WS Coverage: Repacing Cabrera with Gardner

Melky Cabrera left last night’s game with a hamstring injury in the 6th inning, leaving Joe Girardi without his starting CF. Sitting on the Yankee bench was one Brett Gardner, who entered the game in his place. An injury to a starting CF can be devastating for a team, but the Yankees carry an excellent replacement in Gardner.

Gardner is a fan favorite in New York, and is especially noted for his speed. His speed score of 9.1 ranks as the best in the major leagues this year. We’ve also seen his speed on the bases translate to range in the field, as Gardner has posted a spectacular UZR of +17.1 in 114 DG in CF. According to Tom Tango’s Fan Scouting Report, he ranks as a well above average fielder as well.

Gardner is likely not a +23 UZR/150 fielder, but with positive marks from the fans, we can be reasonably certain that he is a solid amount above average. As a htiter, Gardner’s main value comes from his baserunning. His 83.8% stolen base rate in 31 attempts made him a viable threat every time he reached base, which he did in over 34% of plate appearances. His rise in walk rate was the main contributor to his .337 wOBA in 2009. Given his terrible 2008 and the small sample we are given, we have to assume right now that Gardner’s true talent lies near his career wOBA of .319.

Melky Cabrera in 2009 showed sustainable improvement off of his rookie campaign, as his BB% and ISO rose to career highs and his BABIP rose from his 2008 low of .273 to .291. His true talent probably falls somewhere between his wOBA from this year (.331) and 2007 (.316). Cabrera’s defense has also improved each year since 2007, but he’s still a far cry from a defensive wizard. Cabrera’s career has him as a -5 UZR/150 player, but giving weight to recent seasons suggests he’s closer to a -2 or -3 UZR/150 fielder.

What we see here is two similar hitters and one excellent fielder. Cabrera’s switch hitting makes him the better option against left-handed starting pitchers, but against righties, Gardner’s combination of fielding skill, on-base skill, and ability to wreak havoc as a runner makes him an excellent play. If Melky Cabrera is unable to go in the remainder of the series, expect to see Gardner take over in center field and the Yankees to not miss a beat.

We hoped you liked reading WS Coverage: Repacing Cabrera with Gardner by Jack Moore!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

newest oldest most voted

These guys have both been very good for the Yankees this year. Melky has had some very key hits late in ballgames and Gardner has had some big steals, notably against the Angles in LA late in the year.

They fly under the radar on a team with so much high priced talent but they have been more than satisfactory Yankees.