Gardner on the Rise

I haven't been a believer in Brett Gardner since he was called up last season. After last night, this is his line on the year: .303/.374/.441. He's also stolen 17 bases and been caught stealing only twice. How did that happen?

22 comments… add one

  • Aaron Small sample size?
    All levity aside, this reminds me of the Ellsbury hoopla that surrounded his first appearance on the scene – before pitchers adjusted to him and he slumped (and eventually fought back to where he is now, a decent CF, but not a superstar).
    We can’t know until the same process begins to work its way with BG.
    The NYYs will use him more now, and opposing pitchers will now have to read the book that is being acquired on him.
    We’ll see.

    dabize June 27, 2009, 10:05 am
  • Definitely the small sample caveat should have been included in this post. I’ll put it this way: Gardner has surprised me in a good way. I just didn’t think, based on the way he looked when he first came up, that he had even a streak like this in him. Credit to him for his hard work and the adjustments he made at the plate.

    Nick-YF June 27, 2009, 10:18 am
  • “…this reminds me of the Ellsbury hoopla that surrounded his first appearance on the scene …”
    not even close…the ellsbury hype was more similar to the hughes/kennedy hype..the kind of accolades that wind up on hall of fame plaques…i never saw anywhere that expectations were too high for gardner…he was not even projected to be a starter until he yanked the job out from under melky…the only expectations anybody had for him as far as i recall was blazing speed and solid defense…so far he’s delivered on both…the better than expected hitting [so far] is icing on the cake…

    dc June 27, 2009, 10:37 am
  • actually, dc’s right about this. Gardner’s prospect profile wasn’t comparable to Ellsbury’s. His early success is more surprising than Ellsbury’s.

    Nick-YF June 27, 2009, 10:50 am
  • the kind of accolades that wind up on hall of fame plaques
    How about substantiating, dc? I really dislike these generalizations. So RSN was putting Ellsbury in the HoF before he even started playing? Really? I remember a TON of excitement about Ellsbury’s potential, but I don’t recall this kind of unreality. This comment just serves as an effort to cement some sort of generic collective memory on all of us, that one set of fans is irrational. The same could be said if I accused YFs of writing Hughes’ HoF plaque before he even started, which, despite the hype surrounding Hughes, was just not the case. I recall YFs (and many other fans of non-YF persuasion) discussing Hughes’ potential, as a can’t-miss, but that’s different than inducting him. Can we stop with this kind of rhetorical hyperbole please, it serves this site poorly.
    If anyone is curious, they should look at Damon’s first three full seasons in the Majors (albeit at a different age) and then look at Ellsbury’s first 1.5+. A number of comparisons of Ellsbury were to Damon, who, three years ago, was hardly a Hall of Famer, and probably still isn’t.

    SF June 27, 2009, 11:24 am
  • I should have known better than to use the term “hoopla” – it diverted attention from my actual point.
    Fact is, the buzz about Gardner’s actual performance today (not last month, granted) resembles the buzz about JE’s performance (not the Advent of it) in September 07 and in the post season of that year (IIRC). Let’s divide through by hoopla and focus on the uplifting performance of both players shortly after they began playing regularly in the majors (and making a splash that forced opposing pitchers to pay attention to finding ways to use their weaknesses at the plate to get them out).

    dabize June 27, 2009, 11:58 am
  • Not really, dabize. The difference is that people EXPECTED Ellsbury to perform like that, and in fulfilling their expectations, the media espoused him as the ‘next Boston superstar’, or something ridiculous like that.
    With Gardner, it’s more “Hm, maybe we underestimated him,” which is probably true.
    The big thing for Brett is that he’s striking out much, much less than in his minor league career. Is it unsustainable? Is 170+ PA a small sample size for strikeout rate? I’d like to know.
    At the very least, Gardner has proven himself to be more than capable of holding down a 4th outfield spot/defensive replacement/pinch-runner extraordinaire on a very good team like the Yankees, or even a regular on a worse team.
    You know, for all the crap they get from MSM for not having a player development program, the Yankees sure have been producing a lot of major league players from drafts (and international FA signings) 2005-on. Mostly pitchers, but guys like Gardner and Jackson represent the first wave of the period where the Yankees actually got to have an amateur scouting department.

