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Posts Tagged ‘Brett Gardner’

(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Over any 10-game stretch, even the most accomplished hitter can experience a dry spell. For the most part, such slumps pass by unnoticed, but when they occur at the beginning of the season, there is usually much more scrutiny.

Contact has been hard to come by for Brett Gardner.

For established players in their prime, the early panic is usually unwarranted. However, for aging veterans and younger players without a proven track record, each new season brings with it justifiable skepticism. This year, the Yankees have three hitters who fall into that category.

Derek Jeter’s 2010 was such a deviation from the norm, that it’s only natural to wonder if the great Yankees’ short stop is in the midst of a drastic decline. Unfortunately, the first 11 games of the season have done little to dispel that fear. In almost 50 plate appearances, Jeter has only one extra base hit, resulting in the 13th lowest slugging percentage among qualified batters in the American League. The biggest reason for his lack of power has been an inability to drive the ball in the air. To this point, a whopping 79% of Jeter’s at bats have resulted in a ground ball. What’s more, 25% of his fly balls haven’t let the infield. In other words, Jeter’s .256 BABIP doesn’t point to bad luck, but rather bad contact.

Derek Jeter’s Contact Profile, 2002-2011

Source: fangraphs.com

Amid all the bad omens, there are two positive signs that one can take away from Jeter’s early performance. The first is he has avoided swinging at, and making contact with, pitches outside of the zone. In 2010, Jeter recorded career highs in both categories, but this season, his rates have returned to more normal levels. As a result, Jeter’s walk rate has risen back over 10%, which is where it has been during his best seasons. Another silver lining is the Yankees have mostly faced right handed pitchers. Even in his best years, the Captain has greatly preferred facing lefties (he has a .445 wOBA in 10 plate appearances against lefties this season), so the lack of such opportunities has likely been a drag on his performance.

If you give Jeter an allowance for adjusting to his new batting stance (or reverting back to the old one), and then take into account the way the schedule has broken down, there’s still reason to hold out hope that the future Hall of Famer can at least return to being an above average offensive short stop.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

As Moshe Mandel covered in detail yesterday afternoon, Brett Gardner has made improving his bunting skills a priority during spring training. Hopefully, that means more drag bunts for base hits and not maddening sacrifices when the team can ill afford to give away an out. Unfortunately, if history is the judge, it could be more of the latter.

Over the past two seasons, Gardner ranks second on the team in sacrifice bunts, one behind Francisco Cervelli, who should probably bunt more often considering his less than potent bat. Despite being second, however, Gardner’s 11 sacrifice bunts really aren’t all that many. In fact, considering how often Girardi is criticized for employing the sacrifice, the total number for each player is surprising low (especially Derek Jeter’s five). Perception is hard to overcome, but the truth is the Yankees have ranked toward the bottom of the American League when it comes to sacrifices in all three seasons that Girardi has been manager.

Yankees’ Sacrifice Bunt Leaders, 2009-2010

Player SH G PA
Francisco Cervelli 12 135 418
Brett Gardner 11 258 853
Nick Swisher 6 300 1242
Derek Jeter 5 310 1455
Ramiro Pena 5 154 288
Curtis Granderson 4 136 528
Melky Cabrera 4 154 540
A.J. Burnett 2 66 8
Andy Pettitte 2 53 11
Javier Vazquez 2 31 5
Johnny Damon 2 143 626
Jerry Hairston 2 45 93

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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