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Brett Gardner, Good Eye or Non-Swinger?

Posted By BreedenT On April 16, 2011 @ 11:34 am In Player Analysis,Research,Strategy,Uncategorized | 11 Comments

On the surface, Brett Gardner looks like a Bobby Abreu protege (without any power). Since 2010, Brett has shown off his great eye for pitches, posting the 2nd lowest chase rate in baseball at 18.1%.

His ability to make contact with pitches is also astonishing, as he makes contact with 97.2% with pitches in the strike zone, behind only Juan Pierre and Marco Scutaro. Of the 2789 pitches Brett has seen since the start of 2010, he has only swung and missed at 265 pitches.

Where Brett Gardner lacks is in his ability to swing at pitches in the strike zone. Over the last two seasons, Brett has swung at a major league low 45.2% of pitches in the strike zone. He owns this record almost 6% (next lowest is Elvis Andrus at 50.9%) and is almost 20% below the league average. Combined with his low chase rates, its only natural also that Brett has the lowest swing rate in MLB at 31.3%, compared to the league average of 45.6%.

Here’s where things get really interesting. In 2010, Brett Gardner saw 2625 pitches. Of those pitches, 48.3% were in the strike zone, or 1268 strikes. At a 44.7% Z-Swing%, that means last season, Brett Gardner took 701 pitches for strikes. while swinging at 567 strikes. Brett had a Z-Contact% of 97.5%, meaning he only swung and missed at 2.5% of these strikes. That means that after 2625 pitches, Brett only swung and missed at 14 strikes in the strike zone.

Looking at his O-Swing% (Chase Rate) , of the 1357 possible balls thrown to Brett, he swung at 18.2% of them, or 247 pitches. At (1-O-Contact%) he missed 25.2% of these pitches, or 62 times.

In total he swung and missed at 76 pitches in 2010.

Brett Gardner struck out 101 times in 2010. Of these 101K’s, 56 were swinging. 56! That means that in 2010, of the 701 pitches Brett took for strikes, 656 of them were for strike 1 or strike 2. Considering he only had 569 PA in 2010, he took 1.15 strikes per plate appearance before taking strike 3.

But aren’t there times where a hitter is trying to “take a pitch”? That is true, most singles hitters don’t swing in 3-0 counts, since a walk is just as good. In 2010, Brett ran the count to 3-0 31 times. 8 times he walked on the 4th pitch and hit no balls in play, so we’re going to assume for Brett’s sake, he took one strike (non-swinging) in the other 23 PA.

To give Brett a further benefit of the doubt, lets say he had the same strategy at 3-1. In 3-1 counts, Brett had 29 BB and 2 H in 84 PAs. Again, assuming he didn’t swing at a single pitch at 3-1 other than his 2 hits, Brett took 53 strikes in 3-1 counts.

Therefore the maximum number of strikes Brett could have taken in 3-0 and 3-1 counts is 76. Lets go back to our 681 non strike 3 strikes and back out the max 76 strikes taken. He still took 580 strikes in 569 plate appearance. Even accounting for strikes taken in 3-0 or 3-1 counts to try to get on base, Brett Gardner takes just over 1.0 Strikes per PA before taking strike 3.

Pitchers this season sense understand that Brett refuses to swing before 2 strikes and are currently throwing Brett a first pitch strike at a 70.5% rate, up from 56.2% last season. Brett, having only put the ball in play 4 times (1/3, 1 2B, 1 Sac Bunt) has run a 0-1 count 25 times, after which point he is a career .224 hitter, and a .136 hitter this season. If he is to see success in really his 2nd full season in the big leagues, he needs to get his bat off his shoulders and start putting the bat on the ball early in the count, because at the moment, he’s giving away 1/3 of the at bat before he even steps into the box, and pitchers have no reason to pitch around him with his weak power stroke and weak, double play prone Derek Jeter hitting behind him.

This article can be found in its original form at yankeeheckler.blogspot.com. Please feel free to comment below with any weaknesses in my math, etc… My hypothesis is that Brett takes more non-swinging strikes per PA than anyone in baseball, and I’d love some suggestions as to possible names that are worse about it than he is.


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