Batter’s Box: The Constant Gardner
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire
It’s amazing what one big week can do for a player’s overall stat line. Just seven days ago, Brett Gardner and his beautiful, 3-foot-long forehead were having a pretty disappointing season by most accounts. Then he went .310/.375/.828 with four homers and a stolen base over the past week, culminating with yesterday’s 2-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI performance. And suddenly Gardner is looking like he could put together his second 20/20 season in a row.
In order to do that though, he’s going to have to lift the ball a bit more. His 53.2% groundball rate is one of the highest of his career, and given that he’s on the verge of turning 35, his legs aren’t as adept at turning those grounders into base hits as they used to be. That said, his contact ability doesn’t seem to have aged much, as his incredible 3.7% whiff rate is the lowest it’s been since 2012. Batting in the loaded Yankee lineup should afford him plenty of opportunities for counting stats, and if you need someone to give you a little something in every category, he’s a guy that I dig planting in your lineup for the rest of the season. Those were gardening puns.
Anthony Rendon (3B, Washington Nationals): 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI – Rendon’s attempted just one stolen base this season, which is unfortunate, because even if he matched his seven steals from last season, it would go a long way towards boosting his value even further. That said, his line drive rate is way up this year, from 18.8% to 24%, and he’s hitting the ball much harder, so he should make up for the lack of steals with more power in the second half.
Jose Bautista (3B/OF, New York Mets): 2-3, HR, 2 RBI, BB – Really looking forward to that day in the near future when the Mets three best hitters are going to be Jose Bautista, Tim Tebow, and the decaying corpse of Julio Franco. Bautista has slashed .241/.399/.457 with fiver homers in 148 plate appearances since joining the Mets, which actually isn’t that bad. Stop laughing. I’m serious.
Mookie Betts (OF, Boston Red Sox): 2-4, HR, 5 RBI – If you haven’t watched the footage of Betts’ 13-pitch at-bat last night that culminated in a grand slam, crawl out from the dank hole you’ve been residing in your whole life and check it out. Too harsh? Mookie Wilson will always be my favorite baseball-playing Mookie, but Betts is making a serious case for second place.
Devon Travis (2B, Toronto Blue Jays): 4-4 – Some players are notorious for struggling for huge chunks of the season, only to suddenly go Super Saiyan and turn their whole season around in the span of a month. Devon Travis is one of these players. After struggling throughout most of the first half, Travis is slashing .298/.340/.468 with four homers over his last 30 games. He’s likely not a long-term add, but if you can juice this hot streak for all it’s worth and cut bait when he cools off again, do it.
Jorge Alfaro (C, Philadelphia Phillies): 3-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI – Remember when Alfaro was a big-time prospect? Yeah, me neither. He’s having a perfectly fine season so far, slashing .253/.301/.398 with six homers. That average is buoyed by a .400 BABIP though, and the 38% strikeout rate is Poorge Barfaro.
Jordy Mercer (SS, Pittsburgh Pirates): 3-4, R, 4 RBI – I used to have a doll named Jordy. He whispered to me in my sleep. He told me to do… unspeakable things. “End their suffering,” he would say. “End their existential pain.” Sorry, I’m just filling space here, because I have nothing to say about Jordy Mercer. He plays shortshop. He’ll probably hit .250 with 10 homers by season’s end, because that’s what he generally does. And he has a first name that would be more suitable on an evil doll, in my opinion.
Jesus Aguilar (1B, Milwaukee Brewers): 1-4, HR, BB – Another day, another homer for Aguilar, who has now hit 14 tates in his last 30 games. Almost a quarter of his batted balls are being pulled in the air, and when you pair that with a 46% hard contact rate you can expect him to keep going yard on a regular basis.
Trevor Story (SS, Colorado Rockies): 1-3, HR, BB – Coors is a hell of a drug. Story is batting .260 with four homers on the road this year, and .325 with 14 homers at home, despite playing six more games on the road this season. Thankfully he’s not going anywhere anytime soon, so you can enjoy the sweet fruits that Colorado is blessing him with.
Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians): 2-3, HR, 2 RBI, BB – That’s now 28 homers on the season for Ramirez, who now has a legitimate shot at going 30/20 BEFORE THE ALL STAR BREAK. Oh yeah, and by the way, he’s slashing .296/.396/.618 despite a .272 BABIP. So he’s been getting slighting unlucky this year. I’d like to be this unlucky just once in my life.
Tony Kemp (OF, Houston Astros): 1-2, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, SB, BB – This is a public service announcement: Tony Kemp deserves you’re attention. His 12.7% walk rate dwarves his 9.7% strikeout rate so far in 134 plate appearances, and he’s slashing .297/.392/.432 with three homers and seven stolen bases. What more could you want? Oh, guaranteed playing time? Yeah, that’s fair. With Kyle Tucker up he may struggle to find regular at-bats, but the tools he’s displayed so far make him worth keeping an eye on.
Mark Canha (OF, Oakland Athletics): 2-4, R, 2 RBI – Canha get an amen? The whitest man in the history of baseball has been having a solid year so far, making above-average contact and pairing it with a 39% hard hit rate. Not a bad guy to fill a roster spot while you wait for the next hot young thing to come by.
Wil Myers (OF, San Diego Padres): 3-4, 2 RBI – Myers is on an absolute tear, slugging .857 over his last 15 games. The Padres are probably wishing they had some of that Eric Hosmer money back so they could sign him to an extension right about now. But Hosmer says no takesie-backsies.
Albert Pujols (1B, Los Angeles Angels): 3-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB – If a guy with a last name as unfortunate at Pujols can make it in the world, so can you. Never stop believing in yourself. For a guy whose ankles are held together by paper clips and masking tape, it’s encouraging to see him cut down on his groundball rate this year (43.5% to 38.2%), and I think the increase in line drives and hard contact he’s been demonstrating could boost him up to the 30-homer plateau again.