Batter’s Box: An Oldie but a Goodie

Jim Chatterton gives a sampling of Saturday's best hitters and why Brett Gardner is having his best season yet.

Brett Gardner came up with the New York Yankees over 10 years ago in 2008 playing alongside Bobby AbreuJohnny Damon, and Melky CabreraAaron Judge and Clint Frazier were still in high school. He ranks seventh among hitters for most games played for one team since he started in the bigs in 2008. But now at 36 after all those years, he’s put together what could be his best offensive season of his career and by far the most powerful (naturally, it’s 2019 and the ball is juiced). But there is a big difference between a 35 year old that slugged .368 in 2018 and a 36 year old that is slugging .500 in 2019 with a career slugging of .400.

Gardner kept his successful season going with career high home runs number 24 and 25 last night going 3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2B, 5 RBI. It’s been a career year for him in 2019. Of course with the ball, he’s hit 25 homers, four more than his previous career high in 2017. His .500 slugging is 72 points higher than his previous high in the same season. Lastly, he has tied his career high RBI total with 66. This has all been in 22 less games than those seasons that held those highs. His hard hit rate has been about the same as previous years, but he’s cut back slightly on grounders and has added to his fly balls increasing his launch angle five degrees from last year. With more balls in the air with this ball he’s been able to ride an 18.9% HR/FB rate, a level he’s never come close to before. He also has been pulling the ball at a rate 10 percentage points higher than his norm. As a lefty at Yankee Stadium, pulling the ball in the air is a dream. Only two of his home runs are to right or right center. With the changes to the ball, he’s been able to adjust slightly to take advantage and have one of his most successful seasons of his career.

Kris Bryant (3B/OF, Chicago Cubs)—3-3, R, HR, 4 RBI. Bryant has broken out of his August long slump with strong two weeks to start September. He’s picked his hard hit rate back up while also hitting more line drives again, where in August he was barely hitting any. Frustratingly, his K rate has been worsening through out the season and is almost at 30% for September where it is usually much closer to 20%.

Nico Hoerner (SS, Chicago Cubs)—3-4, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI. One of the Cubs top prospects was called up about a week ago and he is raking. In those six games he is slashing .417/.481/.750 while walking more often than striking out. The thing that stands out the most about Hoerner’s minor league stats is his plate discipline.

Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees)—2-3, 3 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB. Voit continues his strong performance after his return to the lineup. He has four extra base hits in his last four games with eight runs and six RBIs. He’ll remain in the lineup with the Encarnacion injury as the Yankees may play it safe with his oblique.

Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta Braves)—3-4, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI. Albies greatly struggled in the second half of 2018 so there was some concern with what he could do this season and how he would progress after the break. Here is his second half slash: .306/.360/.535. That’s with nine homers and nine steals. And he’s been on fire the past six games hitting almost over .500.

Nick Markakis (OF, Atlanta Braves)—4-5, R, 2 RBI. Markakis had been on the IL since nearly the All Star break with a fractured wrist. He’s been back for two games now and has two hits in the first and four hits in the second. If he had been dropped with the injury and you are in need of a boost in batting average look no further.

Oscar Mercado (OF, Cleveland Indians)—Game 2: 3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 2B, 2 RBI. Mercado had just come out of a rough August, hitting the ball a bit weaker and not walking as much. However, he was putting the ball in play. Things have picked back up for him in September. His hard hit rate is back and he’s being more selective with his pitches as his walk rate is above 10% for the month.

Jorge Polanco (SS, Minnesota Twins)—Game 2: 3-5, 3 R, 2B, RBI. He was a dominant fantasy force the first couple of months of the season but has taken a big step back as it has progressed. Since the beginning of August, he’s started to put some pieces back together as he’s slashing .306/.373/.475. It is not close to his strong start but at least serviceable as a fantasy shortstop.

John Hicks (C/1B, Detroit Tigers)— 3-5, R, HR, 4 RBI, BB. This is the other J. Hicks in the MLB. No not the one that throws 105 MPH, the one that sometimes catches on the Tigers. Yeah, you know that one. He’s been an interesting player starting every so often at catcher, enough to retain eligibility but he also starts plenty at first base. Despite striking out nearly 40% of the time since August, he has a strong slash of .307/.333/.560. He just needs to tweak that plate discipline a bit and he’s there.

Kyle Tucker (OF, Houston Astros)— 4-4, R, RBI, BB, 2 SB. Tucker finally was called up for the Astros and he’s kept raking. It’s now been 12 games and he’s sporting a 141 wRC+. He’s been showing off his wheels a bit too, especially yesterday with two stolen bags. He did have a 30/30 season this year in AAA in 125 games so he can steal a base every now and then.

Rougned Odor (2B, Texas Rangers)— 2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. It’s that time of year again. The air is starting to cool. Pumpkin spice is everywhere. And Rougned Odor has almost 30 home runs and over 10 steals yet has a wRC+ below 100.

Daniel Murphy (1B/2B, Colorado Rockies)— 4-5, R, 2B, 4 RBI. Murph has had a very quiet year in Colorado. His power is almost non-existent. At least he’s picked it back up in the second half almost slugging .500 again. However, he looks much more like the Mets version of Murph and not the version that exploded in the 2015 playoffs and continued t0 thrive with the Nationals.

Tony Wolters (C, Colorado Rockies)— 2-3, 3 R, 2B, 2 RBI. Wolters has been starting behind the plate for Colorado most of the season but provides zero fantasy value. He has only hit one homer this season and his slugging in only three points higher than his OBP. He had a nice game but that’s all you need to know.

(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

Jim Chatterton

Jim has written for Razzball and now is a part of the Pitcher List staff. He is a Villanova alum and an eternally optimistic Mets fan. He once struck out Rick Porcello in Little League.

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