Posts Tagged ‘Brett Gardner’

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Who is The Best Base Stealer in MLB?

March 20, 2010

After several seasons of watching Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton run amok around the A.L. East, it’s been refreshing to see elite speed on the Yankees in the form of Brett Gardner (side note: have you ever seen the actual definition of the word amok? Less mischievous and more sinister than I would have guessed. A manic urge to murder. Yikes.) As a team, the Yankees have been a better than average base stealing team for the past several years (ranking 7th in the A.L. in 2009, 4th in 2008, 4th in 2007, 2nd in 2006 and 6th in 2005). However, that’s more due to the fact that they featured so many players capable of stealing bases, with none being at an elite level. Jeter, Damon, Abreu, and A-Rod have all been capable of 20-30 steals in their time as Yankees, and both Joe Girardi and Joe Torre have been more than willing to let them run. None of those players possess the base stealing potential or the incredible speed that Brett Gardner does. While it is certainly way too early to say Brett Gardner is the best base stealer in baseball (he hasn’t even played a full major league season), his ability and potential to take that title have made me wonder just who is.

Rickey Henderson still leads the league in Rickey

Aside from the list of players above, there are a number of others who belong in the discussion: Jose Reyes (operating on the assumption that his bionic legs are intact), Jimmy Rollins, Brian Roberts, Michael Bourn, Ichiro, Willy Taveras and Chone Figgins. A few others perhaps worth mentioning but who I’m not factoring in the the discussion are Rajai Davis and Nyjer Morgan (like Gardner they haven’t had enough time to fully display their skills in the majors but will probably be among the best in the years to come), and Carlos Gomez and Joey Gathright (neither of whom plays enough due to other limitations to make full use of their ability… but there’s always this).

I’m going to look at the last three years worth of data, checking out the basics (stolen base totals, stolen base percentage) plus trying to figure out how well they put their speed to use. A simple (and very, very raw) way of estimating how much use these players get out of their talents would seem to be how many bases they are stealing in relation to how much they play. Now of course that is very heavily dependent on a lot of other factors (where in the lineup they bat would affect how often they’re on base with men in front of them, and could also impact how comfortable a manager would be green lighting a steal), but it should hopefully provide a rough estimate. The way I will be calculating that is:

(Stolen bases-caught stealing)/plate appearances

Unlike finding data for batting with men on base, finding data for base running with other men on base has proven to be a bit difficult, so this quick formula neglects it (as well as neglecting a ton of other factors). Even with a decent margin for error I think it will be a helpful tool in figuring out who the best base stealer in baseball is. By the way, for a running total of spring training SB’s you can click here.

The google doc is here. So, what say you dinosaur writer guy? Well, let’s look at the counting totals first, and remember everything is for 2007-2009:

In spite of all of his missed time Jose Reyes has the highest total, followed by Carl Crawford. Figgins was caught the most in the group, followed by Reyes and Upton.

Jimmy Rollins has an incredible 87.5% success rate. Upton and Figgins probably run more than they should, stealing below the magic number of 75% success.

Now as for who makes the most out of their skills. Willy Taveras is not very good at getting on base. His career OBP is a hilarious .321, easily the lowest out of of the entire group. Yet he still produces more successful steals (discounting for CS) per plate appearance than any of the others. What that’s saying is that if Taveras had even average on base ability, say somewhere in the range of .340-.350, you could be looking at a guy who steals 80 bases annually.

So who do we conclude as the best base stealer in baseball? I’m going to have to go with Taveras. Among all of the top base stealers he has the second best success rate, which he maintains even while taking off more liberally than any of the others. In a perfect world Brett Gardner turns into a base stealing clone of Rollins, Ellsbury or Taveras, hopefully getting on base more often than any of them (and playing better defense, in the case of Ellsbury). Best case scenario is that Gardner turns into a 100-110 OPS+ player who steals a ton of bases and plays excellent defense at a premium position in center. Worst case would seem to be a much better version of Gathright; a defensive replacement and pinch runner who can be valuable depending on the situation and proper use.

By the way I think manic urges to murder needs to become a more frequently used post tag. I will use it every time I write an article ranting about Mike Lupica.

thzxUnlike finding data for batting with men on base, finding data for base running with other men on base has proven to be a bit difficult.
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Melky Cabrera: The Next Barry Bonds?

