The shrinking offensive contributions of Brett Gardner

After another A.J. Burnett implosion on Monday, I couldn’t help but notice something awry in the outfield. Specifically, why was Austin Kearns manning left field? I wondered if perhaps Gardner was given a day off in preparation of the postseason (although it does seem as though he’s been used pretty sparingly of late).

Granted, he’s likely still recovering from injury and Girardi was simply exhibiting caution. And maybe he just hasn’t had great success against the renowned Marc Rzepczynski (although he has accumulated a career triple slash of .318/.456/.614 against the Blue Jays and .333/.500/.533 line at the Rogers Center). In any event, I felt compelled to investigate possible explanations. What I discovered was something we’ve known for a while now: Brett Gardner’s offensive production has taken a hit in a pretty significant way.
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As I perused his stats via B-Ref, I couldn’t help but grimace at his monthly splits. His batting average has declined precipitously since the All-Star break. This is especially troubling given the fact that he is a pure contact hitter. Gardner earns a large portion of his keep (at least offensively) by complementing speed with a decent contact rate. As of late, the hits have essentially dissipated altogether.

In terms of OBP he has still performed well above league average over the course of the season. However, a declining batting average along with his lowest OBP of any month in September (.338) minus any real pop in the bat equals a pretty ineffective player. On a more uplifting note, he’s still seeing a solid number of pitches per at bat (on average about 4.60) making him one of the more patient (albeit currently ineffective) hitters in the league.

Speaking of pop in the bat, here’s the next realization. Unfortunately, when one considers Brett’s SLG and OPS percentages, he once again continues to fall short over the latter half of the season. The lack of slugging makes absolute sense given the fact that Gardner’s hits are almost all singles. What’s stunning though is that for a guy with his speed, he has a frustratingly low number of doubles and triples. Even when Gardy is hitting well, his slugging is, and probably will always be, less than desirable.

Ideally, Brett Gardner would improve on this facet of his game. No one expects him to hit for power with any frequency, but it’d be helpful if he was at least capable of occasionally obtaining hits that put him in scoring position. This season, he’s managed only 19 doubles and 6 triples. Similarly, Gardner has managed to knock only 5 home runs, which is more of an aberration than anything else. Because there is a direct correlation between SLG and OPS, when one dips, so does the other. If Gardner didn’t have such a good OBP from early on in the season, his OPS would be that much further below average as well.

Now, some might argue that it’s hard to complain about Gardner’s production. He’s been brilliant in the outfield defensively, and his overall offensive contributions have far exceeded his projections (all of which have escalated his WAR well past what many of us initially expected). More importantly, he’s still very affordable which is great as he’ll remain under team control for another few seasons. These are all fair points which are difficult to contend.

Of course, there’s no guarantee he’ll duplicate the same statistics next year. It’s just as likely that the league may have figured him out and he simply becomes another late-inning defensive substitution. My advice: sell high while he still has value. Then carefully mull over the idea of acquiring that other guy who’ll soon be available and is loaded with talent.

6 thoughts on “The shrinking offensive contributions of Brett Gardner

  1. he needs to bunt and bunt and bunt…he needs to steal early when on basehe has not been as aggressive second half of season.great outfielder

  2. Very much agree on stealing early when on base and needing to be more aggressive to take advantage of his speed.Very much disagree that he needs to bunt more. He's shown time and again it's not one of his better skills, not to mention that it's a complete waste of an at-bat to giftwrap an out to the opposing team.

  3. Bunting is almost always a bad idea – especially for a guy like Gardner who is terrible at it.Totally agree, Anon, that he needs to be a more aggressive base runner.

  4. Garnder needs to work on hitting with men in scoring position. Notoriously bad at it. Also, strikes out way too much for a slap hitter. He does not make contact often enough to make up for his lack of power. Amazingly, he continues the same lack of productivity over and over again with men on base. To me, it looks like he waves at the ball instead of swinging at it. It appears to me that he has a lack of focus when batting with runners on base.

  5. NoMaas believes Brett Gardner might be the Yankee MVP based on his salary vs. production. He is fine and the Yankees aren't going to spend $100 million on an OFer when they already have a good cheap homegrown LFer named Brett Garnder. Are you trying to destroy the Yankee payroll? Take my advice. Shut up.

  6. Anon-1. I think the point NoMass might have been suggesting is that Gardner provides excellent production proportionate to his cost (especially in contrast to other Yankee players). I agree with those sentiments – particularly as he’s also exceeded the expectations of nearly everyone (including my own). However, relative to other outfielders outside of the organization (i.e. – Crawford), he’s simply not as good, and probably never will be. Does it concern you that Gardner has performed below average in BA, OPS, and SLG since July? What role do you envision for him on the team?I’m not suggesting that the Yankees carelessly throw Gardner out. Rather, they should consider him as a decent trade chip while it’s still plausible if given a chance. Currently, his value is at its absolute highest. If he has a miserable season next year offensively (which is certainly possible given the way his numbers have been trending for several months now combined with his initial projections as a major league player), then he’ll end up being just another speedy defensive fourth outfielder. How uncommon…2. Carl Crawford will not necessarily break the Yankees payroll. I think you take it for granted that they are definitely going to acquire Cliff Lee (and more importantly, that the two players are necessarily dependent upon each other).3. No offense Guy, but I'm ultimately going to dismiss your advice until you’re able to back up your points with actual data instead of vague references to another site.