Oct
21

Spare parts, but now so much more

By

When the Yankees extended their season by taking Game Five yesterday, they did so thanks to the performances of their star players. Robbie Cano hit his fourth homer of the ALCS, Alex Rodriguez doubled to set-up a rally and drew two walks, Jorge Posada drove in the first run of the game and then came around to score, CC Sabathia provided six hard-fought innings, and Mariano Rivera was there to close things out in the ninth. The team’s best players were their best players in the most important game of the season, but let’s not understate the contributions they received from their deadline pickups.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Mark Teixeira‘s season came to an abrupt end in Game Four when his right hamstring popped running down to first, so Lance Berkman is now stepping in as the Yanks’ full-time first baseman. I don’t know about you, but I’d have called you crazy if you woulda told me in April that Berkman would be the team’s everyday first baseman in the ALCS. Does not compute.

Anyway, Fat Elvis dusted off his first baseman’s mitt and took to the field for just the eighth time in forty games as a Yankee. I know he had some adventurous plays down in Tampa early on and even had that nasty spill yesterday, but overall Berkman is a solid defensive first baseman (his +13.1 UZR over the last three years is basically identical to Tex’s, for what it’s worth) capable of making all the routine plays plus a little more. He won’t make the flashy plays or the throws that Teixeira can, but it’s not like the Yankees had to resort to trotting Jason Giambi out there in the postseason.

Despite batting righthanded, by far his weaker side this season (.236 wOBA), Puma managed to contribute some offensively in Game Five, drawing a walk and driving in a run with a well-struck sac fly. His approach was rather simple; he just took everything not in his happy zone, which resulted in 22 pitches seen in just four plate appearances. The potential was there for zero offensive contribution, but Berkman’s been a great hitter for a long time and he found a way to chip in anything he could from his weak side. That’s all you could ask for from your backup first baseman.

After the Yanks had built up their lead and gotten all they could out of Sabathia, they handed the ball over to another July 31st pickup in Kerry Wood. The Yankee bullpen, a strength the entire second half, had faltered in a big way during Games Three and Four, allowing 11 runs and 16 baserunners in just five innings of work, but Wood was not involved in that disaster. The first batter he faced, the pesky Elvis Andrus, reached base on his eleventyith infield hit of the series, but some pitches and pickoff throws later, Wood caught him straying too far off second. Kerry had one pickoff since the 2006 season, but Andrus was his second of the ALCS. Lucky? Yes. Do you need luck to dig out of the three games to one hole? Also yes.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Wood went to work against the heart of Texas’ order with the Andrus pickoff mixed in. He struck out both Michael Young and Josh Hamilton to end the seventh, and then came out to retire Vlad Guerrero, David Murphy, and Ian Kinsler in order in the eighth. David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan were horrifically ineffective during the past two games, but Wood stepped up in the must-win situation and give his club two big innings to bridge the gap between Sabathia and Mariano Rivera.

Berkman and Wood were ideal deadline pickups for many reasons off-the-field, such as low cost to acquire and short commitment, but on-the-field they made perfect sense. Both are veteran players with playoff (and in Berkman’s case, World Series) experience, but more importantly they bought into their role. Berkman’s a hero in Houston, where he played every single day and hit in the middle of the order for the last decade or so. With the Yankees, he was just a platoon designated hitter now pressed into a more important role. Wood was saving games for a last place team in Cleveland, and saves equal money on the free agent market. He joined the Yanks as just another cog in their deep bullpen, but emerged as someone much more important than that.

When the Yanks acquired these two guys at the deadline, none of us expected them to be this important with the season on the line. If you’re going to lose a player of Mark Teixeira’s caliber to injury, Lance Berkman’s a pretty damn good replacement to have. Should the regular relievers falter, having a hard-throwing strikeout machine like Kerry Wood to back them up is more than you could ask for. Neither player will be with the Yanks next season, but right now they’re doing everything asked of them and then some to help this team try to win a World Championship, and we appreciate that.

Categories : Playoffs
  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    The funny thing is that you absolutely wouldn’t have predicted Tex’s injury and yet they now have the best possible replacement that was available. Picking up a 3b because A-Rod might get hurt would have made sense, or a catcher. They picked up Berkman because he was too good to pass up at that price, and now they have him to fill a huge hole. Even if the Yankees don’t win it all, Cash certainly made the right moves at the deadline.

  • Mike R

    Love this article. I 100% agree with everything said here.. Could you imagine if we didn’t make these deadline moves and had to see either Swisher or Miranda out at first base down three games to one.. I mean I love Swish, but the guy should NOT be playing first base. You can never downplay the importance of picking up Kerry Wood, guy is a beast. He still pumps that fastball in and when he has command you know it’s going to be hard to hit him. For as hot as Hamilton has been and the rest of the Texas line up Wood did exactly what he had to. I’m thankful not only only for all the talent on the team, but for the organizations ability to make deadline moves that are becoming a vital part of our chance to even up this ALCS.

