Yanks offense still waiting for Teixeira and Johnson

The new and (slightly) improved Boone Logan
The marginalization of David Robertson
Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Through the season’s first 18 games the Yankees’ offense, as a unit, has performed around expectations. The team has scored 5.33 runs per game, second in the AL to the Rays. Yet when looking at the AL rankings, something stands out. The Yankees have a 124 OPS+, which leads the league by a decent margin. Why, then, do they not lead the league in runs scored? The answer lies atop the lineup.

Derek Jeter has done his job this season. Through 80 PA he’s hitting .316/.350/.474. It’s not up to his career standards, particularly in the OBP department, that will likely change as we get further into the season. His OBP sat at .363 through 80 PA last season, and was as low as .333 in 138 PA. It’s the man who follows him, Nick Johnson, who has been struggling. Through 72 PA he’s hitting .135, though his frequent walks boost his OBP to .375. While no one is happy with Johnson’s BA, it’s not a huge concern. That will surely rise as the season progresses. Meanwhile, his main task is to get on base for Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, and so far he has done an admirable job.

Why, then, has Johnson scored only seven runs if he has been on base 27 times? For that we need a bit more context, which comes from Mark Teixeira’s poor start. Like Johnson, Teixeira is currently taking a cruise down the interstate. His .119 through 82 PA is nothing short of a disaster. Again, this is something we probably have to get used to. Through 134 PA last year he was hitting .191. We know, however, that the payoff will prove worthy. From May 13 through the end of the season Teixeira hit .315/.396/.597 and was an integral part of the Yankees’ mid-season burst.

In addition to their poor batting averages, Teixeira and Johnson have also hit for little power. Teixeira’s ISO sits at .134, Johnson’s at .096. Of the other seven regulars, only Brett Gardner ranks below them. This obviously decreases their run-producing potential. Both Gardner and Jeter have gotten on base at an above-average clip, but with the two hitters behind them not producing base hits, and also not hitting for power, they’re not coming around to score as often. Likewise, even though Johnson is getting on base via the walk, Teixeira is making enough outs that he’s leaving Johnson stranded. Unsurprisingly, Johnson ranks second to last on the Yanks with a 23 percent run scored rate. Only Nick Swisher, the No. 8 hitter, ranks lower. Teixeira, on the other hand, has A-Rod hitting behind him, and despite getting on base far less frequently than Johnson, has scored 38 percent of the time.

Once the top of the order starts hitting, we could see the Yankees offense take off just like it did last season. Other factors will obviously change along the way: Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner will surely settle down, but their decreased production won’t nearly off-set the gains we should soon see from Teixeira and Johnson. No one wants to hear “just be patient” when players on their favorite team have struggled, but that’s the only thing to do right now. This is a clear case of a slow start. The payoff will be worth the wait.

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The new and (slightly) improved Boone Logan
The marginalization of David Robertson
  • Rose

    I’ll be the first to apologize. I take full responsibility for this.

    I have both Mark Teixeira and Nick Johnson on my fantasy teams (dropped Johnson in one of them already). That is why they are doing poorly. I should have known better.

    I also have Josh Beckett…so the Baseball Gods make sure that he gets shelled everytime he goes out BUT that the Red Sox still win each time just to add insult to injury.

    Verlander is another example. Had him in 2008 and this year. Two random years in which he’s sucked…every other year he’s been Cy Young caliber.

    It’s amazing, I know. But let me be the first to apologize about Teixeira and Johnson. I should have known better…

    • Tseng

      Which RAB league are you in? I’d be happy to reverse the curse by taking Tex off your hands ;)

      Although, I do own Tex in another league, so perhaps I’m the cause of the slump.

      I’m not worried though. He’ll come out of it like he always does…. I hope.

      • Rose

        Haha I’m in a private league with a few buddies of mine. I’m not really worried…I had both Tex and Arod in a league last year…needless to say my 1B and 3B production for the first few months was miserable…but it worked out once the wheels started turning…

        I’m more worried about Vazquez than I am Teixeira. As for Johnson, if he’s actually healthy I won’t worry…but if he isn’t…then I’ll be a little upset…but until then…we’ll have to sit and wait.

    • Mike HC

      haha, yes, you are definitely the cause!!! Just trade them for more Devil Rays. The Red Sox seem to be able to suck without any help, ha.

      /making Rose feel welcomed and part of the RAB community

  • Ansky

    It all starts at the top. So, maybe Tex should get a new haircut already. He looks like the Jolly Green Giant, but he he’s hitting like Mini Me.

    • ADam

      “It all starts at the top. So, maybe Tex should get a new haircut already. He looks like the Jolly Green Giant, but he he’s hitting like Mini Me.”

      Agreed on the haircut… but he actually looks like Rachel Maddow if she was better looking, and he’ll come around… Not worried about Tex at all. Once his timing gets right, and he’s close, he’ll take off

      • Mike HC

        hahahha, classic. He does kinda look a little like her. But I think she is kinda going for the man look, so it makes sense.