    AndrewYF June 27, 2009, 12:12 pm
  • sf, calm down buddy, i DID lump hughes and kennedy in with the overhyped ellsbury, go back and check my comment again…i didn’t say that anyone was ready to put these players in the hall, just that the hyperbole was hall of fame plaque-sounding…i never said that any of us who are excited about the potential of our young players is “irrational”, nor did i single out one fanbase…and i wasn’t generalizing at all, i never said who was hyping these players, or that it was ALL fans, ALL media, or the organizations themselves…surely you heard some of the stuff i’m talking about…you guys continue to remind us that hughes/kennedy haven’t lived up to their hype…much of it was overkill, and premature, and may never come to pass…same goes for ellsbury, although right now he looks like he may be the better bet…i’m really not sure what i said to deserve such a bad reaction from you, but wow…i certainly don’t want to continue to “serve the site poorly”…unreal

    dc June 27, 2009, 12:23 pm
  • AYF – you insist on focusing on the hoopla, and as I noted, that really wasn’t my point at all.
    My point is (now rather obviously) solely about the relationship between current and future performance.
    As for BG’s strikeout rate, thank you. That is a material response to the point I was trying to make. I’m curious whether he can keep it up once league pitching adjusts to him. How is his foul ball rate vs his swings and misses? How have they changed since he was struggling earlier in MLB?

    dabize June 27, 2009, 12:29 pm
  • Gardner, in the few times I’ve seen him, looks to be a perfect spark plug type player, and energy guy, tough and scrappy. But then, I know very little about him, to be fair he really was not hyped very much as I recall, not when compared to the expectations Ellsbury garnered with his performance in 07.
    While Ellsbury may never regain the 2007 form that made RSN salivate at the potential, he is in my mind, a huge step up from Damon. Damon may still be a productive hitter, in fact he appears to have found a power surge, and that may be so, still his defense has devolved to the point of being a huge liability, even in left.
    Jacoby has yet to mature but I’m still willing to bet he’ll end up a lot closer to being the guy we saw in 07 than to the bust some predicted.
    Besides, Ellsbury is just excitement, other than his arm, which is a cannon… Well…in comparison to Damon… I feel relatively certain Ellsbury is the best defensive outfielder the Red Sox have ever had, and I know Crisp was good, and so was Lynn, and hell Dewey was a god, still, with Ellsbury’s speed he can routinely get to balls the others may make spectacular plays on, he makes spectacular plays on balls most of those guys would still be running after. Lets face it Ellsbury makes all the routine outs and he has made most of the spectacular plays look easy.
    Regardless of whether or not Ellsbury improves beyond the level he is at (I feel certain he will) he is still a good bat, a great fielder and overall a plus player. And in 40 plus years of watching Red Sox baseball he has shown me things I had never seen done before. Like taking two bases and scoring on a passed ball, for just one example.

    Brian Houk June 27, 2009, 12:42 pm
  • Agreed that the Ellsbury expectations were really high whereas Gardner has sort of flown under the radar (for a guy who won the Yankees’ starting CF in spring training). The difference is surprising because of how close their minor league numbers were. Even then it seems like Ellsbury had a higher profile.
    You know, it could be as simple as which players a team (or the prospect gurus) choose(s) to hype. For the Yankees it was Joba, Hughes, and IPK. For the Sox, it seems like it was Lester, Pedroia, and Ellsbury. Of course it also helps that Ellsbury’s emergence climaxed with a World Series he helped win. He was playing above his head but he chose a a good time to do so.

    Rob June 27, 2009, 12:46 pm
  • I’m also excited though by Gardner. If he can keep the OBP up, he’s a really nice complement on this team and especially ahead at the top. The big question is the plate discipline – as it is for Ellsbury.

    Rob June 27, 2009, 12:49 pm
  • Am I the only one who seems to remember a lot of hype about Gardner? I remember a lot of comparisons to Ellsbury, but then he had a rough 2008 (as did Ellsbury), so he came into 2009 with not very high expectations.
    I could be wrong, but this is the impression I have. I was definitely aware of his prospect status, so there had to have been some publicity about him somewhere.
    P.S.: In fact, Nick’s own post about Gardner’s call up last year seems to indicate that there was, in fact, a fair amount of hype attending his promotion — though I’m sure Ellsbury received more.
    Frankly, the idea that any Yankee prospect could arrive with little to no hype strikes me as unlikely. It’s just the nature of the market.

    Paul SF June 27, 2009, 2:33 pm
  • Gardner really hadn’t been given any hype prior to winning the CF job over Melky, and even then the word was he was a stopgap at best for the actual somewhat overhyped Jackson. The only real hype he received on this blog was when he was compared to Ellsbury, and if Gardner shouldn’t be getting some hype (because he really hadn’t been).
    Of course, now he’s being hyped, although mostly by Michael Kay who simply can’t get over how fast he is, and has to bring it up every single time his name gets mentioned, and also hypes up how much Girardi likes him, past the point, naturally, of how much Girardi probably actually likes him.
    Actually, most of the hype Gardner gets from the blogosphere is, I would say, mock hype, as he represents the ‘gritty, gutty’ severely overrated baseball player to a tee, lots of speed, lots of defense, no bat. In fact, if you actually read Nick’s post, it is written in somewhat of a mocking manner.

