Tuesday, August 24, 2010
As I watched Jose Bautista crush his second home run in the 8th inning, I got thinking (scary, right?). He's been pretty valuable for the Blue Jays this year (.258 / 40 / 95). Baseball-Reference.com has him pegged at a 4.1 WAR which isn't to shabby at all given the fact he's only making $2.4MM. And even though he kinda, sorta acted like a bitch last night, you still have to tip your hat to the guy for all those hits blasted out of the stratosphere.
In a strange way, Bautista reminds me a lot of Brett Gardner. Sure, these two players have very different styles, but they also have one very noticeable common trait. They both fit into their respective systems well. Bautista is a big contributor to the HR happy Blue Jays. Jays' batting averages aren't all that great, and SO are abundant, but man, those guys swing the bat.
A quick stop at Fangraphs reveals a truth that we already suspect. The Jays hit A LOT of long balls. In fact, they lead the league with 188. They have 6 players with 15+ HRs with 2 more soon to join the ranks. Of course, as a team, they have the 3rd worst cumulative BA and 3rd most cumulative SO in the AL. So, you can probably understand why I'm suggesting Bautista is the perfect fit for the Blue Jays.
Let's take a moment to shift over to Gardner now. Offensively, he fits the Yankee mold perfectly. He's a solid hitter (.280 BA). Just as importantly, though, he's a patient hitter. On a team that is noted for being patient behind the plate, he is the league's third best player in terms of plate discipline (behind Daric Barton and Bobby Abreu).
Although Gardner's base stealing ability / efficiency has been a topic of discussion, he is still 5th in the league in SB with 35 on the season (trailing Juan Pierre, Carl Crawford, Michael Bourn, and Rajai Davis). His patience, along with his base running abilities, makes him an ideal cog in the Yankee offensive machine. This is further witnessed in the line up flexibility he allows Joe Girardi. He can lead off or bat 9th, and in either case, do so capably.
Defensively speaking, Gardner also fits the Yankee plan. Unlike years prior to 2009, there has been a concerted effort in creating a quality defense. Compliments of Fangraphs, here's a chart reflecting historical UZRs back through 2002.
It doesn't require a sabermatrician to tell you that the Yankees had a pretty bad defense for much of the decade. It's a very nice change of pace to see a change in values. Of the Yankees, Brett Gardner is far and away the highest rated player in terms of UZR at 12.8 (followed by Cano at 3.2, Granderson at 2.9, and Pena at 2.4). Given Gardner's skill set, his 3.5 WAR is a steal considering he's only making approximately $450,000.
Alright, so clearly I'm buying the Brett Gardner stock. Why then does the title say "Almost a Perfect Fit?" Well, I have a suspicion that the Yankees are going to do their best to acquire Carl Crawford. Yankee Brass has salivated over him for some time, and if there is one person I'd rather see patrolling LF over Brett Gardner, it's Crawford. Crawford's triple slash is enticing - .298 / 14 / 66. This season, Crawford's 41 stolen bases make most envious, as does his 22.1 UZR. His career 25.0 WAR comes with a hefty price tag (estimated to be approximately $20MM next year).
On the plus side, either guy would serve the team well. Personally, I hope the Yanks acquire Crawford because he is a dynamic player. With that being said, I'd love to see Gardner return to his home in center field in a platoon scenario with Curtis Granderson. Perhaps that's wishful thinking though.