Defining Teixeira’s issues at the plate

Ninety-three games in, a myth busted
Past Trade Review: Scott Brosius
(From Flickr user EDorf81 via Creative Commons)

Yesterday Mike examined a sad development for the Yankees. Mark Teixeira, whose offensive prowess led the Yankees to the AL East crown in 2009, has slipped considerably in the last two seasons. After a slow start, even for him, he picked up the pace, only to be slowed by injuries. Yet this year, when he’s been ostensibly healthy, he’s producing similar numbers. Of particular concern is his pitiful batting average, which affects his OBP, which in turn hurts his overall value. It’s not a stretch to say that the Yankees expected more when they signed him.

We all have our theories on why Teixeira is performing so poorly. In the comments of Mike’s post we saw a huge array of them, ranging from poor mechanics to his pull tendencies, and even to downright bad luck. It’s hard to say which of these has the most merit, since many of the theories are based on anecdotal evidence or sloppy statistical assumptions (i.e., low BABIPs will always due to bad luck and will always rise). But we can dig a bit deeper to see what has changed since Teixeira’s mammoth 2009 season.

A quick glance at Teixeira’s FanGraphs page can lead to some answers, but it’s important to put those numbers into context. What stood out to me, and what probably stands out to you, is that he’s swinging at way more balls out of the zone. In 2009 that was 21.8 percent, which is right around the level he had been at previously. In 2010 that jumped to 26.5 percent, and this year it’s 25.6 percent. OK, you might say, that explains a lot. Yet it doesn’t. If you click Show Averages, you’ll see that the average rate of swinging outside the zone jumped in 2010. Look to your right, and you’ll see that the league-wide percentage of pitches thrown in the zone has fallen, implying that the zone has become a bit smaller. In order to gauge how Teixeira has reacted we have to compare his rates to the league average.

In 2009 Tex’s rate of swinging at pitches outside the zone was 15 percent below the league average (21.8 percent to 25.1 percent). In 2010 his rate climbed, but so did the league average. He finished swinging at 26.5 percent of pitches, which was 11 percent below league average. This year he’s swinging at 25.6 percent of pitches, which is 17 percent below league average. So while he did swing at relatively more pitches out of the zone last year, he’s at a better pace this year when compared to the league. In fact, his 25.6 percent rate is 34th lowest in the majors, out of 152 qualified hitters. While it might be frustrating to watch him swing over changeups, it doesn’t seem to be an issue.

One thing that has changed is that he’s making contact with fewer of these out of zone pitches. Again, we need to adjust for league average when looking at his numbers — and I’ll spare you the specific calculations — but in 2009 he had a contact rate on pitches out of the zone that was well above league average. Last year he was closer to league average, and this year he’s almost right at it. In other words, he’s swinging and missing more, which is reflected in his 7.2 percent swinging strike rate. That’s about a half point worse than his rates from 2008 through 2010. Predictably, his contact rate, especially his contact rate on pitches inside the zone, has dropped considerably.

This has all added up to an all-or-nothing season for Tex. He’s still hitting for plenty of power, as 47 percent of his hits have gone for extra bases (7th highest rate in the AL). His ISO this year is actually better this year, compared to the league average, than it was in 2009, and it is fifth highest in the AL. It’s the singles, and to an extent the doubles, that haven’t come along at an adequate pace. His .221 BABIP ranks 77th out of 78 in the AL, besting only Alex Rios, who is just plain bad. If he had a league-average BABIP, which he had in 2009, he would be hitting far closer to .280, and his OBP would be up near .400. Yet the hits, for whatever reason, haven’t dunked in, and what’s left is a low-average, high power player.

The shift does have something to do with Teixeira’s woes. This year he has 108 at-bats in which he batted lefty and hit the ball to right. In such instances he has hit .324, which might at first seem to negate the idea of the switch causing a problem. Alas, his average does count his home runs, and he has hit 17 of his 25 home runs from the left side to right field. His BABIP as a lefty going to right is .198; in 2009 it was .311. He’s also seen his BABIP as a righty going to left drop from .343 in 2009 to .293 this year, and has seen an even bigger drop in his BABIP as a righty going up the middle, from .315 to .233. While there could be other explanations at play, defensive positioning could certainly play a large role in his overall BABIP drop.

