Monday, January 31, 2011

Good Luck Rob Neyer

I was just over at, and I found that Rob Neyer was writing his final column for them. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mr. Neyer, because he, more than anyone else, introduced me to the statistics side of baseball.

I've long been interested in the numbers that go into baseball. At 7 years old, I remember looking in the Boston Sunday Globe and writing down every single player in the league, ranking them in some category or another. This was before I knew what a spreadsheet was - I was using a pencil and paper. Through the years, the interest in the statistical side of the game grew. At about 12, I started entering the Red Sox box scores into a MS Office Spreadsheet after every game. A pile of newspapers would be next to my family's computer, a source of constant aggravation for my poor mother. "When are you going to throw those papers away? You can't keep those forever!" I would calculate and maneuver the numbers in every way I could. At maybe 13 or 14, I came up with my first pitching metric, ranking players by a combination of K/BB, H/IP and ERA. It was around the same time I received the Bill James 1995 Season Preview. I thought it was great, and he had a completely different outlook from any baseball writer I'd ever read, but I had no idea who he was. I'd never heard of the "Historical Abstract" or anything else.

My family was a little late on board with the whole internet thing, but around 1998/99. Sports fan that I was, the coolest thing to me about the internet was the fact that I didn't have to wait until the next day to get a sports score. Indeed, I still consider this a turning point in my life. I remember getting up and opening the newspaper every morning. Not just to read recaps and analysis, but because I didn't yet even know who had won or lost. It was a completely different world. Of course, was one of those places I'd go for those score updates. Sure, it was a little slow back in the dial-up days, but it sure beat waiting until the next morning. Browsing the site, I came upon Rob Neyer. I'd never heard of him, but when I started reading him, I was blown away. Here was someone with the same interest in the statistical analysis that I did. Rob introduced me to OPS and other statistics, and reinforced my prior belief that pitching wins were more of a team stat than a personal one. But more importantly, he introduced me to the whole statistical analysis community. I found Bill James and Baseball Prospectus and the Hardball Times and everything else.

So thank you Rob Neyer. Without you, would I have found this community? Yes, probably- the internet is pretty vast, and it has become pretty easy to search over the years. That's inconsequential though. You are the one who changed my thinking, who enabled me to cultivate my interest in baseball statistics further. So, while Peter Gammons is still my favorite baseball writer, and while Bill James is the most important analyst any of us will ever read, Rob, you have been the writer who has influenced my thinking and analysis the most. I'm going to miss reading you on ESPN, but the impact you have had on me and thousands of others will not be forgotten. Good luck, and Godspeed.

Soriano's Usage Likely Will Be Sub-optimal. His Pitching Likely Won't.

A lot has been said over the past few weeks about the Yankees signing of Rafael Soriano - the sensibility in giving an "8th inning guy" to a three year, $35M contract; Soriano's ability to transition from "closer" to "set-up guy"; Yankee GM Brian Cashman's public disagreement with the move, stating that they would have preferred the draft pick. One fairly important matter has been lost in all the noise. Rafael Soriano is a very good pitcher, and there is no reason to believe that he won't continue to be a very good pitcher in the near future.

Much attention has been placed about Soriano's ability to "save" games at a better rate than any other pitcher in the American League in 2010. During the season, a lot is made of having a guy who pitches only in the 9th inning, and only when his team is winning. 2-2 game, on the road, bottom of the 9th, middle of the lineup due up? Let's get our fourth best reliever in there - we don't want to waste our best pitcher, just in case our fourth best relieve holds the tie and we score next inning. For whatever reason, that is the logic that has permeated the minds of essentially every MLB organization for 23 years. There are exceptions - Jim Leyland's Pirates teams of the early 90's were the last team that had sustained success without the help of the trademarked proven closer. In 2003, the Red Sox attempted to go into the season with a "bullpen by committee" which failed miserably. In the Red Sox case though, too much attention was paid to their usage of pitchers, and not enough attention to the fact that those pitchers were not very good (with a definite exception of Mike Timlin, a good pitcher who had one of his best years).

