Ever since Yankees' MVP Mark Teixeira went down with a bruised (then fractured) shin on August 17, it's been Greg Bird time. Regardless of how much Bird provides to this team, Teixeira is a big loss for the Yankees in the playoffs. Granted, the Yankees have not clinched a playoff spot yet, but it looks like the wild card spot is where they'll end up (I'm not giving up on the division race, but things are beginning to look bleak). The Yankees have until the start of the Wild Card game, then, to trim their roster from 40 players to 25. The absence of Teixeira from this roster gives the Yankees some more options.
When the playoffs come around, the Yankees will have to make some decisions when it comes to the infielders. The absence of Teixeira allows for a player like Rob Refsnyder, or even Branden Pinder to play in the postseason. In their most recent postseason series (2012 ALCS vs. Detroit), the Yankees brought along 13 pitchers and 12 hitters for the ride. Taking this into account, as well as the obvious guys who will make the roster, the Yankees could throw in a pitcher who has been used a lot in September, such as Pinder or a guy like Bryan Mitchell. Or, if the Yankees choose to go another direction, they could go with Ackley, a.k.a. Garrett Jones 2.0, Jose Pirela, or maybe a younger guy like Rob Refsnyder.
Teixeira swung a great bat all season, slashing .255/.357/.548 with a 143 wRC+. Bird has done a fantastic job as a young prospect in trying to fill the shoes of a guy like Teixeira. Bird's slash line is .256/.333/.552 with a wRC+ of 139. Bird has hit 10 home runs (compared to Teixeira's 31) in 141 plate appearances. Bird joins only Curt Casali of the Tampa Bay Rays as rookies to get double-digit home runs in less than 150 plate appearances. Bird also ranks fifth in terms of wRC+ of rookies with at least 100 plate appearances, trailing only Miguel Sano, Casali, Randal Grichuk, and Michael Conforto.
When Bird was called up to replace Tex, some people grew concerned as to how Bird would be able to hit major league lefties. He's answered to those critics, slashing .259/.355/.519 with a 139 wRC+ against lefties. Other critics were concerned about how Bird's defense would stack up against Teixeira's. Teixeira is thought of as one of the best defensive first basemen in the entire league. Out of all first basemen with at least 750 innings at first base, Teixeira is tied for seventh with a DRS of 4. Teixeira also had just two errors, tied for second in the bigs (among first basement with 750+ innings). For Bird, his -3 DRS is tied for 32nd in the league among first basemen with at least 300 innings. He also has 0 errors, the only other first baseman besides Michael Morse to have 0 errors in 300+ innings.
If Teixeira was healthy right now, it's clear that he would be the starting first baseman. But Bird has shown in his short time here that he belongs in the big leagues. With Tex injured, the Yankees now have many options when it comes to constructing their postseason roster. They could bring in a guy like Pinder or Mitchell (or Chris Capuano?!) in the postseason bullpen, or they could bring in a super-utility guy like Ackley or Brendan Ryan. Looking all the way back to the 2011 ALDS, the Yankees decided to go with just 11 pitchers and 14 hitters. Do you think we will see something like that this season, or will we see a more even split between pitchers and hitters?
*all stats prior to games on September 25. Stats provided by FanGraphs.