Gardner’s trouble with the high pitch

Looking at the Double-A and Low-A rosters
It's hard out here for a shortstop

During the first four games of the 2011 season we’ve seen something a bit different from Brett Gardner. It’s not just that he’s looked a little more aggressive, but it’s that it appears he’s swinging with a bit more authority. You can notice this especially on outside pitches. Last year he’d invariably slap at those pitches with one hand on the bat. This year he’s keeping both hands in place, and his swings look a bit harder. Maybe that will help in the long run, but for now it has caused him a few problems.

This chart comes from Joe Lefkowitz’s PitchFX tool, and it shows the trouble Gardner has had with any pitches up in the zone. Save for one lonely fly ball, he has done nothing but whiff at and foul off these pitches. At first I guessed that this had something to do with his revamped swing. It can take time to adjust. But looking back at last year might paint the issue differently.

That’s the same chart, only from April through June of 2010. Notice how there are a number of line drives in the upper half of the zone. They’re not predominant, but there are still a fair number of them. There are also a good number of fly balls, and presumably some of them went for hits. Finally, there are relatively few swings and misses. Now let’s move to July and beyond.

The green dots in the upper half of the zone nearly disappear, and ther are plenty more blue dots. We can then overlay that with foul balls.

Now it’s starting to look like an extrapolated version of Gardner’s 2011 chart. That has to be a concern. We know that Gardner’s ailing wrist affected his second half performance, and we know that he had wrist surgery during the off-season. He says he’s fine, and no one has given any indication that anything is wrong. But what we’ve seen from him so far is starting to resemble the second half of 2010.

After looking at this data, I’m just going to hope that Gardner is indeed working on some swing adjustments that will allow him to drive pitches with some more authority. That would go a long way in explaining his inability to do anything with high fastballs. The alternative just isn’t something I want to consider right now. Thankfully, we don’t have the data to make such a conclusion.

Looking at the Double-A and Low-A rosters
It's hard out here for a shortstop
  • Mike Axisa

    I think he’s pressing to a certain extent as well. He’s swinging at pitches he knows he shouldn’t.

    • dave

      You people are either clueless or blind regarding Gardner as an everyday player. You just keep on making excuses all year long as this guy just proves to anyone with half a baseball brain that he is just a utility player and will NEVER cut it as an everyday player unless you like a guy hitting in the .230’s.

  • Monteroisdinero

    The problem with the high fastball is that he is swinging at them and he shouldn’t. Jeter looked awful on 2 high fastballs last night in the same ab. He struck out twice in one ab on the same high fastball! He got the Showalter benefit of the doubt the first time but not the second. Brett is short and has a wide stance making him even shorter. He can’t hit a high and rising fastball and he needs to lay off of it.

    • CS Yankee

      Jeter’s hands seemsto be lower to me this year and whenever I see hands fall during the load I’ll have them throw a high FB. I have yet to see someone who can hit a ball thrown above their hands with little exception.

      Grit seems to have a little different problem and I think he’ll have to dial in the high outside heat or he’ll be a platoon player or traded. I think he’ll adjust but keeping him down in the order might not be bad until he makes the adjustment.

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    To me his real value has always been his high OBP skills. The knock, ostensibly, was him looking at strike three down the middle–I’m ok if he wants to try to crush one of those meatballs, just SMASH one of those out of the infield…but lay off the high cheese. I remember you guys doing a swinging in/out of the k zone evaluations–he can’t stray from those skills. He’s no Vlad.

  • YanksFan in MA

    Gardner appears to me to be swinging back on his heels. Doesn’t seem to be striding toward the pitch and just flicking his back out with best hope that its fouled back. I really have not seen him swinging with any real authority save for maybe 1-2 PAs, but hey maybe that’s just me.

    • YanksFan in MA

      *bat not back. Sorry about that.

  • 28 this year

    to me, Gardner just doesn’t seem comfortable in the box like he did last year and that includes the second half. So much has been made of his patience that now, it seems he feels obligated to take pitches early and he has found himself in some bad counts. Plus, he is swinging harder and I think his timing is definitely off because of it. He just seems overmatched (as I am writing this, I am like DUH)

    • Monteroisdinero

      28 this year-Gardy will be 28 in August. Perfect handle for this thread.

  • jaremy

    4 games, 28 pitches of data in the top chart. Excuse me while I wait for a little more information before jumping to conclusions.

    Food for thought, for sure, but let’s wait for a little more sample size, please.

    • Stuckey

      Gotta feed the beast…

  • mattdamonwayans

    How the hell are you supposed to look at these graphs? They look like someone spilled chiclets.

  • Monteroisdinero

    We won’t have any more data from tonight. Gardy will be a late inning pinch runner if needed.

  • gargoyle

    He’s a 4th or 5th OFer.