The Runner Sports

Greg Bird’s Slow 2017 Start Is Reason Why Spring Training (Almost) Means Nothing

Heading into Spring Training this season, one of the big question marks surrounded first base for the New York Yankees. Would Greg Bird be able to bounce back from injury? Will Joe Girardi elect to platoon Bird with Tyler Austin or Chris Carter? Could Matt Holliday see some playing time at first? After the injury to Austin in the early days of Spring Training, it seemed clear that Bird would start against right-handed pitching and Carter would start against lefties. However, Bird went on a tear during Spring Training. He was not only the hottest hitter on the Yankees, but one of the hottest in the entire MLB. Bird easily won the full-time starting position at first. Things were looking bright for the young first baseman for the 2017 season.

Then the season began, and Bird got out of the gates slowly. As it stands right now, Greg Bird is batting a lowly .118 with only 1 HR. In the same number of at-bats during Spring Training, Bird had 8 HRs with a slash line of .451/.556/1.098. What a stark difference between the two. This came as a shock to many who followed Spring Training. Discussion surmounting as to if it is time to panic with Bird. Questions begin to arise about whether Girardi should take him out of the lineup more often so Bird does not begin to spiral into a mental funk along with his batting.

Something Seems Off

During Spring Training, Greg Bird looked comfortable at the plate. After his first few at-bats where it was clear he was knocking the rust off, Bird’s swing was fluid and he looked confident. Now, it is clear Bird is second guessing himself at the plate. This is most likely due to his slow start. He is in his own head at the plate, which is making him miss good pitches to hit and swing at bad pitches. Being unsure of yourself at the plate leads to these type of things. During Spring Training, Bird was able to be selective to his pitch and crush it when he did. So far in the regular season, Bird cannot lay off pitchers’ pitches. Bird has struck out 19 times in his 51 at-bats, which is 9 more than what he did in Spring Training.

Misleading Spring Training Stats

Every player who has a hot start in Spring Training should be subject to skeptical thinking heading into the regular season. This is especially true for a young player or someone who has had an inconsistent career. Bird’s statistics in Spring Training are pretty to look at. However, they mean nothing to the greater good of the Yankees’ season. His .451 batting average is a misnomer for how his season is about to go. While nobody expected him to bat over .400 this season, most thought he would be one of the Yankees best hitters. He started the season batting in the four hole.

I bought into Bird’s Spring Training as much as the next person. In my predictions article, I had Greg Bird leading the Yankees in home runs this season. Clearly, Bird has not carried over his spring success to the regular season. But, there might be a reason for this, at least for the power.

Who Allowed Greg Bird’s 8 Home Runs?

Bird hit 8 HRs in Spring Training. That is fantastic. However, to explain why that power has not carried over, I looked into who Bird hit his home runs off of. The answer to that question might explain why he is not hittting with power. Out of the seven pitchers Bird took yard this spring, four of them started the season in the minors for their respective ball clubs. Only one of those pitchers has been called up to the bigs (Matt Latos). Between the three pitchers who started in the MLB for the 2017 season, the best pitcher is Bartolo Colon. Colon, who currently has a 4.50 ERA in four starts with the Atlanta Braves, has pitched well in his old age, but he is no Chris Archer or Carlos Martinez.

The other two major leaguers Bird hit home runs off of in Spring Training have ERAs above 6. Vince Velasquez and Clay Buchholz, both who pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies, have not had a good 2017 thus far. Velasquez has a 6.33 ERA while Buccholz has a 12.27 ERA. When looking back at Bird’s Spring Training, his home runs were not against the best pitchers. In fact, they were against some bad pitching. That could explain why he has had a slow 2017 start.

Chase Headley Demonstrate the Opposite

While Greg Bird tore it up during Spring Training, Chase Headley was performing poorly. Headley batted .200 with 13 strikeouts in his 50 at-bats. It seemed that Headley was going to start 2017 the way he started 2016: horrendously. However, Headley has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees. For the majority of the season, Headley has led the Yankees in batting. Currently, Headley sits at a slash of .333/.429/.561 with 3 HRs and 11 RBIs.

Headley and Bird switched bodies apparently during the transition from Spring Training to the regular season. Bird went from white hot to ice cold in the matter of a week. Meanwhile, Headley went from dead in the water to leading to the team offensively. Both players illustrate the reason why Spring Training statistics are not as important as they appear.

Do Not Panic Greg Bird

While Greg Bird has had the worst imaginable start to the 2017 season (aside from getting injured), it is not time to panic for the young first baseman. Bird is a 10-game stretch of great hitting from boosting his stats up and getting back into the groove of things. The bonus for Bird is that the Yankees are still performing well in spite of his struggles. If the Yankees had a losing record at this point in the season, Bird would be more likely to press more a the plate. That would only lead to more struggles for the lefty. However, the Yankees having a strong team start to the season actually helps Bird. He can focus on trying to help a team who is already winning rather than trying to save the team himself. Bird and Carter will continue to platoon until one begins to stand out. My money is still on Greg Bird there.

Griffin Fuller
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Griffin Fuller

Former Division 1 pitcher at Stetson University with an immense passion for the game of baseball. Grew up playing baseball from the age of 3. Student of the game of baseball in every aspect.Located out of Debary, Florida.
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Griffin Fuller
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