[image title="Brett Gardner" size="full" id="20227" align="center" linkto="full" ]
This is a guest post from George Hadji, who can be found on Twitter at @GEHadji. He and I were having a discussion on Twitter about Gardner, and he graciously agreed to write the following post.
It is safe to say that Brett Gardner has exceeded expectations for the New York Yankees this year. The soon-to-be 27 year-old outfielder has supplemented his usual great defense with an on-base percentage of .396, which is 5th among American League hitters. Gardner’s offensive output has been buoyed by the fact that Gardner has improved his approach at the plate, especially against left-handed pitchers. This has been a surprise because many people, myself included, thought that Gardner would not do well against LHP.
Frankly, Gardner has proven me wrong. In 116 PA this season, Gardner’s put up a modest .266/.391/.383 line. Gardner has accomplished a career-best 14.7% BB% (which is also better than his 12.5 BB% v. RHP). In addition, Gardner sees 4.60 P/PA from lefties, which is the best rate in the American League (it just so happens that Gardner also leads the AL in overall P/PA). This patience and grinding down of opposing hurlers’ pitch counts is very encouraging.
When you look at Gardner’s batted ball statistics, you see some other encouraging things. It was pointed out to me on Twitter that Gardner’s line drive percentage against lefties has improved quite a bit (http://twitter.com/TheYankeeU/status/20069949570), from 14.0% last year to 18.1%. In addition, Gardner is limiting the amount of plate appearances that end in infield flies; his infield flyball percentage is only 3.7%, down significantly from last year. Not only has Gardner gotten more patient, but he’s starting to hit the ball with more authority.
This development of Gardner’s offense is a tremendously positive event for the Yankees. The combination of Gardner’s on-base skills and his slick glove have resulted in the generation of 3.2 WAR. The Yanks no longer have to worry about platooning Gardner and focus on getting Curtis Granderson’s anemic bat (.242 wOBA v. LHP in 2010) out of the line-up when southpaws are toeing the rubber against the Bombers. Gardner is now holding down an important corner outfield position with both his bat and his glove.
P.S. Something that struck me as curious regarding Gardner’s batted ball profile was how Gardner has a much lower BABiP v. LHP (.319) than v. RHP (.357). I noticed that Gardner has a lower ground-ball rate v. LHP (44.4%) than v. RHP (52.8%). Naturally, his flyball rate v. LHP (37.5%) is 10% higher than it is v. RHP (27.2%). I wonder if Gardner would get on base even more if he focused on pounding the ball into the ground against southpaws and taking advantage of his speed. I wouldn’t mess with his success this year, though.
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