The perils of projecting a young player

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In 2003, it seemed as though Scott Podsednik had broken out. Nine years after the Texas Rangers drafted him in the third round, he had a monster first full season in the bigs. Over 628 plate appearances he hit .314/.379/.443, ranking him second among NL center fielders in OBP and third in wOBA. It had been a long journey for Podsednik, a failed Rule 5 pick who eventually hit minor league free agency, and then waived by the team who signed him. But by 2003 Brewers fans had reason to be excited.

The production didn’t carry over to 2004, though. Podsednik, who had a .362 BABIP in 2003, saw that drop to .275 in 2004, which hampered his overall numbers. He fell to .244/.313/.364 and ranked fourth worst among qualifying NL center fielders in wOBA — and was further from the fifth worst than he was the absolute worst. He recovered to have a good season in 2005, but he’s been an inconsistent contributor since then. He had a hard time finding work in 2009, and is again many teams’ Plan B or C this winter.

Let this be a cautionary tale to those who extol the virtues of Brett Gardner. Yes, he put up good numbers in limited playing time during his first full big league season, but that’s hardly an indicator of what he’ll do next year. He had only 284 plate appearances in 2009, less than half the number of a full-time outfielder. That, plus his limited exposure in 2008, makes it difficult to project how he’ll hit in 2010. In other words, I wouldn’t buy CHONE, ZiPS, Bill James, or any other projection system on Gardner right now.

(Then again, I wouldn’t make any significant decisions based on projection engines. They might provide a good indicator of a player’s progression from year to year, but it’s nothing more than an indicator. This goes especially for young players, on whom we have much less available data.)

My main beef with the 2010 projections right now is how they assume Gardner will improve. Yes, that’s certainly possible. Many players improve in their second full major league seasons. But a player with Gardner’s skill set might find it difficult. Just look at his numbers in 2009 compared to Podsednik’s in 2003. They both had strikeout rates of around 16 percent, both had low isolated power marks (though Podsednik’s was about .020 better), and both had contact rates in the high 80s (though Gardner was about a percent better).

Podsednik and Gardner are similar in that they’re low-power, speedy center fielders who played to their strengths by taking a healthy number of walks — both had a walk rate of around 9 percent in their first full major league seasons. We often hear anecdotes of how this doesn’t bode well for the player’s future. Pitchers, unafraid of singles, will be more apt to throw strikes. Will this be true for Gardner?

It happened for Podsednik. In 2003 pitchers threw 49.8 percent of their pitches in the strike zone. In 2004 they threw him 56.2 percent in the zone. Podsednik maintained his contact rate, but predictably saw a dip in his walk percentage. He also hit far fewer line drives in 2004, dropping to 17.7 percent from 23.6 percent. That means more ground balls, which can be good, and more fly balls, detrimental for a low-power player like Podsednik. His fly ball rate rose by 3.5 percent and certainly factored in to his lower 2004 BABIP.

Brett Gardner, of course, is not Scott Podsednik. Maybe his second full season will play out differently than Podsednik’s. Maybe pitchers won’t make a similar adjustment, and Gardner can continue to walk at a good clip, allowing him to use his best asset, his speed, more frequently. But I don’t think that’s something we can count on. So many players of Gardner’s ilk — speedy, low power, mediocre contact rate — have struggled after initially succeeding.

So no, I don’t think that Gardner will be more valuable than Jason Bay in 2010. We have an idea of what Bay will produce. We do not really know what Gardner will do. Even though Gardner’s defense is easily superior to Bay’s, we still don’t have a good idea of how their offensive output will compare. I also think it’s way, way too early to just hand Gardner the center field job, especially after Melky Cabrera showed improvement in 2009. Yes, if his best case scenario plays out Gardner should get the nod over Melky. But it’s way, way, way too early to project that now. We just don’t have enough of an idea of how Gardner will produce over a full-time season.

For your own reference, here are three readily available projections on Gardner for 2010:

CHONE 357 .266 .351 .375
ZiPS 387 .253 .328 .344
Bill James 325 .277 .368 .375
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  • Brooklyn Ed

    Could Garnder play the corner OF? no right?

    • dudes

      LF no problem. Doesn’t have the arm for RF.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      Absolutely he could.

      Players who can play the corner outfield: Gardner, Melky, Hoffmann, and every single centerfielder like ever.

      You don’t want his bat in a corner, in a vacuum, but that’s irrelevant because we have an elite bat in CF in Granderson, thus offsetting any offensive negative we’d get from having an all-glove, no-hit bat typical CF bat in LF.

      • iYankees

        Agreed. It does seem inefficient, though, having an above average CF and then having a below average LF (offensively). Taking advantage of your elite bat in CF means having a good offensive guy in LF (or at least having a league average LF).

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

          Inefficient, no, not really.

          Not fully capitalizing on an available opportunity, yes. However, in order to fully capitalize on that opportunity, there must be suitable options available to choose from. There may not be.

          • iYankees

            Actually, I disagree.

            I said the current configuration is inefficient and said nothing about the Yankees ability to fix it right now. It is, as it stands, inefficient. Whether the Yankees choose to address the inefficiency tomorrow or a year from now does not change what is currently the case.

            Also, there are options available to the Yankees that are “suitable” (although our definitions of “suitable” can be different) but they may not be worth the investment (but I guess if your def of “suitable” relates to cost, then yea, there aren’t many good fits as of now). Still, that does not mean that what the Yankees currently employ isn’t an inefficient lineup. What it means is that there aren’t a bevy of acceptable options available to them to correct the inefficiency.

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

              But, if we have a substandard bat in LF (Gardner/Melky) but an above-standard bat in CF (Granderson), while it may be an inefficiency at one particular position (LF), the Yankees lineup as a whole is not an inefficient lineup, as you say.

              If the negative at one position is offset by a corresponding positive at another, the net efficiency loss may be zero.

              • iYankees

                What does this mean, exactly?

