(Greg Bird – Neil Miller / Sportsday Wire)
The Yankees were dealt some tough news on Friday when first baseman Mark Teixeira was ruled out for the season with a fractured leg.
Teixeira said of the news, “I can’t really put into words how disappointed I am. I feel like this team has a chance to win the World Series, and to not be able to be on the field is disheartening.”
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said on Friday of the news, “One of the reasons we’re where we are is because of what Mark has done. We’ve already done that adjustment part.”
The “adjustment” part that Cashman could be referring to is the fact that the next in line at first base, Greg Bird, has been in the Major Leagues for a month and played very well.
Bird came up on August 13th and was an instant success, as he had two home runs in his fourth game with the Yankees, against Minnesota on august 19th.
Bird entered Saturday with 5 home runs and 17 RBI in 25 games with the Yankees. He has proven to be clutch, as four of his five home runs have given the Yankees the lead, and all five have come with a runner on base.
Defense is a big part of playing first base, and Bird has played on par with Teixeira, no small feat considering Teixeira is considered one of the best defensive first baseman in the game.
In looking at the lineup the Yankees put out for the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, it still is very formidable. It went as follows: Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, Chase Headley, Bird, Didi Gregorious, and Stephen Drew.
If they make the playoffs, this would likely be the lineup they would use and it has all the trademarks of Yankees lineups of the dynasty era. The biggest hallmark of the Paul O’Neill/Bernie Williams/Tino Martinez lineups was how they would work pitchers. For example, on Tuesday against Baltimore, three Orioles pitchers threw around 150 pitches through eight innings. Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka threw under 100 in the same time span.
Everybody in that lineup has power too, led by A-Rod with 30 homers, McCann with 25, Beltran with 15, Gardner has 14 and Headley has 11. Even the ninth hitter Drew has 17, which is remarkable considering he is hitting just .203 on the season. How many other teams have a hitter in the nine spot with that many homers?
The only difference in the lineup is that Teixeira would have hit in the three, four, or five spots, so everybody is moved up one spot.
The key for the Yankees, more than anything, is keeping Ellsbury and Gardner healthy at the top of the order. The Yankees have scored 112 runs in the first inning this season, the most a team has scored in a single inning all season. That total includes Gardner’s home run in the first inning of Game One on Saturday, not a surprise since more times than not the Ellsbury-Gardner combo gets at least one run on the board in the opening frame.
Teixeira hit .255 with 31 home runs and 79 RBI, and a .357 on-base percentage, with 85 walks.
He started off the season very well, and hit .333 with 9 home runs and 19 RBI in July. He tailed off in August, hitting just .195 with 3 home runs and 6 RBI August.
Teixeira and A-Rod’s seasons mirrored each other, in that they both were hot for the first four months and got tired in the dog days of August.
A-Rod is having a resurgence in September, with five home runs in 10 games this month, including a two-run shot in Game One Saturday.
This has taken away a lot of the panic that might be associated with losing a guy like Teixeira.
Chase Headley has also quietly gotten hot over the past couple of months. He is hitting .308 with 3 home runs, 30 RBI, 16 doubles, 20 walks, and a .386 on-base percentage since July 12th. Overall, he is hitting .272 with 11 homers and 59 RBI.
Carlos Beltran has also turned it on for the past month or so, hitting safely in 30 of the last 34 games, including two hit streaks of ten or more games. Those streaks both occurred in August, from August 4th to 15th, then the 17th to the 28th.
For the season, Beltran is hitting .278 with 15 home runs and 53 RBI, a .476 slugging percentage, and .339 on-base percentage.