The Constant Gardner Debate

by PaulCatalano

Now, it is no secret that this blog is a fan of Brett Gardner’s. In the number 9-hole and manning center, he gives the Yankees something they don’t have—speed and solid defense. The ability to be a pest and distract opposing pitchers, to take the extra base and to cover tons of ground in Yankee Stadium. On the whole, we feel, that is not so bad a thing.

So, his slow spring training start notwithstanding, we were happy to see an article in The Hardball Times, reiterating something we felt and wrote about previously: And that would be, that people who feel Gardner won’t hit in the majors have history and stats working against them. All Gardner needs is consistent time and he will respond.

“Thanks to good plate discipline and contact ability (something we will look into further later), Gardner was able to maintain respectable batting averages, and after an uninspiring major league debut in 2008, Gardner showed he has the tools to stick around the majors with his 2009 performance.”

THT goes on to laud Gardner’s speed and plate discipline—stating that Gardner draws walks, cuts down on strikeouts and generally makes contact and could be an above average defender and a contributor at the plate. “Coupling his good approach at the plate with his ability to hit the ball on the ground and run—a great recipe for BABIP success—I would expect his BABIP to rise from his 2009 mark of .311 to his CHONE-projected BABIP of .324. When you factor these things together, I see the picture of a .290 and possibly .300 hitter forming, and certainly not one below .270.”

THT then goes on to quote another article from Fangraphs which states that Gardner compares favorably with Nyjer Morgan. Fangraphs’s article states:

“The offensive comparison is more interesting. Despite Morgan’s good 2009, CHONE still sees him as a below average hitter (.321 wOBA). Gardner’s CHONE projection is surprisingly good — .335 wOBA. … For example, Gardner has the higher walk rate. This is likely a reflection of Gardner’s superior plate approach. While Morgan swings at bad pitches slightly more than average, Gardner has been better than average, while still having a slightly higher overall contact rate than Morgan.”

Further, CHONE’s projected OPS favors Gardner over Morgan again; .726 to .712. True, these are all just projections. And Morgan’s power projections rightfully demolish Gardner’s power projection. But again, power is something the Yankees have in abundance, and don’t need from Gardner.

However, projections aside, the Yankee Universe seems to hate the fact that since the Yankees didn’t get Holliday or Bay or someone expensive and flashy (and a station-to-station power hitter, no doubt. Where have you gone Jason Giambi, Danny Tartabull, Jack Kemp?) Gardner is nothing but a stopgap failure. The Forum at NYYFans has a question “How long with Gardner last?” Type in “Brett Gardner Sucks” or some such statement into Google and see how may hits you get.

So, as a champion of giving Brett Gardner a chance, my only caveat is something that THT writes: “…as long as Gardner does not stumble out of the gate I feel he will secure for himself the lion’s share of starts in left field. And … batting ninth in that lineup will provide similar run and RBI opportunities to batting second in many other lineups.”

In short, Gardner needs to show early that he can handle the 9th spot batting-wise. With Brian Cashman getting in half of the waiver wire, street free agents and Plan B players out there to challenge for the last outfield spot, Gardner needs to make a claim to not only get some start duty, but to claim the everyday position. Should he fail to do that, the overwhelming odds are is that someone else will be in the Yankee’s outfield next year, and Gardner will be elsewhere.

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39 Responses to “The Constant Gardner Debate”

  1. Derek Says:

    Who cares about the #9 hitter in a lineup? I wonder if the Yankees will get a new attendant in parking lot G? What new food was added to the Menu at Yankee stadium this year, and how will it affect the crowd during late inning rallys? Yankee spam…delete.

  2. Tonus Says:

    It does seem like a testament to the Yankees’ depth, that we’re wondering if their number nine hitter will provide average offense to go with his speed and defense. How do his numbers for 2008/2009 rate against other nine-slot hitters?

  3. Raul Says:

    Doesn’t it say something about how ridiculous this is that we’re discussing Brett Gardner and comparing him to Nyjer Morgan?

    Chuck or Patrick or whoever said it was right: If the Yankees are playing .500 baseball in June, it’s not because of Brett Gardner or Randy Winn.

    If anything it’s likely because Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter or Mark Teixeira are hurt, or playing poorly. Those are the positions were lack of production are going to hurt, because the Yankees have no immediate ways to fill them.

    Yes, if Brett Gardner can hit .270, steal 25 bases and score 65 runs, that will be great for him, and the Yankees.

