Apr
04

Gardner’s just a regular guy

By

Photo credit: Julie Jacobson/AP

On the morn of his second Opening Day start for the Yankees, Brett Gardner must feel on top of the world. Last season he started in center field, beating out Melky Cabrera in spring training. This year the left field job was all but his, and while he hit only .200 this spring his competition actually fared worse. We don’t know how long a leash the Yankees will have with Gardner, but it will likely be longer than last year’s.

Thomas Grant of the Times and Democrat profiles Gardner and his rise to the majors. A third round drat pick in 2005, Gardner was initially denied a place on the College of Charleston baseball team. It took plenty of effort not only by Gardner himself, but by his father, to secure a place on the team. They didn’t regret it, of course, as Gardner broke the school record for runs scored, among other achievements.

Gardner answered the call by rushing through the minors. He showed a pattern from AA through the majors, struggling during his first stint but excelling in the second. In 2007, with 207 PA in Scranton, Gardner hit .260/.343/.331, but upon his return trip he hit .296/.414/.422. Similarly, he hit .228/.283/.299 during his first 141 PA in the majors, but came back last season to hit .270/.345/.379 in 284 PA. There’s hope for the undersized Gardner to succeed at the majors. After all, he did post a .389 career minor league OBP despite initial struggles at higher levels. He knows, though, that the same approach might not work in the majors.

“With the Yankees, obviously, I was probably the weakest bat in the lineup,” Gardner said. “The last thing guys are going to do is be careful around me and pitch around me and wanting to put me on base for (Derek) Jeter and Nick Johnson and those guys on the top of the order like Alex (Rodriguez) and Tex (Mark Teixeira). Those guys can drive in runs. The last thing they want to do is put me on base for those guys. So I’m going to get pitches to hit. It’s just a matter of being consistent with my swing, being consistent with my approach and going up there and having good at-bats.”

He’ll get his chance starting tonight. Yesterday Sucka Got No Juice wrote that the Yankees “could be in the market for outfield help quickly” if Gardner gets off to a slow start. I’m not so sure, though. They know that their problem amounts to the No. 9 spot in the lineup, so perhaps they’ll extend Gardner more leeway than last year. In fact, I’m almost certain they will. If Gardner, Winn, and Thames don’t produce the team will surely look for an alternative, but I wouldn’t expect any such movement until June at the earliest.

Categories : Players

27 Comments»

  1. pete says:

    agreed completely

  2. bexarama says:

    If Gardner, Winn, and Thames don’t produce the team will surely look for an alternative, but I wouldn’t expect any such movement until June at the earliest.

    surely you jest, Joe. If they don’t get a hit tonight, they are busts and WE SHOULD HAVE RE-SIGNED DAMON!!!!!22!!.

    • Zack says:

      We laugh, but there will be articles if they lose tonight.

      “Yankees drop the season opener in Fenway, team looks older and lifeless, and Gardner goes 0-4. I bet Cashman is regretting letting Johnny ‘Body of a 25 Year Old’ Damon walk away.”

      • bexarama says:

        I saw someone on LoHud say that we’d be able to see if we regret letting Damon and Matsui go “tonight.” To be fair, most other people there attacked said person, but really. Opening night of the 2009 Yankee season did not dictate how the entire season went. The first game against the Red Sox in the 2009 Yankee season did not dictate how the entire season went.

  3. I hope Gardner can do well, if for no other reason than pissing JMK off. ;)

    But, seriously, if he plays good defense and is at least league average on offense–.335-.340 wOBA–I’ll be happy with Brett.

  4. Drew says:

    If he can maintain an obp of 340, I think he’ll be okay. If he gets too far below that, I see Cash and Joe placing Winn in that lineup more often than not.

    Infield hits are nice. Unfortunately, infield hits turn into FC when someone is on 1st ahead of him. That’s probably my biggest issue with Gritner.

    • Beamish says:

      If he can maintain an obp of 340, I think he’ll be okay.

      Exactly – Gardner simply needs to be on base at a solid rate to be useful. His speed will be a distraction and he will be there for the top of the order to drive in.

      But as Garner says in the quote, no one is going to be walking him so they will be throwing strikes and challenging him to do something with it. He will need to keep that OBP up by getting the BA up, and he just may not have the stick to do that.

  5. Manimal says:

    I think they would try Jon Weber to see if he could atleast be a replacement level left fielder if Gardner struggles and then Ca$h would try to look at a trade.

