What Went Right: Berkman & Wood

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The Yankees have made a habit out of plugging holes at the trade deadline when their internal options don’t work out, most famously grabbing Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston Jr. to shore up the bench for the 2009 World Series run. This season was no different, as Brian Cashman pulled off a trio of moves on July 31st. Austin Kearns didn’t exactly work out, but the other two moves certainly did…

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Lance Berkman

Once the Nick Johnson experiment failed in glorious fashion, the Yankees spent the better part of the summer searching for a designated hitter. Jorge Posada filled in most of the time, partly due to nagging injuries and partly because Joe Girardi fell head over heels in love with Frankie Cervelli. Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames also chipped in some at DH from time to time, but it was obvious that the team needed a full-time DH going forward.

With the Astros way out of contention, long-time ‘Stro Lance Berkman agreed to waive his no-trade clause to join his buddy Andy Pettitte in New York and have a shot at the World Series. His first 40 plate appearances in pinstripes were largely unimpressive, a .281 wOBA that was reliant more on walks that anything else. Berkman sprained his ankle running out a ground ball in Kansas City and sat out the rest of the month, rejoining the team when the rosters expanded on September 1st.

From that point on, Fat Elvis looked a lot like the guy with four career top five finishes in the NL MVP voting. He hit .299 the rest of the way with a cool .400 on-base percentage, and although there was little (if any) power production, Berkman was reaching base at the terrific rate near the bottom of the lineup. He was then one of the few consistently productive bats in the postseason, driving in two runs in Game Two of the ALDS and replacing the injured Mark Teixeira at first base in the ALCS. All told, Berkman hit .313/.368/.688 (.427 wOBA) in the postseason, and once he came off the disabled list in September he was one of the team’s most productive bats.

Kerry Wood

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

It’s hard to believe that when the Yankees acquired Wood, he hadn’t pitched off a big league mound in close to three weeks. He had been on the disabled list with blisters and was activated just in time for the transaction to go through. That was also his second stint on the DL of the year, as he missed the first five weeks of the season with shoulder issues. Wood actually threw more innings for the Yankees (26) than he did for the Indians (20) this year. Thankfully those 26 innings were high quality.

Wood began his Yankee career working various middle relief stints, often recording more than three outs. By the time September rolled around he had pitched his way into that all important eighth inning role, setting up Mariano Rivera for the remained of the regular season plus postseason. The full body of work featured a 10.7 K/9 and just two runs scored in those 26 innings, and in the playoffs he added another eight innings of two run ball. With the season on the line in Game Five of the ALCS, he threw two scoreless inning to bridge the gap between starter CC Sabathia and Mo in the ninth.

As good as Wood was with New York, let’s not kid ourselves, there was some luck involved. His .235 BABIP was about 50 points below his career mark, and his strand rate was a completely unsustainable 98.1%. League average is around 72%. He walked 18 guys in those 26 innings but just one (one!) came around to score. They say it’s better to be lucky than good, especially when it comes to bullpen, so Kerry Wood’s stint in pinstripes gets a A+.

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Both Berkman and Wood were popular players with their previous teams, but they accepted lesser roles with the Yankees and thrived. I thought Berkman was especially impressive; a guy that had spent his entire career hitting in the middle of the Houston’s lineup and was the toast of his hometown, accepting what was essentially a platoon DH role when he could have just stayed home close to his family. The Yankees didn’t reach their ultimate goal this season, but the contributions of Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood are certainly appreciated.

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  • Mike R

    I was really impressed with how both turned out.. I really grew fond of Wood although like you said A LOT of his success was influenced by luck. If Kerry dosn’t find a spot closing else where I really wouldn’t mind trying to sign him. On a complete side note NEWSDAYS Ken Davidoff claims if the Yankees don’t land Lee they’ll go hard after Crawford? I don’t buy that at all theres NO reason to upgrade our outfield for the price of 15+ Million dollars. Crawford is definitely better than Gardner, but we have enough of a payroll as it is..

  • M-Three

    Kerry Wood was great for us this year. I am glad we got him because he is a guy that I had always wanted to pitch for us. Its too bad that Woods time with us is probably over because he showed that when healthy he can be as dominating as any reliever in the game.

    With Wood gone, who do you guys think will take over his role as the 8th inning set-up guy? Will it be D-Rob or does Joba turn things around and become a dominating force again? Or does someone unexpecting come up from the minors and take the league by storm as our new set-up guy? My prediction is that we will get a huge suprise from within by a young starter turned reliever(health is the reason for being converted). Not only will that reliever dominate as our set-up guy but he will become the guy that is groomed to someday be past the torch as our next closer from Mo when he retires.

  • gargoyle

    The empty seats visble in the Berkman photo are embarrassing and I don’t care what the inning or the score was.

    • All Star Carl

      Oakland.

      • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

        A 1:00 game on a Thursday too.

  • Sean C

    Growing up in central Illinois, I’ve followed Wood’s career vicariously through my many friends that are Cubs fans (their eventual disappointment was contagious). I went to the game back in 07 when he threw some pitches for the Peoria Chiefs (my hometown’s low-A Cub affiliate), which was nice. However, it was AWESOME this year when he was traded to the Yankees and was in shutdown mode (luck aside, he was dominant for us). I would love to see him come back to the Yankee bullpen, but as many have said he’ll probably get more money closing for someone.

  • http://www.retire21.org Mike R.- Retire 21

    Berkman eats Beets. Berkman, Beets, Battlestar Galactica.

    • Accent Shallow

      Mimsy were the borogroves, etc.

      To think, two short years ago, Berkman was basically Mark Teixeira.

  • Chris in Maine

    I thought they were great as well, however I’m happy to say goodbye to both. Berkman wants a full-tig gig. I respect that & he is not going to get than in New York. Wood was great, but there is no way, as the article indicates, that he will be able to sustain those numbers. Frankly, the walks scare me.

  • Fair Weather Freddy

    Myabe Romulo Sanchez can win a spot in the pen this year.

  • Monteroisdinero

    It would be nice if AlbalaDEJO or Romulo could stick. Alby broke the single season save record this past year at Scranton and Romulo has a great changeup.

    • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

      I’m still not sure what to make of him. He really wasn’t used regularly when he came up, or well – I remember Joe using him for multiple innings, something he never did all year at the AAA level and he predictably got hit around. Though he never really impressed when given the chance, he may just be another AAAA player. He’ll probably end up as trade bait, he just doesn’t seem to stick in the Yankees pen.