The star of last night’s Subway Series game was clearly Brett Gardner
. He went 5-6 with a rare HR and 3 runs scored. He also saw 24 pitches (great new box score stat by ESPN) in his 6 ABs, which was tied for best of the evening with Francisco Cervelli and Mark Teixeira. This is just a continuation of his recent play. He is hitting .387 in his last 27 games, lifting his season average to .303 and his OBP is .374.
Its tempting in the midst of a hot streak to dub Brett our everyday Centerfielder and new Leadoff hitter. But can he do it? He’s had very little MLB experience, despite seeing some action late last year he’d still qualify for the 2009 Rookie of the Year award, although just barely. 130 ABs in the prior season is the cutoff for ROY consideration and Brett had 127 last year. In his 152 at-bats so far this year, he is hitting .303/.374/.441 and leads all rookies in average, on-base percentage, runs scored and stolen bases. Though if he winds up with only 300-400 ABs that will certainly hurt his chances at being selected over other rookies who’ve played every day.
Critics who don’t like his game will cite his low power numbers, but that’s not the type of player he is. He’s a table setter, you don’t look at HR’s, SLG or OPS. The way you evaluate a player like Gardner is OBP, Runs Scored and to a lesser extent Stolen Bases. Stolen Bases can be over rated, but in Brett’s case they are more meaningful to his value as a player. But after winning the starting Centerfielder role out of Spring Training, he lost the job in April putting up an anemic line of .220/.254/.271. However, one thing to factor in that is he’s always had the tag in the minors of being a slow starter and slow to adjust to each new level as he rose through the system.
One way to tease out whether he’s an everyday player is to check his platoon splits. So far this year, he has posted a .314/.378/.463 against Righties and .258/.351/.355 line vs lefties (in a mere 31 ABs). That’s way too few ABs against lefties to draw any conclusions about, but I like that his OBP has held up. This is a familiar pattern for him, he actually fared better against Lefties in AAA last year, after struggling against them in the lower levels. His career minor league numbers suggest he’s an everyday player, but we all know guys can get exposed at this level. What gives Brett a better shot than others is his relentless work ethic according to Girardi, he’s constantly working with Kevin Long on improving his game and making adjustments at this level.
The jury’s still out on Brett, but I wouldn’t bet against him.
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