To say Brett Gardner had a surprising 2010 would be an understatement. Behind a fantastic walk rate of 13.9%, Gardner ended up with a .383 OBP and a .358 wOBA. All of that led to a 123 wRC+. Combine that with a 21.9 UZR, and you get a fantastic 5.4 fWAR.
There are people that doubt Gardner can do that again. I’m going to cautiously agree. To expect a guy with as little a track record as Gardner to put up a 5.4 fWAR season again is expecting a lot. But, then again, a .358 wOBA is definitely do-able for Gardner, especially if he can keep walking like Nick Johnson. What do Bill James and CAIRO say for Brett?
James projects a .349 wOBA and CAIRO projects a .329 wOBA. To save time, let’s take the rough average of those two for our projection. That comes out to .339 for the average. We’ll use that going forward, using the same process as in my A-Rod post.
I’ll run this three ways: with Gardner playing CF full time, with Gardner playing LF full time, and with a hybrid approach. For they hybrid approach, I’ll use the same positional adjustment as this year: -4.4. We’ll also assume +10 defense for LF, +7 for CF, and +8.5 for the hybrid (average of the two). I realize those are aggressive numbers, but I’m comfortable going that high for Gardner. Assume 10 runs per win.
CF: 3.56 fWAR
LF: 2.86 fWAR
LF/CF: 3.02 fWAR
Those numbers look pretty okay to me. The 2.86 fWAR might look crappy compared to last year’s, but let’s remember that 2010 was likely Gardner’s absolute ceiling and that considering how little he’s paid, he’ll likely still be a valuable asset at 2.86 WAR.
We’ve also got to remember that the 3.02 fWAR scenario is most likely, especially if Gardner continues his performance against lefties while Curtis Granderson continues to struggle a bit (unless he really is #cured), and a platoon guy like Scott Hairston is signed to hit against LHP.
.339 is also a bit low on the projection, considering he just wOBA’d .358. I don’t think he’ll get as high as .358, but I don’t think he’ll go as low as .339. In projecting, though, it’s probably better to be conservative.