  • Rose

    Derek Jeter has done his job this season. Through 80 PA he’s hitting .316/.350/.474. It’s not up to his career standards, particularly in the OBP department, that will likely change as we get further into the season. His OBP sat at .363 through 80 PA last season, and was as low as .333 in 138 PA.

    And he’s been swinging at every first pitch thus far this year. That will affect his OBP in some form I’d think.

    • MattG

      I’m going to add the numbers (I know we’re supposed to be concerned with Johnson and Teixiera in this thread, but I am concerned with Jeter):

      o-swing, 2010: 33.1% career: 19.6%
      swing, 2010: 53.5% career: 48%
      ld, 2010: 11.6% career: 20.6%
      gb, 2010: 73.1% career: 56.5%
      gb/fb: 2010: 5.1 career: 2.41

      Not pictured (because this already took too long) is that all those numbers are trending that way over the past so many years. Jeter has become a first pitch ground ball machine.

      He did start ’09 similarly, I think. But being that things have been trending this way for years, I don’t expect a rebound to ’09 levels…and I am worried ’08 might not even be realistic…

      • larryf

        With the take-machine on deck, it must be a relief for opposing pitchers to see Jeter ground out on the first pitch. Take Derek, take!

      • http://cache4.asset-cache.net/xc/98292368.jpg?v=1&c=NewsMaker&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF878921A343B2C87A49D8F5393716D3DED664DB8830F5DE2D38E9FEFC9C9BA2D4A6B468 bexarama

        a. You can’t use what we have of 2010 so far as a portent of what’s to come.
        b. Not pictured (because this already took too long) is that all those numbers are trending that way over the past so many years.
        Other than 2008 when he was hampered by an injured hand (and he was still pretty valuable by WAR), Jeter’s been pretty thoroughly awesome these past couple of years. Since and including 2005, wRC+s: 131, 145, 126, 110, 142, 126 (this year so far)

        Watching him ground out on the first pitch more often than the other Yankees do (not every time he’s up) is annoying, but he’s still doing pretty darn well for himself so far. He looks like he’s starting to get balls through the middle and etc. too. I wouldn’t worry right now.

        • MattG

          of course you’re right. he’ll figure it out…until…one year, he won’t.

          not this year, though.

  • TopChuckie

    It’s getting pretty annoying that concern for ego restricts Girardi from doing what is best for the lineup and dropping Tex down in the order just until he gets rolling again. Everyone knows Tex isn’t a #6 or #7 hitter, but right now he’s not even hitting like a #9 hitter, IN THE NL, so hey, VOLUNTEER to do what’s best for the team and ask for a less critical spot in the lineup until you get yourself figured out, or at least let Girardi know you won’t be a baby if he thinks it’s what is best.

    • 28 this year

      The biggest thing is that Tex will get more pitches to hit in the third spot than anywhere. I know the idea of protection doesn’t always work but having Jeter or Gardner, both fast runners, will give him more fastballs and in general for his spot, more strikes to hit. Although, Johnson should have all those things to yet he manages to walk a million times so I really don’t even know what to say.

      • TopChuckie

        Still, when you are getting those pitches to hit and you are doing less with your AB’s than the guys who presumably aren’t getting those pitches to hit, then you switch places for a little while until you are doing at least as much out of the 7 hole as the guy who was in it before you. Tex will still start to show signs of life with the quality of pitches Granderson or Swisher are getting now, he’ll show he’s getting his timing down or getting into the groove, and then when he gets back in the #3 hole and sees even better quality pitches, he’ll really take off.

        It’s all about being a team, picking each other up, taking up the slack when someone else is falling a little short, and maybe Tex would even pick up a little good karma if he put the team first.

        Sometimes just taking a little pressure off might make things click, change for change’s sake perhaps. Billy used to throw the names in a hat to pick the lineup to kick start the offense. Do something just so it looks like you’re trying.

        • http://cache4.asset-cache.net/xc/98292368.jpg?v=1&c=NewsMaker&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF878921A343B2C87A49D8F5393716D3DED664DB8830F5DE2D38E9FEFC9C9BA2D4A6B468 bexarama

          do you know for a fact he never volunteered to drop down in the order?

          • TopChuckie

            Nope, can’t say as I do. Would it be your contention that the more likely scenario is Tex HAS volunteered to be dropped in the order and Girardi said, “Nah, I think we are better off with a .119 hitter batting 3rd.”?

            I certainly don’t think Tex is a bad guy or a prima donna. I think right now he would bat 7th without complaint and he certainly should since the Yanks are a stacked lineup to the point they often bat a former all-star in the 9 hole without him complaining. There is enough talent on this team that you better be able to deal with the fact if you aren’t getting it done right now, there is another guy on the roster who can, until you get back on track. I’m not at all saying Teixeira couldn’t come to grips with that, I’m just saying that it needs to happen.

            Also, I’d much rather get dropped to 7th in an attempt to get back on track than to get a day off to “clear my head”, another “managerial cure” for slumps.

            While on the subject of egos, I’d also much rather bunt down the third base line and keep a team honest than allow them to put on the kind of shift they do for Tex, and used to for Giambi, and bat .200.

