For the third time since 2017, the Yankees found themselves just one step away from the World Series this past October. Unfortunately, it ended with the same result as the other two: watching the Houston Astros win the pennant and advance to the Fall Classic. One of the bright spots, though, was the performance of trade deadline acquisition Harrison Bader. How did he magically turn into an offensive juggernaut at the plate?
There are likely a few reasons for the Bronxville native’s huge postseason showing. But apparently, some credit for Bader’s power surge needs to be given to Mets first baseman Pete Alonso.
Newsday‘s David Lennon did a story on the Yankees’ outfielder to shed light on why. Bader and Alonso were college teammates at the University of Florida. When the Bombers acquired him from the St. Louis Cardinals, he was on the injured list. In fact, Bader didn’t make his Yankees debut until September 20th.
From that point to the end of the season, he appeared in 14 games and racked up 49 plate appearances. While Bader’s defense has never been a question, his offense left a lot to be desired. He collected three extra-base hits (all doubles), nine RBI, and three runs scored while slashing .217/.245/.283. This included just a 4.1% walk rate, a 30.6% strikeout rate, and a 47 wRC+.
Could it just be knocking off some rust after being on the shelf since the end of June? Well, sure. He performed better prior to hitting the injured list, but not by a ton. In 264 plate appearances, Bader slashed .256/.303/.370 with 15 extra-base hits (seven doubles, three triples, five homers), 21 RBI, and 35 runs scored. His walk rate (4.9%), strikeout rate (17.8%), and wRC+ (93) were all better, too.
As he recovered from plantar fascitis, he picked up a bat Alonso had signed and sent to his house. Bader liked the way it felt so much that he ordered a bunch. They didn’t arrive until the final week of the season. Lennon detailed that Bader didn’t take his first session of batting practice with the new bat until before Game 1 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Guardians. He hit a homer in his first at-bat that evening, and the rest was history.
Across nine games and 35 plate appearances, Bader slashed .333/.429/.833 with five homers, six RBI, and eight runs scored. In addition to his 252 wRC+, the outfielder also produced an 11.4% walk rate and a 17.1% strikeout rate.
We obviously can’t expect that kind of pace to continue into the regular season. But hey, clearly something clicked, especially in the thick of the postseason against good pitching from the Guardians and Astros. We’ll see if that October performance can springboard into a big first year in pinstripes for the outfielder.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.