                If the team’s LF situation is not efficient, as it currently stands, then isn’t their lineup, then, not efficient? How does one have an inefficiency at one position yet does not have an inefficient lineup?

                If a spring on a clock is broken which forces the clock to provide a time that is slightly off, isn’t the clock not functioning properly (in relation to its parts)? It’s one spring, yes, but it affects the entire clock and the goals of that clock.

                Also, there are no current guarantees with regards to what Granderson will offset in LF. There are too many things to consider as of right now. We have not seen Melky play a full season in LF, we don’t know whether or not he’ll have a similar offensive year, there are a lot of things going on (we’re not even sure what Granderson’s production will be, although I expect it to be very good).

                It’s a tricky situation is all. Hard to predict.

                • pete

                  The lineup as a whole is not inefficient because Melky is not an inefficiency as a pure hitter – he’s roughly league average. A lineup whose worst hitter is not only league average, but also significantly worse than every single other hitter in that lineup, is not an inefficient lineup.

                  Certainly, having strong bats at C, SS, 2B, and CF, means that you can, in theory, create a lineup wherein all nine hitters are well above average, but such a lineup is not of such necessity that it outweighs the financial benefits (which of course are not purely financial – they correlate directly (at least for the Yanks they do) to strengthening other areas). What it comes down to is whether you think it is more important to further strengthen an area that is already a strength, like the lineup, or strengthen an area that may present a weakness, like reliable or high-upside pitching depth.

        • Kiersten

          Don’t ignore the infield and forget that we get tremendous production out of our SS and catcher. We can afford to have a below-average hitter in left.

      • Ed

        every single centerfielder like ever.

        Depends on what you call acceptable.

        Sure, any CF should be have great range for RF. But put a weak armed guy like Damon in RF and you’ll be seeing runners trying for 3rd on every ball hit to RF.

        • Steve H

          Damon used to play RF.

          • Ed

            Yeah, when he was in his early 20’s. I think it’s safe to say Damon was a better defender then than he is now.

            • andrew

              But his arm has always sucked, which was the point of your statement. Damon played RF with a weak arm. it’s happened.

  • Stryker

    I also think it’s way, way too early to just hand Gardner the center field job, especially after Melky Cabrera showed improvement in 2009.

    i wouldn’t hand gardner or cabrera the center field job. i have a feeling this granderson guy they just traded for is pretty good.

    • Tseng

      Yeah, I thought this Curtis Granderson guy or whoever was supposed to be in CF?

      • Salty Buggah

        I assume that the Yanks will put Grandy in CF IF Gardy is a starter to take advantage of his defense. If Melky starts, I think Grandy stays in CF.

        • Salty Buggah

          *put Grandy is LF

        • NDR

          I disagree. You should put your most valuable player at the most challenging end of the defensive spectrum that he can handle. The marginal (if any) upgrade in defense does not justify moving Granderson from CF.

          • andrew

            You should put your most valuable defensive player at the most challenging end of the defensive spectrum that he can handle.

            • NDR

              Not unless the difference in defense between Brett in CF/Granderson in LF is significantly greater than the reverse. Granderson is more valuable to us as a centerfielder as corner OF spots are easier to upgrade. Of course you can always move Granderson back to center if you replace Brett in mid 2010 or 2011 but why move him around for a marginal/replaceable player if he is already capable of handling CF defensively?

        • steve (different one)

          Cashman has already said Granderson is going to be the CFer.

          • Joseph Pawlikowski

            Cashman also said Bubba Crosby would be the team’s CFer.

            But Charlie said it below. That statement was based on EJ’s article.

            • steve (different one)

              come on Joe, these situations are in no way analogous.

              the Bubba Crosby thing was before he signed Damon to play CF. there will NOT be another CFer acquired.

              there *could* be another LFer acquired, in which case, Granderson is the CFer.

              all of the pieces needed to make this statement are currently in the organization.

              the proper analogy would be if Cashman said “Gardner is my CFer” and THEN traded for Granderson.

              he was specifically addressing the Garbrera in CF/Granderson in LF question when he said this.

      • Charlie

        if you read the article joe linked to with the hand gardner the CF part you will see that it proposes gardner as the everyday CF and grandy in left

    • hakeem is a novice

      .hehe 100 Grand is tremendous.

  • Charlie

    i was never a big gardner fan but that article at TYU was pretty convincing. gardner in center and grandy and right would make a nasty outfield defensively and if we could get 60 steals and a 350 OBP out of gardner that’d be great. i know theres a good chance he wouldnt be able to do that, but the idea is intriguing

  • brockdc

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure Granderson is entrenched in CF, at least for 2010. Still, I’d be interested to see what Gardner could do over 500 ABs. And if he could just learn how to keep the ball on the ground…

  • Drew

    Jason Bay>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Brett Gardner

    At this point in their career anyway.
    Is this really a debate?

    Gardner had 55 AB’s against lefties in 09.
    Bay OPS+’s 134.

    Also, for everyone clamoring over his UZR/150. He’s only had 630 innings in the OF in YSIII. That’s equivalent to 70 games. Using his UZR/150 in that fashion is reckless.

    • Drew

      Also, if the project his stats, I’d like to see what the computers projected his splits at. Again, nothing like extrapolating SSS.

      • Drew

        My bad.


    • Drew

      Man.. Please excuse all my errors it’s late, snowy and vodka keeps me warm. It was suppose to be “Bay OPS+’d” and Grit didn’t have 630 innings in Yankee Stadium, he had 630 innings in the OF in all parks combined last year.

    • Greg F.

      For what its worth, there is a ton of regression included because of the limited sample.

    • OldYanksFan

      Question: What is a better food? A fillet mignon or a potato?
      Well… if ya only have 50 cents to spend, it’s got to be the potato.

      The Yankees have what…. $170+m tied up in a dozen or so players? We need 25 guys to play the game. In order to be able to afford the high end FAs we buy, we must have a core of cheap players who are at least average, or hopefully better, to plug the holes.

