Brett Gardner is the Right Left Fielder for the New York Yankees

by on November 1st, 2010
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The New York Yankees have a fine left fielder in Brett Gardner. One of the finest defensive outfielders in the game, the speedy Gardner led the league with 49 stolen bases.

The last time a Yankee led the league in steals was 2002 when Alfonso Soriano accomplished the feat.

In 2010 and again in 2011, Gardner was the recipient of the Fielding Bible Award as the best defensive left fielder in the game.

Gardner usually bats ninth, which gives the Yankees another lead off hitter once the batting order turns around. When Derek Jeter was hurt, Gardner often led off.

His speed forces infielders to play him in close, giving him the chance to drive ground balls through the infield.

A strong case can be made for Gardner to be the Yankees’ lead off hitter. He was third in the league in making contact, succeeding 93 percent of the time. In 2010, he saw more pitcher per at-bat than any other batter.

The 1961 and 1998 Yankees were two of the greatest teams ever.

In 1961, Bobby Richardson batted first in the order. He hit only .261/.295/.316 with only nine stolen bases.

In 1998, Chuck Knoblauch hit .265/.361/.405 with 31 stolen bases.

Gardner holds his own with both.

Traditionally, left fielders are expected to provide power while second baseman are not, but there are many exceptions, depending on how a team is constructed.

Second baseman Robinson Cano provides more offense than most left fielders. How about Rogers Hornsby, Joe Morgan, Dustin Pedroia and Jackie Robinson?

In his two seasons as a regular, Gardner has batted .267/.364/.374. He has averaged 88 runs scored and 48 stolen bases. He was thrown out only 11 times.

Many compare Gardner to Brett Butler, who had a fine career from 1981-97 that included time with the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets.

Butler batted lead off, played center field, was extremely fast, stole bases and like Gardner, wasn’t much of a power threat.

Butler batted .290/.377/.376, averaging 99 runs scored with 41 stolen bases and 19 unsuccessful attempts over a 162-game season.

When Butler was 27 years-old, he had a season that was similar to Gardner’s 2011 season, when Gardner was 27 years-old.

Butler hit .269/.361/.355 with 108 runs scored and 52 stolen bases. He was caught stealing a league leading 22 times. He had a WAR of 3.5.

Last year, Gardner hit .259/.345.369 with his league best 49 steals. He scored 87runs and had a WAR of 4.4.

Winning teams must have a blend of power, speed, defense and pitching. Gardner provides the Yankees with outstanding speed and excellent defense.

His speed helps shake up opposing pitchers. His defense helps the Yankees’ pitchers.

Give the Yankees’ management credit.

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