    But I’m more concerned with Vazquez’ effectiveness and whether or not Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada can remain healthy. And if Teixeira gets hurt? Forget about it. We’re looking at 3rd place. This team is going to be carried by the guys playing infield and the pitchers. All of the Yankees outfielders, frankly, are irrelevant.

  4. James Kunz Says:

    I just don’t see how there’s any debate at all people. The Constant Gardener is a modern classic and it got snubbed for a Best Picture nomination.

  5. Raul Says:

    I see what you did there….

  6. jimmy vac Says:

    Gardner probably should be the centerfielder. As a 9th place hitter, he should be looking to get on base anyway he can. he is never going to be a power guy. he should be using his speed to bunt and steal bases. Down the road, he may be a good leadoff guy..like a Brett Butler type.. I can see hime doing a little better than the numbers Raul mentioned with that lineup…

  7. Chuck Says:

    “The Constant Gardener is a modern classic and it got snubbed for a Best Picture nomination.”

    Early front-runner for Comment of the Year.

    “Doesn’t it say something about how ridiculous this is that we’re discussing Brett Gardner and comparing him to Nyjer Morgan?”

    Yep, and so is using wOBA, CHONE and BABIP.

  8. Jim Says:

    I guess I need to dust off my considered article, The Importance of the 25th Roster Spot and Tug Hulett to the Red Sox

  9. Richard Says:

    Brett Gardner will be the whipping boy in New York if the Yankees stumble out of the gate, especially if Holliday gets off to a hot start. Look at the LF’s in the dynasty years: Shane Spencer, Gerald Williams, Ricky Ledee, Dion James, Luis Polonia, and Chad Curtis? I say leave Gardner in and see what happens…he’ll at least give them 40+ SB’s and will be fun to watch.

  10. Patrick Says:

    LOL @ James Kunz. Will the Yanks actually start a guy who hasn’t ever been on the Wheaties’ box? Stay tuned to the Brett Gardner Channel to find out, where you get Brett Gardner news 24/7.

    Personally, I think he’s going to hit on the north side of .275/.340/.400 and steal 45 bases with above average defense. That should be good enough to bat 9th on any team in history. If he falls flat on his face, so what? They’ll get somebody else by the All-Star break in a heartbeat. Way too much is being made of him getting an opportunity to play.

    The only thing the Yanks need is their IF to hit the way they are capable of and the pitchers to stay healthy……. Oh, and they need to save room for another championship banner.

  11. Raul Says:

    Shane Spencer is a coach now, I think.

  12. Chuck Says:

    Hitting coach for the Padres Class A team in the California League.

  13. Brad Says:

    The fact that we are even discussing this shows that it is spring, and we can’t get enough baseball news. We even take the time to read articles about the Yankees #9 hitter, and even debate them.

  14. Raul Says:

    Maybe it’s because they only post 4 articles per week on this site, Brad.

  15. Patrick Says:

    Brett Gardner update; .324/.404/.428/.832 with 49 runs (on pace for 118) and 23 SB. I don’t think it’s too early to call him a success because his short swing approach is consistently repeatable.

    I said earlier this season that he was as good as Ellsbury, but now I’m saying he has better skills all around. He might be the Yanks 2nd most valuable offensive player so far.

  16. Raul Says:

    Gardner has been good.
    A .428 slugging percentage is on the low side, but if he steals bases at that rate, you’ll take it.

    I’d be concerned if I were part of the Yankees management about Alex Rodriguez. He hasn’t been terrible, but .276/.348/.459 are NOT A-Rod numbers. What’s up? Not hungry anymore because he won a title?

    And who would have thought that out of Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson and Brett Gardner….Gardner would be having the best season at this point?

  17. Patrick Says:

    With ARod’s hip injury, I’m definitly concerned about him. You never know when a superstars run is going to abruptly end. I’m hoping there’s a lot more in the tank for Alex but….Also, what’s up with AJ Burnett? he’s been awful.

  18. Patrick Says:

    Adam, what ever happened to Pags? I see he played in the HOF Classic in Cooperstown on Sunday with my son’s best friend and best man, Robby Hisert. Robby is like a son to me and is on the US Military All Stars. Robby hit a 2 run homer off Frank DiPino in the third with Bill Madlock on base and added a single and another run in the fifth in a 9-0 win for Team Feller over Team Killebrew (Pags’ team). Is there any way to get in touch with Pags via email these days?

    http://thedailystar.com/localsports/x336266007/Whiten-provides-Classic-power

  19. Shaun Says:

    Is there really a debate about Brett Gardner? He has a higher OPS+ than A-Rod, Jeter and Teixeira.

