Brett Gardner went 0-4 at the plate last night, his second straight 0-4 game and the continuation of what has become a prolonged second half slump. Gardner is hitting just .200/.288/.215 in August after a .247/.369/.341 July that was his worst offensive month to date. Gardner has a history of wearing down physically and seeing his production level drop in the second half, and Matt called out that drop in production last Monday. So what's up with Gardner? Is he hurt? Is he tired? Is he just slumping?
Those are Gardner's spray charts from April through June and July through today of this season. In terms of BIP distribution, there hasn't been a noticeable difference. Part of what has made Gardner a better offensive player is his ability to hit to all fields. His power is almost exclusively to the pull side, but he can go the other way for hits with the best of them.
What really jumps out in comparing the 2 samples is the dramatic drop in pull power from the first 3 months to the last 2. Look at that cluster of home runs to right field from April to June, and then look at that cluster of outs from the last 2 months where the ball is dying just short of the warning track. Gardner definitely doesn't appear to be hitting the ball with the same authority today that he was a few months ago.
The contact splits support that claim as well. Gardner's July and August line drive rates of 18.5% and 17.0% are his 2 lowest monthly rates of the season. His 23.9% August hard contact rate and 22.0% August rate are also his 2 lowest monthly rates of the season in that category. Overall, Gardner hit .302/.377/.484 with a 22.0% LD rate and 28.6% HC rate in the first half of the season compared to .207/.315/.252 with an 18.1% LD rate and 21.6% HC rate so far in the second half.
Gardner has 495 plate appearances on the season, tops on the Yankees and tied for 27th most in MLB this year. That puts him on pace for 668 PA, which would exceed last year's career high by over 30 and could be the explanation for this second half fade. We've seen it happen before, and the on-field results, major drop in power, and negative shift in contact rates all add up to a tired player.
(Spray charts courtesy of Texas Leaguers)