What complicates this analysis is Teixeira’s current slump. After his two-homer game against Texas in mid-June he was hitting .257, which, while not great, is at least do-able. Since then he’s hit .198/.274/.349 in 117 PA, with just four homers and four doubles, and a walk rate that is below his season average. It’s a slump of the first order, and it’s wreaking havoc on his season numbers. It’s gotten even worse lately, as he is just 12 for 55 with two doubles and no homers in July, and 4 for 23 with one walk and no extra base hits since the break. He’s surely not this bad, but when the hits aren’t dropping in anyway, slumps like this hurt that much more.

While the slump does loom large, it does appear that opponents have figured out where to play Teixeira for maximum effectiveness. He’s become predictable, that is, and it shows in his batting average — and, therefore, his OBP. He’s still crushing baseballs as he has in the past, perhaps even hitting some homers where he previously hit doubles. But the singles are not dropping in, and they probably won’t start dropping in until he changes something at the plate. The question is of what he can do to solve the problem. For Teixeira, a nine-year veteran, there doesn’t appear to be an easy answer.

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Ninety-three games in, a myth busted
Past Trade Review: Scott Brosius
  • Mike Myers

    “For Teixeira, a nine-year veteran, there doesn’t appear to be an easy answer.”

    Wow Joe. Why dont you just kick me in the balls while you are at it? ha.

  • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    “In 2009 that was 21.8 percent, which is right around the level he had been at previously. In 2010 that jumped to 26.5 percent, and this year it’s 25.6 percent. OK, you might say, that explains a lot. Yet it doesn’t… Look to your right, and you’ll see that the league-wide percentage of pitches thrown in the zone has fallen, implying that the zone has become a bit smaller. In order to gauge how Teixeira has reacted we have to compare his rates to the league average.”

    I have a couple of questions, and I ask these questions with no agenda, I’m really just looking for people more well-versed in this stuff than me to explain a couple of things…

    First, why would a drop in the league-wide percentage of pitches thrown in the zone necessarily imply that the zone has become smaller, instead of implying exactly what is says – that fewer pitches were thrown in the same zone? I mean, it might be true that the zone changed, but I don’t think we know that just because fewer pitches were thrown in the zone, do we?

    Also, why is it so much better to compare Tex’s rates to the league average? If league average is level x one season, and then it drops to level x-50 the next season, I get why we could say individual’s season 1 to 2 drop of 50 would signal that he’s still just as good, relative to his peers, in season 2 as he was in season 1, but he’s still 50 worse in season 2 than he was in season 1, and that still matters, no?

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

      I think I can answer these all in one. First, the league averages changed dramatically from 2009 to 2010 in OSwing% and Zone%. It’s far more likely an explanation that the definition of the zone changed, than all the sudden pitchers started throwing more pitches out of the zone. It’s not an insignificant jump, either, so if it were because of pitchers throwing fewer strikes, well, geeze, that’s an awfully large conspiracy.

      This is why we compare it to the league average. If the definition of the zone changed, then straight comparing the 2009 numbers to 2011 numbers is moot. Again, this is a jump for everyone, not just certain players. As I stated above, Teixiera’s OSwing% jumped about 4 points from 2009 to 2011, but he still ranks among the best in the league at laying off pitches out of the zone.

      So no, he’s not 50 worse in season 2 than season 1, because the definition of a strike in season 2 was different than the definition of a strike in season 1. Unless, of course, you believe that the entire league, at the same time, decided to start throwing more pitches outside the zone, and that batters decided to start swinging at more of them.

      • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Ah ok, so it’s the magnitude of the difference in league average that kind of pushes us over the edge, that’s the tip-off. Thanks.

        Another question… Do we have any idea what the average year-to-year difference is?

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

          It’s within a few points. You can see it if you click Show Averages on any individual FanGraphs page. You can see little fluctuations here and there, but nothing close to the jump from 2009 to 2010.

          • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            Cool, thanks again.

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

              No prob. I try to stick around and answer questions on analysis articles, since they can get convoluted at times.

      • CP

        It’s actually possible (and looking at the data, I would say likely) that the reverse has happened, and the strike zone is actually larger than in the past. Please correct me if there is something I am missing or wrong about…

        First, league wide offense is down. This is seen mostly in the power numbers, but you can also see a slight decline in the BB% and an increase in the K%. All of those trends would be difficult to achieve with a smaller zone.

        Second, the Zone% (and all related information) are collected independent of what is actually called a ball or strike. Whether the data comes from BIS or Pitch f/x, it’s based on an independent observer deciding if it’s in the strike zone – and not the umpire making the call.

        Third, if the zone becomes larger, pitchers will learn to pitch outside of old strike zone and hitters will swing at pitches outside of the old strike zone. Contact rates on pitches outside of the zone have also increased, which would suggest that batters are swinging at more borderline pitches (as opposed to sliders in the dirt). These borderline pitches would be the ones outside the old zone, but inside the new zone.

