The future of Mark TeixeiraBy
While I remain unconcerned that Mark Teixeira is done as a top notch hitter, it’s tough to ignore the now 3 month slump he is in heading back to the 2009 postseason. While we can write off April as he always struggles, he hasn’t yet turned it around the way we expected. Since the Yankees have Teixeira signed thru 2016 (his age 36 season) I wanted to see how comparable hitters thru age 29 fared from their age 30-36 seasons to see what could be in store for Tex. I’m simply using Tex’s 5 most similar hitters (per B-Ref), so there can certainly be extenuating circumstances that can explain either a surge in offense or a drop off. Tex should profile pretty well, as he has been healthy, is a hard worker, and seems to take care of himself off the field. These guys may be fatter, skinnier, have used steroids, partied harder, etc., so it’s not necessarily a prediction of what Tex will do over the next 7 years (2010 inclusive), but more how comparable bats have fared.
Delgado was a beast from age 30-36. In his worst season, his last in Toronto, he still managed a .269/.372/.535 129 OPS+ line with 32 HR’s in just 128 games. If Tex’s production is anywhere near Delgado’s, the contract will play out just fine. As a hitter Delgado’s best seasons are better than Teixiera’s, but Tex so far has been a little more consistent year in and year out.
Hrbek is certainly the scary name on the list but better than I remember. He was a beast on RBI Baseball, and while his numbers thru age 29 don’t include any 40 HR seasons, he was regularly in the mid 20’s when that actually meant something. He was a solid hitter, but not in the truly elite class of baseball. He never even made it to 36, retiring after his age 34 season. Here’s hoping Tex does a lot better than Hrbek after turning 30.
Bagwell had already slowed by the time he was 30 but was still producing in a big way. From 26-29 his OPS+ was an astounding 168. After the age of 30 his high was 162, and never hit 140 once turning 33, dropping every year from the age of 31 until he retired at 37. I’d love to see Bagwell-type production from Tex, though he certainly was past his prime by the time he hit 32.
The Crime Dog was productive from 30-36, but only had 2 great seasons in 1994 and 1999. Every other year his OPS+ was between 106 and 119. Clearly not a hole in the lineup, but not the production Tex was brought in to provide. Of note with McGriff is that while 1994 was a great year for him, it was a great (and interesting) year for offense in baseball altogether. When the strike hit, McGriff had 34 HR’s in only 113 games, which was just two off his career high. Tex producing like McGriff from 30-36 wouldn’t be a total disappointment, but also not what the Yankees are paying for.
Thome is clearly the class of this bunch after the age of 30. He had the two best seasons of his career at ages 30 and 31 and was still producing up to age 36 (and beyond). He did have an injury shortened year at 34 which led to him ending up back in the American League as a full time DH. DH’ing likely helped Thome’s later years, but it’s doubtful that Tex will be spending much time at DH in the future. I’ll say right now that Tex will not produce like Thome from age 30-36 as he simply isn’t as a good a hitter as Thome was, but hopefully he’ll be able to age like Thome and continue to produce at a very high level.
The good news as you can see as everyone but Hrbek was healthy and played quite a few games from ages 30-36. Hrbek was done after the strike season in 1994, playing just 81 games with a 99 OPS+. Everyone else averaged at least 134 games (and that was Thome who was held back as a DH) and produced. The bad news is that they all had their best seasons at either 30 or 31 and it was downhill from there. Still productive but downhill. While that’s concerning enough, it’s even more concerning considering all of these guys played in the height of the steroids era, when the aging process seemed to stand still for many players. Clearly Tex’ best post 30 season won’t be this year, but even if he’s great again next year, it might be the best we see out of Tex for the remainder of the contract.
For more of my work head over to Mystique and Aura.