      In this vain, the BP kids, Melky, Gardner, Phil and Joba are EXTREMELY valuable to this team. If you believe that the Yankees do have some kind of spending limitations, we need around 8-10 cheap kids on the team to counterbalance the salaries of the ARod, Jeter, Teixeira, CC, AJ type of contracts.

      So I don’t know if Gardy is really more valuable then Bay in a traditional sense, but he might be/could be extremely valuable to the Yankees, as all the farmhands who are good enough to make the 25 man roster are.

  • Moshe Mandel

    Totally agree, Joe. Using this small a sample to make bold conclusions about a player that often looked overmatched at the plate is dangerous.

    • Zack

      wouldnt picking specific memories of him being overmatched be considered an even SSS??

    • Jamal G.

      Reasonable and logical expectations are not bold conclusions. Based on everything Gardner has done in his professional career, what is so bold about forecasting a .350 OBP and a one-win glove in left field?

  • Greg F.

    Thanks for the link, Joe. I just find Gardner very interesting. At the same salary, I’d prefer Bay, but when everything is factored in, I’d imagine the two are closer than we all think. Basically I just want Gardner to get a chance to play everyday because there could be a lot of value there, right under our nose.

  • Doug

    unfortunately, see the ZiPS projection as the most likely. just don’t see him having an OBP above league average

  • EJ

    Podsednik is a similar type of player, but in comparing their minor league stats, Gardner seems to have better production in most major statistical categories.

    • iYankees

      I haven’t look at the numbers in-depth, but that does seem true.

  • Slugger27

    the fact that a “gardner is more valuable than bay” conversation even comes up in the blogosphere is a little silly. i personally think hes a step down from melky

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      I personally don’t think Gardner’s more valuable than Bay, no, but the conversation itself is not silly.

      We should never let the seemingly self-evident certainty of our preconceived and yet unverified notions dissuade us from attempting to verify those notions. We may be sure of things being true that are actually quite false.

      • themgmt

        Well put.

      • andrew

        The world is flat.

  • CB

    Many people are putting much, too much import, into statistical projections.

    They are trying to draw conclusions from models that simply don’t support the kind of inferences they are trying to draw.

    Professional statisticians would never put as much trust into these projections as many fans are right now.

    These articles projecting Gardner’s value are misguided.

    The key thing about linear weight models is this – they make assumptions of linearity. If that’s not the situation the analysis finds itself in then the model isn’t particularly helpful.

    • Evan

      Expound on your last point. I get what you’re saying about the mistake people make by thinking that these projections are gospel but I’m a little confused by that last bit. Are you saying that people should use a dynamic model or just that the linear model has to be much more carefully applied?

  • bonestock94

    Eh, I was getting into Gardner’s offense before the thumb injury, but after he came back his at-bats looked pretty ugly to me. Constant pop-ups. That’s the Gardner I’m expecting, hopefully I’m wrong.

    • Bronx Blogger

      With the exception of spring training, I cant remember a time when any of his at bats really impressed me. I’m sure the thumb injury didnt help, but he always seemed to be slapping at the ball regardless.

  • Will in NJ

    My beef with Brett is that throughout the year there were times when he would just stare at a strike 3 right down the middle of the plate. I’m pretty sure this happened like 10+ times. Anyone else notice this?

    • Bronx Blogger

      Yes. That irked me often. And then he would just put his bat on his shoulder and walk away.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        What else do you want the guy to do when he strikes out?

        • Drew
          • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            Heh, my bad.

      • OldYanksFan

        “And then he would just put his bat on his shoulder and walk away.”
        I know. How infuriating!
        The LEAST he could have done is thrown his bat at the pitcher or punched the umpire. WTF is up with that guy?

  • JMK THE OVERSHARE’s Glenn Beck Complex

    I might sign Brett if I were putting together a T-Ball team. But even then, he’d probably take wild hacks at the ball and miss.


  • akamgkrebs

    Stop the silliness. Melky is a better fielder than gardner, melky has a better arm than Gardner, Melky is a better hitter than Gardner, Melky is younger than Gardner and Melky has greater upside potential than Gardner.

    • Salty Buggah

      Agreed on everything except Melky being the better fielder. Gardy is hands down better

      • Salty Buggah

        Though, as some have stated, that’s based on a SSS. Based on our current info, Gardy is better

  • Jamal G.

    Although I strongly disagree, I understand your premise; however, Scott Podsednik as a comparable to Brett Gardner is not truly apt. In a Minor League career that spanned 3,339 plate appearances, Podsednik drew a walk 10% of the time, posted an OBP of .346, and an IsoD of .079. In Brett Gardner’s career down on the farm, he drew a walk 14% of the time, posted an OBP of .389, and an IsoD of .100, or – in regards to isolated discipline – what Bobby Abreu (.097) and Chone Figgins (.097) did in their respective 2009 campaigns.

    Minor League Scott Podsednik was never the hitter Minor League Brett Gardner was, and there is a reason why the latter reached the Major Leagues whilst amassing just 52% of the total amount of plate appearances the former had down on the farm.

    I strongly agree with Greg Fertel’s take that Gardner is the superior player to Jason Bay in terms of value, overall production and – in my opinion – surplus value because the numbers just bare it out. Honestly, can you unequivocally state that Bay’s superior offensive production will clearly best his gargantuan deficiencies in the departments of defense and baserunning? If not, are you willing to bet ~$15M a year for the next 4-5 years that it will?

    Other than cautious pessimism, what crutch is there to lean on that suggests Gardner will not post an above-league-average on-base average in 2010? Posting a .345 OBP in limited playing time in the Major Leagues and a .389 OBP in a Minor League career would lead one to believe that it is very much more likely than not that the aforementioned player has the ability and skill to accomplish such a task, no? A projected .350+ OBP is not something that should really be taken with any significant amount of hesitance when you consider the Minor League track record and age of the player.

