clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Yankees should expect big power numbers from Greg Bird in 2018

New, comments

The young first baseman is poised to do serious damage this season.

Greg Bird hits a solo home run during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 8, 2017. The Yankees won the game 1-0.
Greg Bird hits a solo home run during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 8, 2017. The Yankees won the game 1-0.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Greg Bird burst onto the scene in late 2015 when Mark Teixeira suffered a season-ending injury. The Yankees were trying to get back to the playoffs after a two-year absence, and his loss could have been devastating. The switch-hitting veteran was having a resurgent year, leading the team in home runs and RBI.

Bird, however, picked up where Teixeira left off. He clubbed 11 homers and knocked in 31 runs in the final month of the season. New York locked up its playoff spot, and Bird’s future with the organization seemed both secure and promising.

Unfortunately, the youngster ended up missing the entire 2016 season with an injury. He suffered another one last spring, causing him to miss most of the year. Bird did make it back in time to help the Bombers advance in the postseason, though. His contributions were critical, and he reminded us of what a tremendous player he is when healthy.

In 94 career games, Bird has 20 home runs and 59 RBI. Based on those totals, he projects to hit 34 dingers and drive in 102 runs over a full 162-game schedule. Interestingly, his three postseason bombs in 14 games also puts him on pace for 34 over a full slate. His ZiPS projections for 2018 are slightly lower: 32 homers in 600 plate appearances.

Obviously, Bird must stay healthy to hit those numbers. If he does, it will be a rare display of left-handed power in the Bronx. The following sortable table shows every Yankees lefty batter to have hit at least 34 home runs in a season since 1938.

Yankees left-handed hitters with 34 plus home runs in a season since 1938

- Player Season HR RBI WAR
- Player Season HR RBI WAR
1 Curtis Granderson 2012 43 106 3.0
2 Curtis Granderson 2011 41 119 5.7
3 Jason Giambi 2006 37 113 2.8
4 Jason Giambi 2003 41 107 4.8
5 Jason Giambi 2002 41 122 7.1
6 Tino Martinez 2001 34 113 2.2
7 Tino Martinez 1997 44 141 5.1
8 Don Mattingly 1985 35 145 6.4
9 Reggie Jackson 1980 41 111 4.7
10 Graig Nettles 1977 37 107 5.5
11 Roger Maris 1961 61 141 6.9
12 Roger Maris 1960 39 112 7.5
Credit: Baseball Reference

It’s only been done 12 times in 80 years. Seven of those occurred during the last 20 seasons, with Curtis Granderson being the most recent to do it in 2012. One may not think of 34 homers as being an eye-popping number, but for left-handed hitters in Yankee Stadium, it has been an elusive mark. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig hit that number of homers in a season 21 times combined from 1920 through 1937. Despite the stadium’s famed short porch in right field, it’s been rarely done since.

It’s easy to focus on the historic pairing of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Judge — as a rookie — became only the fifth Yankee to hit 50 or more home runs in a season. Stanton, meanwhile, became only the sixth player in MLB history to homer at least 59 times in a season. Putting the defending home run champs from both leagues on the same team has only been done three times before. It’s pretty exciting that they can both regress and still combine to hit more than 100 bombs in 2018.

Just don’t forget about Bird. Remember, Brian Cashman once referred to him as the best pure hitter in the organization. If the 25-year-old can just stay healthy, he will likely homer himself onto a pretty exclusive list of left-handed hitting Yankee luminaries.