How Good Is Brett Gardner?

When the Yankees named Brett Gardner their every day left fielder before the 2010 season, I was skeptical to say the least.  I didn’t think he would be able to handle it and would get easily exposed.  I thought his talents were best used on the bench as a very good defender with great speed.  But I wound up being pretty wrong about him.

(Courtesy of BBD)

Well, a few weeks ago, Fangraphs published an article called, “Brett Gardner: Elite Player.” Like most readers, I was shocked by this assertion because although I thought Gardner was a good player, to say he’s elite or even great, was a bit much.  The author, Jack Moore, started the article by showing the fact that Brett Gardner is twelfth in the MLB in WAR since the start of last season.  Here’s a piece of it:

Hitting, fielding, and baserunning all combine to make Gardner elite. Since the 2010 season began, Gardner has been at least five runs above average in all three facets, better than 20 runs above average in both hitting (+22.5) and defense (+38). Of all the great players in the Major Leagues, Andres Torres is the only other Major Leaguer who can make that claim. Surely, small-sample UZR total can create myths out of men, but given the vast amount of video evidence in support of Gardner’s fantastic glovework, I count myself as a believer.

He may not be doing it in the most traditional or the most visible way, but, in this case, the numbers don’t lie. When Brett Gardner isn’t busy creating runs with his bat or his wheels, he’s saving them with his glove. Add it all up, and you come to an inescapable conclusion: Brett Gardner is one of the Major League’s best players.

The article makes a very good point.  The typical left fielder hits for power and isn’t much of a fielder, but Gardy is kind of the opposite.  He is a great fielder, leading outfielders in UZR, he has great speed and uses it to steal a lot of bases, and although very subtle, he is good offensively, drawing a lot of walks and collecting his base hits.  Remember that on-base percentage is much more valuable than slugging percentage.

He may not be going about it in the most traditional way or the way that most fans usually judge great players, but Brett is helping the Yankees win in multiple ways and that makes him a great player.


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