IMPORTANT BLOG ANNOUNCEMENT

PLEASE CHANGE YOUR BOOKMARKS AND FEEDS TO THE NEW URL, YANKEEANALYSTS.COM. TYU IS IN NO WAY AFFILIATED WITH THE NEW YORK YANKEES OR YANKEES UNIVERSE.
Feb 052010

When many discuss Brett Gardner’s value, they are quick to point to his defense, citing UZR as well as UZR/150 to outline his tremendous glove. For instance, in 2009, over 99 games, Gardner’s 7.4 UZR and 15.4 UZR/150 were two of the best marks in the American League. However, while there is an apparent sample size issue with regards to Gardner’s rating, I think another aspect we should look to examine further is Gardner’s interesting arm rating.

Last season, a significant chunk of Gardner’s UZR was derived from arm runs. He was worth 3.0 outfield arm runs above average, which was, in fact, one of the best numbers in baseball relative to his position in center field. This was no fluke either, as Gardner’s arm in ’08, between left and center field, was worth 4.9 outfield arm runs above average. Now, most people assume Gardner’s great UZR is predicated upon range and, while that is true, he does have good range – over the past two seasons, he has been valued at 12.2 range runs above average, which is another top-rated number among all outfielders – many Yankees fans would be surprised to know that Gardner’s arm is such a contributing factor – 7.9 arm runs over the past two years – to his overall defensive value, according to UZR.

The added wrinkle here, however, is that Gardner’s arm is not actually as good as UZR perceives it to be. Though Gardner has a fairly accurate arm, I think – based on what we have seen with our own eyes over the past two seasons – it is safe to say that his arm strength is nowhere near a Melky Cabrera, or even a Nick Swisher, who has a stronger arm but is not very accurate with his throws. Gardner’s arm rating, then, is founded upon arm accuracy but is inflated by his speed. Basically, Gardner’s wheels allow him to get to balls quicker than expected. This, then, allows him to gun down runners who wish to challenge him on the basepaths, because of his seemingly weak throwing arm. So, while Gardner’s arm rating is very good, the measure is also very generous as it is furthered by a non-arm factor.

As a result, Gardner’s UZR and UZR/150 are also somewhat aerated. If the 26-year old is given the opportunity to play a full season in 2010, I would guess that his arm rating will decrease as runners will grow more aware of his great speed, forcing them to limit their attempts to stretch out base hits. Thus, Gardner’s UZR figures will also go down (of course, I am drawing upon small samples, so perhaps we will see something entirely different). The reason I write this is to temper defensive expectations for Gardner, especially if he patrols center field. While he is a good defensive player – that much is clear – his defensive ratings could come down to earth a bit in 2010.

Photo by Reuters

9 Responses to “Gardner’s speed can even beat UZR”

  1. Good piece, Chris, but I have to take issue with this:

    “Gardner’s arm rating, then, is founded upon arm accuracy but is inflated by his speed. Basically, Gardner’s wheels allow him to get to balls quicker than expected. This, then, allows him to gun down runners who wish to challenge him on the basepaths, because of his seemingly weak throwing arm. So, while Gardner’s arm rating is very good, the measure is also very generous as it is furthered by a non-arm factor”

    “Inflated” bugs me. That makes it sound like it’s a false positive, when I don’t think it is. Fielding balls quickly and getting in position to throw faster than other CFs is part of being a good fielder. That tells me that not only is he fast, but he’s getting good reads and taking baserunners by surprise with how quickly he can turn a play.

    Also, accuracy is almost as good to have as arm strength. The infielder doesn’t have to reach for a ball and turn to make a swipe play, losing the time he gained on the strong throw. Accuracy/Strength is pretty much a wash for me.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Matt Imbrogno Reply:

    I’d rather the OF have an accurate arm. Sure, it’s nice if he can let it fly like Melky can, but Melky had no idea where that ball was going when he released it.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Chris H. Reply:

    Oh, I def agree that the accuracy is a good thing, but it wasn’t the accuracy that allows him to rate as high as he does. It is also difficult to be accurate when you bounce balls into the earth. Gardner has an accurate arm, but it is not particularly so.

    Much of the rating is based on a perceived arm strength that isn’t really there. Instead, it’s the speed that does it for him. That, of course, is a good thing, to be able to limit runners because they know of your speed, but, runners challenged him based on scouting reports (I presume) that state his arm is weak. They got greedy. I figure in 2010, they’ll be able to better understand when to run on Gardner and when not to, which should lower the arm rating a bit. I think a full season in the OF might expose his arm some more. You’ll see more runners tagging on him, going from first to third, etc.

    With regards to Melky, yea, his arm’s inaccuracy basically eliminated any positive gains from his arm strength. Swisher is the same way. He actually has a pretty decent arm but in the beginning of the season, he let everything fly. He overthrew everything. That changed in the second half after working on the issue. It’ll be interesting to see how the OF arms for all three of the team’s OFs pan out in 2010.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Ken (O.R.) Reply:

    If you read the reports on his arm…most of them say nothing about a weak throwing arm, instead they point out that it is avg. or below avg.. Bernie had a weak throwing arm and bad angles on the ball but, he was a good hitter, the same goes for Johnny.
    Sickels says…weak arm.
    Eric Schultz says…Good enough.
    Chris Girandila says…avg. with accuracy.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  2. Gardner is a nice 4th outfielder. He isn’t starting material as last year showed.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    daneptizl Reply:

    But at least he’s better than Melky.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Ken (O.R.) Reply:

    248 AB is what you are basing your opinion on? A guy that plays exceptional CF and has a .270 BA etc. is not good enough to play CF for the Yankees? Ok, you may be proven right. I’m willing to wait and see how it turns out in ST.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    JMK aka The Overshare Reply:

    THIS. I’m pretty bearish on Brett, but making such a statement on such a limited sample is silly. Now, I may think that he’ll be over-matched and really exposed as a full-time outfielder (if he indeed overtakes Winn) but I’m surely not making definitive statements until I have a bit more to assess.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  3. I don’t care about the ratings. If he has to throw less because of the fear for his speed it would be great. Less tries means less errors.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

Leave a Reply

(required)

(required)

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

© 2011 TYU Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha