Karpin’s Korner: Bird Never Took Flight, Yanks Still Feeling Effects

Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire

Remember Greg Bird? He was supposed to be the next great, left handed power hitter in a long line of left handed power hitters that are littered throughout Yankee history.

The Yanks’ miss on Bird is still being felt today because he hits left handed. If Bird had played up to or just a tad short of his potential, he would’ve provided that much needed power from the left side.

The Yankees raved about Bird, who projected as a young, left handed power hitter who had good plate discipline and could take advantage of the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium. According to some, Bird had a “sweet, left handed swing,” that was tailor made for the Bronx.

I was not as impressed with Bird as some were. I thought he had a “long, looping swing,” that lacked bat speed and made him susceptible to a good fastball and he was not a “gold glove” first baseman, nor was he athletic.

Bird’s extensive injury history played a part in his demise, but I don’t know what the Yankee scouts were seeing in the first place. Bird had an ability to draw walks, and the Yankees love that, but a number of scouts also noticed that he let a lot of good pitches go by looking for the free pass.

This was the scouting report on Bird from “Baseball Prospectus” from August, 2015: (I had not seen this BP scouting report before I wrote this column)

The biggest concern here is that his bat speed isn’t plus. Bird will have trouble against good fastballs and velocity. There are definitely holes in his swing, as would be expected with bat speed questions and an uppercut/power swing plane. He compensates somewhat for this with his plate discipline. He also recognizes spin and tracks pitches well. I’d still avoid throwing him too much soft stuff; you don’t try to beat a guy with slider bat speed like that. You have to let him beat your fastball first. Bird is also a bat only player. To his credit, he has soft hands at first base and a good arm for a first baseman. He’s a poor athlete with a history of back issues and he doesn’t run well or cover much ground in the field.”

In 2018, Bird played in a career high 82 games but his slash line was .199/.286/.386. Not good for what the Yankees were expecting from their young first baseman.

Luke Voit is a nice player but, with all due respect, he’s part of the dilemma that plagues the 2021 Yankees. The lineup is loaded with right handed power hitters who strike out a lot and don’t produce in the post season. In the last two seasons, Voit has struck out 196 times in 174 games. In the post season, Voit has 1 HR, and 6 RBI’s in 50 at-bats.

Looks like I was wrong about Jay Bruce. It was common knowledge that he was not an experienced first baseman. Nevertheless, I thought he could give the Yankees a few long balls but he’s looked awful at the plate. It’s just a matter of time before he’s an ex-Yankee.

The Yankees first 15 games are against divisional opponents. So far, they’re 5-7. Not the way you want to play against your division rivals if you hope to win the AL East. Even at this early juncture of the season, this upcoming three game series against Tampa is pretty important.

Like last weekend, the Rays come into the series on a three game losing streak. Will the Yankees allow them to get on track again as they did last weekend, or will they begin to get their act together by winning this series? Stay tuned.

Have you noticed who is on the top step of the dugout when the Yanks do something good. It’s Rougned Odor, who appears to be providing a little energy to a team, that, at times, this season, has looked lifeless. If the 27-year old, left hand hitter can regain his hitting form from a few years ago, Yanks may have something useful.

MLB has dipped into its laboratory to come up with some more experimental rules as incentive for keeping starting pitchers in longer and to promote more offense. The rules will be implemented in the independent Atlantic League. There is the “double hook” designated hitter rule, that would be employed for the entire season, and the pitching rubber will be moved back one foot to 61 feet, 6 inches. That would start on August 3rd and continue for the remainder of the season.

Under the “DH-DH” rule, a team would lose its Designated Hitter if the starting pitcher is removed from the game. A team would need to employ a pinch-hitter or have the pitcher bat in that spot for the remainder of the game.

The idea is to encourage teams to stay with the starting pitchers a little longer in games. After giving it some thought, the rule would make teams “burn” two players with one move. Would the rosters be expanded to accommodate the repercussions from such a rule?

Would moving the rubber back one foot increase action and lessen the idle moments of a game?

The Atlantic League cited research from the American Sports Medicine Institute that said “no mechanical changes were needed for pitchers pitching to a distance of 63 feet, 8 inches.” The key word there is “mechanical.”

For over a century and a half and for our entire lives, the pitching rubber was 60 feet, six inches so that is ingrained in our minds. What kind of changes would be needed mentally for pitchers to make the adjustment? Pitchers would have to make drastic adjustments with their off speed stuff, more so than the fastball.

Maybe if today’s hitters went back to basics and prioritized contact when they’re in a two strike count, or be a little more aggressive on a 2-0 count instead of looking for a walk, the game would be a lot more interesting. It may even be more appealing to a new generation of fans that the sport is trying to connect with.

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