Perusing the internet this morning and fiddling with statistics (yes, another riveting day of temp work), I've reassured myself of something I had already thought: Brett Gardner is good. I mean, he's really good. In fact, I firmly believe he belongs in the All-Star Game on July 12 out in Arizona.
While his season didn't get off to the hottest of starts (15 games, .128 BA in 47 PA's, .196 OBP), he's been one of the best, and most underrated, players in baseball ever since.
Starting on April 23, Brett Gardner has gone 54 for 157 (.344 BA), compiled a .422 OBP, and even hit four homers and driven home 16 runs. His OPS is over .900 too. While 11 stolen bases is a bit low for Gardner, it seems he's still trying to figure out how to utilize his speed properly on the base paths (he's been caught seven times).
Side note, why this man should ever be out of the lineup against a left-handed pitcher is beyond me. He has a career .356 OBP against southpaws in 302 plate appearances and his OBP is higher this year at .385 in 40 plate appearances against the dreaded lefties. Sure, Andruw Jones can provide for some pop with his bat once every blue moon. But there's no statistical data that shows Brett Gardner is incapable of hitting lefties. Swisher leading off is okay (.348 BA, .448 OBP in 87 PA's).
Anyway, back to my endorsement. Gardner is fourth in the American League in WAR (2.9) for outfielders behind Jose Bautista (4.6), Curtis Granderson (3.9) and Jacoby Ellsbury (3.0). Taking a look at many fielding metrics used by those that wield the almighty saber, Gardner is the best fielding outfielder in the American League right now. His ultimate zone rating (UZR) is the highest in the league and his speed is a deadly weapon in tracking down balls and holding runners from advancing extra bases.
Brett Gardner has the third highest WAR amongst outfielders since the beginning of 2010, only trailing Jose Bautista and Josh Hamilton. Not bad company considering both of those players are much more productive offensively. However, Gardner has an uncanny ability to work the count, force walks, and cause havoc on the bases.
Bias aside, Gardner is an excellent and deserving candidate to start the All-Star Game in three weeks. While I realize with fan voting he likely won't see a starting bid, I hope to see the gritty, gutty 27-year-old out there on the field at some point. Might I add that he's making approximately $13.5 million less than Carl Crawford this year? Take that, Boston!
If you don't think he should be starting, who's your third outfielder? And why leave Gardner off the roster if that was what you picked?