  20. Shaun Says:

    “Doesn’t it say something about how ridiculous this is that we’re discussing Brett Gardner and comparing him to Nyjer Morgan?”

    Yep, and so is using wOBA, CHONE and BABIP.

    I’m sure those who think it’s “ridiculous” to use wOBA, CHONE and BABIP have already made up (closed) their minds that it’s ridiculous. But if you quickly Google wOBA, CHONE and BABIP, you’ll see plenty on why it’s not so ridiculous to use wOBA, CHONE and BABIP. Some are just not enlightened enough to understand such foreign (to them) concepts so they shut off to trying to understand them.

    Good job using them, Paul. Those of us who “get it” appreciate you using them.

  21. Shaun Says:

    “Doesn’t it say something about how ridiculous this is that we’re discussing Brett Gardner and comparing him to Nyjer Morgan?”

    Yep, and so is using wOBA, CHONE and BABIP.

    These are the words of someone who thinks computers are going to take over the world and probably thinks the CIA talks to him through his teeth.

  22. Patrick Says:

    Enlightened One, I don’t know about the CIA talking to anyone through their teeth but I do know someone who talks to us through his ass.

  23. Shaun Says:

    Patrick, I know lots of them on this site. They assume they know so they refuse to learn. Either that or they are afraid of things they view as foreign because they think those things threaten their reputations as experts.

  24. Shaun Says:

    When you willingly admit you don’t know as much as a lot of people think they know, you aren’t afraid to learn from others about things like wOBA, CHONE and BABiP. But when you are unwilling or afraid to admit you don’t know as much as you thought you did, you become closed off and your knowledge doesn’t expand; you just remain a close-minded and backwards person, basically a flat-earther.

  25. Raul Says:

    Maybe you should watch it, Shaun.

    You posted an article about successful and unsuccessful franchises, and you’ve never worked for a professional baseball organization.

    I’m not sure you’re really qualified to accuse others of knowing or not knowing what they’re talking about.

  26. Shaun Says:

    Raul, all I’m accusing others of is not listening to and reading people who are probably smarter than they are in lots of areas; ignoring things like wOBA, CHONE and BABiP when they are obviously useful. If one doesn’t see the usefulness of these things, they are simply not trying to see their usefulness. It’s as simple as that.

  27. Shaun Says:

    If I were the owner or president of a team, I wouldn’t want people around who think advanced stats are useless any more than I would want people around who think scouts are useless. I would actually want to use anything and everything that provides a deeper understanding of players and the game. Some apparently wouldn’t take the same approach because some already think they know everything. When you have an inflated opinion of your own knowledge, you miss out on what others have to offer because certainly there are people that know more than you about lots of things.

  28. Raul Says:

    I agree with you that teams are well served to look at statistics. But which ones they choose to use is entirely up to them.

  29. Brautigan Says:

    Shaun: I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. I can take the back of a baseball card, look at the numbers, and do as fine of a job of predicting what a player will do as CHONE, or wOBA, or PECOTA or anything else you can put out there.

    There are so many factors involved regarding a players performance that goes into making or breaking a season that to try and list those is a fools errand. I think you’ve made your point, but alas, it is time to move on.

    And, I truly believe, I can sit down and watch a game in person and run circles around what I just saw and what you put down on paper all day long. If you want me to explain myself, I’d be glad to, but I really hope you just get my drift and move on………………….

  30. Chuck Says:

    Shaun, we’re not a bunch of one-trick ponies here.

    Most of us know the saber stats better than you do, and is why we discount them.

    Great line Patrick.

    Really no point in saying anything else.

  31. Patrick Says:

    http://thedailystar.com/localsports/x336266007/Whiten-provides-Classic-power

    I wrote something earlier about this but for some reason, it’s awaiting moderation so my apologies if this gets posted twice.

    Robby Hisert is my son’s best friend and was his best man at his wedding a few weeks ago. He’s also like a second son to me. He plays with the Military All Stars and was 2 for 2 with a 2 run homer(with Bill Madlock on base) in the Hall Of Fame Classic this past Sunday in Cooperstown for the Feller Team.
    He’s 24 and has played pro ball in Italy. He’s a 6′2″, 195 LB catcher/OF. His pop time is 1.79. We’re confident that his current gig is going to end up with a minor league contract with some organization in the states but so far that hasn’t happened. If anyone out there is a scout or knows a scout, they should look into this versatile kid. He’s a great player and an even better human. You won’t be sorry.

