A lot of discussion about the New York Yankees has been about their outfield—how good it will be in 2010, and whether Brett Gardner is really a major league starter.
The Yankees gave up on Melky Cabrera three times, with Gardner as the only apparent option.
The first time was in 2008, when Melky was demoted to the minors and Gardner took his place, but before the season was over Melky was back and playing in the Bronx because Gardner could not hit.
The second time came in Spring Training 2009. Gardner was awarded the job out of camp, and Melky was riding the pines.
But by May 21st Gardner was hitting .235, and soon Melky was back in centerfield.
Finally, the Yankees gave up on Melky for good and sent him packing to Atlanta to bring back an aging pitcher who has never been very effective in the American League, Javier Vazquez.
So let's take a look at the two outfielders and see just how good Brett Gardner is compared to the guy who he has replaced three times now on the Yankee roster.
Gardner has only played in 150 games in the major leagues, whereas Melky Cabrera played for New York for parts or all of five seasons.
And one must remember that Melky is actually younger than Gardner, making the big team when he was only 21, while Gardner did not get there until he was 25.
So I took an average of their offensive output averaged over 162 games, which you can find by looking at Baseball Reference.
Over 162 games Gardner would average 405 at bats, whereas Melky had 547.
Gardner averages 71 runs, which is exactly the same as Melky...meaning Gardner scored more runs per times at bat than Cabrera.
Gardner averages 104 hits, whereas Melky is much higher with 147, but that would be expected with the higher average at bats for Melky.
That plays out in their batting averages, where Gardner has .256 and Melky has a higher average of .269.
Gardner would walk 37 times and Belky would walk 49, a difference that is rather insignificant considering the difference in at bats.
Gardner would hit 12 doubles and nine triples over 162 games. Melky would average 26 doubles and only three triples in the same average number of games.
Gardner would hit three home runs and Melky would stroke 10.
Gardner would drive in only 42 runs, but Melky would drive in 65. But again, when you consider that Melky has considerably more at bats over the same 162 games he would be only marginally ahead of Gardner in RBI.
Gardner would steal 42 bases in 162 games, whereas Melky would swipe only 13.
Gardner would strike out 76 times in only 405 at bats, whereas Melky would fan only 70 times in 547 at bats. So Gardner strikes out much more, considering that he has 142 fewer at bats.
Gardner's on base percentage is .325, while Melky gets on at a .331 clip.
Gardner's slugging percentage is .352, whereas Melky's is .385.
Gardner's OPS is .677, while Melky is better at .716.
And with OPS+, Gardner is far below league average at 80, whereas Melky is higher at 88.
Again, Melky has a larger statistical base on which to draw these averages. But he also did so with less minor league experience than Gardner and at a younger age than Gardner.
I did not use any defensive saber metric statistics, and therefore will admit that my analysis of the two players defensively is subjective only.
Melky Cabrera made any number of exceptional plays during his time in New York. He also played at times with his head exceedingly far up his butt.
Cabrera without question has a better arm than Gardner, who is average at best. When Cabrera was the regular centerfielder in 2007 and 2008 runners did not try to advance on the kid because he had a well deserved reputation as a gun.
Purely subjectively, this one writer would prefer Melky Cabrera over Brett Gardner on defense, and I believe if Girardi had not insisted on moving Cabrera all over the outfield last year to accomodate Gardner, Melky would have played better defense last season.
Unless someone has some inside information based on what was going on in the clubhouse, we can't know whether Melky Cabrera was poison or whether he had a bad influence on other players.
Just watching games, he appeared to be very well liked by other players and added a lot to the spirit of the team, but there may be undercurrents we don't know about.
On the other hand, Brett Gardner hustles and gives a component of speed that the Yankees have largely been without since the days of Homer Bush.
But if you look at statistics alone, it is hard to figure why the Yankees have now given up on Melky Cabrera three times when the only person they had to replace him was Brett Gardner.
This writer's final analysis is that looking at the numbers averaged over 162 games, Brett Gardner is not very good, and statistically not as good as Cabrera was.
Will Gardner be given a chance to produce for an entire season? Who knows?
He was given that chance last year and could not maintain his performance.
Best guess from this perspective is that the Yankees will be looking very hard for some one else to play where Gardner is slotted now.
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