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A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Pinch hitting: Doug Waage

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Jan 28, 2010 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Next up in the Pinch Hitters series is Doug Waage, who looked at the numbers and saw Brett Gardner as more than an acceptable everyday outfielder. He saw him as an obvious starter for the Yankees.

Doug is a 34-year-old, lifelong Yankees fan living in Jersey City and working in Manhattan. His post has been scheduled for weeks, and it just happens to run the day after Johnny Damon was eliminated from the Yankees’ left field mix.

Doug first emailed about Gardner way back in December. He wrote, in part, “Why would the Yanks even consider any of the outfielders on the free agent market when they could possibly get 5.25 WAR out of a guy they are paying about $500,000?” He wanted to make his case on the blog, and here’s his argument.

———

To a lot of fans, starting Brett Gardner in left field is totally crazy. They view Gardner as a weak offensive player at a position where most teams stress offense over defense. Here are Gardner’s actual stats (first chart) and pro-rated stats (second chart) over 626 plate appearances (which is the number of plate appearances that Johnny Damon had in 2009).  For good measure, I’ve also included stats for Melky Cabrera, Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, and Curtis Granderson.    

Player

PA

Ave

R

HR

RBI

SB

OPS

Gardner

284

0.270

48

3

23

26

0.724

Damon

626

0.282

107

24

82

12

0.854

Melky

540

0.274

66

13

68

10

0.782

Holliday

670

0.313

94

24

109

14

0.909

Bay

638

0.267

103

36

119

13

0.921

Granderson

710

0.249

91

30

71

20

0.780

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Player

PA

Ave

R

HR

RBI

SB

OPS

Gardner

626

0.270

106

7

51

57

0.724

Damon

626

0.282

107

24

82

12

0.854

Melky

626

0.274

77

15

79

12

0.782

Holliday

626

0.313

88

22

102

13

0.909

Bay

626

0.267

101

35

117

13

0.921

Granderson

626

0.249

80

26

63

18

0.780

Gardner is the speed demon of the bunch, but he is definitely the worst hitter. Now, if these six players were DH candidates, we’d have nothing to talk about. In the outfield, though, defense is a very large part of the game, especially considering the Yankees’ spacious left field. 

To determine the value of each player’s defensive ability, as well as the number of incremental wins he adds over a replacement player, we need to look at each player;s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and its components (UZR among them).  See Beyond the Box Score and FanGraphs for the definition and application of these stats. 

Here is the raw 2009 and pro-rated data (626 plate appearances) for all six players: 

Raw Data

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Player

Batting

UZR

RAR

WAR

Value

2010 Salary

“Free” Value

Gardner

2.4

7.2

20.6

2.1

$9.3

$0.4

$8.9

Damon

25.3

-9.2

30.1

3.0

$13.6

$13.0

$0.6

Melky

1.6

-1.6

15.9

1.6

$7.2

$3.1

$4.1

Holliday

36.0

5.7

56.8

5.7

$25.6

$17.0

$8.6

Bay

33.7

-13.0

34.9

3.5

$15.7

$15.0

$0.7

Granderson

6.0

1.6

33.8

3.4

$15.2

$5.5

$9.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Pro-rated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Player

Batting

UZR

RAR

WAR

Value

2010 Salary

“Free” Value

Gardner

5.3

15.9

60.8

4.6

$20.8

$0.4

$20.4

Damon

25.3

-9.2

18.0

3.0

$13.5

$13.0

$0.5

Melky

1.9

-1.9

11.5

1.9

$8.3

$3.1

$5.2

Holliday

33.6

5.3

59.1

5.3

$23.9

$17.0

$6.9

Bay

33.1

-12.8

23.0

3.3

$14.6

$15.0

-$0.4

Granderson

5.3

1.4

31.2

3.2

$14.2

$5.5

$8.7

Now there a lot of numbers here, but focusing on WAR, it’s clear that Gardner is best of the bunch outside of Matt Holliday. Gardner might not give you as many extra runs on offense, but he saves you a ton on runs on defense. Given that Damon is 36 and in the declining part of his career, and Gardner is only 26 and likely to improve, the case for Gardner is only stronger.

The final nail in the coffin for the idea of Damon in left field is cost. If you had a cheep in-house option like Gardner who could generate a 4.6 WAR in 2010 (comparable to Teixeria’s 5.1 WAR in 2009 when he was 2 nd in the MVP voting), what would you do?  I’d do what Brian Cashman did: Offer Damon a fair $7M – $10M a year to be the DH (where his defense can’t hurt the team) and play Gardner in the outfield. After Nick Johnson signed, I wouldn’t have gone after Damon for the outfield as his defense kills the team, nor would I have gone after Holliday or Bay, as the $15M-$16M in extra pay each year would lead to one more win at best. 

So, the Yanks should start Gardner in left, right? Actually, no. After spending this entire post explaining why Gardner is the best left field option for the Yanks, I think Gardner should be the team’s starting center fielder, not left fielder. Gardner ran circles around Granderson in center field in 2009, and while I expect Granderson to start the season in center, I believe he’ll end the season in left.  I think Cash agrees with me on this one.  Why else would Cash say that “Granderson is penciled in at center field” but that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of making an adjustment, and that Gardner could play every day? Similarly, why would Granderson say that he’s “willing to play anywhere in the outfield” if Cashman or someone else hadn’t already discussed such a possibility with him?

Oh, and for everyone who thinks that Gardner needs a right-handed platoon mate like Reed Johnson because he can’t hit lefties, take a look at Gardner’s MLB and minor league splits, and then do the same for Granderson. Gardner hits lefties just fine.  We need someone like Johnson to platoon with Mr. Automatic Out vs. Lefties, Curtis Granderson (0.484 OPS vs. lefties in 2009), not Gardner (0.781 OPS vs. lefties in 2009).

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