The New York Yankees saw a huge falloff from Brett Gardner a year ago and although his overall numbers may not pop out, he’s been making his contract worth every penny.
By Christian Kouroupakis
Ever since Brett Garnder’s All-Star appearance in 2015, the New York Yankees have not received any of the production they expected when they inked him to a four-year extension worth $52 million… Or have they?
The speedster was in the zone during the first half where he slashed .302/.377/484 along with 10 home runs, 15 stolen bases, a walk rate of 9.9%, and batting average on balls in play of .363.
Then came the second half, where his roller coaster of a season took an incredible drop as he slashed .206/.300/.292 and became hesitant on the base paths with only five stolen bases. It was a tale of two seasons for the Yankee left fielder and here in 2016, a look at standard statistics will show you that he may have peaked last July.
Overall, his season’s slash line sits at .250/.355/.344 with an OPS of .698 which is the second lowest of Garder’s career sitting only behind his rookie season in 2008. No matter how you look at those numbers, though, his slash line is highly influenced by a stretch from May 24 to June 2 where he slashed .000/.179/.000.
After his best season (2013) in which his WAR peaked at 4.4 the Yankees then signed Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year $153 million contract in 2014. It was at that point when New York may have contemplated dealing Gardner, one of their last homegrown players, but instead, they inked him to what appears to be an appalling four-year extension.
His numbers since signing his name on the contract certainly don’t pop out at you, but believe it or not, Gardner has been somewhat of a model of consistency for the Bombers even during his struggles.
Throughout Gardner’s career, he has reached base via the walk in more than 10% of his plate appearances, according to FanGraphs. Here in 2016, his walk rate (12.3%) is the third highest of his nine-year major league career.
Since his treacherous hitless streak back in late-May, he has actually maintained a .316/.377/.358 slash line in 25 games while his overall on-base percentage (.355) ranks tenth among qualified American League outfielders. He is on pace for 24 stolen bases and will always play his heart out while giving a great at-bat.
In regards to speed, Fangraphs uses the sabermetric stat “Base Running (BsR)” which is a base running statistic that takes stolen bases, caught stealings, and other base running plays (taking extra bases, being thrown out on the bases, etc) into runs above and below average.
Although he has seen a 59% decrease in BsR from 2010 to this year, his 4.4 BsR currently ranks fifth in all of major league baseball proving he is still an elite baserunner.
Despite the fact that his contract has been well worth the investment, the argument against it is with Ellsbury manning center field, Gardner is playing a position that could reasonably be employed by a middle of the order bat.
The defense of that ballplayer won’t truly weigh in relevancy due to the fact that Gardner’s Ultimate Zone Rating in runs above average (puts a run value to defense) sits at -1.2.
The second argument that pops up is Gardner is one of the rare members of the Yankees who can be dealt considering he doesn’t have an absurd contract nor a no-trade clause. Additionally, there are tons of teams that could use his presence in a pennant race.
Nevertheless, his age probably creates a dent in trade value and the fact that he owns the ability to walk at a tremendous pace and wreck havoc on the basepaths, he is valuable to New York.
Despite the common folk thinking it will be in the Yankees’ best interest to trade him, the organization will plausibly glance back and be fortunate that they extended Gardner rather than letting one of their own walk.