Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Yankees @ Orioles 4/10/12


Derek Jeter led off the game with a solo home run and was followed by a Nick Swisher double, although no other runs would score that inning. After that we saw the emergence of Cy Chen as he shut down the Yankees to the tune of 12 consecutive Yankees shut down before a Russell Martin single in the 5th inning. Speaking of the 5th inning, 5 wild pitches for Freddy Garcia later and he left with the Yankees behind 4-1 in the bottom of the 5th inning.

The Yankees put together a little rally in the top of the 6th as a sacrifice fly, scoring Cano, and an error on Mark Reynolds allowing a runner to score allowed the Yankees to creep within one run to 4-3. Gardner then tied the ball game up with a clutch 2 out rbi single to even up the score at 4-4. THANK YOU MARK REYNOLDS. Cy Chen , now over 100 pitches, looks more like the guy we all expected and less like Randy Johnson in his prime when he was finally taken out by Buck Schowalter after the Gardner single.

Sweaty Freddy Garcia will make his first start of the season tonight at Camden Yards and against the Baltimore Orioles. Here is tonight's lineup

Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Curtis Granderson CF
Andruw Jones DH
Russell Martin C
Brett Gardner LF

Utilizing Brett Gardner Better

A commenter at Yankee Fans Unite brought up a really good point after last night's game. The commenter said that the Yankees should play Brett Gardner regularly, as opposed to sitting him against left-handed starters like they did by starting Andruw Jones in LF last night. I have to whole-heartedly agree with him. I've been saying it for a while... the offense is more than good enough for the team to be a big success. What the Yankees need to work on is their pitching and defense.

Although Gardner's on-base percentage vs. left-handed pitchers is pretty good (career .351, with an OBP of .354 vs. RHP), his batting average suffers (career .243, with a BA of .271 vs. RHP). On the surface I can understand why Yankee fans would be against Brett facing lefties, as his bat would create a bit of a hole in the lineup that day. But like the commenter at Yankee Fans Unite asked... is a stronger lineup more important than a stronger defense? When it comes to some teams, who have an average offense, I'd be on the side that would sit Gardner vs. LHP. But you can't tell me that a lineup of Jeter-SS, Granderson-CF, Cano-2B, Rodriguez-3B, Teixeira-1B, Swisher-RF, Jones-DH, Martin-C, and Gardner-LF isn't that good. Add that still strong offense to a really good rotation, one of the best bullpens in baseball, and an improved defense, and I see no way this team can't win 65+% of their games against left-handed starters.

It's not like Brett Gardner can't improve his offense vs. left-handed pitchers either. Heck, I'm not even talking about Brett hitting more "traditional" base hits vs. same-sided hurlers. The first thing Brett needs to do is get his walk percentage closer to the 13.9% it was in 2010, rather than the 10.2% it was in 2011. A walk to Brett Gardner is almost as good as a double, thanks to Brett's ability to steal 2B after getting a free pass to 1B. And I don't have to tell you what Brett being in scoring position could mean when the team has Jeter, Granderson, and Cano batting after him.

On top of that it would be a really good idea for him to learn how to bunt better. Brett had 11 bunt hits last season, which is really good (tied for 6th most in MLB). But I'd like to see Gardner get around 23 bunt hits (that was Juan Pierre's total, which led MLB). Being a bigger bunting threat alone could lead to more "traditional" base hits, as third basemen would have to move up against him, and Brett hits a lot of balls to the left side.

You'll hear plenty of people talk about Derek Jeter still being a great hitter. You'll hear a lot about Granderson's ability to garner more MVP votes this season, and in the future. You'll even hear many mention ARod's and Teixeira's ability to bounce-back and have very productive seasons. Surely this being Swisher's walk year has led to more talk of his ability to have another high OBP, along with 25+ home runs. But what you don't hear enough of, at least in my opinion, is talk of what Brett Gardner could mean to the Yankees this season and for another 4+ years.