During the first half of 2015, Brett Gardner looked poised to have his best career season as of yet, but all that went to the wayside as he struggled mightily during the second half. Do these second half struggles make us completely ignore his great start, or should we wait before writing him off.
Gardner has always seemed to be an underrated player in the MLB, as he tends to get overshadowed by some of the higher profile Yankees. Gardner is certainly a grinder and truly does get the most out of the talents he has.
His defense as always been solid, and he does possess a nice power/speed combo that can be valuable in both fantasy and reality. However, over the last few seasons Gardner has had this knack for never really putting together a consistent all around season.
He would come out of the gates slow and recover over the second half, or as he has done the last two years, start very well and fade after the All-Star break. Whether it be his all out playing style or mental fatigue, it has become a pattern where owners and fans alike have taken notice.
At the break Gardner sat with a, .302/10 HR/42 RBI/15 SB line, clearly a great start and a sign that he may finally have that illusive start to finish solid season. He would even go on to be an All-Star replacement player, so it was evident that he was off to a career start.
But, a familiar enemy caught Gardner again as he faded majorly over the rest of the season. His second half line, .206/6 HR/24 RBI/5SB, was undoubtedly a far cry from his All-Star level performance in the first half. This sudden fall in production left fantasy owners and fans alike, wondering what in the world happened? First and foremost, I firmly believe that Gardner was battling nagging injuries all season and it really hampered him as the season played on.
His mentality would not let him miss time, but it does beg the question if he and Yanks would have been better off to let him get some rest via a DL stint. But, with Jacoby Ellsbury doing his usual Mr. Glass impression and Mark Teixeria going down, Gardner never had the window where the team could maintain without him.
Then there is the question of, why did he stop stealing bases? This is one area that I can’t rap my head around. I do not know if it is Gardner’s decision or the Yankees giving him the red light, but I have always felt that Gardner had a ton of SB upside that was being suppressed.
In 2010 and 2011, he stole over 45 bases, but since then he has not even had over 40 steal attempts in any season. I realize that he is entering his 30’s, but thanks to watching Gardner on a pretty consistent basis, it is clear that he has not lost that much of a step.
During the first half he stole 15 bags while only being caught three times. But, over the rest of the season he only stole five bases while being thrown out twice. I get the argument that you do not want him to get thrown out in front of your power guys, but that is an important part of his game that is being wasted and he needs it to reestablish his value.
His average and power fallout, was brought on by Gardner’s more passive approach early in the count and the fact that he began to swing at more pitches out of the zone. Over the first 82 games of the season he struck out 72 times, not the best clip but manageable. Over the last 69 games though, that rate crept up to nearly one a game as he had 63 K over this stretch.
He began to take more pitches early in the count, thus finding himself behind in more counts. In the first half he was aggressive and was swinging early, but for some reason he changed his approach and paid for it. Heading into 2016, Gardner has shown the propensity to be a fast starter and slow finisher. While owners love the early production, consistency has major value and that could sour owners on Gardner.
For me at worst I see Gardner as a, .255/15 HR/60 RBI/20 SB player, making him a decent OF4. I still think there is upside with him though, and I still like the 90+ Runs production that he chips in as well. While his second half sucked no doubt, his downfall was self-inflicted and had less to do with the league getting the better of him.
There have been some recent trade rumblings and if he were to move from New York, his value would hinge on where he would end up because his home splits and lineup situation steer his value. Gardner still has the upside for a 20 HR/30 SB season, so do not completely write him off just yet.