Gardner statistically comfortable in top spot

August, 18, 2010
8/18/10
10:59
PM ET
Brett Gardner is taking well to his temporary new home in the leadoff spot in the Yankees lineup.

The Yankees are now 7-1 this season when Gardner starts in the lineup's top slot after their 9-5 win over the Tigers Wednesday night, and Gardner's performance might keep him there for a little while longer.

Gardner reached base twice more Wednesday after netting a pair of hits and a walk in Tuesday's game. In eight games in the leadoff slot, Gardner is 12-for-31 (.387 BA) with two hit-by-pitches and three walks.

If on-base percentage is the top priority here, Gardner's doing pretty well -- .472.
Gardner has reached base at least twice in six of the eight games in which he's batted first. And when Gardner reaches base twice, the Yankees tend to do pretty well (you'd expect that) -- they're 40-15 this season when he does.

Moreso, in the one instance in which he's guaranteed to hit first, the first inning, Gardner has come through as needed. In those eight plate appearances leading off games, Gardner has reached base six times.

The Yankees have scored 11 first-inning runs in those eight games when Gardner is hitting in the top spot. Overall, they've outscored the opposition, 42-19 in those eight games.

Table-setting has been Gardner's specialty all season. That first inning hit-by-pitch on Wednesday made him 48-for-100 in reaching base due to hit walk or error to lead off an inning in 2010. He subsequently struck out in the eighth inning, but his on base percentage to start an inning stands at .465, second-best in the majors in 2010, trailing only former Yankee Johnny Damon.

In the 101 innings that Gardner has led off, the Yankees have scored 87 runs, according to Bill James Online. In the 47 innings in which he's reached base to start, the Yankees have scored 77 runs. Break both of those down into runs per inning rates, and Gardner ranks as the best in the majors in terms of jump-starting an offense, outperforming the Yankees primary leadoff hitter this year, Derek Jeter, by a significant amount.

A Gardner-Jeter one-two combination gives the Yankees a lot of offensive options in the first inning should Gardner reach. They could put the pressure on immediately with a steal (Gardner is 34-for-41 in 2010) or hit-and-run, something Jeter has previously done with great success (6-for-9 when putting the ball in play on a hit and run in 2009, , 2-for-6 in 2010 according to STATS LLC). Given Jeter's propensity for hitting into double plays this season, that might become standard operating procedure as the season progresses.

Of course, if Gardner's move is going to become a full-time thing, it's also important that Jeter perform in the No. 2 spot.

So far, not so good. An 0-for-4 with a walk Wednesday made Jeter 2-for-18, albeit with five walks, hitting second this season.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRM. Teixeira 21
RBIJ. Ellsbury 67
RB. Gardner 81
OPSB. Gardner .759
ERAH. Kuroda 3.81
SOM. Tanaka 135