    Lastly, Melky Cabrera has shown to be a league-average hitter at his finest, and just as Scott Podsednik’s ML track record revealed, the former has never been the hitter that Brett Gardner was down on the farm. I think that it is not only safe to say Gardner is a better hitter than Podsednik ever was, but also safe to predict that the former will be a better hitter than Melky Cabrera has been and likely will be.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      “Other than cautious pessimism, what crutch is there to lean on that suggests Gardner will not post an above-league-average on-base average in 2010?”

      I explained it in the article. It’s the type of hitter he is. How many players with Gardner’s skill set post .345 OBPs?

      I’d agree with Greg, too, if both Bay and Gardner hit their projections. But that’s the whole thing. I don’t take any stock in these projections, and I think it’s a dangerous analytical game to do so. I think CB explains it well above.

      • Jamal G.

        My more detailed post that answred your question was not posted for some reason, so, I’ll just re-state it in a more confined manner:

        Of the 26 outfielders that ammassed at least 350 PA’s in any season from 2007-2009 in which they posted an ISO under .100, 46% of them posted OBP’s of at least .345; and when the ISO mark is pushed to at least .110, it is 50% of the 34 qualifiers. So, the somewhat arbitrary answer to your question is about half.

      • Jamal G.

        Also, I don’t know about Greg’s mentality, but my main reason for being as bullish as I am in regards to Gardner is my difficulty in finding a valid statistical reason as to why he can not be a .350-OBP bat, one-win defender in LF in the very near future. As rudimentary as my qualifications above were, they do state that Gardner has just as much of a chance of meeting my expectations as he does failing them; however, the projection models that are available to us and Gardner’s Minor League track record are all supporting evidence for why he will at least meet said expectations.

        Like myself, you used a comparable to support your argument (you were able to find a more specific comparable, however), but, like I previously explained above, I do not think Scott Podsednik is the greatest comparable because even though they do have the same skill set, like you mentioned, Gardner’s – based on their respective track records in the minors – is far more advanced.

        Essentially, the reason I am so favorable towards Gardner’s projections is because I have not found nor been approached with any statistical evidence regarding why Gardner will fail to meet the aforementioned reasonable expectations of him in 2010.

    • steve (different one)

      Lastly, Melky Cabrera has shown to be a league-average hitter at his finest, and just as Scott Podsednik’s ML track record revealed, the former has never been the hitter that Brett Gardner was down on the farm.

      i don’t think this is very fair to melky.

      Melky was in the MAJORS at the same ages that Gardner was putting up good numbers in levels he was REPEATING.

      in fact, Melky was SO MUCH younger than Brett at every single level of the minors that I would argue that any comparison of their minor league numbers is close to meaningless.

      Gardner put up his good AA season at 23 and his good AAA season at 24. he is supposed to dominate those levels at those ages.

  • Mike Axisa

    Gardner had like a .500-something OPS after that 5-for-5 game against the Mets. Dude was molten hot for a few weeks, then cooled off and got hurt. Had he stayed healthy and played every day, he probably would have finished around .250-.310-.340.

    • Jamal G.

      Basing anything of a 284-PA sample is a bit of a reach, so don’t you think that diluting that even further to draw your conclusions is a bit much? I remember that Keith Law mentioned multiple times how Nate McLouth was being overrated because of his 257 .331 .437 from June 1st throughout the rest of the 2008 season; but, that observation proved a tad pointless as McLouth went on to hit .256/.352/.436 in 2009 and produced to the level of a near-All-Star-caliber player (3.6 WAR).

    • Ed

      He had 176 PA thru the end of the 5 for 6 game against the Mets.

      Another 55 PA after the Mets game and before getting hurt.

      And 53 more PA after returning from injury.

      How can you pull a 55 PA stretch out of an already small 284 PA sample and make an extrapolation with any meaning?

      If you pull his 2008 performance into the picture as well, you can say he alternates between cold and hot stretches of about 1-1.5 months, so if he didn’t get hurt he was due for another hot streak.

      His 2009 was just too small to make any conclusions. Especially with being reduced to a bench role after the injury.

  • BklynJT

    Gotta love Gardner’s defense in CF though. I know its only 1 year, but he definitely looks like an elite defender in CF. Reminds me of a Jacoby Ellsbury, little worse bat but much better defender.

    By the way, does anyone subscribe to bill james handbook who can provide Curtis Grandersons plus/minus defense stats from this past year. I would like to see how it compares to his 1.9 Uzr/150 from this past year.

    • JMK THE OVERSHARE’s Glenn Beck Complex

      Not even a year.

      • Drew

        934 innings= not even 104 games.

    • whozat

      Comparing Gardner to another CFer who’s fast but actually bad at turning balls hit to CF into outs doesn’t say much that’s good about Brett.

      • BklynJT

        I wasn’t using the comparison of Gardner to Ellsbury to justify any opinion of mine. I just linked the article because it has videos of Gardner making great plays in CF. Yes, it’s an extremely small sample size, but based on all the scouts, projections, statistics, and actually seeing him play CF, he definitely seems like a great defensive CF to me. Defensive ability normally does not slump fluctuate like hitting, so I would not expect Gardner’s fielding to get worse.

        • whozat

          It has videos of Gardner making _exciting looking_ plays. That doesn’t mean they were great. Is it a great play if you get a shitty read, take a shitty route, and then make the catch diving? Or is it your footspeed making up for the fact that your instincts are bad?

          In the sample sizes we have, Tacoby has been mediocre at turning balls into play into outs, and Brett has been good. They both, however, have shown that they’re relying on their speed to make up for either inexperience or bad baseball instincts. It remains to be seen if Gardner will turn out to be Ellsbury-light (his defense AND bat get exposed as not-so-great), or if he continues to bear out his SSS excellent defensive numbers — at least.

    • Jamal G.

      Granderson was +16 in 2007, -9 in 2008, and +15 in 2009. Also, FWIW, he was voted as the third-best defensive CF in MLB by the voters of the annual Fielding Bible Awards (Franklin Gutierrez was 1st; Carlos Gomez was 2nd).

