Brett Gardner's presence in the Yankees lineup is one of the main reasons for the team's success.
For the 2013 New York Yankees, the only genuine "superstar" who has managed to stay healthy and in the lineup is Robinson Cano, but he should not be regarded as the only All-Star candidate.
The team, in spite of numerous injuries and setbacks, remains in the hunt for the AL East crown thanks to stellar performances from some of the "others" in the lineup.
This article will take a look at one of those Yankees who should not be overlooked when it comes to consideration for the Midsummer Classic. Namely, we will examine center fielder Brett Gardner’s contribution to the team’s success and how it compares with others roaming the outfield for opposing American League squads.
Coming off an injury-plagued 2012, Gardner has raised his level of play and has gone from being an inconsistent platoon player to an integral piece of the Yankees batting order.
A casual look at Gardner's statistics might lead one to believe that, despite improvements at the plate, the speedy outfielder is still a little behind other big-name peers whose names consistently grace the All-Star ballot.
Below is a sampling of other teams' outfielders whose names appear on the ballot and their "basic" statistics. I've included Gardner's stats as well.
In average, runs, RBI and HR, he ranks in the lower half of the top candidates for starting spots at Citi Field on July 16.
However, one needs to look deeper to really get a feel for just how valuable Gardner has been to the Yankees. Comparing how he has performed in critical situations against the other potential All-Star outfielders shows the true value of what "Gardy" has done this season.
Other than slugging percentage (he's not a home run hitter and never will be), Gardner ranks in the top three among this sampling in OBP and hitting with the bases loaded. In categories that perhaps best show a player's true value to his team, he ranks either first or second (in the context of this specific group) in WAR, RISP and average during late innings of close games.
In the field, Gardner has been solid (only one error in 165 chances), even though left field had been his primary position since 2010. He has shown his versatility both in the lineup and in the field.
Where the Yankees would be without Robinson Cano cannot be argued, but just as important to the team's ability to hang with the top contenders in the American League is the marked improvement in the play of center fielder Brett Gardner.
Should Brett Gardner be on the AL All-Star squad?
That importance should be rewarded with a spot on the team that represents the American League in the All-Star Game.
All statistics are courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com.