Brett Gardner has been at the center of more trade rumors than probably any Yankee in the 7 years he’s been with the team. All year, you’ll hear about who he could be moved for and why he needs to be moved, and why he sucks, and why he’s actually great, and on and on.
I think he has been generally underrated during his time as a Yankee, even though his performance at the plate and on the basepaths has definitely taken a downturn the last couple of seasons. As far as his baserunning goes, he just doesn’t seem to have a good instinctual feel for stuff, and his speed helps him make up for some of that. There’s not much I can say about it.
Gardner’s swing, however, is something that I’ve noticed. I don’t know why his mechanics at the plate are the ones that have jumped out to me so much, but every time I see him swing over a ball it just irks me because it seems so obvious what he’s doing wrong. He’s hit 6 home runs so far, and he’s still putting up a .262/.363/.477 (135 wRC+) line a month in so I’m not going to claim he’s broken or anything, but Gardner does two things on a regular enough basis that I want to sit down and write this out:
- He’s releasing his top hand really early
- He’s pulling his head off the ball
Ok so here’s the footage. Both clips are from 2016 and I found them via BaseballSavant aka my new favorite website.
Here’s Gardner striking out swinging against Chris Archer:
Now, he doesn’t actually pull his head out here, but you can clearly see the swing ending up one-handed. That alone doesn’t really mean a ton since a lot of guys end up holding the bat just with the bottom hand, it makes sense. But look at the slo-mo.
This is slowed down past the actual video speed so the frames aren’t super-smooth, but it looks like Gardner’s top hand releases the bat as it’s still in the zone, or at least when it’s just gotten to the front of the plate. That seems less than ideal, since even if you make contact, it’s likely not going to be very hard.
Now here’s Bret hitting a triple off of Price:
The swing actually looks remarkably similar. One handed, bat out, etc. But again, to the slo-mo:
There’s no zoomed in slo-mo replay to pull the gif from here, but you can see his hands pretty well. Gardner has both hands on the bat until it’s pointed pretty much back at the pitcher.
This isn’t exactly damning evidence of an issue, but I will say that I think the difference has gotten starker in 2017. When Gardner swings and misses, he really snaps his head out of the zone and his body flies very open, bat held in just his right hand, seemingly released halfway through the zone. His head stays in, looking at the ball for the entire swing when he makes contact. And it makes logical sense that this would be the case.
Now, maybe I’m not giving Gardner enough credit here. He’s a professional baseball player, and maybe he knows the bat head is already through the zone and he came up empty on the whiffs, that’s why he’s pulling his head out and releasing the bat. But I can’t think of many other players whose hit and miss swings are so markedly different to the naked eye on such a regular basis.
I’m also not a professional hitting coach, and so if I think this is so obvious, I would assume Alan Cockrell must be seeing the same thing, and would be addressing it if there was a real issue.
I guess in the end it’s just something I’ve noticed the past year or so and figured I would write about. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