The New York Yankees hung 12 runs on the scoreboard in Game One of the Wild Card series against the Cleveland Indians, and at Progressive Field, no less. Offense was not an issue, at least in Tuesday’s game, and Gerrit Cole kept Cleveland batters at bay for seven innings.
Manager Aaron Boone decided to start veteran Brett Gardner over Clint Frazier in left field, and the former responded with a huge night at the dish, going 2-for-5 with a double, a home run, two runs and three RBI.
As good as that production was for the Yankees, the best lineup moving forward includes Clint Frazier in left field and Brett Gardner on the bench.
Boone clearly doesn’t think that way, as he penciled Gardner over Frazier in the lineup for Game Two last night. Is that really the right choice?
This is not a knock on Gardner, as he has been a true warrior for years, wearing the pinstripes with pride and representing the organization in an optimal way on and off the field. But, at 37 and fresh off a .223/.354/.392 regular season, he should be a reserve. Meanwhile, Frazier revamped his game, his swing and even his defense, and he needs to start. After all, he slashed .267/.394/.511 and was fourth among Yankees’ position players with 1.3 fWAR, in just 39 games.
Yes, Boone is riding the hot hand, as Gardner hit .394/.524/.667 with a .500 wOBA and a 225 wRC+ in 13 games from September 11th to September 27th, the final day of the regular season. But Frazier, over that same time span, slashed .235/.375/.471 with a .365 wOBA and a 133 wRC+. Those aren’t bad numbers.
Is it fair to make decisions over six games?
Much has been made about Frazier’s slump to end the season: In his last 25 plate appearances, he had only one hit and a horrid .050/.240/.050 line, with a 44% strikeout rate. But is it fair for Boone to send him to the bench based on six games of poor results?
If that’s the case, then we should point out the fact that Gardy hit no extra base hits over those same six games, a span of 18 plate appearances. It isn’t like he lit the world on fire in that exact timeframe.
That .050/.240/.050 slash line Frazier had is from September 20th to September 26th. From September 12th to September 19th, over a span of seven games, he went 11-for-32 with three homers, a double, a triple and a .440/.531/.920 line with a .570 wOBA and a 274 wRC+. Are we just going to ignore those numbers, even though they came in a stretch immediately before his “slump”?
At this point, it is hard to say that Gardner’s floor is higher than Frazier’s, because we saw Gardy’s rock bottom at the beginning of the season and it wasn’t pretty. But one thing is clear: Frazier’s ceiling is much higher than Gardner’s, and one game won’t change that fact.
Because of his youth (compared to Gardner), his max-effort play, his improved eye at the plate, the thump on his bat, and his overall offensive potential, Clint Frazier should start at left field from this point forward.