            • http://cache4.asset-cache.net/xc/98292368.jpg?v=1&c=NewsMaker&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF878921A343B2C87A49D8F5393716D3DED664DB8830F5DE2D38E9FEFC9C9BA2D4A6B468 bexarama

              ah, okay. Just earlier it seemed to me like you were saying that Tex’s ego wouldn’t let him have Girardi drop him in the order.

              While on the subject of egos, I’d also much rather bunt down the third base line and keep a team honest than allow them to put on the kind of shift they do for Tex, and used to for Giambi, and bat .200.
              What do you mean by this?

    • CountryClub

      It’ll be interesting to see if Johnson gets dropped tonight. Girardi has hinted at moving him down in the order. If they do this, I think they should let Gardner lead off and put Jeter in the 2 hole. Might as well take advantage of Gardner’s fast start.

      • MattG

        Gardner 2, Jeter 1. Until Jeter can hit the ball in the air, let’s not bat him behind Gardner, please.

        • CountryClub

          After the 1st inning, Gardner already bats in front of Jeter. Plus since Gardner will attempt to steal more often than not, the double play would be less of a concern.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

            Yes, but the point is that after Gardner’s 1st PA, Jeter would be on his second. That’s the idea of having Jeter in front of Gardner. More PA for the better hitter.

            • CountryClub

              Fair enough. But if those two players are going to bat 1 & 2 (I understand this is hypothetical) I would prefer to have Jeter batting behind Gardner and not the other way around.

    • MattG

      It never even crossed my mind to do this. Teixiera should stay at home.

  • Mike HC

    Johnson has such a great eye, that even when he is struggling, like he is now, he still manages to be a productive hitter. That is a sign of a truly excellent hitter. As long as he is healthy, the hits will definitely start coming for him.

    It is also interesting to note that Johnson’s at bat sample size is relatively small compared to most other hitters. He takes so many walks that a little bad luck, or a little slump in hitting, will last a longer period of time than for others. Johnson has had 52 at bats this year. Jeter has already had 76, Teix has 67, arod 68, cano 68.

    Just as an aside, the new comment set up is kind of confusing with the alternating colors. It takes a second or two to see where one comment thread ends and the other begins. I guess it will just take some getting used to.

    • Mike HC

      Maybe there has always been alternating colors now that I think about it. I don’t know. Something about is a little confusing.

    • Thomas

      Johnson has not been a productive hitter this year. He has a good on base percentage, but because his slugging is horrible, his values is still very low. His wOBA is .304, wRC+ 84, RAR -.6, and an OPS+ 0f 72. He has by most statistical measures been a poor hitter and he provides no defensive value as DH.

      I do think/hope he will turn it around though.

      • Mike HC

        Yes, he has not been good. When I said productive, I meant that he is not worthless. Even hitting the way he has, he still finds a way to help the team in at least one aspect, getting on base. When other hitters struggle, they don’t help in any way. That is what I meant.

        • Thomas

          Ok my bad. I get what you are saying now. Just a difference in our definition of productive.

  • larryf

    Do we know if NJ’s back has recovered from taking all those pitches to even be in the lineup tonight?

    • Mike HC

      haha.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    It’s clearly not all that ails these two, but their BABIP’s are due for a huge increase.

    Johnson: .182
    Tex: .122

    To put that into further perspective, Swisher has the third lowest mark on the team at .262.

  • YankeesJunkie

    After watching the last couple of games Tex seems to be just missing on some of hits so I would not be surprised to see Tex turn it around this week. Also, it is Tex he is one of the most productive first basemen in baseball there is no reason to think that he won’t be very productive for the rest of the year.
    With Johnson, he is getting his walks and throughout his career he has shown to hit for a pretty decent average as well. There is no reason not to think that he will get back up there fairly quickly. Slumps happen to lots of player, but they are just magnified more since they are occurring at the beginning of the year.
    This offense is only going to get that much better when their #2 and #3 hitters turn it on and the rest of the league should be very scared.

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    FORGET IT.

    Here:
    Gardner
    Johnson
    Jeter
    Cano
    Posada
    Swisher
    Granderson
    CC
    Arod

  • Rose

    No more “Nick the Stick”

    More like “Nick the Prosaic”

  • http://cache4.asset-cache.net/xc/98292368.jpg?v=1&c=NewsMaker&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF878921A343B2C87A49D8F5393716D3DED664DB8830F5DE2D38E9FEFC9C9BA2D4A6B468 bexarama

    did dalelama get banned or something because otherwise I’d think he/she would be all over this

  • Kiko Jones

    Meanwhile, the Yankees’ 2009 hitter in the no.2 spot is currently on fire; like he was last year. (Maybe hotter.) Hmm…

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      Yes, because if last year taught us anything it’s that players who get off to slow starts suck. Hmmmmm

  • Kiko Jones

    That’s NOT what I meant and you know it.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      The Hmmm…. at the end leaves open roads for interpretation.

  • Kiko Jones

    Even if Tex had a mediocre season at the plate—which he won’t—I would still have his back, given the Gold Glove defense he contributes. But I was never on board with the acquisition of Nick Johnson, and my little comment was intended to mess with the “good riddance, Johnny Damon” lot.