      • Jamal G.

        Sorry, he was -7 in 2008.

      • BklynJT

        That’s interesting information

        UZR/150 from 07-09: 12.9/-9.4/1.6
        plus/minus from 07-09: +16, -9, +15

        So he made 15 more plays in CF but only has a +1.6 uzr/150 to show for it in ’09, as compared to +16/12.9 for ’07.

        I’m starting to like this plus/minus system much better than the UZR/150.

  • Ed

    An argument for why a Gardner/Podsednik comparison is bad:

    Podsednik was signed out of high school, but didn’t get any meaningful playing time in the majors until he was 27. He spent a *long* time in the minors and finally earned time in the majors when he hit his peak years. Guys that make the majors that late rarely have good careers.

    Gardner was drafted out of college and got significant playing time in the majors when he was 24. That’s a normal career path which usually leads to a few years of growth before hitting your prime.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      It’s not a comparison. It’s a story to illustrate a point. They had different paths to the bigs, but Pods and Gardner have a similar skill set.

      • Joseph Pawlikowski

        So it was a comparison, I guess. But again, it’s based on skill set.

        • Ed

          I knew what you were getting at. Just throwing out a different take on it for argument’s sake.

  • akamgkrebs

    On the same fly ball that Melky makes a catch that looks routine, Gardner has to make a spectacular play because he can’t track a ball off a bat.

    • DGeezy

      I haven’t seen too much of that, I have seen him make catches in CF that melky wouldnt even be able to get to.

      • OldYanksFan

        Speed Kills.
        Remember that Bernie, in his prime, wasn’t great on balls-off-the-bat, but was ultimately able to track them down.

        Just ONE step is a huge difference between making/not making a play. Great speed is a huge advantage for a CFer. I believe Gardy could improve his first step reaction time, but he is still excellent in the field, and may get better.

    • Bonos

      I don’t understand this Melky love/Gardner put down. So other teams want Gardner for center field and not Melky. Does that mean they want the lesser player? UZR rates Melky as average and Gardner as superior. Is this a misprint? Why this passion about Melky? Melky might improve next year but Gardner was in his rookie year and did all right. Will he improve on his stats next year? Damned if I know. Prior to his injury I thought that he was developing nicely. When he came back, the windmill swing was back. Now either he regressed or the thumb was still hurting. What Gardner will become next year, no one knows, I think it would make sense to find out which Gardner shows up. If nothing else it might improve his trade value. Extolling the virtues of Melky, meh.

      • Joseph Pawlikowski

        Gardner’s UZR sample size is far too small to draw any meaningful conclusions from it.

        • Drew

          Thank you. So many people decide to ignore this.

        • Bonos

          You’ll get no argument from me on the small sample size. All I saw with Gardner was bad positioning at the beginning which caused him problems tracking flyballs, maybe it was rookie mistakes. My point is that it is too early to make a decision on Gardner. To me the Yankees minor league program is at fault. Why they allowed Gardner to advance to the Majors without working on his swing ie incorporating his body is a cardinal sin. But even if his swing improves can he adjust to the pitching adjusting to him? I saw intriguing flashes of ability at the plate and the speed speaks for itself.

        • themgmt

          His sample size is small yes. But with multiple samples showing a consistent mean, it can be said with a certain degree of confidence that his numbers are in an elite range

        • TeamBoras

          Yeah but its not like its close. ITs not like Melky’s URZ is +1 and Gardners is +5. If Gardner is 1/5th the fielder URZ says he is he is > Melky

          Same goes for Gardners arm.

          Since the beginning of the 2008 season, here are the top outfield throwing arms, by ARM rating.

          1. Hunter Pence, +11.1
          2. Matt Kemp, +10.8
          3. Ryan Ludwick, +9.0
          4. Nick Markakis, +9.0
          5. Brett Gardner, +8.4

          Now, here are the innings totals for those same five players.

          Pence, 2,081
          Kemp, 2,039
          Ludwick, 1,701
          Markakis, 2,095
          Gardner, 745

          If he plays full time and his arm rate slows by half he is still elite. If it slows by 1/4th its still > Melky

          • steve (different one)

            those throwing numbers for Gardner have to be less than meaningless. how many plays could that possibly encompass?

    • BklynJT

      I didn’t know this was a knock on Gardner. I thought he took rather good routes to the ball. I always thought that was the knock on Melky’s fielding.

      • Bonos

        Stats are after the fact and indicators (probabilites)not a forecast. A player would tend to improve in the field after his rookie year. As to Gardner’s swing, he didn’t use his lower body, when he did he looked good. Post injury he looked terrible at the plate.

  • BigBlueAL

    I cant stand watching Gardner’s at-bats. He might have the ugliest/pussiest swing in the MLB. The man is fast as shit though and after what to me was some bad defense in the early months (April-May) he really did look great defensively in the 2nd half.

    No matter what though I will always say he sucks. :-)

    • OldYanksFan

      Ever hear of Matty Alou?
      Gardy is both faster and more powerful then Matty.
      But Matty was VERY smart and knew his strengths and weaknesses, and played to his strengths. He was also a good bunter.
      Melky is more talented then Brett, but Melky is the poster boy for Baseball Stupid, and continues to underperform for his ability.
      A lot of what Brett turns into will be dependent on how smart he is. Playing Smart is very important in my view. It is the 6th tool.

      • steve (different one)

        Melky had a 99 OPS+ last year and played slightly above average CF. in his age 25 season.

        how is this underperforming? since he’s not a superstar talent, it seems to me that he is finally starting to maximize his abilities to be an average-ish player.

        this smart/stupid assessment just seems like you’re trying to fit in your preconcieved notions about each guy.

  • akamgkrebs

    No, Melky would get to them because he gets a better jump; Gardner hesitates before he starts to move.

    • Bonos

      Obviously UZR lies, there is a conspiracy.