  32. Patrick Says:

    I wrote something earlier about this but for some reason, it’s awaiting moderation, so my apologies if this gets posted three times.

    Robby Hisert is my son’s best friend and was his best man at his wedding a few weeks ago. He’s also like a second son to me. He plays with the Military All Stars and was 2 for 2 with a 2 run homer(with Bill Madlock on base) in the Hall Of Fame Classic this past Sunday in Cooperstown for the Feller Team.
    He’s 24 and has played pro ball in Italy. He’s a 6′2″, 195 LB catcher/OF. His pop time is 1.79. We’re confident that his current gig is going to end up with a minor league contract with some organization in the states but so far that hasn’t happened. If anyone out there is a scout or knows a scout, they should look into this versatile kid. He’s a great player and an even better human. You won’t be sorry.

  33. Shaun Says:

    I agree with you that teams are well served to look at statistics. But which ones they choose to use is entirely up to them.

    Right. It’s entirely up to them whether they use stats that give them more insight into something useful and stats that don’t give them as much insight.

    Brautigan, wOBA is a stat and, while it can be useful in determining what a player is likely to do, it’s different from a projection system like CHONE and PECOTA.

    Also, there have been numerous studies that show projection systems are right more often than people when making projections. Does this mean projection systems are right all the time? No. They are just usually right more often than people. Why is this? Probably because projection systems can process a lot more data more quickly than people and projection systems have less of a bias than people. It’s impossible for any one of us to know the height, weight, body type, important stats, etc. of every player and process that into a projection; and whether we want them to or not our biases are going to show up in our projections.

    Projection systems do a better job than me or you at taking into account those “many factors involved regarding a players performance.” True they probably don’t do a good enough job taking into account things like injury history and likelihood of injury, age, personality, etc. if they take them into account at all.

    Garner is a fine example of how a projection system is probably going to be more right than most people.

    More examples are guys like Seth Smith, Colby Lewis and Kris Medlen. All were projected to have outstanding seasons, more outstanding than most people who ignore projection systems would have thought.

  34. Patrick Says:

    It wouldn’t post because of the links I provided to the HOF game so if anyone cares, they can look up the game themselves. Feller’s (Hisert’s) team beat Killebrew’s (with Pags) 9-0. Mark Whitten hit 2 jacks and was the MVP, Robby hit the game’s other HR. Quite a thrill for all of us but especially for him.

  35. Brautigan Says:

    Patrick:

    My first response would be to go to the Indy leagues. Minor league baseball is not too interested in 24 year olds. Golden baseball league is a good league. Start there. They are much more open to tryouts than minor league baseball.

  36. Chuck Says:

    “If anyone out there is a scout or knows a scout, they should look into this versatile kid.”

    Patrick, my email is .

    Send me anything you have, link to college, any video, etc.

    Brautigan is right, not many are going to be interested in a 24 year old free agent, but if that pop time is accurate, somebody will at least give him a look.

  37. Patrick Says:

    Thanks guys. Chuck, I’ll get an email out to you tonight. I have to see what I can put together for you. I know I have some names and a couple of numbers I can give you. Thanks a million for anything you can do.

  38. John Says:

    Patrick: Best of luck to Robby. I have exactly zero affiliation with any major league baseball teams.

    The biggest issue Yankee fans seem to have with Gardner is that he’s simply not a strong enough hitter to play LF. How can the LF for the Yankees be more/less league average with the bat?!

    The fact that he’s been very good so far aside, Cashman had 1.25 million dollars to spend on a LF. Why? Well at “defensive positions” like 3B, 2B and SS, Cashman has outstanding hitters (tho arod has underachieved). If Jeter were a LF and Gardner were a SS, (maintaining their respective offensive capabilities, playing their positions competently…not a literal position switch) there wouldn’t be an issue.

    I’m not real big on projections. Whenever I play fantasy baseball, they provide projected numbers. Unless the player starts the year on the DL, they’re usually just slightly adjusted versions on their previous year performance. Bang-up analysis PECOTA.

  39. Patrick Says:

    Thanks John. For anyone that’s interested, here is the video highlights of the HOF Classic. Robby’s jack is about halfway through. Also, check out the catch at the end by Tim McIntosh. He threw his glove at a Jeff Kent liner and knocked it down and caught it with his bare hand!

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