After some time waiting, wondering, and guessing, the Yankees finally released their postseason roster. One of, if not the biggest question was: who was going to fill the first base slots? DJ LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnacion, Luke Voit and Mike Ford all made great claims for their case, but untimely, Mike Ford was the one who fell short.
We all knew LeMahieu, who was the team MVP, and Encarnacion, who finished with the eighth-most home runs in the American League, were going to play in the postseason. The two we weren’t sure about were Ford and Voit.
Ford played 50 games in 2019, which was also his first year in the majors. The first baseman was called upon due to injuries, thus becoming part of the “next man up” movement. He proved productive in the limited time he saw, slashing a .259/.350/.559 with an OPS of .909. If those stats don’t impress you, his 134 wRC+ and .372 wOBA should. There’s no doubt he could hit. He even batted .353 in the month of September while Voit hit a .194. Even so, Ford missed the roster in favor of Voit.
Experience in high-leverage situations could have played a factor in the decision. In the 2018 postseason, Voit had some big hits, including his two-run triple in the Wild Card Game. This season, he hit near .300 in high-leverage spots, showing that he could perform when his team needs him the most. Since becoming the Yankees first baseman in 2018, he’s hit .328 in such situations. It’s fair to say that he’s been one of their more reliable guys in the big-time moments.
Realistically, Voit and Ford were fighting for a spot on the bench. We knew LeMahieu would get the majority of reps at first, and Encarnacion would take over when needed. On Friday, Aaron Boone said he decided to choose Voit because he sees him as a better pinch-hit option, especially against Twins’ left-handed relief pitcher Taylor Rogers. If Ford were to be in that spot, it would be a lefty against lefty matchup, therefore favoring Minnesota.
On the defensive side of the ball, they are both pretty poor with the glove, but Voit has played nearly 400 more innings than Ford. Voit had -6 defensive runs saved and a -11.9 UZR/150, Ford had -1 defensive runs saved with a -11.6 UZR/150. The two being relatively bad defenders did not boost either of their cases. The claim could also be made that Ford played over his head. He only played 50 games, which is a small sample size when evaluating a player, especially for a postseason roster spot.
While many of us may get caught up in recency bias and think Ford without a doubt deserved the spot, Voit led the Yankees in on-base percentage. Since Boone hinted that Voit would primarily be used off the bench, he did lead the American League with two pinch-hit home runs. That may not mean too much, but it could be something worth noting.