For all the attention paid to the save statistic and the need for a proven closer, when they become free agents in the offseason, teams are just not interested in paying top dollar for what amounts to 60 innings a year. Coming off his record setting year in 2008, Francisco Rodriguez received 3 years, $37M. For comparison's sake, in the same offseason, AJ Burnett, a zero-time all star starting pitcher who is five years older than K-Rod, was given a five year, $82.5M contract. Sure, signing Burnett for that much money was really stupid, but it showed where priorities were for GMs.

In 2010, Rafael Soriano led the American League with 45 saves, and was to become a free agent. Based on his save total, many assumed that he would be flooded with offers from teams looking for bullpen help. Instead, he was unsigned into mid-January. The Yankees, whose bullpen beyond Mariano Rivera had been pretty bad in 2010, were considered by some to be a smart fit, especially when taking into account the money that they tried to and failed to spend on Cliff Lee. Brian Cashman, however, said that he wasn't interested in signing Soriano, because of the necessary money, and more importantly, the draft pick they would lose because Soriano is listed as a Type A free agent and had been offered arbitration. In the end though, Soriano did end up on the Yankees. The details are fuzzy, but as best as people can tell, Randy Levine overruled and went straight to the Steinbrenner Brothers, and Brian Cashman was peeved about the whole thing.

In the wake of the signing, some were quick to point of the dissention in the ranks of the Yankee organization. Others were mocking of spending $37M on a set-up man, and defended Cashman. However, I think those who question the deal are focused too much on the role of set-up man (and by extension, the ridiculous way in which modern bullpens are run), and not enough on the fact that Soriano is excellent. There is one proviso, that being Soriano's injury history. He missed significant time in 2004, 2005 and 2008. As a 31 year old, it's not impossible to see these injury issues cropping back up. That said, Soriano's numbers are outstanding. Since the start of 2005, when he was still with the Mariners, Soriano has pitched 291 innings. His ERA is 2.53, (an ERA+ of 167), with 319 strikeouts to only 87 walks. Over the last two years, he's been even better, posting a 2.41 ERA in 138 innings, striking out 159 and walking only 41. That's not Mariano Rivera's level, but the quality speaks for itself.

Cashman's reluctance to part with his draft pick in this situation reminds me of joke my friends and I have. Every year a round NFL draft time reports come out about teams who are refusing to part with draft picks for proven players, who are likely much better than the ones they'd be able to draft. Certainly, some of that comes from a payroll perspective - the proven players is going to get paid based on past performance, while the rookie will be a low cost measure. However, more than that, it is the new toy mentality. Sure, I'd like Randy Moss, but that fourth round draft pick could turn into ANYONE! Well, that #31 pick in the draft that the Yankees essentially traded for Soriano could turn into "anyone." But instead of anyone, lets look at #31 overall picks from 2000 to 2009.

2000: Aaron Heilman, P - New York Mets.
2001: Brian Bass, SS - Baltimore Orioles
2002: Greg Miller, P - Los Angeles Dodgers
2003: Adam Miller, P - Cleveland Indians
2004: James Howell, P - Kansas City Royals
2005: Matthew Torra, P - Arizona Diamondbacks
2006: Preston Mattingly, SS - Los Angeles Dodgers
2007: Josh Smoker, P - Washington Nationals
2008: Shooter Hunt, P - Minnesota Twins
2009: Tyler Matzek, P - Colorado Rockies

Yes, the Rays are better than most teams at making their draft picks turn into major leaguers, but the point still stands - the likelihood that the Yankees were going to get someone of Rafael Soriano quality at #31 this June is kind of silly.

Now that we're beyond the draft pick thing, the main criticism is that Soriano will now be an overpaid "8th inning guy." Critics say there's no way he'll "earn" $37 million over the next three years just by setting up by Mariano Rivera, no matter how well he pitches. Well, if that's true, isn't that more of an indictment on the way bullpens are used, and by extension, a criticism of Joe Girardi for his by-the-book sub-optimal system? If the Yankees can't get value out of one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, then shouldn't they be re-evaluating how they use their bullpen? Wouldn't the Yankees be devestating if Soriano were used earlier in one-run or tie games, or to come in between innings, leaving Rivera to do the standard one-inning closer role? Wouldn't it make sense to use Soriano on days after Rivera pitches, so that neither have to frequently pitch on consecutive days, and since they are pitching less frequently, are able to pitch for multiple innings more often? Wouldn't that even lead to them getting some silly combined nickname thing come the end of the season to describe their dominance, like Rafariano Riveriano? What should be feared as the most lethal bullpen duo in baseball is instead scorned, because onlookers believe Soriano isn't likely to get the opportunities to help his team win games.