      • Drew

        Again, use Gardy’s UZR/150 with caution.

        It’s like using his 79 AB’s vs lefties as a fact for what his numbers will be in the future.

        It’s a super small sample size that cannot be relied upon.

        • Drew

          BTW, I’m not saying you’re wrong. It’s impossible for us to go by eye and declare Melky good off the bat and Grit bad off the bat. It’s not like we have a 9 inning cam strictly focused on the CFer. Even then, it’s tough to judge.

          • OldYanksFan

            You are correct. Is anyone a little surprised that televised games, when they slow a replay, do NOT use a split screen of batter/fielder, so we can better see the relationship between the ball hitting the bat and the fielder starting to move?

  • akamgkrebs

    I would suggest that the reason you didn’t see much of it from Gardner in the second half is that he didn’t play much in the second half.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      Please use the reply button when replying to someone’s comment.

      • akamgkrebs


  • jim p

    Juan Rivera. Didn’t he like, suck, for years and then recently blossom? It does happen.

  • Drew

    One other thing about Grit. It’s a bit outside of the box but bear with me.

    A good number of his hits come from the infield. Essentially, grounders that would be outs for 85%(total guess) of players in the game.

    Now that you have that in your head, imagine when Grit is up with a man on first. All of a sudden, that infield hit that he so often relies upon is out the window. That infield hit is now a fielder’s choice.

    Just a thought but I’ve had it banging around in my head for a while now.

  • Ellis

    If we’re comparing Gardner to Podsednik, why not just compare him to Juan Pierre? It looks like this article has cherry-picked a guy with a similar skill set and a dwindling career.

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Pierre: 109
      Podsednik: 103
      Pierre: 94
      Podsednik: 95

      Joe picked a guy with a similar skill-set and compared him to Gardner, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. The same comparison could be made with Pierre instead of Podsednik, since Pierre’s not much better at the plate than Podsednik. Nobody’s saying Gardner and Podsednik will have identical careers, but looking at a guy with a similar skill-set, especially when we don’t have a lot of MLB stats to go by for Gardner, can help us decide what we might expect out of Gardner.

      The only person here who tried to cherry-pick a player to whom we should compare Gardner in order to make a point is you, and the guy you cherry-picked is basically an offensive facsimile of Podsednik anyway. I’m not sure what you think you’re proving by bringing Pierre into this conversation.

      • Ellis

        Pierre is an offensive facsimile of Podsednik? Pierre’s a career .301 hitter with a couple 200-hit seasons; Pod’s not close to that.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Career OBP/SLG/OPS

          Pierre: .348/.372/.720
          Podsednik: .340/.381/.721

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      I thought about Pierre, but he makes way more contact than Gardner.

    • steve (different one)

      also, scouting 101: players may only be compared to players of the same race.

      thus A-Jax was a poor man’s Cameron, Hunter without as much power, Cecil Fieler’s right leg, etc.

  • Ellis

    Most importantly: Gardner might really surprise us out there and improve. We know what we’re getting with Melky – below average offense and defense. There is no advantage to starting Melky, ever.

    • Drew

      Ugh.. I’m not going to get into this in detail at this point in the night but…

      The older Brett Gardner can possibly improve, but the 25 yr old Melky cannot.
      You know exactly what you’re getting. Okay, just wanted to make sure we’re clear.

      Year 24 = As good as it gets for Melky
      Year 25 = Just the beginning for Brett Gardner

      • Bonos

        I don’t think you can use age as an argument. Melky has been a professional since age 16. Gardner was a walk on at a small college. I would contend that Gardner is still developing.

        • Drew

          I would contend that just because you pull a prospect up to the majors at age 21 does not mean that he is finished developing mentally and physically at age 24.

          If that were the case, we may as well call all our prospects up at age 21. If they’re not above average after their year 24 season then we should cut the cord.

          This Melky has been around since he was a kid so he is what he is nonsense really should stop.

          Most players develop their power in their mid to late 20’s. Melky was 24 for most of last season.

          • OldYanksFan

            I think they are both capable of improvement, but Gardner has had a LOT less playing experience, especially at the MLB level, while Melky has shown a reluctence to examine his weaknesses and improve on them. It could still happen for Melky. One minor head injury could turn him around.

            • steve (different one)

              while Melky has shown a reluctence to examine his weaknesses and improve on them

              can you back this up with, like, anything?

              • Spaceman.Spiff

                See Lazy Dominican™

    • akamgkrebs

      Only that Melky is a better hitter, has more power, is a better fielder, has a better arm, hit better in late innings in close games than 75% of MLB full time CFs last year, is younger & has more upside potential; and that Gardner’s speed is best used off the bench as a pinch runner.

      • Bonos

        Boy, that Melky is a pistol. And in his spare time he cures illness when he’s not starring in peanut munching. Okay, I yield, mea culpa.

      • gxpanos

        Yeah, love that speed off the bench. He killed it in the ALCS!

        (SSS I know, but man did he piss me off going 0-2.)

        • akamgkrebs

          yeah, I guess we should start him because he was lousy off the bench too.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      Actually, Melky was average on both offense and defense in 2009. So no, they don’t know they’re getting below average production.

  • Ellis

    P.S. Have you all read this FanGraph’s article about Gardner’s arm?

    Quote: If Gardner really does have one of the best throwing arms in baseball, then there’s really no way that New York can justify keeping him out of the starting line-up on a regular basis. He’s already one of the best base stealers in the game (30 for 33), and his +10.6 range runs 600 innings as a major league center fielder suggest he might be an elite defensive player even without the crazy throwing.

    Who’s with me!! Start Gardner every day, please!

    • Drew

      I’m not with you and Gardy does not have one of the best throwing arms in baseball.

      Dude hasn’t even amassed enough innings to account for 105 games. His statistics are incomplete.

      • akamgkrebs

        gee, I thought this was a joke. Gardner has one of the worst arms in baseball; Damon & Gardner are twins, as far as an arm is concerned.