    • Thomas

      Yeah, if they didn’t have Berkman, they probably would have had Swisher at first with either Kearns if the OF (if they acquired him) or Thames in the OF. A much scarier situation.

    • vin

      I don’t really mind Swisher at 1st. It’s Thames/Golson/Kearns being in the lineup or playing the field (Thames’ case) that I have a problem with.

      Remember, he was slated to be the everday 1st baseman before they swooped in and signed Tex. And I don’t think that was a “Bubba Crosby is our centerfielder” decoy either.

      With that said, Nick hasn’t played much 1B this season so I am glad he’s still in RF.

    • http://www.blogs.thetenthinningstretch.com the tenth inning stretch

      Idk, Swish made a fantastic stretch at first right after the Teixeira injury.

  • Jon in CUO

    Lance Berkman is awesome. I just love guys with power and patience.

    /TWSS

  • Doug

    As far as the lineup goes tomorrow vs. Lewis, it’s really not Berkman for Tex. Really more like Thames for Tex. I know Tex hasn’t been hitting and Thames has done reasonably well vs. RHP, but I see this as a pretty big deal.

    • http://twitter.com/AndrewLeighNYC Andrew

      Really more like Thames for Tex

      That’s kind of semantics. Yes it is obviously a big deal Teixeira is out for the rest of the playoffs. The point is that without Berkman on the roster the lineup could feature, in one game, Thames and Kearns, or Thames and Miranda. Much, much prefer Berkman and Thames. Also Thames has not been that bad vs. RHP this year, hard as it is to believe.

  • Fair Weather Freddy

    One thing about Berkman. They say he is much weaker batting right handed, but He has hit the ball pretty hard the times he has batted righty in this series. The other night against Oliver with the bases loaded, he scorched that ball down to 3rd. Young made a great play to snare it before it got by him. and yesterday, he hit a sac fly to pretty deep CF off Wilson.

    • vin

      Plenty of big leaguers have a significant platoon split. Look at Ryan Howard vs. lefties – .232 .314 .452 .766.

      Berkman as a righty vs. lefties has hit – .260 .364 .412 .776 in his career. Those numbers have declined the last few years, but he still has a large body of work to draw from.

      Most switch hitters have a weak side, usually the right side because they see fewer lefties, and especially if they are naturally lefthanded (like Lance).

      If Lance is healthy, and getting regular AB’s, then I think he has the tools to be very effective.

  • vin

    All I could think of late in yesterday’s game, knowing that Girardi would try to get 2 innings out of Wood, was 1996. Mo was such an unbelievable weapon that year.

    The Yankees had 27 outs each game, but their opponents only had 18. That’s a tremendous advantage. I think the “all hands on deck” scenario will help Girardi. He’s gotten burned by his usually trusty relievers. I think Wood and Mo for 9 outs will be the case here on out.

    Joba, Robertson, Logan… thanks for a good season – but its time to sit back and watch the big boys handle their business.

    • hotspur40

      Couldn’t agree more. I was thinking the same thing back earlier in the series. The bullpen by platoon just isn’t getting it done. We need a reliable bridge from our (good) starters to Mo. Wood has been impressive all year and esp. in the playoffs. He is the only reliever I currently have any real confidence in other than maybe Robertson. But I think Wood is superior to DR, and he has shown he can pitch multiple relief innings and to many different type of hitters. He is the pickup of the season for the Yankees, imo, and maybe for the majors — if the Yankees can hit Cliff Lee in Game 7. Wood is a real key to winning this series and competing in the WS. I have been VERY impressed with him. A great addition to the club.

  • Chris

    Saw the title at a quick glance and thought it started off “Spare paNts.” Was wondering where you were going with this post.

    • Esteban

      Looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.

      /old and lame

      • http://www.blogs.thetenthinningstretch.com the tenth inning stretch

        Hopefully they’re the spares.

  • goterpsgo

    When Tex was being helped off the field in Game 4, my very first thought was “Lance Berkman.”

  • JerseyDutch

    Wood and Berkman have been great to watch this second half. It’s sad to know that they’ll be gone next year but let’s hope they both go out with a bang.

    • Evan in NYC

      Why would they not try to bring Wood back?

      • http://www.blogs.thetenthinningstretch.com the tenth inning stretch

        He will still want to be a closer and earn closer money, and after the way he’s pitched for us, teams will be lined up to give it to him.

  • Yank the Frank

    Lance looks like he has started to figure out the American League. Even his outs are loud. Could not have happened at a better time.