So, what will Joe Girardi do? It's tough to say. But as a Red Sox fan, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that he proves the critics and Cashman right, and uses his bullpen in the most predictable, standard, sub-optimal way possible.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rays Sign a Pair of Idiots

First of all, let's get this out of the way - I'm a Red Sox fan, and I HATED the term "Idiots" that was used by the national media to describe the Red Sox in 2004. Taken from a Johnny Damon quote about something to the effect of the Red Sox just being a bunch of fun loving idiots, the media just ran with it. I was 100% on board with Cowboy Up in 2003, but the whole Idiots thing was so contrived, and so beaten into the ground. What was worse, though, was that I never heard a single person in the Boston area use the term. Every time I'd watch a national broadcast, the announcers would make it seem as though everyone was on this Idiots bandwagon. But the fans hated, and it seems to annoy basically everyone on the team other than Damon and Kevin Millar.

Having said all that, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon both have said and done their share of dumb things. So I'll stick with the headline.

After the news that the Rays had signed former Red Sox teammates Damon and Ramirez to a pair of one-year contracts worth $5.25M and $2M respectively, most of the attention was paid to how this would play out in the clubhouse. Would Damon's act take some pressure off of the young roster? Would Manny try? Would they recreate that 2004 magic? Of course, we have no idea how this will play out behind the scenes - it's tough to now how personalities will meld, especially when you're talking about one as mercurial as Ramirez. What we can look at is how this will help the Rays on the baseball field.

The first subject is about Manny Ramirez being "washed up." Having hit 20 home runs or fewer in three of the last four years, a popular narrative is that he simply doesn't have any juice (snicker) left in his old body. In reality though, Ramirez went .298/.409/.460, and over the past four years, he's been at .307/.412/.532. The man can still hit. He's not a 40 homer guy anymore, but he still clearly has excellent plate discipline and plate recognition, and will be among the better DHs in the league. Can he still hit cleanup? In 2010, my personal "runs created" calculation shows Ramirez having created 45.2 runs, 6.25, per every 27 outs he made. This is an excellent number, right around what Robinson Cano produced, slightly more than Adrian Beltre. Of course, Cano and Beltre have much, much, much more value because of the defensive position and skill, but those two were receiving MVP votes last year based mostly on their offensive output. This just goes to show the value of not making outs. A player with a .400 OBP will lead to his team scoring more runs, even if he doesn't factor directly into the run scoring event with the RBI or by scoring the run.

For comparison, the guy who Ramirez is replacing at the cleanup spot, Carlos Pena, received a one-year $10M contract from the Chicago Cubs, $8M more than Ramirez will receive. This despite a 2010 line of .196/.325/.407, which translated into being worth about 5.05 runs per 27 outs. Yes, Pena plays an excellent defensive first base, while Ramirez is either a DH or bad defensive LF. The bigger point, though, is whether Ramirez will be on the field enough to make that difference in offensive production meaningful. For various reasons, Ramirez has only 750 plate appearances over the past two seasons. Considering his production though, If being a designated hitter can keep him healthy, and if the team can be competitive enough to keep him motivated, he seems like a sensible risk. Let me put it this way - would you rather gamble $2M that Ramirez will find his way into the lineup for 130+ games, or $10M that Carlos Pena will reverse four years of steady decline and find the 30 points of OBP he needs in order to be serviceable.

As far as Damon goes, he's always been a little bit overrated. His offensive stats would be worthwhile if he were still an acceptable CF, but he stopped being that nearly five years ago. As a corner OF/1B, he's basically a tick above replacement level. His one strong point is that he does still see a LOT of pitches. His ability to foul off several hard pitches and make the opposing hurler throw 5 to 10 more times a game is worthwhile. Even if he's not making pitchers pay as often as other players who see a lot of pitches, like Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu, it is still a value.

Where will Damon play? For all of the talk about the logjam this creates in the outfield, I don't see it. Desmond Jennings wasn't fantastic at AAA Durham last year, posting a .278/.362/.393 line. His physical tools are evident, and if he comes to camp this spring and blows everyone away, I certainly wouldn't fault the Rays for keeping him on the roster. Depth is a problem here, though. Damon has practiced some at first base, and Dan Johnson, despite his great minor league numbers, has not held a job in numerous big-league opportunities. Ben Zobrist was fantastic in 2009, but fell back to earth in 2010. He might be best employed as a super-utility type. Matt Joyce was fantastic in the minors and very good in the majors, so he should be in line to start in right field. Nobody here is a sure thing, though. Signing Damon to give Joe Maddon increased flexibility makes sense. The $5.25M price tag is a little steep, because again, we're talking about someone who is sliding close to replacement level, but it is only a one-year commitment. If Jennings is ready, I would hope that Damon doesn't take too many of his AB's away, but Maddon has shown himself to be perfectly willing to play the rookie over the established veteran when that is appropriate.

So, while Ramirez and Damon might have become famous for being "idiots," the Rays appear to be anything but.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vernon Wells to the Angels

It's been a tough year for the Angels. After three consecutive NL West titles, and a trip to the 2009 ALCS, expectations were high - unfairly high, perhaps, considering the losses of Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins, and John Lackey. Puttering along for the first two months in third place, they were dealt another blow on May 29th when Kendry Morales celebrated his game winning grand slam against the Mariners by breaking his leg in a celebration at home plate.

June went pretty well though. Hot streaks by Torii Hunter, Erick Aybar and Hideki Matsui, as well as the fairly weak interleague schedule, propelled the Halos to an 18-9 month, and the Angels sat only 3.5 games behind the Rangers on July 4th. Unfortunately, they wilted in the summer heat, with a 20-33 record in July and August, leaving the Angels out of the playoffs for only the third time in nine years. It was clear some changes needed to be made. The trade deadline deal for Dan Haren was a start, but their offense needed a boost - their .311 OBP was better than only the anemic Seattle Mariners. The Angels were considered front-runners for Carl Crawford. When Crawford spurned LA for Boston, the Angels seemed to be without a Plan B. Without an attractive free agent option, they were going to need to go the trade route in order to move forward.

One valuable chip the Angles had was C/1B Mike Napoli. Napoli's average defense and low batting averages made him unattractive to the Angels, and he could never find a spot playing every day, but to other teams who value his take n' rake approach, there was a lot to like. Most notably, Napoli has excellent power. Not excellent power "for a catcher," but legitimate top-notch power that would play at any position. His .502 sligging percentage over the past few years speaks for itself. For a frame of reference, .502 is the EXACT same slugging percentage that Jim Rice's supporters would quote when endorsing him for the HALL OF FAME. Napoli has done that over the last three years in a much tough place to hit than late 70's/early 80's Fenway Park. We're not trying to get Napoli into to the Hall of Fame here - just a consistent starting job. Given that, he has shown himself to be a player with very similar skills to a young Jorge Posada.

The Angels have the skills they like, though - most notably, athleticism. It's what led to them signing Gary Matthews Jr. and Torii Hunter to huge contracts in the 2006 and 2007 offseasons. The cynic in me would say that, unable to overpay an overrated outfielder to a contract this offseason, they went out and traded for one that another team had overpaid. However, while Matthews was a complete bust, that characterization is unfair to Hunter. While Hunter and his contract have been much maligned in the statistical community, I defended the move three years ago, and will defend it again has one that has been worthwhile for the Angels. Over the three years, Hunter has been about 11.7 wins above a replacement level. That may not be worth quite $18M, he has been one of the most productive CF in baseball over that span. If you're looking for reasons the Angels underachieved in 2010, don't blame Hunter.

Trading for Vernon Wells, though, gives them a worse version of the same player, making just as much money. Wells has a .275/.327/.466 line in his ages 29-31 seasons. What will he be in his 32-34 seasons? In addition, the move necessitates moving Hunter from CF to RF on a full-time basis, where his bat will not play as well. If Wells can replicate his very good 2010, where he had 78 extra-base hits, he will improve the Angels offense. If he reverts to 2009 though, or even splits the difference, they are going to be disappointed. That .275/.327/.466 seems like a pretty good starting point.

