Joba, Gardner, and Other Questions for 2009

Andy Martino of The New York Daily News has a nice piece on Joba, running through some familiar background on the young star while asking some forthright questions about what his off-season DUI arrest might mean as he recovers from a shoulder injury.  Having Joba not just healthy but focused is clearly key for the Yankees and, more importantly, Joba’s long-term well-being.

Anthony McCarron of The Daily News has a good run-down on the 2009 Yankees position-by-position compared to the 2008 team.  While McCarron wisely questions what the Yankees will experience at various positions, including catcher with Jorge’s return from shoulder surgery, second base from Cano’s down year, and third base with A-Rod apparently distracted from his divorce, I found one comment from McCarron odd.  He does a good job assessing the outfield, and I agree with his belief that moving Nady to right to replace Bobby Abreu will likely result in a downgrade overall for the position, he says about Brett Gardner playing center, “If Gardner is it [the center fielder], it’s unclear what he’ll bring to the lineup.”  I think a better way to put it would be that it’s unclear how well he’ll hit.  But it’s not at all unclear what Gardner brings–speed, speed, and more speed.  Gardner stole 13 bases in 14 tries in just 42 games and, from September 15 to the end of the season, he hit 15-42 (.357), scored 7 runs, drove in 6, raised his average 63 points and his OBP 49 points.

Like McCarron and others, I still have concerns about the offense.  Will Matsui be healthy enough to produce as he usually does, heck, to stay in the lineup?  Will Nady hit better than the .268/.320 after being traded to the Yanks, and can he come close to Abreu’s RBI and run-scoring proficiency?  Can Nady cut down on the 48 strikeouts in 59 games with the Yanks?  Will Damon stay healthy to give the top of the lineup the added punch he usually brings? Will Posada return healthy and productive?  Can Cano rebound from a wretched 2008?  Will an aging lineup avoid the injury bugs that have plagued the team in recent years?

Gardner’s attributes, however, are less a question in and of themselves than a matter of a.) whether or not he wins the center-field job, b.) how much he will continue to improve should he win the job, and c.) whether the rest of the lineup’s productivity ameliorates or exacerbates what limitations Gardner’s game thus far has–lack of power, and consistency at the plate.  The latter may come from consistent playing time, since he was quite good at SWB last year–.296/.414, 3 HR, 32 RBI, 37/46 in stolen bases, 68 runs, 70 walks.  The real question with point c.) is whether or not Gardner can develop some gap power by using his full body in swings.  My belief is that he’ll transfer his good batting eye to the majors as long as he gets consistent at-bats.  He only drew 8 walks last year, and only 3 in the last six weeks when he replaced Melky. But as a newcomer, this is forgivable as long as he shows improvement.  Long story short, while Gardner has some questions, his speed is an obvious attribute that McCarron rightly acknowledges for defense in center, but strangely overlooks for the offense.  Especially from the nine-hole, Gardner can team with JD to give the Yankees in essence two lead-off hitters.

Even a piker like me can see that.

Published in: on December 29, 2008 at 10:24 am  Comments (12)  

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  1. you’re no piker. you know what i’m worried about? that melky will do well in ST or shall i say better than Little G in spring training and then girardi will put him in the lineup and let the little one rot on the bench except for pinch running duties. as we have seen with the shelley experiment last year that unless your one of girardi’s guys you have no chance on this team. i have some hope though because i get the idea that girardi actually likes G more than melky–

    i also have some hope that melky will be traded by then anyway. thanks for the article-i’ll check it out right away

  2. It’s a good point about Girardi and Shelley, Mike. It also translated to Britton, who was pretty good for what cups of coffee he had in The Bronx but either languished unused in the bullpen, or wore out tires on the drives back and forth from SWB. With Britton, at least, I can’t help but think that his aversion to fitness, shall we say, annoyed the fitness freak, anti-junk food activist Girardi.

