Another home run for Greg Bird yesterday, now five in 87 plate appearences. Another game he helped the team win, in a tight division race, as the Yankees gained ground on the Toronto Blue Jays. The rookie now has 131 wRC+ on the year, good for third on the team behind only the two men he was initially brought up to back-up; Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Among rookies, to this point Bird is producing is in the ballpark of Kris Bryant (133 wRC+) and Carlos Correa (136 wRC+), of course in a much smaller sample size. Early days in his major league career, but ever since he's been in the show he has hit like he belonged.
He doesn't seem to be hitting well above his head in this small sample size, either. As Nikhil pointed out last week, Bird has a very polished approach at the plate. Bird's own self-scouting report has him as a patient hitter who looks for strikes and wants to force pitchers to get him out, the numbers back this. His O-Swing% - swinging rate at a pitches outside the zone, is impressively low. If Bird was a qualified rookie, he'd be in the top-five here, just ahead of Miguel Sano. In fact, compare him to the patient, veteran Yankee lineup, and he again is not out of place. Interestingly, compare his plate discipline numbers with the player he is subbing in for and without the names you might not swiftly tell one line from the other.
|Greg Bird||24.4 %||66.2 %||44.1 %||60.5 %||84.6 %||77.6 %||47.2 %||63.2 %||9.8 %|
|Mark Teixeira||25.4 %||68.0 %||44.0 %||64.3 %||87.4 %||79.9 %||43.7 %||60.2 %||8.7 %|
Not just a comparable approach at the plate to Teixeira, but also comparable results when making contact. Eight extra-base hits in 20 hits, 263/.345/.500 slash line backing that 131 wRC+; that .237 ISO is behind only Teixeira and Brian McCann on the team, fractionally ahead of Rodriguez. Once again, a sample size warning, but again no reason to think he can't keep doing this. He has hit, and hit for power, at every level in the minor leagues. Now in the majors, he is second in average exit velocity on the year, behind only Giancarlo Stanton, just ahead of Sano. Other names in the top-10 include Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Mike Trout and Paul Goldschmidt.
Obviously the caveat of reading too much into 87 plate appearances cannot be stressed enough. Still, it is impressive how seamless the jump has been for Bird in the early going, and just when the team needed it most. With Rodriguez now looking to have shaken off his August slump, hitting his third home run in four games, the Yankees have once again been depending on their first baseman and designated hitter at the core of the lineup. As they have for much of the year.
This has been a resilient ballclub all season. Jacoby Ellsbury started off the season looking like the best position player on the team, and opened off red-hot. He went down, and Mark Teixeira took on the mantle. When he too got hurt, the Yankees plugged in a rookie who has kept the production coming. Much like the rotation where first Masahiro Tanaka then Michael Pineda missed time, and the Yankees kept getting quality production from the likes of Adam Warren and now another rookie in Luis Severino. On paper, the Yankees might not seem to match up with the loaded Blue Jays, yet all they do is keep winning. Now Nathan Eovaldi will miss time, and CC Sabathia takes his place in the rotation. With any luck CC will roll back the years for a few solid starts down the stretch. Why not? 2015 has been the year where Yankee players have stepped up to be counted on when needed the most.
Bird may not keep producing like one of the best hitters in the league the rest of the way. Hopefully if Teixeira comes back healthy, he won't have to do so. Still when the team needed the rookie to hit like he's already been in a tight division race, Bird produced. If the Yankees go on to win the AL East, Greg Bird has already done enough to be a part of the reason why.