Brett Gardner is batting .340/.436/.404/.841. I’m going to repeat that. Because it bears repeating. Brett Gardner is hitting .340/.436/.404/.841. Now, a few things–obviously, it’s a small sample and I don’t think Gardner will even dream of keeping this up. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t examine what Brett’s doing during this hot streak to start the year.
One of the knocks on Gardner was that he’s stuck out way too much for a guy with as little power as he has. So far in 2010, he’s cut down on the whiffs. He’s got just five strikeouts, compared to seven walks, good for a 10.6 K%, which is a full ten points below the league average (20.6%). Last year, Gardner was at a 16% strikeout rate.
As noted, Gardner has more walks than strikeouts. As he has knocked a few points off of his strikeout rate, he’s bumped his walk rate up a bit. He’s all the way up to 12.5% this year, about three points over the league average (9.4) and where he was last year (9.2). Any time a player can down his strikeout rate and up his walk rate, he’s going to be improved. Hopefully, this is a trend that continues.
Of course, walking is only part of one’s offensive game. So, let’s look at how Gardner’s done when he’s put the bat on the ball. While I’ve joked with friends that Gardner can’t hit the ball to the outfield, perhaps that’s a good thing. After all, with his lack of power and abundance of speed, it’s better that he hit the ball on the ground. Gardner has done a good job thus far of keeping the ball on the ground. His ground ball rate this season is 65.9%, compared to just 49% last season. He’s also been able to keep outfield fly balls down, too. He’s at just 17.1% compared to over 32% in 2009. Gardner hasn’t been hitting many liners, down a full percentage point to 17.1, but he’s still been able to rack up the hits. Those groundballs must have eyes.
I hope this keeps up, but I’m not holding my breath. Brett is BABIPing .381 right now, though his career BABIP is just .311. It’s likely that as the weeks go on, some of those grounders will find the gloves of infielders and the lack of line drives will hurt. For now, though, Gardner’s been able to have a hot April for a few reasons: he’s walked a lot, struck out very little, and kept the ball on the ground and I’ll definitely take it.