Long said. "Derek Jeter being one, Mark Teixeira being two, A-Rod being another one, Cano being another one, Posada being another one. The other ones mix and match. There's a thought there to it. A lot of good baseball minds sit down and discuss it."
Lineup construction serves as a great debate topic, yet all in all, it's overrated. It probably doesn't matter much who bats third versus who bats fifth. Any local sabermetrician will tell you that much.
The Yankees get that. They appreciate the data. Nevertheless, they argue, there's more to making a lineup than mere number-crunching.
"There are some geniuses out there - seriously, guys from Harvard - that say, 'The Yankees' lineup would score the most runs if it's done this way,' " Long said. "In the past, it would be [Jason] Giambi leading off. It doesn't make a lot of sense.
"Swisher has been brought up as a leadoff guy because he gets on base. He's not comfortable there. He wouldn't be comfortable there. Giambi wouldn't be comfortable there.
" . . . We're creatures of habit. If you do this guy in the leadoff spot, this guy in the three hole - if you're doing that a lot, you're going to lose the clubhouse. That's the last thing you want to do."
If the Yankees found themselves farther behind the Rays in the American League East, not holding the American League wild-card slot, then the matrix would change. Then the Yankees couldn't afford to be so warm and fuzzy over Teixeira's feelings.
Right now, however? With the Yankees cruising despite the struggles of their first baseman? Girardi and Long look smart by prioritizing the bigger picture.