An overlooked takeaway from Friday’s contest between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles is Brett Gardner‘s aggressive baserunning.
There aren’t many positives to take from a New York Yankees loss that was highlighted by a blown 5-1 lead, but Brett Gardner’s showcase on the basepaths is one of the few.
The longest-tenured Yankee went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and two stolen bases off Orioles’ starting pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez. It was the 28th time of his career that he stole two or more games in a single game.
While that’s impressive in itself, the multi-stolen base game for Gardner on Friday was the first time he stole two or more bases in a game since May 15, 2016, and it was just the ninth time since the start of the 2013 season. From 2008-11 (459 games), Gardner swiped two or more bases in 19 games and had a total of 135 stolen bases compared to the 83 he has swiped in 596 games since 2013.
The drop off is truly a phenomenon, as it’s not like Gardner lost the ability to successfully steal bases nor should he be inclined to assume that he lost a step.
Gardner’s stolen base success rate in his first four years in the majors sat at 83 percent while over the past five seasons, his success rate is 79 percent. Yes, it’s a little lower, but it’s still the fourth-highest success rate in the major leagues since 2013 among baserunners with 100 or more attempts.
Evidently, he (and Jacoby Ellsbury too) is fully capable of swiping bases with success and in 2017, that aggressiveness we saw back when Gardner first broke into the league needs to return now more than ever.
In 2016, New York stole just 72 bases as a team (11th-worst in baseball) and while it’s not the utmost reason why the team also finished second-to-last in batting average with runners in scoring position, getting into scoring position in front of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and Matt Holliday will reel in insane results from a lineup that coexists with a rotation in dire need of run support.
Take last night for example. Gardner walked to lead off the contest then stole second base with Sanchez batting. After Bird struck out swinging, Matt Holliday squibbed a weak grounder against the shift to right field which allowed the speedster to score from second.
If he’s on first, he would have only been at third base following Holliday’s single and would have been stranded there as Starlin Castro popped out to end the inning after Ellsbury struck out.
Manager Joe Girardi has spoken about wanting Gardner to be more aggressive at the top of the lineup. The fear of getting tossed out in front of the middle of the order truly should be outweighed by not only the success rate by the 33-year old, but the opportunities it can open up for a team that has been one-dimensional for quite some time now.
We’ve heard how much Gardner wants to be aggressive and we’ve heard the excuses, too. Now, however, the Yankees should hope that their most valuable draft pick since Derek Jeter‘s steal-happy trend is here to stay as it adds another invaluable feature to a new-look lineup.