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

          I don’t think you’re wrong. I just think you’re saying the same thing, with the added caveat that a larger zone could be the ultimate producer of the effect. But we’re describing the same effect, in the end.

          • CP

            For this analysis it doesn’t really make a difference. Comparing to league average is the right thing in this case since there was such a big shift for the league.

            I do think there’s a lot of value in understanding/explaining the league wide shift (particularly since the explanation most commonly given for the drop in offense is ZOMG NO STEROIDS!), but that’s a bigger/different project than this post.

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

              I do buy the bigger zone being called by the umps, though. It would serve the dual purposes of 1) speeding up games, and 2) creating the perception that the game is clean.

  • Dave

    Is this RAB’s bash Mark Texeira week? Did he kick your dog or something? This is ridiculous.

    We didn’t sign him to be a singles hitter. We signed him to hit homeruns, drive in runs, and play great defense. Which he can do with anyone in the game. But I guess that is not good enough for bloggers. You slavemasters, you.

    • Dan

      Its great that he hits homeruns and plays great defense, but when the Yankees signed him they signed a guy that hits over .300 and had power and great defense. The problem is that he dropped from being able to hit .330 to struggling to stay over .250. Thats a big drop, and it most likely is something in his swing that changed and he needs to find a way to fix it or he should not be hitting 3rd anymore. You want a power hitter there, but you also want a guy that can keep the line moving for the cleanup hitter and he hasn’t shown that he can do that this year.

      • Cris Pengiuci

        Exactly. Your third hitter should be your best hitter. That’s not Tex at the moment.

      • Mike HC

        The Yankees don’t set the linuep based on performance. It is based on tenure and salary.

        • Mike HC

          Oh yea, also on hurt feelings.

          • Cris Pengiuci

            Excellent points.

          • JobaWockeeZ

            Unfortunately this is all truth.

          • Jim S

            Annnd every thread ends up back on Jeter.

            Enough. At least keep it in threads talking about him.

            • Mike HC

              Yes, sir.

            • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

              I don’t think this was about Jeter as much as Posada, but yeah, agreed.

              • Stan the Man

                I thought Tex was the 2nd best hitter for the Yanks this year, just slightly behind Granderson? How did all of a sudden he become someone the Yanks need to worry about?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          “The Yankees don’t set CHANGE the linuep based on performance. It is CHANGED based on tenure and salary strategic planning, aspirational roles, and earned rewards.

          The reason Tex hits third is not because he has a huge contract. Tex has a huge contract for the same reason he hits third: because Tex has the demonstrated capability to be a #3 hitter, anchoring a lineup with MVP-level production.

          Tex became a #3 hitter because he was an awesome hitter. Tex remains in the #3 hole now despite his struggles because demoting him for poor performance is less strategically desirable in the long run than showing faith and patience in him that he can regain the levels of performance that made him a #3 hitter in the first place.

          All of the above applies to Jeter as well.

          Cano did not originally hit #5. He moved up to #5 hitter because his good play earned it. He would move to #3 or #4 if there weren’t already incumbents in those roles who have earned those rewards more fully than Cano has.

          • first time lawng time

            All of the above applies to Jeter as well.

            I disagree with this part. Jeter should not be batting leadoff. Your OBP guy should be leading off. Past season and a half, Jeter has been pretty bad offensively to put it mildly. There is no point in continuing to bat him leadoff event hough he isn’t qualified. He, unlike Tex, is 37 years old and in the midst of a decline. Not changing his spot in the lineup to show faith makes sense for Tex but not Jeter. IMO

            The rest of your points make pretty good sense.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              Yeah, you can certainly argue that Jeter’s too old/far gone from his good production and his future prospectus is too bleak to merit inclusion in that “he’s earned the right to work out of his scuffles” concept that keeps Tex hitting #3.

              Just trying to explain why most managers (not just Girardi) don’t move guys down the order at the first blush of a slump like so many commenters here are eager to do.

              • first time lawng time

                Got it.

    • El Maestro

      As much as I agree with you that he is not signed to be a singles hitter, it’s also true that he has become predictable, and has being painful to watch in the past month. Girardi should switch Cano and Mark in the lineup while he gets out of his slump.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      And get on base which he’s doing just above average for a first baseman.

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

      Who is bashing? If you read it that way, it reflects more on you than anyone else. All I did was examine the numbers he has produced. And they’re not up to the standards he set earlier in his career, which led to his $180 million contract.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      We didn’t sign him to be a singles hitter. We signed him to hit homeruns, drive in runs, and play great defense.

