Brett Gardner hit a lot of home runs in 2014. He not only managed to reach double digits for the first time, but actually doubled his previous career-high of eight by the end of the year. He might not be considered much of a traditional power hitter, but Gardner has some pop. Let's celebrate the barrage of power he showed by taking a look at his most important dingers of the year.
1. Grand Slam vs. Mets: 5/12 - 396 ft | .350 WPA
Going by Win Probability Added, the metric that determines how a play added or subtracted from a team's chances of winning, Brett Gardner's most important home run was his May grand slam against the Mets. Not only was it awesome because it was a grand slam, but at the time, the Yankees were losing in the second inning. Gardner came up big against Bartolo Colon, but there was plenty of game left and unfortunately Alfredo Aceves, Matt Thornton and Preston Claiborne managed to surrender five runs in three innings to bury the Yankees.
2. Off the Pole vs. Blue Jays: 6/17 - 331 feet | .204 WPA
Gardner hit this beautiful dinger off the right field foul pole to give the Yankees the lead in the early goings of the game. The Blue Jays had managed to score off Masahiro Tanaka with a leadoff home run from Jose Reyes, but the Yankee ace held off Toronto for the rest of his outing. This time they ended up holding the score in their favor and the Yankees won with Gardner's home run being the difference maker.
3. Late-Night Clutch vs. Red Sox: 8/03 - 420 feet | .169 WPA
The Yankees were down against the Red Sox going into the sixth inning, but Gardner came up big again by hitting his furthest home run of the season. Not only was it hit far, but it might have been one of the more well-timed ones of the year as it delivered New York the lead, and eventually victory.
4. #15,000 vs. Blue Jays: 9/21 - 355 feet | .151 WPA
Not only did Brett Gardner hit the first home run of the Yankees season, but six month later, with his last home run, he had the honor of smashing the franchise's 15,000th homer of all time. That's a pretty huge milestone, but definitely something you'd expect from a team nicknamed the Bronx Bombers. It was also pretty important to the 2014 Yankees since it gave them the lead for the rest of the afternoon.
5. Domination of Darvish vs. Rangers: 7/23 - 371 feet | .126 WPA
One of the more amusing story lines of the 2014 season was Brett Gardner's apparent utter domination of Yu Darvish at the plate. He managed to hit three dingers off the Rangers ace over the span of a week and it all culminated in Darvish hilariously blaming Gardner's parents for having him in the first place. This specific at-bat gave the Yankees the lead for the rest of the game and you can see that Darvish knew what was coming immediately.
Those were some impressive Gardner dingers, but that's not all of them. While some might not have had as profound of an effect on the game as the ones above, they still looked pretty cool.
He hit two second-deck shots at Yankee Stadium:
7/02 - 384 feet | .104 WPA
6/05 - 377 feet | .121 WPA
He also hit four home runs to lead off a game this year, this one just happened to tie his furthest home run of the season.
7/29 - 420 feet | .102 WPA
Gardner ended up with the third-most home runs on the team, though that might not be much of a good thing, especially when Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira could only manage 23 and 22, respectively. Still, in a year filled with disappointments and under-performers, Brett Gardner was a nice highlight reel for a power-sapped Yankees team. Can he do it again in 2015?