Theo makes the case for Gardner in left

In an interview with WEEI, while discussing left field for his ballclub in 2010 and stressing the importance of defense at that position, Red Sox architect, Theo Epstein, inadvertently made the case for starting Brett Gardner in left field for the Yankees as well. And, though it pains me to give any Red Sox fan credit, his argument was rather effective.

Here’s what Epstein had to say via a WEEI transcript (the interviewer’s words are in bold, Epstein’s are not):

We knew Julio Lugo stunk and Lowell was hurt. But we never thought Bay was less than average or Ellsbury was less than good.

What you will see this year, contrast with Carl Crawford’s left field defense for example, with what we’ve typically see in left field. We’ve had bat-first left fielders. If you don’t see a left fielder making an egregious mistake, that doesn’t mean he’s doing a great job. Look at how hard it is to hit doubles when we play Tampa Bay. We’ll hit balls that would doubles that turn into outs, that’s a huge swing. If that happens once a game, once a series, you take a ball that would be a two-base hit and zero outs recorded and turn it to zero on base and an out recorded, that is a monumental swing. If you add that up over the course of a season and add that into a player’s offensive value, it changes the whole nature of what the player contributes. Again, those players who contribute offensively and turn those balls into outs that others wouldn’t defensively that makes a really valuable player.

That’s basically the reasoning behind playing Brett Gardner in left field, right? Although his bat may not be the typical weapon wielded by most left fielders in the baseball, Gardner does excel at run prevention – more so than the average left fielder – and that has real, tangible value, value that can be measured and then translated into wins (WAR).

Long-term, I’m not a big fan of Gardner as the Yankees’ everyday left fielder, but, this season, he can be a very useful player in the left corner at Yankee Stadium. His defense alone will make it worthwhile for Joe Girardi to deploy him. As said by Epstein, such fielding can provide a big impact, and alter the “whole nature” of a player’s contributions.

Photo by the AP

15 thoughts on “Theo makes the case for Gardner in left

  1. willie Mays was making this very point in an interview a couple weeks ago. He said his dad had impressed the point on him to take his defense seriously, for a run saved was one you didn’t have to make up at bat.

  2. This brings up an interesting question, do the Yankees have a better outfield defense than the Sox? I’d obviously take Drew over Swisher but I think I’d also take Granderson over Cameron (close) and Gardner over Ellsbury (not really all that close)

  3. Yeah, that’s the argument. That’s also something that falls between the numbers, as Theo explained. It’s why stat guys will never love Gardner, because much of what he brings falls between the cracks, statistically.

    For example, say Gardner’s at the plate leading off an inning. He dribbles a ball down the 3B line. The 3B rushes the throw (due to Brett’s speed) and tosses it away, allowing Brett to reach 1B safely and advance to 2B. The next batter hit’s a ground ball to 2B, Gardner advances to 3B. The next batter hits a fly ball to the OF, Brett scores a run.

    In that sequence, he didn’t get credit for a Hit, AB or SB. He gets credit for scoring a Run, but that’s it. Yet every part of that sequence was influenced heavily by Brett’s speed and nobody else on the team makes those plays happen. If you want to say ‘big deal, just one run’ in a tight game facing a stud pitcher, that one run can be the difference in the game.

    That’s why people who criticize Brett for having no power are way off. He’s not that type of player, he’s a tablesetter. I mostly look at Runs Scored and OBP for Brett.

  4. I’d like the STAT guys to take Gardner’s stats before he broke his thumb and then tell me how he holds up.CLearly after the injury he was not the same player.

  5. I think he had an ops over 900 for about a 10 week period. If he comes close to that, he’ll an amazingly valuable player.

  6. If Winn has his head right and is ready to compete, he’ll be starting in LF. He is the most complete OF in camp not named Granderson. In fact, if everyone is ready to play, Gardy could be in Scranton or traded. Hoffman, Winfree and Golson all have as good or better skill sets than Gardy and Thames could hit his way to a roster spot. I like Gardy and speed kills but he has some competition and nothing would surprise me.