Pitchers are taking advantage of Gardner’s passivity.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

24 thoughts on “Pitchers are taking advantage of Gardner’s passivity.

  1. What are you talking about? Wade Boggs is a future hall of famer, he doesn't need to adjust to anything. He'll be fine.

    Wait, what?

    Oh.

    Sorry, I thought it was 1996.

  2. I started noticing this trend with Gardner when he came back from the injury in the 2nd half last year. Then it almost made sense because he didn't have the strength to put good swings on the bat, he knew it, and his numbers suffered because of it.

    But this year, it's almost like Gardner has gotten into the habit of just sitting there taking for the sake of taking as if he were still hurt and then screwing himself when he falls behind in the count and has to swing defensively to stay alive. I swear he's 0-1 or 0-2 in the count more than anybody in baseball.

    (No, I have no statistical support for that statement)

  3. Player A: .150/.222/.225
    Player B: .167/.265/.267

    Can anyone tell me who these players are? 9 Games. No matter what our eyes are telling us, there's no "clear trend" over the course of 9 games. Yes, Gardner looked especially bad against Josh Beckett, especially with his leadoff K looking–but then again, so did the rest of the team.

    By the way–I'm not saying you're flat out wrong. 9 Games is equally bad as a sample size whether you're on the pro or con argument for Gardner. I can't erally sit here and tell you that what I've seen this season confirms the upside story, and that he'll repeat his tremendous 2010 performance. But I can say that statistically speaking, I'm much more comfortable relying on his 2010 sample than his 2011 sample to guess what he will do over a long period of time.

    • BrienJackson

      9 games, 3 different teams, and a dozen pitchers, give or take. That's a plenty large enough sample to identify a trend in the approach of pitchers, especially with such an extremely high FSP%.

      • Don W

        No, it's not. It's confirmation bias in it's purest form. The "difference", in your 1st pitch strike %'s from 2010 to 2011 is 6 plate appearances. Throw in the possibility of a bad call or two and the numbers are next to meaningless. I have little doubt that if you looked you could find several groups of 36 PA's in which Gardner had similar numbers in 2010.

        What is it about early season numbers that makes people go a little nutty? If this happened the 3rd week in June it would be a blip on exactly nobody's radar.

  4. It's also worth noting that per PitchFX, of the 5 strikeouts looking Gardner has had this season, 2 of them were not actually strikes (hat tip to Joe Lefkowitz's fantastic PitchFX site), http://www.joelefkowitz.com.

    • LarryAtIIATMS

      Thanks, Will. I can now spend the next 2-1/2 minutes of my life doing something other than coming up with different ways to say small sample size.

    • BrienJackson

      Honestly, I'm not even completely sympathetic to him on that point. Everyone learns in Little League that you have to protect the plate with two strikes. It sucks when umps blow calls, but they do blow calls. You can't leave it up to them, especially when you're a speedy slap hitter without much power like Gardner. It's one thing for Ryan Howard to try to get a better pitch to drive, but Gardner needs to be putting those pitches in play.

      I'd also wonder if the number of strikes Gardner takes doesn't affect the umpires' perspective.

  5. On it, Larry.

    By the way, since no one has hazarded a guess: Player B above is indeed Brett Gardner. Player A is Albert Pujols.

    • LarryAtIIATMS

      COOL! So we can expect Gardner's OPS to exceed Pujols this year.

    • jay_robertson

      and if THAT doesn't prove Larry's SSS premise, I don't know what will.

      course, otoh, with those stats, I'm sure glad the Yanks didn't trade the farm and mortgage the future to bring over someone who is worse than Gardner. :D

      • LarryAtIIATMS

        By the way, I'm never sure when we've reached the point where a sample size is no longer too small. I'm not seeing any bright line out there. And I suspect that sometimes I cry out "small sample size!" when the trend is clear and I'm just engaged in wishful thinking.

        I'm in an introspective mood today, so thought I'd share.

    • Great, so no need to go after Pujols as a free agent, we already have somebody better than him.

  6. Mark - Buffalo

    Gardner has always been nothing more than a good 4th OF. Why the Yankees believe he can be more than that is beyond me. He is the perfect pinch-hitter/defensive replacement/spot-starter type player, yet the Yankees think he can be their leadoff hitter. It just doesn't make sense.

    • Mark:

      In 2010, Brett Gardner was the 9th most valuable OF in baseball, and 5th in the AL–this, despite nursing an injured wrist for the latter half of the season.
      http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=of&…

      How this could possibly make him merely a good 4th OF, I just don't understand. This is like looking at Tim Lincecum (after his first dominant season) and saying "My god. Tim Lincecum is too small to succeed as a starting pitcher in the big leagues." He already had, and Brett Gardner already has.

      • jdp

        Bill James converted me to being a "stats guy" many years ago, but I still believe that if you've watched enough baseball sometimes your eyes can tell you things the numbers don't.
        Gardner will never again come close to doing what he did last year.
        We should have traded him while his value was higher than it ever will be again.

        • Chip

          Don't his minor league numbers bolster what we saw at MLB last year: that he isn't super powerful, but he is an OBP guy (.391 OBP in AAA combining 07-09)? Didn't your eyes tell you last year that his speed makes him an exciting player both in the outfield and on the basepaths? Sure, he might be due for some regression this year, but he still ought to be quite valuable to a team that is otherwise on the old and slow side.

  7. By the way: "The perfect pinch-hitter/defensive replacement/spot-starter type player" is….Albert Pujols. He just happens to be a good starter, too.

  8. Jacques

    The things is if people think Gardner is a bad player and should move out of leadoff spot or even as a left fielder, who will be his replacement? The left fielder would likely be Andruw Jones and Jeter would most likely bat after Nick Swisher. IF Gardner can start to heat up just a little, then I would say having him where he is right now is the right move.

    • BrienJackson

      I don't think Gardner is a bad player nor that he needs to move out of the leadoff spot. I think he needs to change his approach at the plate to get in fewer un-favorable counts, strike out less, and get on base more.

  9. domonic

    Gardner is also too patient when stealing bases, he waits too long to steal a base.

  10. biscuit pants

    I don't know if you can call 36 plate appearances a trend.

    His FPS% is 69.4%. That means that in those 36 plate appearances, Brett the Jett saw 25 first-pitch strikes. But if he had seen 21 first-pitch strikes, his FPS% would be 58%, and we wouldn't be having this discussion.

    If I wanted to, I could make the case that Gardner's plate discipline has improved dramatically this year, since his O-Swing% is at a career low, and his Z-Swing% is at a career high. But alas, it's only 36 plate appearances.

    Data from a small sample size is kind of like modern art. We all think we can interpret what it's really telling us, but in reality, most of it is bulls**t.

  11. roadrider

    Yeah he has to put more balls in play early in the count but he also has to, you know, get hits with some of them. I'm a major skeptic on Gardner who thinks his admittedly outstanding results from last season were built in no small part on a higher BABIP than he can be expected to repeat consistently (this is not Ichiro Suzuki we're talking about here) and a walk rate that only a slugger can be expected to maintain. I would love for Gardner to prove me wrong but I'm not betting on it.

    That said, can we give the guy 100 -150 AB before we draw any definitive conclusions?

  12. Roadrider–

    To correct you, in fact, this IS Ichiro we're talking about here. At least with the BABIP. The reason Ichiro has such a high BABIP is that he has blazing speed. Blazing speed that happens to be roughly matched by Gardner. I'd bet, given the effects of age, that Gardner actually beats Ichiro in a footrace these days.

    But as Domonic mentions above–he does need to get better at making reads quicker. He's too tentative at the moment.

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