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Is Brett Gardner the true Mr. September?

The Yankee lefty has had the most success in September three years running.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

We all know the great tales of Yankee legends, Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter, otherwise known as Mr. October and Mr. November. These two hall of famers were given their heralded nicknames by coming up clutch come playoff time. But what about the other months? Are we allowed to crown a Mr. April, May, June? Another all-time Yankee deserves a month of his own. Of course, it’s none other than Brett Gardner, also known as Mr. September.

The Gardy party has been in full swing in recent years as the summer winds down. The Yankee veteran has been scorching hot this month with a 139 wRC+, and that’s not a new thing for him in September. Last year, his best month came in September too. He had a 146 wRC+ in 72 plate appearances. In 2019, he slugged 10 of his 28 home runs on the season in September in 94 plate appearances. That was good for a 144 wRC+. You guessed it, that was the best month of the season for him in the year of the juiced ball. Pretty remarkable if you ask me! The old man (in baseball years) has gotten used to slugging at the very end of the year.

Gardner is about a league average hitter on his career. He’s usually ended up around average, at least during most seasons. But for some reason, the veteran lefty has had some well-timed hot streaks as the regular season has wound down in recent years. Is this a sticky skill? Well, not exactly. There’s no real reason to believe that something about Gardner’s profile forces him to produce at the end of the year.

While I’m hesitant to say something doesn’t exist just because we can’t prove it with stats, this type of analysis would come with all sorts of caveats. His career wRC+ in September/early October is 94, so this is a relatively new phenomenon, proving more that it’s not a trend we’ve seen throughout his career.

All that being said, does the raking in September not align perfectly with Gardner’s character arc? This is the Yankee that has managed to stick around for over a decade despite never being elite at any one thing, especially hitting. In each of the last three seasons, he has heated up right before postseason play and done enough to get his name penciled in the lineup. It may not be a repeatable skill, but it’s clear Gardy has locked it in during recent Septembers.

It may be tough to see Gardner in the lineup as often as we do, knowing he’s not one of the best three outfielders on the team. You always want to see the most talented lineup on the field. Despite that, it’s tough to keep any hitter out of the lineup who has proven they can maintain a hot stretch of at least 50 plate appearances while delivering above average defense and good baserunning.

It’s not the worst thing to have an all-around player on the field. It makes your team better. Even if that player is Brett Gardner and you know that the end of his career is on the horizon, it’s worth having him around to provide some production and give the more talented players in the lineup a night off. In the most recent example, it’s given Joey Gallo time to figure himself out as he enters a hot streak of his own.

In an ideal world, you don’t have to play Gardner much at all. But if you have to and he hits anything near to what he has done this month, it gives Aaron Boone much more flexibility. Kudos to the Yankee vet for these late-season runs. Or shall I say, Mr. September.