    With Melky, I fear a repeat of 2008–excellent Spring Training, followed by maybe a good first few weeks, or not, but then a tailing off. The same goes for Cano. Essentially, I fear that some players will show us their best in March and not the rest of the time when it counts. I do think you’re right about Girardi and Gardner, probably because Gardner showed good work habits and improvement his second go-’round, instead of the ability to stay out late and botch routine plays through a lax mental approach, as Melky did.

  3. i like what he says about girardi taking a tip from coughlin about maybe lightening up a bit. i’ll never like that guy though. even if he takes us to a championship. he just rubs me the wrong way. too bad, but i guess it doesn’t really matter

  4. I read that article about Joba over the weekend and thought it was very troublesome. He has clearly had problems dealing with his newfound fame and I can only hope someone on the Yankees intervenes and mentors him. (Dare I say it, but Clemens filled that role in ’07.) His family’s substance abuse problems and the pressures in NY, combined with the hits he’s taking from the Winnebago tribe, could weigh on him. I’d love to see him do well, for his sake and the Yankees’.

  5. just because clemens is a liar as well as a PED user doesn’t rule him out as a great mentor. i agree with you jane- he needs some vets to keep him under their wing for a while. i have no idea who he is close to on the team, but i’m hoping that he does

  6. […] guide you all to Jason’s post at his blog. Jason analyzes what McCarron wrote and questions whether Garner is actually the centerfielder of […]

  7. I am not so worried about the outfield defensively. With the pitching we have now, I am not expecting many balls to make it into the outfield, lol.

    Seriously though, Gardner has more speed then we have seen since Homer Bush (i think that was his name). And Melky should bounce back. He seems like that kinda guy. After that, who cares about Nady and Matsui?

  8. I too think that Gardner should be given time to play, rather than just rotting on the bench so that Melky can play CF all season. I think if Cashman and the rest of the FO really want to emphasize youth and how we’re strengthening our farm system again, this would be a good way to go about showing that.

    I also think we should shop Melky around along with a couple other expendables to see what we could get. Our OF defense is going to be less than stellar AGAIN this season, and I would like to see the FO work toward fixing that, if not for 2009, then for 2010. With Sabathiat/Burnett in the rotation, we’re solid there. Teixeira shores up IF defense and gives us a great bat to shore that up. All that’s really left is the outfield.

  9. Thanks for popping over from “Yankees Chick,” Beth. I too prefer Gardner but hope he continues to improve at the plate. I’d love for Melky to bounce back and be a steady contributor, but last year soured me on him. I didn’t consider his play unforgivable forever, but he definitely annoyed me with his poor plate approach and occasional mental lapses. I agree with your interest in trying the kids in center, especially after having acquired Teixeira. Cameron would be a good defensive fix, but he’s expensive, impatient, and doesn’t hit for average. I’d prefer that the Yanks pass on him, for example.

  10. while at scranton, he had an outstanding eye (as evidenced by his walk total and high obp)…also, we will acknowledge that he has no power, but if he steals 40 bases, those bases should be added to his slg%…

    as a sabermetric baseball fan, the gardner question seems obvious…if his obp + slg is around .800, and he offers solid range factor in CF, he should start…if not, then we have a 4th of/pinch runner for the league minimum…either way, i like gardner

  11. i didnt want to link this to the gardner post, b/c i feel that they are unrelated, but melky is a really immature player…the problem with melky wasnt only his play, but also his attitude…
    i live very close to yankee stadium, and it is common knowledge amongst locals that melky and cano were “late night” kind of guys…unfortunately, we are already invested heavily in cano…we need to separate these two and get someone to have a positive influence on cano…thus, gardner is the clear choice for CF right now, pending another acquisition

  12. I’m right there with you on Melky, Brendan–and I think your point on him fits right in here. Regular reader Mike F. here mentioned to me about Melky and Cano’s late-night exploits last year. Melky’s mental errors and poor, aimless plate approach last year were maddening.

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