Archive for September, 2015

Jeter, Mantle, Berra, Cano … Bird. This is a thing.

September 23, 2015 Leave a comment

If you go through the archives of this blog, you’ll see that a large chunk of the posts are short bits that deal with basic baseball stats and random endpoints.

So here’s another one.

The Yankees currently sit just 2 1/2 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East with significant kudos belonging to rookie first baseman Greg Bird. The 22-year-old delivered the deciding blow on Tuesday night with a three-run homer in the 10th inning, but the team has much more for which to thank him than last night.

Six of BIrd’s 10 home runs have given the Yankees a lead and three of them can be at least loosely described as game-winners.

Aug. 19: Trailing 3-2 in the sixth inning, Bird cracks a two-run shot in his fifth MLB game. New York’s bullpen holds that margin, and the Yankees finish off a sweep of the Twins.

Sept. 7: Bird’s three-run home run off of lefty Brian Matusz breaks a 5-5 tie in the seventh inning. Yanks go on to win 8-6.

Then you have what happened Tuesday in a baseball game that had it all, in front of a raucous crowd.

The 10 home runs stick out because those Yankees rookies who have reached double-digit HRs at age 22 or younger are quite a group

Since 1940, five Yankees meet that criteria: Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter. Robinson Cano. And after last night Greg Bird.

Moving further back in time, that list also includes Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri, Lou Gehrig. And after last night, Greg Bird.

When the Yankees lost Mark Teixiera for the rest of the season on Aug. 17 for all intents and purposes (he played in a couple of games later that month but saw just three plate appearances and is now officially done for the year), they also lost their then-leader in home runs and RBIs, not to mention Teixeira’s sure-handed work in the field. He is still the team’s leader in b-WAR (3.8; Brett Gardner is at 3.4).

Chris Towers of called Bird a “more K-y” version of John Olerud. I kind of like that. Bird has struck out in about one-third of his at bats. However, he certainly has the strike zone management and the defensive chops. Bird most likely won’t be as good of a hitter, but he should produce better power numbers.

I really can’t think of a better comparison at this time, but here’s some low-hanging fruit: For now, Greg Bird is 35-year-old Mark Teixeira, just without the switch-hitting ability. Look at how those two have stacked up at the plate this year.

Teixeira: 255/.347/.548, 31 home runs in 392 at bats, .381 wOBA
Bird: .256/.336/.562, 10 home runs in 121 at bats, .380 wOBA

I’m sure someone out there has another good player comp for Bird. But at the moment, he looks like the guy he replaced. And that’s just fine with the Yankees. He’s got some time before he’s expected to develop into the next Mantle, DiMaggio, Gehrig … .

Boy, we might be getting ahead of ourselves.