    • Zack

      P.S. You also took that out of context

      Prior Paragraph: I haven’t seen Gardner throw enough to know whether the Yankee fans who filled out the Fans Scouting Report were blind or if Gardner is just taking advantage of a bad scouting report on him around the league. So, Yankee fans, help me out here – is Gardner’s ARM rating just a crazy fluke or did he steal Francoeur’s arm over the winter?

      • Sleepy Carl

        Yeah, all it is saying is that in a very small sample size, Gardner has gotten the ball in quickly with accuracy. It by no means indicates that he has a cannon, or he will maintain accuracy over an extended period.

        • Bonos

          It by no means indicates that he has a cannon, or he will maintain accuracy over an extended period.
          If you can throw accurately, you can continue – it’s not a skill that deteriorates.

    • Hughesus Cristo

      Gardner’s arm is average, but he’s very disciplined, makes accurate throws, and was getting run on a lot last year.

      Gardbrera is such a good combo because they are like day and night.

      • akamgkrebs

        I partially agree. Gardner does try to charge the ball quickly & get momentum behind his throw; but he has a below average arm.

  • Sleepy Carl

    I’m a pretty big Gardner apologist, but I totally understand all questions against him. I just like the dimension he brings, IF he where to become the OBP guy he was in the minors. I by no means am suggesting he should be the starter, just saying I like what he could become. It’s been awhile since the Yanks had a SB threat like him (but lets face it, they don’t need to run much the way they hit). I guess I would like him to become a suitable player next year to hit the 9 hole and see Jeter dominate the hit and run for the year, preventing double plays.

    • akamgkrebs

      Thanks for your honesty. But there’s a difference between hoping for something to happen & having a reasonable expectation. It’s just that Melky is better now, and is likely to be better than Gardner in the future.

      • sleepykarl

        I completely agree. I wasn’t objecting to that by any means. I was just saying I like what he could bring, not saying he will do it, or should be the starter.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        2009 wRC+
        Cabrera: 102
        Gardner: 107

        2009 WAR
        Cabrera: 1.6
        Gardner: 2.1

        We only have a SSS for Gardner, so it’s tough to use his numbers to project what he’ll do in the future… But if we’re going to draw any conclusions from those SSS numbers, I’m not sure how the conclusion to be drawn is that Melky is the better hitter or better player.

        I’m not saying Gardner is the better player, but you really have to stop saying Melky is the better player as if it’s some clear, inarguable conclusion. That’s just your opinion, and you have zero statistical evidence that your opinion is accurate.

    • Bonos

      That’s the great thing about baseball, you don’t know how a player will develop or not. The question is can Gardner develop as a hitter? To me his arm is average but he gets to the ball so quickly that his arm plays stronger. You can’t teach speed.

      • akamgkrebs

        True. Just as you can’t teach arm strength and try to compensate with speed, you can try to compensate for lack of speed by being a smarter base runner, or getting a better jump off the bat and taking the right track to the ball.

        • Nostra-Artist

          He doesn’t possess the strongest arm, but his throws are very accurate. Mose so than Melky. Guess it comes down to which you value more, but I’d prefer accuracy, myself.

  • pollo

    Agreed Joe. Although, to be fair, no one expects anything out of Gardner except crappy 4th outfielder.

    • dalelama

      Nobody looks as pretty taking a called third strike down the middle like Brett Gardner. He does it very well.

      • V

        How often does he take a called third strike ‘down the middle’? Dating back to his rookie appearance, I say a hell of a lot of called third strikes that wouldn’t be called strikes on any veteran.

        • dalelama

          Then he should realize that and swing…ooops that exposes his weakness…once pitchers realize he has no pop whatsoever they will put the ball over and his walk and on base rates will tank….

          • V

            How does what you said make sense as a reply to what I said?

            What I said was that I recall many occasions in which he would take a called third strike that… wasn’t a strike. Rookies don’t get the benefit of the doubt and all that jazz.

            He has good plate discipline. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the power to put the hurt into a meatball. But that lack of power DOESN’T mean he should stop watching close pitches.

            • Dalelama

              I thought you were saying the strikes he was taking were not down the middle but could be called either way.

  • larryf

    We do pay KLong pretty good money to improve our hitters’ approach. With so many vets, Gardner would have to be one of KLong’s spring training projects. For what we pay him, I think Gritner is a great value. If he could improve his bunting-doable and weight transfer-doable…..I think we got us a keeper at 476K a year….

  • Nostra-Artist

    Joe, all of your points are valid regarding his bat and I really don’t disagree with the thrust of your post. But the question EJ posed was Melky vs Gardner, and that’s a much closer call. While you can’t project his bat to get better, it is reasonable to expect his defense to improve as he learns the league and the ballparks, esp playing a position like CF.

    Also, he’s a pure table setter. His OBP and Runs scored are the main concern when looking at his stats, and last year those were fine in limited action. If he can maintain a .350 OBP and play a stellar CF, I’d prefer him over Melky Cabrera. The element of pure speed he brings allows you to create a run on occasions when you’re facing a tough pitcher. That one single run is highly valued in those games, since they tend to be low scoring.

    Also, while we should be cautious to make positive projections on what he will be, let’s not make a negative determination on him either. He’s had a history of starting out slow at each development level and making the necessary adjustments to succeed.

    Since you brought up Podsednik, I’ll bring up another player who MLB Execs tagged as a light-hitting speedster who would never hit for much power. Check out Brett’s 1st season vs Player X’s first-

    Player X:BB/K%-.55 BABIP-.307 wOBA-.341 wRC+-103
    Brett Gardner:BB/K%-.65 BABIP-.312 wOBA-.337 wRC+-107

    Player X is Johnny Damon. Johnny did flash more pop even in his first campaign, but not enough to scare anyone. Point being, players can improve and adjust over time. For me, the biggest issue in determining how a player will develop is his work ethic. Brett’s is universally viewed as outstanding. That’s why I hold out hope for Brett.

