Gardner’s a different hitter this year

Gardner hasn't hit like the typical leadoff this yr (Zimbio photo)

Gardner hasn’t hit like the typical leadoff this yr (Zimbio photo)

During Brett Gardner‘s career, he has always displayed the perfect approach and skill set for a leadoff hitter.  He takes a lot of pitches, draws walks, slaps the ball on the ground and runs like the wind. However, because of the Yankees loaded offense and the presence of Derek Jeter, Brett never settled into the leadoff spot for the Yankees until this year.  Finally getting the opportunity to lead off everyday, for the first time in his career Gardner has not produced like a typical leadoff hitter.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but Brett is definitely getting different results.

He is still doing a fine job of working pitchers as he is 12th in the A.L. with 4.17 Pitches per Plate Appearance.  However, he is swinging at more of those pitches, putting more of those pitches into play and Walking less.  His Walk Rate is a career low 8.9% which has led to a semi-disappointing .333 OBP which is about 20 points below his career average.  Per this Fangraphs article, he has is swinging at 42% of pitches this  year which is a 8.3% jump from his previous 4 seasons – a bigger jump than anyone in MLB over the same period of time.  He is also swinging at the 1st pitch more than twice as much as before and hitting the ball on the Ground less (from 51% to 40%).

But the results of this change in approach isn’t just a reduce in Walks and OBP%, Brett is driving the ball with much more authority this year.  His 6 HRs are just 1 below his career-high and he’s also on pace for career-highs in Doubles and Triples.  His .429 SLG% is 4th on the team behind only Cano, Hafner & Overbay and he is behind only the same 3 players for the team lead in RBIs with 26.  For a leadoff man in a weak lineup to drive in that any runs is impressive and means he’s getting a lot of big hits. 15 of those RBIs have come on 2-out hits when he has done most of his damage this year hitting .322/.365/.525/.891.

Watching the games it’s evident Brett is more comfortable with his swing and driving the ball with more authority than any time in his career.  Although his .265 Batting Average this yr is the same as his career mark, the type of hits he’s getting has changed.  In his last 2 full yrs of 2010-11, he had 48 infield hits which made up 18.2% of all his base hits.  This yr, he has legged out just 4 hits which is just 6.9% of all his hits. Speaking of legging it out, Brett has not had a great year on the bases with just 9 steals in 14 attempts – a far cry from the 49 and 46 SBs he had in 2011 & 10, respectively.  I think there are 3 main reasons for this, the first being less chances.  His SB opportunities have decreased because of the drop in OBP% and the increase in extra base hits.  He’s simply been on First base less.  The other reason is Robinson Cano has been batting 2nd most of the year.  Cano is a free swinger and Girardi doesn’t want to send the runner too often with his best hitter at the plate.  The last reason is he hasn’t been good leading off in the 1st inning with just a .208 BA and .296 OBP.  That is the only time he’s assured of batting with no one in front of him but he’s struggled for whatever reason. I think that will level out and he’ll steal more as the season progresses.

Are these changes in Gardner’s game a good thing? I think they are.  I’ve always thought that Gardner could put up better power numbers and a higher average because he has shown the ability in the past for spurts.  But he always seemed conflicted between being the hitter he is now and the slap-hitting ground ball machine he often was.  While I’d like to see him getting on base more often out of the leadoff spot, I like the confidence and more aggressive approach at the plate.  The Yanks have been starving for run production this year and Gardner has stepped it up.  If he can begin to incorporate the power gains with the Walks & SBs of previous years, he will really be something special.  He’s also providing his offense out of CF now, where he should have been years ago.  His defense has not slipped a bit moving from LF to CF and he’s truly one of the game’s best defensive OFs.

About fishjam25

Was a 4-yr Pitcher and Communications Major at Seton Hall University in the 90s. His knowledge & opinion of the game comes from his background as a player and ardent lifetime Yankee fan. However, Fishjam also incorporates sabermetrics and statistical support to form a well-rounded view of the game.

Posted on June 6, 2013, in Analysis, Personal Opinion, Player Analysis and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. WAR loves Gardner again this year. Good thing about him is his type of skills will not get him paid as much in the open market. Yankees should be able to retain him on a good deal when the time comes.