  6. Jake H says:

    I want Brett to succeed.

  7. Zack says:

    “The last thing they want to do is put me on base for those guys. So I’m going to get pitches to hit.”

    Didnt fangraphs or someone show the whole “protection” in the order thing is a myth?

    • whozat says:

      I believe they showed that, in the general case, “protection” didn’t impact the production of hitters. That’s not to say that it didn’t impact the approach pitchers took which could, in individual cases, affect production.

      • ROBTEN says:

        I think that if there’s a weak spot in the order, it’s assumed that the pitcher is not going to pitch around that hitter to get to a better one. At the same time, and not saying anything about Gardner, a weak hitter is a weak hitter, so it’s just as likely that you don’t pitch around them and they still don’t get a hit. I think this is why the issue of “protection” doesn’t really work. Generally, your better hitters hit in the middle of the order, so they naturally seem to “protect” one another, but any results are more likely due to their ability than who is hitting behind them.

        So, looking at Fangraphs, Gardner improved in his ability to recognize pitches out of the zone from 2008-2009, but still seems to swing at a low level given the high percentage of pitches he sees in the zone. If his ability to cut down on swings on pitches out of the zone holds up and he can be more aggressive swinging at the high number of pitches in the zone that he sees, it seems like his speed and ability to make contact should put him in a good position to increase his ability to get on base. In other words, Gardner has to be more aggressive at swinging at pitches in the zone, regardless of who is hitting behind him. If not, then he’s just as likely to strike out looking which, given his speed, would unnecessarily take away from the chance that he has of getting on base simply by putting the ball into play.

        • whozat says:

          In other words, Gardner has to be more aggressive at swinging at pitches in the zone, regardless of who is hitting behind him. If not, then he’s just as likely to strike out looking which, given his speed, would unnecessarily take away from the chance that he has of getting on base simply by putting the ball into play.

          I could not agree with this more. I expect that who’s hitting behind Brett doesn’t really matter; big-league pitchers are going to come after him no matter what. The issue is that, given the data we have, we can’t really tell if he’s actually good at distinguishing pitches in the zone from those outside the zone. He could also have just been not swinging much.

          • ROBTEN says:

            The issue is that, given the data we have, we can’t really tell if he’s actually good at distinguishing pitches in the zone from those outside the zone. He could also have just been not swinging much.

            This.

            Compare the average swing rate percentage with the pitches in the zone percentage of the starting 9 (Swing % first, Zone % second):

            Jeter: 48%/52%
            Johnson: 37%/51%
            Teixeira: 43%/48%
            ARod: 44%/49%
            Posada: 40%/49%
            Cano: 52%/52%
            Granderson: 42%/51%
            Swisher: 38%/48%
            Gardner: 35%/52%

            Looking at the data, even OBP Jesus swings more than Gardner. But, I suspect that it’s probably a combination of both. Gardner’s likely both a selective hitter and he’s not swinging enough.

            As you correctly point out, however, how much it’s one or other other cannot yet be determined from the available data. So, we have to hope that he can increase his aggressiveness at the plate without becoming an undisciplined hitter.

  8. All I wanna know is can he steal home?

  9. A.D. says:

    Hopefully he doesn’t get inpatient at the plate by going with the thinking that they’re going to give him pitches to hit.

  10. ROBTEN says:

    Based on that picture, it looks like he’s honing his Superman take-off…so he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

  11. Angelo says:

    Gardner will hit 20 homeruns and steal 70 bases this season!

    Book it.

  12. Lance says:

    Is that a picture of the catch he made on a line drive hit by Giambi early last year?

  13. Joseph M says:

    Gardner is a spare part. He can be used for late inning defensive work, pinch running and maybe bunting runners along. Use him that way and he can help win a few games. About a month or so from now it will finally sink in and everyone will get it. Assuming the kid isn’t totally screwed up by that time and assuming he’s not farmed out he may still be able to provide some value.

    The real bad news in all this is not the fact that left field is all screwed up, but that center field is as well. Granderson will not get it done snd come June 1st the Yankee outfield woes will be the big story.

  14. Lanny says:

    Winn will be starting by May. And they’ll be in the market for a bat to play LF by the end of June.

    Gardner makes a nice 4th OF. Not a corner starter.

  15. camilo Gerardo says:

    Want to see Colin Curtis at some point if Gardner doesn’t catch on, speed be damned

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