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How Good Is Brett Gardner's Arm?

Ben Spigel of the NYTimes must have read the comments of the recent fanpost comparing Brett Gardner and Johnny Damon, because he immediately wrote an article exploring one of the skills that make Brett Gardner one of the most valuable outfielders in the league.

Thomson, who works with the team’s outfielders, said he had spoken with coaches around baseball who have noticed that Gardner’s arm strength and accuracy have steadily improved. His eight assists — six as a left fielder — are tied for third in the major leagues...

Gardner spends his time in the outfield during batting practice practicing his throws to the bases, so give the sophomore credit for not getting comfortable despite a stellar season.

But when I flip to Gardner's page on Fangraphs, I see a different story: GGBG has posted a (slightly) negative arm rating on the season.  Arm rating measures the rate at which runners advance on an outfielder.  While GGBG has caught an unusually high number of runners trying to take the extra base, a higher number of baserunners have been trying to take that base and succeeding.

There are two ways to rack up a lot of assists: catch a lot of guys with extraordinary plays (Ichiro) or watch a lot of guys run and catch a lot with ordinary plays (Gardner).

Taking nothing away from Gardner, whose 3.5 WAR is second on the team and 10th among position players in the American League(!), but while he has a quick release, I don't see any reason for baserunners to be fearful of his arm.  Respectful, certainly, but never fearful.