Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Does Brett Gardner Deserve All-Star Consideration?

(Photo courtesy of The AP)

Upon first glance at that title, you're probably inclined to say "fuck no!" and ask what I've been smoking.  But if you really stop and look at what Gardner has done so far this year, it's worth taking a second to think about it.  Observe Gardner's stat line so far:
  • .322/.406/.436 BA/OBP/SLG tripleslash
  • 44 run scored
  • 65 hits
  • 13 extra-base hits (6 2Bs, 4 3Bs, 3 HRs)
  • 22 RBI
  • 22 steals (in 26 chances)
Those numbers put Gardner in the top 10 in 4 major offensive statistical categories in the AL.  He's currently 9th in batting average, 10th in on-base, 5th in runs scored, and tied for 3rd in stolen bases.  Not too shabby for a guy who went into the season with plenty of people, some within his own organization, questioning whether or not he was capable of being a full-time Major League player.  And within these great numbers is proof that Gardner is more than able to handle left-handed pitching, something that was a major concern for the Yankees.  His tripleslash against lefties this season is .295/.371/.410.

But All-Star selection is about more than just good stats and exceeding expectations, and selections are based on position, so Gardner has to be looked at against his fellow outfielders to truly determine if he's worthy.  Luckily for Gardner, his numbers look even better when stacked up against the rest of the AL outfield.
  • His .322 average is 3rd amongst AL outfielders, behind only perennial All-Star Ichiro and Magglio Ordonez.
  • His 44 runs scored are 2nd amongst outfielders, behind only Carl Crawford's 50.
  • His .406 OBP is 1st amongst outfielders, leading Ordonez by a slim margin and making Gardner and Mags the only 2 AL OFs with a .400+ on-base.
  • His .842 OPS is 10th amongst outfielders, and better than that of Ichiro and Crawford.
No matter how you cut it, Gardner has been one of the top 10, if not one of the top 5 outfielders in the AL this year.  And he's done it with just 202 at-bats, which is anywhere from 20 to 60 fewer than his major competitors.  Who knows?  Give him those 50-60 more and we may be talking about the AL outfield leader in average, runs, steals, and OBP.

And as if that wasn't enough, Gardner has played stellar outfield defense this season, splitting his time between left and center and making the transition back and forth between the two look seamless.  He has made only 1 error on the season, which was made on a shitty throw home in the season opener against Boston, and has a perfect fielding percentage in center field.  Sure, his UZR ratings are both in the slight negatives this year for both OF spots, but UZR is a funky stat anyway that doesn't take a lot of other factors into account.  The bottom line is, Brett Gardner has played Gold Glove-caliber defense to go along with his excellent all-around offense.

It's doubtful Gardner will get a nod to the All-Star Game, even with his manager calling the shots to fill out the roster.  But the case can certainly be made and Joe certainly could make a solid argument for including one more of his guys.  Jeter, Cano, and Mo are shoo-ins, Swish should be there, and Pettitte and Hughes will most likely make the team unless they fall apart over the next month.  That's 6 Yankees right there, and although 7 from one team would be a lot, it's not unheard of.  Usually the best team at the break has the most representation, and if the Yankees continue to play the way they have and Gardner keeps putting up the numbers he has, he's got a legitimate case to be included as the 5th or 6th All-Star outfielder.

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