    • You’re right Matt. HRs usually are what gets people paid but it’s a changing landscape as GMs are valuing players like Gardner and stats like WAR a lot more now. Gardner’s biggest issue has been staying healthy and i think that will decide what type of contract he’ll command after 2014. Michael Bourn is a similar player and got 4 yrs @ $48M with vesting options so that might be the ballpark that brett will be looking at. Then again, so much can change in a year and a half, its hard to estimate. If Gardner continues to hit like he has, the money will be there.

  2. Tonight’s a big night in the future of the New York Yankees. For the first time in a loong time the yanks are in a pretty solid position for thre Amateur Draft. While they still don’t pick until #26, they also have picks #32 and 33 so they should have a crack at 3 Top 30 Prospects. They also have their 2nd round pick at #66 to give them one of the top Draft Signing Pools among all teams. They have close to $8 Million to sign their top 10 picks so it will be interesting what they do. Will they use one of their 1st rounders on a safe, cheap player so they have more money to take risks with their other selections? Whatever they do, they have to inject their system with some high-end young players in this draft to make up for the underwhelming performance of their recent top picks, namely Cito Culver and Dante Bichette. it also hurts to see that Oklahoma RHP Jon Gray will likely be the #1 pick since the Yanks drafted him 2 years ago but couldn’t sign him. Could you imagine their system with Jon Gray and Gerrit Cole? Wow, hard to swallow that they had the rights to both but couldn’t close the deal….doh!

    • Seems like the Yankees got some good values in all 3 players. Will be fun to watch Judge just because of his size alone.

  3. I like the Yanks picks so far in the draft. There first pick Eric Jagielo looks like a good hitter and hitting from the left side in Yankee Stadium will help his power numbers. He made a good showing in the Caoe Cod league which is something Oppenheimer likes, Aaron Judge is a 6ft-7 power hitter who is just what the Yanks need from the right side, he also did well in the Cape where they use wooden bats. Pick #3 was Ian Clarkin a high school lefty out of San Deigo who looks to have good mechanics and throws 92-94 with average secondary stuff right now. There fourth pick Gosuke Katoh was a surprise to me, a second basemen who has a hitting style similar to Ichiro

    • I also think they did a solid job. Was hoping a better upside guy might slip to them but I think they got 3 legitimate 1st round talents. I wonder if they would have taken Kaminsky over Clarkin had he lasted 3 more picks. The Cardinals grabbed him at #28 and if any team knows how to draft and develop, it’s St.Louis.

      Taking Jagielo and Judge is a big shift in philosophy for Oppenheier and the Yanks who almost always favor HS athletes in the 1st round. That hasn’t worked well so I’m glad to see they were open to change, also because college hitters should advance much faster than HS kids. Judge is a beast of an athlete and will be fun to watch. It seems their 4th pick was a throw-away signability case so they can save slot money to sign the 1st round guys and/or to take some big upside guys in rounds 3-10. Would expect to see a few more college seniors drafted like they did last year to save slot money.

      • fishjam, just saw the video on Clarkin, and growing up his father and him rooted for the Diamondbacks agains’t the Yanks in the world series, he said his father hates the Yanks. Clarkin sounded like he was going to sign with the Yanks saying his father was going to have to learn to like the Yanks. I agree Katoh might be a throw away.

        • I saw it on the MLB channel also before he was selected. The kid said he hated the yankees and was so happy when they lost in 2001. Oh well, he’ll soon have close to 2 million reasons to like them. I read that a couple people had him going as high as 13th and had him as the 3rd HS pitcher on the board. It will be interesting to see in 5-10 years if St.Louis was right in choosing Kaminsky over Clarkin. It seems Kaminsky is much more polished and refined while Clarkin has a lot more projection in him and ability to improve and gain velocity.

          Yanks took Paul O’Neill’s nephew in the 3rd round. Not to say he’s not a prospect because he is but they may have an agreement with him to save some money. They also took several college seniors as expected which will save them a lot of money so they’ll have money to take some chances on high-upside HS kids on Day 3. In fact they took all college kids on Day 2 except for 1 athletic HS SS in the 4th round named Tyler Wade.

          • fishjam, from my experience of playing in the minors I would say that the competition in Cali is much better than NJ with a longer playing time. Just look at the number of draft picks coming out of Cali to know that the opposite it true. Clarkin projected higher because he is taller, played agains’t better competition. My best friend lives in San Deigo and he is always telling me about young pitchers like Cole Hamels. High scholl pitcher projection is next to impossible, there are just too many factors that come into play between signing and making the majors. Let’s just say the Yanks made 3 good picks at the top and leave it at that, although the Cards have a great scouting system. Fishjam how does the slot money work, I’m not up on that, I looked and the Yanks are 12th with 8 millon while the Nats are near the bottom. Is it attached to free agent signings or something else. I get the part about signing college seniors and drafting high school players later.