    AndrewYF June 27, 2009, 4:03 pm
  • “Frankly, the idea that any Yankee prospect could arrive with little to no hype strikes me as unlikely. It’s just the nature of the market.”
    When Robbie Cano was called up, not many of us had even heard of him. I think its fair to say that he was about as hype-free as a yankee prospect could be.
    I really dont remember Gardner being “hyped” much at all. He broke in to the bigs at a relatively old age and my impression was that he was projected as an at best average player. My feeling is that Ellsbury had more hype. (part of my impression is based on the keeper fantasy league that I am part of in which Ellsbury went for a good amount of money in his first year and gardner went undrafted)

    sam-YF June 27, 2009, 5:35 pm
  • Speaking of fantasy, Ellsbury has been great for my well-in-first-place fantasy squad. .300 average? 31 steals? Who cares that fantasy baseball doesn’t actually value players correctly? Ellsbury is a fantasy stud!

    AndrewYF June 27, 2009, 5:56 pm
  • Hey Andrew, if you use those 31 steals to turn 31 singles into 31 doubles his OPS is like .880!

    Atheose June 27, 2009, 6:19 pm
  • Heh, if only Ellsbury’s speed propelled his teammates on the basepaths an extra two bases as well!

    AndrewYF June 27, 2009, 7:09 pm
  • “…Am I the only one who seems to remember a lot of hype about Gardner?…” yes paul, you are, or as your buddy sf would say: “How about substantiating, dc [paul]? I really dislike these generalizations. So RSN [yf’s] was [were] putting Ellsbury [gardner] in the HoF before he even started playing? Really?”
    “Frankly, the idea that any Yankee prospect could arrive with little to no hype strikes me as unlikely. It’s just the nature of the market.” …to which sf would reply: “This comment just serves as an effort to cement some sort of generic collective memory on all of us, that one set of fans is irrational…. Can we stop with this kind of rhetorical hyperbole please, it serves this site poorly.”
    you guys kill me with your hypocrisy, but i still love you… ;)

    dc June 27, 2009, 8:38 pm
  • DC, as a rabid Sox fan I still feel like I can be objective about a SF vs YF debate and like I said about Gardner,”…to be fair he really was not hyped very much as I recall”
    And since that’s what I remembered, I checked back: Here’s pretty much everything Yanks fans said about Gardner in the first dozen or so postings I found from prior to this season.
    “It is inarguable that Xavier Nady and Pudge provide better offensive punch than Brett Gardner”
    “Girardi has indicated he’d like to see speedy CF prospect Brett Gardner get a full year at Triple-A for further development…”
    “Is it time to send Brett Gardner down?”
    From a posting on Yankee prospects…
    “Brett Gardner, cf: .299/.376/.494 (Waiting for a break)”
    “Over on the Banter, Cliff Corcoran aims his gimlet eye on the Yankee centerfield competition between Melky and Brett Gardner. Melky gives up 40 points in OBP; Gardner gives up 40 in slugging. Melky has a bigger (though dim) chance to improve into a complete hitter; Gardner’s likely to get on base more often, be a bigger threat when he’s on, and has better range on defense. Seems like Gardner is the logical choice, but I’m not entirely sanguine about his prospects, and the fact that Melky is out of options, and recently signed a $1.4m contract indicates he’s going to get this job, unless Gardner really torches him in Spring Training.”
    Now, even given the Aaron Small sample size, I think that even the biggest Sox booster out there would have to agree this is not much in the way of hype…
    So, I got yer hypocrisy buddy (grin).

    Brian Houk SF June 28, 2009, 12:35 am
  • A little late to this thread, but…
    Ath: a single and a steal of second doesn’t have as much value as just hitting a double. At the very least, you’re still at first for a couple of pitches (sometimes for a couple of outs where you could advance to third on a ground or fly ball).
    In general: Gardner’s defense has been a lot better than “solid.” He’s been an elite defender – Fangraphs has him ranked 4th in the majors among all CF’s.
    Ultimately I don’t think he will stay this good with the bat (and after all, he was just coming off a 5 hit day when this post went up), but as Andrew points out, the fact that his strikeouts are way down is an encouraging sign though. He doesn’t look overmatched at the plate, as he once did.

    Mark-YF June 29, 2009, 10:34 am
  • A must read on sample size, posted in response to the Gardner K rate:
    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/when-samples-become-reliable
    Seems like 150 PA is a good sample size. But ya, if he strikes out less, and if his BABIP stays constant, that means he will reach base more often. Which is good!

    Lar June 29, 2009, 3:20 pm

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