Brett Gardner has been the favorite target of disgruntled Yankees fans so far this season and it is easy to see why. After last night’s game in Toronto Gardner is hitting just .128 with a .388 OPS. On top of that he has failed in three of six stealing attempts and has been unproductive in at least being able to move runners over.
Like I said, it’s not hard to see why he’s become the latest whipping boy, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. In reality, dumping on Gardner and even going as far as some have to want to see him sent down to the minors is just being a lazy fan.
As bad as he’s been, by calling for his head so early fans are ignoring the fact that he’s barely played at all this season. He’s played in just 15 games and logged only 47 at bats. What he’s in right now is a slump, to think that he won’t be able to return to his averages that he’s established over the past two seasons displays an extreme lack of understanding even basic statistics.
Things have been bad for sure, real bad, but it’s early and he’s been working on things. Hitting coach Kevin Long has identified a problem in his swing where he hasn’t used to bottom half of his body as much as he had last season. Joe Girardi has also noted that his timing is off. These are typical reasons to struggle early in the year when a player hasn’t had enough at bats to get his swing and his timing down 100 percent. It’ll get there, but the fact that it hasn’t after just 47 at bats is not alarming at all.
Maybe after 100-150 at bats, if he hasn’t shown any improvement at all it’ll be time to start looking at sitting Gardner here or there while he figures things out. Even then, who is going to replace him?
Andruw Jones is the obvious first candidate, but he is not an attractive one. Jones hasn’t been a regular player since 2007 and there is a good reason he isn’t playing that much anymore. If he starts playing everyday against right handed pitching his numbers will fall through the floor.
The other options in the minors are not attractive as everyday players. Chris Dickerson, Justin Maxwell, and Greg Golson might be decenth fourth or fifth outfielders, but would be over-matched as starters. The Yankees also can’t trade for another outfielder as they need their resources to improve their pitching staff much more than they would need to replace Gardner.
Just look at how Carl Crawford is doing in Boston. He’s hitting .143 with a .356 OPS in 15 games with 63 at bats. Nobody is really worried about him, people shouldn’t worry about Gardner either. At this point it is not anything more than a slow start.