            • Doug….the slot money works like this. Every pick in the first 10 rounds is assigned a slot amount based on MLB’s formula. A team’s pool is arrived at by adding all of their picks slot money which comes to like $7.95 Million for the yankees. The reason the yanks have a higher pool is because of the 2 additional picks they gained for Swisher and Soriano. The Yanks offered both of them the Qualifying offer (around $13.5 Million) last yr so they recv’d compenatory picks when they signed. They will likely do the same with Hughes and Granderson at the end of this year.

              So the yanks have almost $8M to sign all of their picks in Rounds 1 thru 10 and if there’s anything remaining they can use it on later picks. For every pick after Rd 10, the ma bonus is $100,000. Anything higher comes out of the $8M pool amount. By drafting 4 college seniors with no leverage, they can offer them like $30,000 each and save hundreds of thousands in slot money to apply to guys who are demanding more than slot to sign (mostly HS kids who can choose to go to college). However, if a player doesn’t sign the money from his slot is subtracted from that team’s pool.

              Teams are allowed to spend more than their pool but there are stiff penalties. I believe they can spend up to 5% over their pool but they get taxed at a 75% rate to do so. Going over by 5-10%, costs the team their #1 pick next year and the tax. Going over by 10-15%, teams are taxed 100% and lose their 1st and 2nd round picks. And going over by 15% or more costs 100% tax AND the loss of their 1st round picks for the next 2 years. So with penalties that steep, teams don’t tend to go over.

              • fishjam, you are the man, thanks for explaining the slot money, it looks like the first three picks are slotted for 1.8, 1.6, and 1.6 which is about 4 million. Hopefully we can sign he top three.

            • No doubt….Northeast baseball players have it much tougher than players from warm weather areas like the South and West. They can play all year round while NE kids can’t play in the Winter and are limited in the Spring and Fall. When I was at Seton Hall our first games of the year were played in late jan or Feb in Carolina or Florida and it was our first chance to even get outside while the teams we played had been practicing outside for months and had already played 10-12 games. Huge advantage.

              • fishjam, when I was at Arizona State they used to play all home games early in the season and they practiced outside all winter. I did my student teaching in Arizona at Chandler HS. we started practice Jan 3rd, and games started in Feb. When I played in the minors many of the California players were much more advanced, especially the pitchers. In the 60s over half of the draft choices were from Cali and Texas. Seems to be similar today.

                • Out of curiousity, how does the Arizona State baseball alumni feel about Barry Bonds? And has he given back to the program at all?

                  • fishjam, I can’t really say, but I did know a pitcher who played with Bonds when he was a Giant, he told me a story that kind of tells you how Bonds is as a person. On the planes rides this pitcher was Bonds partner when they played cards on the plane, when they got off the plane Bonds didn’t want to even know him. He was a great player, who is not a great person.

          • fishjam, looks to me like the Yanks are picking college players that project to be in the majors in a few years rather than wait for the HS prospects.

            • And they all will probably blow by Dante jr. And cito culver on the way up.

              • Matt, they well could blow by many prospects since most of the top prospects the Yanks have this year aren’t having great seasons. Players like Williams, Austin, Heathcott, haven’t progressed to this point. The top performers to this point are Sanchez, DePaula, Almonte, Musteleir, Murphy, Turley, O’Brien, and Refsnyder. De Paula seems to be doing the best.

  4. JUST A HEADS UP….tonight Vidal Nuno, signaled for the trainer, and came out of his minor
    league game ……with an injury?
    1.2 innings pitched, 4K.

    • Patrick, that’s what makes baseball so unpredictable, the pitching. If you have it you win, but there are only a few that can be good 5 years in a row. Most go through some kind of injury, I know, my career was ended with a rotar cuff injury. At the time I had never had a sore arm in my life. Baseball is like life, you never know what is around the corner.

  5. Good things happen when you don’t doubt Gardner, and I NEVER doubted him for a second! That’s my Yankee! (which is also my catchprase for him on Twitter and has caught on. Haha.).

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