In a season dominated by an exciting youth movement, one of the Yankees’ most reliable veterans stepped up to anchor the top of the order, while putting together another solid season in the field. Brett Gardner did it all for the Bombers in 2017.
The Yankees left fielder is once again nominated for a Gold Glove after taking home the award in 2016. His ability to stay healthy was also big for the team, as the 34-year-old played in 151 games this season. He provided a valuable veteran presence in the lineup, especially when his bald brother Matt Holliday went down with an illness.
When Holliday was in the lineup and producing at the beginning of the season, Gardner was struggling a bit. He batted just .205 in April, but would come out swinging in May en route to a .327 average on the month. His heroics early on at Wrigley Field likely helped him take off, and was one of the most memorable dingers of the regular season.
Gardner’s productive May provided the bulk of his power throughout the season, as 15 of his 21 homers came in the first half of the year. He still remained productive in the second half, cutting back on his strikeouts and raising his average while sacrificing some power. After all, that pop was being more than made up for behind him with Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez waiting to bring Gardner home.
He particularly feasted on right-handers in 2017, especially at home, where he boasted a wRC+ of 143 for the season. His most memorable blast off a righty at Yankee Stadium came at a time where the club needed him most, and Gardner delivered.Plus, he gave a pretty boss stare-down.
Gardner would save his biggest heroics for a crucial Game Five in Cleveland. He put together a classic at-bat that basically defines a pesky leadoff hitter, as he made star closer Cody Allen work deep into a ninth inning at-bat before sealing the Yankees’ first playoff series win in five years.
He was a valuable bat at the top of the lineup for the entire season. The Yankees needed him to pick up his baserunning after a mediocre 2016 campaign, and he swiped seven more bags than his previous year’s total. His walk rate has also continued to increase steadily since 2013.
Gardner may have faded out in the ALCS, where he slugged just .185 for the seven game series, but his contributions in the Wild Card Game and the ALDS helped the Yankees reach that point. He came up big in clutch situations and gave the Yankees a much needed lefty bat in the lineup to balance out their right-handed power. Despite how his season ended, you could say Gardner exceeded expectations in 2017.