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What the Giancarlo Stanton injury means for the Yankees’ outfield

It looks like we’ll be seeing more of Brett Gardner.

New York Mets v New York Yankees - Game Two Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

If at this point in the season you are still surprised by the amount of injuries and how consistent the Yankees have been been, then I must applaud your optimism. Just as soon as the Yankees’ outfield was back together, Giancarlo Stanton suffered an injury breaking it up again. Brian Cashman recently noted that Stanton will likely miss the entire month of July with the the PCL sprain. Aaron Boone also mentioned that Mike Tauchman will be his replacement on the active roster, leaving us to make an educated assumption that Brett Gardner will takeover in left field.

Losing Stanton is obviously a blow to the lineup, but the Yankees have found ways to continue producing in the absence of some of their biggest names. This will not be an exception. With Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and Aaron Judge left to right in the outfield, this arguably gives the Yankees their best defensive outfield alignment. This is not to suggest the Yankees are better off without Stanton in favor of Gardner; it’s just to understand what role Gardner will play.

Signed during the offseason to be a leader in the clubhouse and “fourth outfielder,” Gardner has played in 76 out of the 80 games so far, and this trend will not stop in the near future. Luckily for the Yankees, Gardner has found his most productive batting tool over the last few days.

Gardner’s ability to get on base is what has made him valuable over his career, while his plate discipline and speed made him the Yankees’ leadoff hitter. His on-base skills have faded during the last two seasons, but since June 9th Gardner has walked more than he has all season with a 13.5% walk rate. Additionally, his BABIP numbers have climbed from .223 to .286 over that span. His ability to raise his on-base percentage makes sense because Gardner possesses both great contact and plate discipline statistics, but his BABIP uptick does cause curiosity.

The biggest difference seen in Gardner’s batted ball profile since June 9th is how often he has been pulling the ball. Not only is this the most he has pulled the ball this season, his overall pull percentage has risen more than seven percent compared to last season. Considering he has played in 76 games this season, this sample size is enough to tell us Gardner has slightly changed his approach. In his 52 plate appearances since June 9th, the left fielder has pulled the ball more and it has helped his game.

Gardner’s Batted Ball Directional Stats

Direction Results Before 6/9 Exit Velocity xSLG Results After 6/9 Exit Velocity xSLG
Direction Results Before 6/9 Exit Velocity xSLG Results After 6/9 Exit Velocity xSLG
Pull 71 89.2 0.409 18 94.4 0.771
Center 69 87.2 0.378 15 85.6 0.358
Opposite 34 85.3 0.301 5 74.4 0.274

We can’t expect Gardner to match Stanton and his average exit velocity, but if Gardner is able to use his on-base ability and find a way to keep his BABIP at about league average, he would offer the Yankees more than the 96 wRC+ he has produced thus far.

Gardner returning to the lineup as an everyday player is just one effect of Stanton’s departure. You have to imagine Boone’s ability to give Hicks and Judge days off has lessened. Cameron Maybin, who was hitting just about everything before his injury, could have divided time with Gardner but the addition of Tauchman adds another left-handed outfielder to the mix. With most of the regulars back, this injury doesn’t deliver the same blow most of the injuries did earlier in the season. The good news is that the Yankees have been able to keep winning all season, and they’ve done so with reinforcements from all over. They just have to keep doing so while Stanton is out.