Brett Gardner is the longest-tenured New York Yankee, and he is one of the scrappiest players in Major League Baseball.
His 12-pitch at bat against Cody Allen that wound up into a two-run single albeit clinched the American League Division Series over the Cleveland Indians, and he has a Gold Glove award as well as a top-three finish in the last two seasons.
Aaron Judge had protected Gardner toward the end of the season, as Judge was plugged into the second hole, all while Gary Sanchez, new Miami Marlin Starlin Castro, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, and Chase Headley all saw time in the two-spot.
But Gardner got the best at bats with Judge behind him. Why? Because no one wants to face Aaron Judge.
And no one wants to face Giancarlo Stanton.
Or Greg Bird.
Or Didi Gregorius.
The Yankees have the most dangerous heart of the lineup in the MLB, and probably the most dangerous lineup period. With that being said, Brett Gardner is going to be the table setter for the Yankees, being the leadoff hitter for every game he plays in.
Not many pitchers want to see Gardner in the batter’s box, knowing he’s going to fight tooth and nail to get a base hit – all while using his speed to beat out any ground ball possible. Because of that ability, Brett Gardner can easily be a .300 hitter, rather than his average floating in the .250 range.
Gardner had a career high 21 home runs last year and drove in 63 runs, the second-highest of his career. He also came up in the clutch numerous times – blasting a 3-2, two-out, top-of-the-ninth pitch over the ivy at Wrigley Field, two walk offs (including a home run) in three days, the home run in the Wild Card game, and the at-bat against the Indians as previously mentioned.
Gardner gets a lot of opportunities, because other teams want to stay away from Aaron Judge at all costs.
With that being said, Brett Gardner is, once again, going to become the man opposing pitchers need to beat on the New York Yankees. But it’s hard to beat hitters when you don’t throw strikes.
Gardner is going to see strike after strike after strike. Why?
He’s going to see a lot of fastballs. Pitchers want breaking balls to be out of the zone, because it’s damning if they are thrown for a strike.
Be ready for scrappy Brett Gardner on offense again – but he might not have to try for a base hit as hard as he did in Game 5 of the ALDS. He has a ton of protection in the lineup, and it’s not just from whoever is hitting directly behind him.
Oh yeah – when a pitcher sees Giancarlo Stanton on deck, they are going to want to beat Judge. Just like what they’ll do to Stanton when Sanchez is on deck. Sanchez with Bird. Bird with Didi.
See a pattern?
If there’s a bet in Vegas for any Yankees’ offensive stats (okay, strikeouts, too, but it’ll be worth it), take the over.