The Yankees have a painfully short lineup right now due to the frustrating amount of injuries that have come their way. The bottom of the order consistently shows batters like Shane Robinson, Austin Romine or Ronald Torreyes. Hitters of this variety are simply not ones you can count on.
The Bombers have also seen a dip in production from players they have usually counted on, such as Brett Gardner. Since Aaron Judge was sent to the disabled list with a fractured wrist, Gardner has hit just .205 with an OPS of .617. With the injury to Judge, Gardner has been counted on to take on more at-bats and reps in the outfield, but he hasn’t been able to produce to his career norms.
The most concerning aspect of Gardner’s recent decline are the quality of at-bats and the strikeout rates. His August strikeout percentage currently sits at 21 percent, while his monthly rates in each of the two previous months didn’t eclipse 11.5 percent. That’s almost double the strikeouts in August than in June and July.
Even during a sluggish June, when Gardner finished with a wRC+ of 82, his strikeout rate remained low. He was still putting up some decent at-bats and putting the ball in play. The same cannot be said anymore, and it shows in his August wRC+ of 63.
The first explanation that pops in the mind of most Yankees fans is fatigue. Gardner just turned 35, and has been prone to some sluggish second halves in years’ past. We could be seeing something similar now. His fly ball rate this month is the highest it’s been all year, so could he be failing to get his hands to the ball and getting underneath it? When he’s lifting the ball in the air, they haven’t been going very far. His HR/FB is just over six percent this month, and it was more than double that in July.
Looking at Gardner’s games played, he participated in his 117th game on Tuesday, August 28th. At that same time last season, he had played in 122. Basically the same, but he’s also another year older with another year of baseball on his body. The problem is, until Judge returns and Giancarlo Stanton’s hamstring fully recovers, Aaron Boone can’t afford to take Gardner out of the lineup. He’s been below average this month, but he’s still better than the other options at the Yankees’ disposal right now (if there are any).
It looks like Gardner could certainly use a second wind. He did stroke a triple into the gap in right center in Tuesday night’s win, and got around on a high fastball to hit a home run against the Orioles over the weekend, so perhaps it’s coming. It would arrive at an ideal time for the Yankees, who are dying to get some more length out of their shorthanded lineup.