The reason this is a bad trade for the Angels, though, has little to do with what Vernon Wells may or may not do, and more to do with what the rest of the team can't do. The Angels had an OBP of .316 or lower at SIX of their nine positions last year: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS and DH. They had slugging percentages under .400 at all of those except for 1B. Yes, the return of a healthy Kendry Morales will improve the production at 1B. But with the trade of Napoli, the Angels have handed the catching job, full-time, to Jeff Mathis again. For his career, Jeff Mathis has a .199/.265/.311 batting line. I know that the Scioscia puts an emphasis on defense at the catching position, and that Napoli wasn't his cup of tea. And I'm sure Mathis would make a nice backup, and will be a coach or manager one day. But Mathis makes the Molina brothers look like a trio of Mike Piazza by comparison. He's not just a bad hitter, he's an automatic out.

Even further , if we grant that the Angels don't care about offense at the position and will use catcher as an automatic out, and that they don't value Napoli's set of skills as much as other teams do, why trade him for one of the few positions on the field that they didn't need the help at? Money situation aside, the Angels are worse on paper today than they were yesterday. When you through in Wells' astronomical contract, this seems like an all-around bad move by the Angels.

The Blue Jays, on the other hand, have to be thrilled. They've gotten themselves out from under Wells contract, and have added a versatile power-hitter who can spell rookie J. P. Arencibia behind the plate two or three times a week, and spend the rest of the time as a 1B, DH and right handed hitting slugger off the bench. Adding in Juan Rivera on top of that - another low batting average player with power and versatility, not to mention a cannon arm - is just icing on the cake.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Barry Stanton? Explain Yourself.

Hall of Fame voting will be announced later on Wednesday. I try not not get too riled up over this, because there will be some votes that make little sense. But this... is awful. Barry Stanton, listed as an ESPN News Editor, submitted the worst Hall of Fame Ballot of all time.

ESPN released the votes of those who are in their employ here. It's a little bit hard to follow who voted for whom, so a fellow named Jason at IIATMS was nice enough to make a grid of it.

At this point, anyone voting for Jack Morris and not Bert Blyleven is just being difficult. But that's hardly the worst of the Barry Stanton ballot. Yes votes on Jack Morris, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez, and BJ Surhoff. You read that correctly, Tino Martinez and BJ Surhoff.

No votes on Jeff Bagwell, Roberto Alomar, Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell,, not to mention the steroid issue with Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. McGwire and Palmeiro have been discussed in depth, but the rest of this is just silly. This isn't simply a difference of opinion - voting for the Hall of Fame is something that most voters take very seriously. Stanton either does NOT take his duty seriously, or he isn't competent to judge baseball players. Either way, ESPN should be embarrassed to have someone like this on their payroll.

Before tonight, I'd never heard of Stanton - Craig Calcaterra gives some background here - but he should be run through the wringer for his gross negligence.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

2010 Richie Ashburn Awards

One of my favorite statistical oddities is a player whose on-base percentage is higher than his slugging percentage. I've always had a certain appreciation for players who could get on base consistently without being a dangerous power hitter. This generally requires the player to have a high percentage of his hits be singles, while walking quite a bit. Thinking about this for a moment, don't these seem to be a bit paradoxical? If a high percentage of a batter's hits are singles, the pitcher doesn't have any motivation to walk him. Therefore, the player's ability to walk is a real skill - he must have excellent pitch identification, and also be able to foul off enough tough pitches.

I'm considering all players who had at least 400 plate appearances, rather than the standard 502 qualification - often these types of players aren't as appreciated as they should be by their own manager. Since players of this ilk aren't hitting for power, if they're not a speedster they might not be seen as toolsy enough to get significant playing time. At the same time, I didn't want to set the bar so low that the sample was insignificant.

In order to qualify, a player needs to have a .350 OBP. If a player has an OBP less than .350, and an SLG lower than that, he'd have to be Bill Mazeroski or a young Andruw Jones on defense to not be killing his team. So, sorry Jason Kendall - your .256/.318/.297 may be unique, but it's not qualifying for any award. Same goes to you, Cesar Izturis. I don't know how a player is allowed to bat often enough to put up a .230/.277/.268 line, perhaps you are quite charming? So maybe you deserve a trophy of some kind, but you aren't going to get it here. And we've got our eyes on Elvis Andrus. .265/.342/.301 comes in just under our threshold, but he didn't turn 22 until mid-August, so some improvement is likely.

Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn was the best player of this type, and therefore will be our namesake. He had 10 seasons where he would've received an Ashburn Award (and another year where his OBP was .440 and his SLG was .441). Ashburn retired with a .308/.396/.382 line. Four times he led the league in OBP, and in 1957 and 1958 he led the league in both singles and walks. In his entire career, he hit 29 home runs.

In more recent times, Brett Butler was a great example, winning 6 Ashburn Awards, and in 1991 pulling the Ashburn Double, leading the league in both singles and walks.

In 2010, only two players earn recognition. So, without further adieu, your 2010 Ashburn Award winners!

Jamey Carroll, utilityman, Los Angeles Dodgers: 414 plate appearances, .291/.379/.339.

With a few more plate appearances, Carroll would be receiving his third consecutive Ashburn Award. Alas, the 2009 Cleveland Indians needed to find enough at bats for Luis Valbuena and Jhonny Peralta to make outs at an alarming pace and continue their run as MLB's most disappointing franchise. No matter, as a 36 year old Carroll had the second most plate appearances of his career, while playing all over the field for the Dodgers. He started most of his games at shortstop filling in for the injured Rafael Furcal, but often moved to 2B later in games for his defense in relief of Blake DeWitt. Carroll had only 16 extra base hits all season - 15 doubles and one triple. Yet he still managed to walk in 12% of his plate appearances. This led to an enourmous 40 point difference between his on-base and slugging. Carroll did it by averaging 4.35 pitches per plate appearance, second in the NL behind Jayson Werth with players with 400 PA's.

Poor Carroll. With a little luck, he would've been on the Anaheim Angels in 2002, rather than the Montreal Expos, and gone on to have David Eckstein's career. Instead, he's been a relatively anonymous utility man, save for a perfect Jamey Carroll moment. In Game 2 of the 2007 NLCS with the Rockies, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Carroll came to the plate in the top of the 11th inning in a 2-2 tie with men on first and second and two outs, against Jose Valverde. Carroll worked a full count and walked, extending the inning and loading the bases. The next batter, Willy Taveras, was then walked on four pitches, scoring Ryan Spilborghs to put the Rockies ahead 3-2. The Rockies would win the game and then sweep the series to become 2007 National League Champions.

While it might not be in the Dodgers's plan to give Carroll 400 plate appearances again in 2011, he'll be ready and able if called upon.

Brett Gardner, CF/LF, New York Yankees: 569 Plate appearances, .277/.383/.379

Many players on the Yankees had down seasons, but Gardner wasn't one of them, finishing 8th in the American League in OBP and 3rd in stolen bases (47). Coming into the season, many (myself included) were skeptical of the Yankees plans to go into the season with a starting LF with a career line of .256/.325/.352. However, Gardner was arguably their second best offensive player, a dynamic leadoff hitter, able to get on base and make pitchers uncomfortable once he got there. Gardner, the major league leader in pitches per plate appearance at 4.61, spent the year out-Johnny Damoning Johnny Damon. He fouled off pitches, played an excellent left field, and was a general pest at the top of the Yankee lineup, making pitchers work a LOT more than they would like to on a guy with only 5 homers (all at the bandbox known as Yankee Stadium - four to the extraordinarily short right field, and one inside the park). At 27, Gardner isn't likely to improve significantly - any power gains are likely to be tempered with a loss of speed as he ages - but the player he is now is pretty good.

The only problem going forward is that the Yankees are continuing with Gardner as their left fielder. With Curtis Granderson in CF, the Yankees are going for an outfield that is excellent at preventing runs - which they were in 2010, as the Yankees boasted the American League's second best defensive efficiency. However, it is very debatable whether they prevent more runs with this set up than they would with Gardner moving to CF and a more traditional power hitting left fielder. Gardner would have been at or near the best hitting centerfielders in baseball in 2010- per at bat, only Andrew McCutcheon, Colby Rasmus and Vernon Wells were more productive, and that only considers outcomes - those extra pitches Gardner made opponents throw may have made him the best of this group. However, among leftfielders his contributions make his production much more middle of the road. In order to make up for the lack of power at this traditional power position, the Yankees will need returns to form by Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Granderson. Either way, Yankee fans will get to enjoy the feisty, pesky Gardner even more this season - he looks to be the opening day leadoff hitter.

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