Defense the key to Brett Gardner’s future?
In 2010, according to Ultimate Zone Rating, Brett Gardner, with a remarkable 21.7 UZR and 39.6 UZR/150, was the best left fielder in baseball. The gritty one actually contributed over 2 wins with his stellar fielding.
Most of Gardner’s defensive prowess stems from his tremendous range, which was 16 runs above average—the best rating in the American League among outfielders. Of course, the 27-year old’s speed played a part here, as you can generally cover more ground and recover from bad routes with better wheels. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, Gardner’s extraordinary speed likely even shaped the value of his arm (to some extent), too. Still, even if his defensive numbers were brought on, in part, by his speed, there’s no denying Gardner’s value. See the UZR chart on the right for a mini-breakdown (range runs, arm runs, error runs).
Given Gardner’s great defense, one wonders what the Yankees have planned for him in 2011.
Will he continue to roam left field, or could Brian Cashman pursue Carl Crawford, a player who is similar to Gardner defensively – Crawford was baseball’s second best left fielder, posting an UZR of 18.4, UZR/150 of 21.4 – yet is a better offensive performer, overall (Crawford’s wOBA this season was .378, Gardner’s was .358)? Because of his defensive value, in terms of WAR, Gardner and Crawford weren’t far apart this year, as Crawford was 6.7 wins above replacement and Gardner was 5.6. So, when considering whether or not to replace Gardner with Crawford, fielding plays a significant role. Gardner’s defense is so good and his price-tag is so small that it probably makes more sense to just keep him in left field while avoiding Crawford altogether.
Defense aside, some may point to Gardner’s second-half triple slash – .233/.366/.332 triple slash – as a reason to chase Crawford, but I don’t think the swoon will influence the Yankees’ decision. It’s fairly evident Gardner is playing with lingering pain in his wrist. Assuming he can recover in the offseason, his spot should be secure.
Well, that’s my opinion, anyway. Tell me, what do you think about Brett Gardner’s impending future?
Photo by Reuters