Friday, July 10, 2009

How Does Your Gardner Throw?

As Jay pointed out, by way of Ken Singleton, in Wednesday's recap, Brett Gardner is quietly putting together quite a season for himself. Gardner currently leads AL rookies in AVG, OBP, runs, SB, and BB. He's second in RBI and OPS and third in hits. It's an admittedly weak crop of rookie hitters, and Matt Wieters has not been up the whole year nor has he gotten hot yet. I'm not suggesting anyone start a Rookie of the Year campaign for Garner, but he certainly has been a pleasant surprise, particularly after his slow start.

Yet he's not even starting regularly. After getting five hits in the Friday night game against the Mets two weeks ago, Joe Girardi said Gardner had earned regular playing time, something we had advocated for weeks prior. Yet in the twelve games since then, Gardner has started just eight, and five of those came with Melky Cabrera also in the lineup.

Wednesday, Dave Cameron at Fangraphs had an interesting article on the defensive value of Brett Gardner. Sabremetric defensive evaluations have evolved markedly over the past couple years, but I'm not completely sold on them yet (side note, check this interesting Times article via Bronx Banter). That said, UZR/150 appears to be the most evolved at this stage, and Gardner is off the charts according to that metric.

Anyway, give the Fangraphs article a read. Gardner has uncorked a few memorably bad throws this year, but I can also recall a few good ones. Memories aside, the metrics say he's been more good than bad, much more good in fact. While Melky assuredly has a stronger arm, the Fangraphs piece seems to indicate that Gardner has a more effective arm, and a much better all around defensive game.


  1. The knock on Brett will always be his arm. Bernie was able to get by with less than a plus arm, but lets face it: a strong arm in the outfield makes a HUGE difference.

    Both have strong cases for starting/playing time. Brett is one of the fastest guys in the game, and makes routine grounders hair raising for opposing infielders. In the outfield, cutting off balls in the gap or tracking down long fly balls, he's excellent, and unlike some guys (ahem, Abreu), has no fear of the wall.

    Melky has the stronger arm, is a switch hitter which helps balance the lineup and stop those gay pitching matchups. Also, he's started to show a knack for 'clutch' hitting.

    I like Melky for now, but the Outfield of the Future will hopefully be Brett, Melky, and Austin Jackson.

  2. Give me range over arm strength any day of the week.

  3. I don't think Gardner has a plus arm, but I don't see why so many people think it's a bad arm. I'd say it's average. The big problem in my amateur opinion is how long it takes him to load up and throw. But he'll let loose a seed every now and again.

    I'd go with Gardner right now. I feel he's the overall better defender, he's better getting on base, and whatever advantage Melky has in SLG is mitigated by Gardner's speed. He should be starting close to every game in my opinion.

    Melky has had several huge hits this year, but of late he's also fallen into some of his bad habits from the past two seasons. Normally I would disagree about Melky having any platoon advantage as a switch hitter, but he's actually begun to hit lefty pitching this season. Both Melky and Gardner have value. Girardi can afford to ride the hot hand, I just wish he'd recognize that the hot hand is far and away Gardner right now.

    I think all three guys you mention have a future, but I really hope that's not the outfield of the future. It'd be something to see defensively. But while all three figure to be adequate offensive players on their own, as a collective that would be a woefully underperforming offensive outfield. They'd be lucky to hit 30 homers amongst them.