Last night, Greg Bird played the hero, launching a home run off Andrew Miller for the only run of the game. For a lefty, just getting on base against Miller is a success, but going deep is pretty remarkable; it was only the second home run a left-hander hit off Miller this year.
But perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised, because since coming back off the disabled list, Bird has been hitting bombs with regularity. His overall season line of .190/.288/.422 isn’t much to write home about, but his early-season numbers came when he probably shouldn’t have been playing, given his foot issues. If we combine his post-DL with his postseason performance to date, this is the line that Healthy Greg Bird has put up in 2017.
The underlying numbers show significant improvement as well. In his pre-DL performance, Bird averaged 87.7 mph exit velocity on his batted balls, but since returning, that mark has jumped to 91.1 mph. For reference, only 13 hitters with at least 100 batted balls averaged 91 mph in exit velocity this year.
And in the postseason, against one of the best pitching staffs we’ve ever seen, Bird’s been crushing the ball at a level not unlike his most monstrous teammate. Here are Bird’s batted balls in this series against Cleveland so far.
Bird’s six batted balls in this series have averaged 94.4 mph, while facing the best left-handed reliever in baseball twice, a top-5 starter twice, and two above average right-handers.
As a pull-heavy left-hander who also strikes out and hits his share of infield flies, Bird is probably never going to be a high average hitter, but the power he’s shown since coming off the DL is a carrying tool, and Bird is showing why the Yankees line-up is scarier right now than their overall season numbers might make it appear.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.