    Now if he can only stay on his feet.

  • Sean C

    Wood has had some absolutely filthy appearances during his stint as a Yankee. Someone’s going to give this guy a large sum of money this offseason. I’m just happy the Yankees got to rent him and push that arm of his out there to get the ball to Mo.

  • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

    I thought about Miranda for a min, but the extra loogies took care of that.

    My biggest pet peeve has been not finding a better option for Pena. It’s like having a transistor radio in your Rolls Royce.

    • Ghost of Scott Brosius

      I would’ve liked to see Laird come up. He killed triple A, and while supposedly his defense isn’t great, I have to think that overall, with his ability to hit for power even if not for average, he would contribute more than Pena.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Laird killed Double-A (.291/.355/.523), not Triple-A (.246/.268/.344).

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      Yeah exactly, Texas has 4 LOGGYs on their roster, and Miranda can’t hit lefties. Well Miranda can’t hit much in general.

      • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

        I dunno Ziggy man, I think he can hit better than Nunez,Pena, Cervelli, Golson and Kearns in co. We have never gotten a long look from him against RH ML pitching. It’s moot because of the extra loogies.

        • Sweet Dick Willie

          It’s moot because of the extra loogies it’s the playoffs..

          How many ABs have Nunez, Pena, Golson & Kearns had in the post season?

          • Sweet Dick Willie

            format fail

            It’s moot because of the extra loogies it’s the playoffs.

  • Tank Foster

    When a switch hitter is as crappy from one side as Berkman is from the right side, why not throw in the towel and just bat lefty all the time? Switch hitters sometimes bat righty against Mo, so it isn’t like it’s impossible to hit from the “wrong” side if you’re a switch hitter. I’m surprised he doesn’t try it, because the difference in his effectiveness from the two sides is so huge.

    • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

      To late Tank, Berkman are so used to seeing LHer from that dif angles and planes , I believe batting RH is still the better option.

      That said, I had mention K long working with Berkie Rher consider the amount of loogies TX had. I hope he has done that.

      Berkman’s RH ABs hasn’t horrible, He has made good contacts IMO.

  • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

    Missing Tex’s def definitely will hurt. But offensively it really come down to Thames vs Tex in Tex’s absence. I don’t think the Yankees will miss a beat offensive given the way Tex has swung the bat.

    And the ‘beat’ has been faint in this TX series.

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      If anything it will be an improvement. Who knows how long Tex has been feeling hurt before his hamstring gave out.

      • Evan in NYC

        I don’t think you can call it an improvement because Tex’s defense is going to be missed a ton. Also, he may have been 0fer the series, but it’s still Tex, he could go off at any minute. They don’t need to look at this as a downgrade/improvement, they need to look at this as: Tex went down, Berkman/Thames are in, now let’s get the W.

  • Evan in NYC

    Why would the Yankees not bring Wood back next year to continue to be the setup guy? Is he going to command a ton of money?

    • A.D.

      Wood has had a pretty good year since getting healthy (at leas with the Yanks) and presumably Wood will want closer money, a closer job & multi years. Given Woods health over his career, age, and the volatility of relivers it’s probably not wise to sign him to a decent money multi-year deal. Leaving the Yanks with the option to pick up his 10M option, which is a lot for a set-up guy.

      • Evan in NYC

        Yea, it’s an 11M option. Didn’t realize he was making that much. Nice knowing you, Kerry.

        • Dream of Electric Sheep/ still haven’t register /too lazy

          Benoit,he is better. Yanks should look into it.

          • Sweet Dick Willie

            He’s gonna want closer money too. Not to mention multiple years.

            Pass.

    • RL

      Is he going to command a ton of money?

      Yes, and to ensure future income, he’ll want to be a closer. It’s been discussed before, unless Mo decides to retire, it’s extremely likely that Kerry Wood will move on.

    • Mike R

      Yah no doubt about it.. Just his brief stint in NY has shown that he has the stuff to close and I doubt he’ll take a pay cut to stay in NY until Mariano eventually retires.. A lot of other teams are gonna be offering him big bucks to close.

  • UncleArgyle

    Offensively Tex injury could definately be a blessing. Not only do the Yankees no longer have to send a near automatic playoff out to the plate, but Girardi is forced to move his best hitter, Cano, to the spot in the lineup, 3rd, where your best hitter should be hitting. Hopefully the move carries over to 2011.

    • RL

      Hopefully the move carries over to 2011

      +28

    • Neil

      I can’t be too hard on Tex as he is not the only one who has been struggling. On Cano hitting third Joe Girardi should have put Cano there permanently when Tex was hurt earlier in the season. That is where you put your best hitter. Cano is in his prime while Tex is slightly past prime.