Gardner and Ellsbury Living Up To New Contracts

When the Yankees signed Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury to contracts this winter it represented a pretty big change for them and it has paid huge dividends so far.

The Yankees invested big money in two outfielders who are known for their speed, defense and contact hitting. Brian Cashman has never been one to hide his love for “big hairy monsters” who hit home runs, so the fact that he signed two non-power outfielders in one offseason was pretty surprising.

Also, when the Yankees gave Gardner a new four-year, $52 million contract it represented another change in philosophy. The Yankees never gave out contract extensions to players before their current deals expired, and it might have cost them Robinson Cano. Most other MLB teams have been locking up their young players early for years now, while the Yankees were lagging behind, so it was big of them to see what they were doing wrong and adjust.

The Gardner signing was an easy call, and the Yankees got a great value.…

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Brett Gardner’s defense

New York Yankees v Los Angeles Angels of AnaheimFor years Brett Gardner has rated as the best defender in baseball. He’s accumulated tons of runs saved according to UZR, shagging flies and diving for balls … in left field. Gardner’s defense was difficult to assess fully because he was playing out of his natural position. In addition, in a game that now uses relative measures to value defense, Gardner was being compared to inferior defenders. Left fielders are not center fielders. Typically they are among the worst defensive players on the field, while center fielders are among the best. This favorable comparison, it was often suggested, juiced Gardner’s UZR results.

Now that Curtis Granderson is injured, Brett has been called upon to play center field. As a result, we can get our first glance at how his defense ranks compared to other center fielders. The answer is a bit disappointing. In center Gardner rates as good, but not great. So far this season his UZR is +5.3. That puts him in elite company, but it is far from the best rank in the game.…

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Rays score only three runs, but that was good enough to beat Yanks 3-1

tampa-bay-rays-v-york-20130623-204035-797The Yankees can’t score runs. The team got seven hits on the day, but Brett Gardner and Zoilo Almonte got three and two of those respectively, which meant that the rest of the team wasn’t in a position to knock them in. Gardner scored the sole Yankee run on the day, as Rays starter Chris Archer pitched six innings of one run ball.

Ivan Nova made his first appearance since returning from the minors. He wasn’t bad. He wasn’t good either, but he wasn’t bad. He gave the Yankees 6.2 innings, striking out seven while walking only three. He left with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning with the score tied at one a piece. Boone Logan came in to get out James Loney. Instead, Loney knocked a single into shallow center that scored Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist. That was your ball game.

The loss brings the Yankees overall record to 41-34. That keeps them close to a playoff position on the season, but if the season ended today the Yankees would be on the outside looking in.…

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Chris Stewart and Brett Gardner help Yankees squeak past M’s, 2-1

york-yankees-v-seattle-mariners-20130609-231933-023Felix Hernandez showed up today in a big way for Mariners. Lucky for the Yankees, David Phelps also brought his A game. The King did precisely what he’s paid to do. He gave the Mariners seven innings of one run baseball, allowing just one run on five hits with two walks while striking out seven. Felix looked a little shaky in the beginning of the game. His pitch count was in the forties after just two innings. But he settled down and dominated the Yankees, as he always does. David Phelps matched Hernandez almost pitch for pitch. He gave the Yankees six innings of one run baseball, allowing three hits and three walks with six strikeouts.

Both starters let runs score in the second inning. Brett Gardner singled in Jayson Nix, getting one of his four hits on the day. That gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead, something particularly rare against the King. The Yankees gave that lead right back in the bottom frame.…

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Gardner Getting It Done Lately

Gardner vs TB

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod.  Stats are as of Wednesday afternoon.  Gardner’s gone 2-9 w/ 1 R in the 2 games since)

Amidst the scores of struggling bats, one man has been flying under the radar and quietly putting together a really nice month.  That man, if you were unaware, is Brett Gardner.  I almost didn’t realize it myself until a day or two ago, so I’m sure hopeful there are a few more of you out there who didn’t realize it either.  After a slow start to the year and some slightly disturbing swing trends, Gardner has really come around and been both a spark at the top of the order and a stud in the field in May.  Were it not for his contributions this month, the Yankees would likely be out a few more Ws.

