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Replacing Brett Gardner a tough task
The Yankees' two primary options to fill in for the injured Brett Gardner in left field would be left out in a perfect world.
Gardner suffered a bone bruise and elbow strain while making a catch during Tuesday's game and was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday night. Joe Girardi mentioned Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez as probable fill-ins while Gardner is out. And while both players possess some good qualities, neither is an ideal replacement.
Even though it's early in the season, Ibanez has already shown a knack for coming up with big hits. But even so, his offense doesn't compare to Gardner's. Ibanez's .267 on-base percentage pales in comparison to Gardner's .424, and his .748 OPS is also lower than Gardner's .817. He strikes out far less than Gardner—3.3 percent to 20.6 percent—but also walks far less—6.7 percent to 14.7 percent.
But the biggest knock on Ibanez is that he's a defensive liability. There's a reason the team is best served with him at designated hitter.
Consider this: Gardner has a career 36.2 UZR/150 in 2,288.1 left field innings (UZR/150 measures the number of runs above or below average a fielder is per 150 games). In 10,622.1 innings spent in left field, Ibanez grades out at -4.5. Considering Ibanez is 39, you have to imagine he's not about to transform into a defensive whiz.
Meanwhile, the problem is reversed with Jones. While he may no longer be a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, Jones is still a decent player in the field. In 471.2 career innings in left field, he has a 11.9 UZR/150. But it's a different story at the plate. Though Jones is an asset against lefties, he's been poor against righties for several years:
- Jones hit .172 in 64 at-bats against right handers in 2011.
- He hit .219 in 192 at-bats in 2010.
- He hit .210 in 162 at-bats in 2009.
- He hit .147 in 136 at-bats in 2008.
- He hit .221 in 390 at-bats in 2007.
Not a pretty picture.
This season Jones is 1-for-3 with a home run against righties. But if he's forced to bat more consistently against them, he'll likely be exposed, just as he was over the last five years.
And let's not even get into the speed factor.
Either way Girardi goes, it's going to be difficult to find the right man to play left.