April 23, 2009

The forgotten man in the Yankees outfield has really roared into the picture this week. After getting only two starts in the season’s first eight games Melky Cabrera has found himself in a position to take advantage of the injuries to Xavier Nady and Hideki Matsui. In his last twelve at bats, Melky has four homeruns, including his pair of jacks today (one of which was a 14th inning walk-off). This is a man who hit 8 homeruns in each of 2007 and 2008, in 545 and 414 at bats each of those years, respectively.

melky Power surges aren’t anything new to him; he hit five homeruns last April in 87 at bats. Not quite what we’ve seen from him this week, but after witnessing that last year I was convinced he had found his power stroke and would develop into a 20 homer center fielder. I had since not only jumped off of that bandwagon, but after the way he hit the rest of the season I hijacked and derailed the wagon completely Melky will probably never develop that kind of power, but even as is he’s a plus defensive outfielder with a very good arm.

If he can maintain even a portion of the power he has shown in brief stretches then he could be a starting caliber player. His on-base skills are abysmal, but if he could manage a .280 batting average than he could be an at least average center field bat.

The combination of Melky and Brett Gardner is hardly a spectacular tandem, and as it stands is probably a below average coupling. But take note, both are under 27 years old (Gardner is, at 26, a year older than Cabrera), and both are athletic defenders whose skills complement well. In one, the other, or both, the Yankees will be fine in center this season, and when Austin Jackson is ready (perhaps next Spring) the pair can perhaps replace Johnny Damon in left field, though neither of their bats play nearly as well for a corner spot.

Gardner is off to a rather slow start, so it is very encouraging to see some offense from Cabrera, who will likely find himself starting in center more and more if he keeps up the hitting, the same way Swisher kept himself in the lineup with his hot stretch even before Nady went down. It may not seem exciting to have a player whose peak is probably along the lines of .290/.350/.420 but I for one would be thrilled if Melky could put up a respectable line like that in center field this season.

By the way, Xavier Nady will not be undergoing Tommy John surgery (yet); he doesn’t have a full tear in his elbow, but rather a sprain, or partial tear. He’s going to rehab the injury and try and get back in as soon as a month (according to him) but hopefully within two months.

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Late Spring Yankee News

April 2, 2009

A quick rundown of what went on the last day or two:

Not exactly Earth shattering news but Jeter did have 24 GIDP last year, 4th in the A.L. and 7th most in baseball, so this should cut down on those a bit as long as Damon doesn’t turn into a groundout machine, too. Being lefthanded and faster doesn’t hurt in those situations, either. Jeter has a better bat, and the better hitter should ideally hit second, but I’m fine with this move.

Gardner demonstrated a much better eye and more patience in the minors than Melky Cabrera ever did. Both are superior defenders, though Gardners excellent range is offset by a Damon-esque throwing arm while Melky’s is on par with any centerfielder in baseball. Neither exhibits a lot of power (Gardner did finally show improved drive this spring with a new batting stance). Gardner is actually a year older than Cabrera, but for the time being he has more potential, and his base running alone will make him a better option if he can get on base at even an average clip.

Jonathan Albaladejo nabbed the final spot. He was swapped for Tyler Clippard at the end of 2007, so if he turns out to even be an average arm in the pen it’s a win for the Yankees. Brett Tomko was (thankfully) cut, in spite of a very good spring which had me suspecting he would make the team. The final roster is essentially set; the only move left is deciding who will have the last bench spot for the duration of A-rod’s time on the DL. That will be one of Angel Berroa and Ramiro Pena, a pretty inconsequential decision unless you own one of these and are still hoping for a return to his rookie of the year form.

One last note looking over that roster: the Yankees bullpen is going to be outrageous this season. Phil Coke is very good; his debut last year (while only 14 innings) was as good as Joba Chamberlain‘s, only with out all of the fan fare.

Coke, Brian Bruney, and Edwar Ramirez were a 26th round draft pick, waiver pickup, and independant league free agent signing, repsectively.That is the reason big money is better spent on offense and starting pitching, my friends. And, they all make a very fine pen, especially combined with Mariano and Damaso Marte. As a bonus, if the bullpen shines then perhaps the immortal pining for Joba to return to the pen will come to an end.