…then let’s stick with Brett Gardner.
By performing incredibly well in the largest sample of Major League plate appearances, Brett Gardner may be saving the Yankees a ton of money on a free agent outfielder. If Gardner were not doing so well–.394 OBP, .368 wOBA going into Sunday–I’d say the Yankees would be likely to pursue one of the two big free agent outfielders that will be available during the offseason: Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth.
Gardner has shown marked improvement in his third try at Major League Baseball.
Each year, he’s improved his average (.228; .270; .298), on-base percentage (.283; .345; .394), slugging percentage (.299; .379; .400), and wOBA (.282; .337; .368).
When we look at the average, we also see that it’s very high this year because of a nice high BABIP of .349. That’s up from .311 in ’09 which was up from .296 in ’08.
Lest we think Gardner’s getting by on just a little bit of batted ball luck, I checked into his actual batted ball numbers. Gardner’s line-drive percentage has improved each season–17; 18.1; 19–and he’s dropped his fly ball rate, too–35.1; 32.8; 30.4. So, Gardner has started hitting the ball harder and has hit fewer fly balls, which don’t fit his skill set (lots of speed, little power).
Gardner has seen a drop in power–.109 IosP last year, .102 this year–but it’s essentially the same and I’ll take that trade off for the improved on base percentage. Brett has also seen more pitches per plate appearance each year–3.88; 4.05; 4.60 (!!).
If one thing is clear from 2008 to 2009 to 2010, it’s that Gardner has shown the ability to improve. This could, as it’s been suggested, bring the Yankees big time savings in the offseason.
This season has also confirmed my cautious optimism surrounding Brett Gardner. While I always thought he could be a solid regular, I wasn’t sure if he would be a solid regular. As of right now, he’s proved that. Going forward, though, I’m still cautious. I’m glad the Yankees will probably not need to go after Werth, whom I think is too old, and/or Crawford, whom I think may not age gracefully. I’m definitely not going to expect 2010 to repeat itself for Brett Gardner, I think we could see the beginning of a good career.
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