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In his last 10 games, Gardner is 11-35 (2 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR) with 8 runs scored, 6 RBI, and 4 BB.  …

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Brett Gardner retains his value

large_gardner0727Unsurprisingly, Robinson Cano is the most valuable Yankee this season, in terms of fWAR (1.7). He’s slowed down a bit from his hot start, but Robbie is still putting up a .378 wOBA. When you do that at second base you’ll make yourself a high cost commodity, no matter how bad your defense is. It’s the second name on this list that may surprise people. Once again, Brett Gardner (1.4 fWAR) rates as one of the most valuable Yankees, so long as you like defense.

For fWAR watchers, this isn’t as big a surprise as it seems. Whenever he’s healthy, Gardner has always rated near the top of the Yankee heap in value because of his defense. In fact, Fangraphs says that Gardner has produced 14.9 fWAR between 2009 and 2013, inclusive. That makes him the 38th most valuable player in baseball during that time. That ranks just behind Curtis Granderson, and just ahead of Mark Teixeira. That feat is impressive enough, but it jumps up a notch when you consider that Gardner missed large stretches of 2009 and 2012.…

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Where Was Brett Gardner Last Night?

Matt Wieters, Brett Gardner

To not see Brett Gardner‘s name included in last night’s lineup was more than a bit surprising.  There hadn’t been any reports of him being sick or injured, the team was coming off a scheduled off-day for travel and had actually had 2 scheduled off-days in the last 5 calendar days, they were playing in the notoriously offense-friendly Coors Field, and Gardner has been the best defensive player and one of the best all-around players on the team so far this season.  Yet there he was, plopped on the bench while Joe elected to send arguably the weakest lineup of the season out there to play, not score, and lose.

Joe’s explanation for this decision was, as you’d expect, matchups.  The Yankees were facing another left-handed starter last night in Jorge De La Rosa, and Joe wanted to put another righty bat in the lineup.  Unfortunately, the only available righty bat on the bench is Ben Francisco and that’s where the decision making train starts to come off the tracks of logic.…

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Just one more day …

Tonight, the 2013 Major League Baseball season begins, with the Texas Rangers playing the Houston Astros. The most beautiful thing about the baseball season is that it changes how I spend my leisure time. Nothing on TV tonight? They always play baseball. Can’t think of something to do after work? Call a buddy and watch some baseball. Don’t know how to spend time on a sunny afternoon? Upper deck tickets are cheap on Stub Hub and the 4 train moves fast. 162 games plus the playoffs means something to do, something to watch and something to talk about for half the year, and in terms of weather it’s the better half of the year.

After the gift of always having something entertaining to do, my second favorite thing about the baseball season is following story lines. Most Yankee fans are upset because the team enters 2013 in the weakest state that it has been in since 2008. Not only is the team not favored to win the AL East, but many believe the team will miss the playoffs.…

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Gardner Makes A Change In His Batting Approach

As I watched Brett Gardner extend his hot start in Spring Training last night, I wondered how the slap hitting outfielder could be making such good contact. I watched a few of his 2013 at bats, and then went back to 2012, and then I realized that he’s made a key change. Take a look at the GIF below and see if you can spot it.

gardnerhands

Gardner is no longer keeping two hands on the bat, and is taking a one-handed follow-through immediately on point of contact with the pitch. In 2012, Gardner’s two-handed approach at the plate was more reminiscent of a power hitter, rather than the contact and speed he usually uses at the plate. Prior to 2012, Gardner used this same one-handed approach, and it’s a mystery as to why he ever changed.

At first I thought it had to do with injury, but he was keeping both hands on the bat prior to his injury in 2012.…

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