Tuesday, April 10, 2012

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.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)