A lot of people look at a player and judge them on three stats. Batting average, HR’s and RBI’s. Sure they’re the flashy ones you see popped up each time that player comes to bat, but there’s much more than that. How about play in the field? If a short stop has a throwing error that causes an unearned run to score, where is that in the stat sheet? How about turning a sharply hit ball between the outfielders into a double when a slower player would be stuck at first? Due to speed, impeccable play in the field, smart base running, and overall utility, Brett Gardner is the best left fielder in baseball. Read on to see how I’m proving myself right.
Crawford is probably the most similar to Gardner in play style but this season it’s not even close. Carl is batting .245 and his normally incredible defense is down this year with a UZR of only 0.6. You put it all together and Crawford’s WAR is a measly 0.2. Big contracts don’t mean big performance.
Josh Hamilton had an amazing 2010. He also is a great feel-good story and I’m glad he has his life back together. His offense this year is ok, but not great. He’ll probably end the season around .300, 25ish HR’s and 100 rbi’s. That’s a nice cute season, but we’re talking the best LF’s in the game here. A horrible UZR and WAR of 2.0 won’t do it for you.
Carlos Gonzalez isn’t a high profile guy but he’s a great player. Gonzo is young, fast, and talented. Last year in his first full season he put up a .336 batting average that you can’t sneeze at. However, he’s come back to earth this season. His average is below .300 and his fielding doesn’t help bump his value up. Sure I’d like him on my team, but playing in right. War of 2.3.
Ryan Braun is the one I’m going to need to sell you on. He’s a great player. Signed a big contract and has been playing to it. His numbers project to low 30′s in HR’s, about 115 rbi’s and an impressive .324 batting average. Those are numbers that Gardner just can’t compete with. Plus Braun’s WAR is 4.8 vs Gardner’s 4.0.
I’m going to dig a little deeper to show you why Gardner is the better player. First, Braun hits 3rd in the Brewers strong lineup and is protected by Prince Fielder. Gardner bats either leadoff or 9th in line. How many runners are sitting in scoring position when you’re the first batter of the game? Plus next in the lineup is usually Derek Jeter (DJ4K), who is clearly not scaring any pitchers like he used to. That means it’s a lot easier to pitch around Gardner to get to Jeter. If Brett batted 3rd in the Yankees lineup he’d probably have 15 more RBI’s and it would even out the WAR quite a bit. As luck would have it, as I’m typing this post Gardner had a one out single to the outfield which he legged into a double. Then he was bunted over to third by DJ4K. Curtis Granderson hit a rocket grounder to first and the play was at the plate. Gardner scored easy due to his speed whereas a guy like Braun would have been a dead duck.
Try to convince me if you don’t agree but Brett Gardner is the best left fielder in baseball.