    • whozat

      “For me, the biggest issue in determining how a player will develop is his work ethic.”

      You forgot actual talent.

      By the time Johnny was Brett’s age, he had had a .430+ SLG in the major leagues for two seasons, and was 4 years into his big league career.

  • seth

    this shouldnt be an issue. we have juggernaut production in every position except leftfield and if gardbrera puts up 270 18 hrs 80 rbis thats sick for a 9 hitter

    2003: yanks had kareem garcia, nick johnson, enrique wilson all in th lineup for the majority of the season plus erik almonte with jeters injury and scored 877 runs! well be more than fine!

    • whozat

      Who thinks they can hit 18 HRs???

      Also, yeah…the “everyday” lineup has juggernaut potential, but Granderson sucks against lefties and Posada won’t catch more than 120 games. ARod needs to sit a day a week. You’re looking at a significant chunk of games where Cervelli or a UT guy will be in the lineup with Gardbrera, and Granderson might be useless against that day’s starter because it’s Lester, Price, Matusz, or Romero.

      • steve (different one)

        who said A-Rod needs to sit a day a week in 2010?

        • steve (different one)

          not saying it’s not logical or likely, just wondering if i missed any statements from a team source on this issue?

  • larryf

    The 2003 Yankees-saw the MLB network replay of game 7 against the Sox last night. Nick Johnson at 1B. Down 5-2 in the eighth and NJ pops up for the first out before the big boys (Jeter/Bernie/Matsui/Posada) save us…. We did have some scrubs in that lineup…

    Gardner from small town Holly Hill SC. Willie Randolph lives there now!

  • V

    Hmm, left-handed hitter who looks like he’s slapping at the ball…

    I have no real hopes that Gardner can develop into a 10-15 HR hitter, but that’s really the difference between young Gardner and young Damon, no?

  • themgmt

    It’s funny how you talk about not expecting anything from Gardner based on indicators then in the next breath talk about how Melky ‘improved’

    • whozat

      Gardner is older, and doesn’t have an actual decent full-season in the bigs under his belt like Melky does. They also have different skill sets. Gardner HAS to walk a lot to be successful. It seems unlikely that he will be able to keep that up.

      But we’ll see, I guess.

      • themgmt

        Unlikely by what standards? Putting a .414 OBP up in AAA? Or a .345 OBP last year? All indicators point to Gardner putting up a higher OBP than Melky, since he just did.

        It’s very simple for me, Gardner is probably just under 2 wins better than Melky defensively and on the bases. There’s just no way Melky’s bat is worth more than 2 wins more than Gardner. Their bats at this stage are close to equal.

        • Ellis

          Thank you!! Great comment.

          Melky’s shown us what he can do. Gardner has to, and it looks real good. Let’s give him a real shot!

          BTW, everyone keeps saying that Gardner has a weak arm (someone even compared him to Damon). The numbers disagree, as his ARM rating is significantly better than Melky. Why would anyone say he has a weak arm?

  • themgmt

    And the arbitrary short speedy outfielder comparison holds little weight considering the sizeable gap in their minor league numbers

  • Joseph M

    The problem with someone like Garner is too much exposure. You give Gardner 500 at bats and he will not get the job done. You spot him, give him a 150 to 200 at bats and maybe you get a player who can help a major league team.

    • themgmt

      Please explain the logic behind this. If a player would be ‘exposed’ in 500ABs.. he’d be equally as likely to be ‘exposed’ in 200 ABs.

      This is an over used argument that really has no meaning.

    • sleepykarl

      You could just as easily argue that Gardner would get more comfortable and hit better. At this point it seems like there is not enough data to say he is either solid or bad. On his limited numbers you could make a case for regression or improvement.

  • Tom Swift

    Love this thread. I hope Hoffman has a great ST, and makes this a three-way argument.

  • astral

    Speaking of Gardner’s skill set, here is an interesting post on the same topic:
    It is based on minor league stats though.

  • Bucksky619

    Some of the arguments in this article seem silly to me. Gardner’s walk percentage may drop? I griped last year because Gardner takes too many pitches. I don’t want him trying to work walks, he needs to put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense. To me Gardner is a weapon off the bench. He is the fourth outfielder and comparing him to Bay is crazy. If Yanks acquire a left fielder then I would trade Melky and keep Gardner. Regardless of batting average he’s a game changer pinch running and for late inning defense. I don’t see him as an everyday player although he’s capable of it but I want him on my bench anyday.

    • sleepykarl

      ” I don’t want him trying to work walks, he needs to put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense.”

      You still want him to walk, but put more balls in play instead of striking out. Him having a high walk total is only beneficial, especially with his speed.

  • astral

    Besides a possible drop in walk rate, Gardner’s BABIP will probably regress too since he hit .829 on line drives in 09, which is clearly not sustainable.

    • sleepykarl

      I have no backing on this, but wouldn’t you expect a slap hitter the have a higher average on line drives because of things like the 3rd baseman playing in and a different defensive alignment?

      • astral

        Honestly I got to this conclusion based on the fact that Gardner’s BABIP on line drives was much higher than guys like Jeter (.777) and Cano (.719).

        As for your question, here are the numbers of a few players who I think are slap hitters: Figgins .735 Ichiro .713 Damon .732 Pierre .704 Lofton .731 Polanco .698. I am not sure whether they can have a higher average but the answer is probably not (at least not .829).

        Intuitively, I think if a hitter hit a ball harder, he has a better chance to get a hit. This seems to be the case for some power hitters I randomly picked. Pujols hit over .800 (home run subtracted), A-Rod close to .800, Dunn around .777.

        Gardner may increase his line drive rate, who knows. But I think he was a little lucky in ’09.

        • sleepykarl

          I agree on that. Just curious if his would be higher as a third baseman would be drawn in to protect against the bunt, therefore less reaction time for the third baseman. I’m sure if this has any truth behind it, the advantage would be minimal, not skewing the numbers to bad. Just thinking out loud.

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