Yankees Need Healthy Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees were the second-best offense in 2015 with 764 runs scored, sitting only behind the juggernaut offense of the Toronto Blue Jays for the most in baseball. 

Their runs scored were 131 more than the 2014 Yankees, and they did it despite getting just six solid weeks from Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, a duo New York once envisioned as dynamic.

The duo lived up to that title up until May 19th of last year. Going into play that day against the Washington Nationals, no player in the American League had a better batting average than Ellsbury (.324) and only one other player had more steals than Gardner (10).

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  • On that night, the Yankee center fielder went down with a sprained right knee and was out until early July. Upon his return, his partner in crime fell off a cliff, hitting just .206 during the second half after a trip to the midsummer classic. Ellsbury was so bad that he was benched during the Yankees’ Wild Card loss to the Houston Astros.

    The two are back for their third season as the 1-2 punch in the Yankee lineup, and it’s borderline impossible for the Bombers to score 764 runs without their production on a daily basis.

    “I know the last couple months of last season, we weren’t necessarily clicking on all cylinders,” Gardner toldaccording to Kevin Davidoff of the NY Post. “We were struggling to get on base, struggling to score runs collectively as a unit. It’s important to really do your job up there, get on base and set the tone.”

    Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Chase Headley are expected to bat behind Ellsbury and Gardner, making not only their speed imperative, but their ability to get on base, too.

    Davidoff mentions how Ellsbury and Gardner actually had an on-base percentage of .332 in 2015, compared to .328 they put together in 2014. Solid numbers, but Davidoff also points at the fact that the two only stole 41 bases in 55 attempts last year after going 60-for-70 the year before.

    “You want your runs to come from a lot of different places and a lot of different ways,” manager Joe Girardi also told the Post. “We know those two guys are extremely important because of what they can create. You don’t necessarily have to hit home runs to score with those two guys. That’s why they’re so important.”

    When the pair is on, the middle of the lineup gets a surplus of RBI opportunities, with the additional benefit of seeing better pitches to hit.

    “If Gardner and I hit one-two, it makes those guys better to drive in runs,” Ellsbury said to the Post. “We have high standards, take pride in what we do, and try to get in base. The goal is to do what you saw at the beginning of last year and duplicate that.”

    The middle of the order was able to manage with a non-existent threat at the top of the order, and while they could duplicate their offensive value in 2016, it’s highly unlikely. The middle of the order is getting up there in age, and history tells you aging veterans tend to decline, not the opposite.

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    They pulled off borderline miracle last year. If the Yankees want an encore, and maybe even more runs in 2016, they need Gardner and Ellsbury’s wheels to be in high gear.