WS Coverage: Repacing Cabrera with Gardner

Melky Cabrera left last night’s game with a hamstring injury in the 6th inning, leaving Joe Girardi without his starting CF. Sitting on the Yankee bench was one Brett Gardner, who entered the game in his place. An injury to a starting CF can be devastating for a team, but the Yankees carry an excellent replacement in Gardner.

Gardner is a fan favorite in New York, and is especially noted for his speed. His speed score of 9.1 ranks as the best in the major leagues this year. We’ve also seen his speed on the bases translate to range in the field, as Gardner has posted a spectacular UZR of +17.1 in 114 DG in CF. According to Tom Tango’s Fan Scouting Report, he ranks as a well above average fielder as well.

Gardner is likely not a +23 UZR/150 fielder, but with positive marks from the fans, we can be reasonably certain that he is a solid amount above average. As a htiter, Gardner’s main value comes from his baserunning. His 83.8% stolen base rate in 31 attempts made him a viable threat every time he reached base, which he did in over 34% of plate appearances. His rise in walk rate was the main contributor to his .337 wOBA in 2009. Given his terrible 2008 and the small sample we are given, we have to assume right now that Gardner’s true talent lies near his career wOBA of .319.

Melky Cabrera in 2009 showed sustainable improvement off of his rookie campaign, as his BB% and ISO rose to career highs and his BABIP rose from his 2008 low of .273 to .291. His true talent probably falls somewhere between his wOBA from this year (.331) and 2007 (.316). Cabrera’s defense has also improved each year since 2007, but he’s still a far cry from a defensive wizard. Cabrera’s career has him as a -5 UZR/150 player, but giving weight to recent seasons suggests he’s closer to a -2 or -3 UZR/150 fielder.

What we see here is two similar hitters and one excellent fielder. Cabrera’s switch hitting makes him the better option against left-handed starting pitchers, but against righties, Gardner’s combination of fielding skill, on-base skill, and ability to wreak havoc as a runner makes him an excellent play. If Melky Cabrera is unable to go in the remainder of the series, expect to see Gardner take over in center field and the Yankees to not miss a beat.



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Matt
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Matt
6 years 10 months ago

These guys have both been very good for the Yankees this year. Melky has had some very key hits late in ballgames and Gardner has had some big steals, notably against the Angles in LA late in the year.

They fly under the radar on a team with so much high priced talent but they have been more than satisfactory Yankees.

devil_fingers
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devil_fingers
6 years 10 months ago

Gardner has serious “Next Nyjer Morgan” potential. Greater fielder, and young enough to where his bat could improve, if you look at his ML numbers. Outstanding baserunner.

mjmetro
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mjmetro
6 years 10 months ago

I agree. his plate discipline is certainly very encouraging and he gets on base often enough to make use of his speed.

The Typical Idiot Fan
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The Typical Idiot Fan
6 years 10 months ago

How long will major league pitchers avoid throwing him strikes when he has little power? He was never a big power threat in the minors either.

NM
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NM
6 years 10 months ago

off topic but I had to comment: What is up with the site? I don’t see players’ wOBA, tRA, WAR, etc listed on their player pages..

Ellis
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Ellis
6 years 10 months ago

I think I read that Girardi is planning on keeping Gardner on the bench to use in pinch-running situations, instead putting Hinske or Hairston into the outfield mix.

Rob in CT
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Rob in CT
6 years 10 months ago

Go go Gadget Gardner is a plus defender in CF. I’d be surprised if Hairston was average at this point, and he hasn’t played the position in a while. Starting him over Gardner would be very odd. Then again, Girardi appears to have a mancrush on Hairston, so I guess anything is possible.

mjmetro
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mjmetro
6 years 10 months ago

I agree. really a terrible idea. gardner’s defense really has the potential to save the game, even if he only gets one or two hard to field balls. hairston probably doesn’t even get on base, so there’s not much he’s got going for him that gardner doesn’t. then again, I have a serious mancrush on brett gardner, so maybe I’m just biased :D

Tom B
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Tom B
6 years 10 months ago

not a chance, gardener is the only one that will play CF with Melky’s arm out of the mix.

Greg F.
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6 years 10 months ago

Yep, as Ellis said, too bad Girardi will probably give Hairston the nod vs. Lee tonight.

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
6 years 10 months ago

Yeah, unfortunately, Girardi will bench Gardner because the Yankees don’t think can hit lefties in favor of Hairston, who we know can’t hit anybody.

Oh, and who is the only backup at three positions, and it’ll be for once Posada pinch-hits for Molina. Hairston should have an “Emergency Use Only” tag hanging around his neck in the postseason.

JohnF
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JohnF
6 years 10 months ago

I really doubt Girardi would start anyone in CF other than Gardner with Melky out.

mjmetro
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mjmetro
6 years 10 months ago

unfortunately, girardi is pretty crazy.

Bill
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Bill
6 years 10 months ago

I’d like to see Matsui in center. Of course, I am a Phillies fan.

Anonitolah
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Anonitolah
6 years 10 months ago

Gardner’s a moron. In the playoffs, his baserunning has been too risky too often, especially game 2 vs the Twins. He appears to have no baseball sense.

Melky’s arm puts Garnder’s to shame.

Alireza
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

The problem with Melky against LHP is that he is a natural left-hander and may be better served pulling a J.T. Snow and going lefty all the way given his struggles as a RHB.

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