      False. We signed him to hit home runs, drive in runs, play great defense, AND hit singles.

      We signed him to be one of the five best players in all of baseball, which is why we paid him like one of the five best players in all of baseball. In order to be one of the five best players in all of baseball, you can’t just hit homers, you have to also hit singles. You have to constantly keep rallies going and knock in runs. You have to hit better than .240ish.

  • El Maestro

    Oh, and when I said Cano and Mark, I meant batting him 5th (now with Alex in the DL Cano is not in his regular slot)

  • Monteroisdinero

    Of course I think he will come out of it. It’s not like he just turned 37….

    How about a heavier bat or moving up in the batter’s box to get those diving changeups and split finger drops?

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

      That will really only help marginally, since, as described in the article, the issue isn’t with strikeouts. It’s with him hitting right into the shift.

      • Monteroisdinero

        A heavier bat might change some of his batted balls to leave the shift areas and be more up the middle or even to the left side of 2B from time to time.

  • bob

    As I had feared last year is had become a better fielding Giambi. Players who hit to all fields with power and high average before joining the Yankees quickly ger mesmorized by the short porch and become sad low average pull hitters who are easily thwated by the shift. Very Very sad.

    • V

      Giambi was a very very very good hitter.

    • Ted Nelson

      Giambi has a wOBA above .400 4 of his 6 Yankee seasons, and above .377 5 of his 6. The guy had one bad season for the Yankees offensively. If Tex is Giambi with better defense, then he’s Adrian Gonzalez.

    • http://twitter.com/AnaMariana42 Ana

      Yeah, what all of the above said … a “better fielding Giambi” is an extremely good ballplayer.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        “A better fielding Giambi” is one of the best players in baseball.

        • Stan the Man

          Casey Kotchman is a pretty good ball player but Mark Texiera right now is not.

    • bob

      Giambi only hit over 300 one time in pinstripes. Hi BA dropped drastically after he bacame a Yankee. This fact was the basis of my comparison. Bot Tex and Giambi stopped hitting to all fields after putting on the pinstripes. Thus the success of the shift.

  • Hester Prynne

    The two most stubborn members of the Yankees are Derek Jeter and Mark Teixera. Texiera insists on hitting it through or preferably over the shift. He swings for the right field fences and refuses to hit the ball the other way. He refuses to work on his swing. A bunt down the 3rd base line yields a baserunner. You aren’t Ted Williams, Teixera.

  • Dan

    How is it that within just a matter of months AGon was able to teach Ortiz how to beat the shift by hitting the ball to left, but Tex still can’t figure out how to hit the ball the other way? Part of me would question if he has any desire to try to change because he thinks making a change like that would take away his power.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      How is it that within just a matter of months AGon was able to teach Ortiz how to beat the shift by hitting the ball to left…

      You’re going to have to provide some evidence for that, because nothing in his spray charts indicates Ortiz is hitting more balls to the left side of the field this year than in years past.

      • Dan

        I have the MLB package, and I have noticed a number of times where Ortiz is hitting the ball with more authority to left. I have also heard the Sox or opposing teams announcers talking about how Gonzalez’s ability to go the other way has rubbed off on Ortiz. I haven’t checked the stats, so maybe it is more that announcers are attributing it to Gonzalez anytime it happens.

        • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

          The real question is.. why are you watching Sawx games?!

          • Dan

            Cause I have a bet with two friends over who will end the year with more wins, so I watch to root against them.

        • Jim S

          False narratives are frequently created over small samples. Spray charts >>>> our eyes/memories. Even eyes/memories that watch a lot of games.

          Plus, generally speaking(there are exceptions), announcers are idiots when it comes to factual analysis.

          • Dan

            http://www.baseball-reference......=&t=b

            According to the splits posted by baseball reference he has 17 hits to the opposite field and 24 hits pulled with 52 up the middle. He has also hit 4 homeruns to left. Last year he hit 2 homeruns to left all year and had 22 total hits to left. I think based on that, you could argue that there is evidence that he has started hitting the ball better to left.

            • Jim S

              Like Anches said below, it’s not the opposite field power, it’s the grounders and soft liners that the shift affects, and that’s something Ortiz does no more frequently than Tex. And anywho, everyone still shifts when he’s up.

            • CP

              The data do not suggest that he’s hitting to the opposite field more than he has in the past few years:

              2011: 47/271 = 17.3% of balls were hit to opp. field
              2010: 63/374 = 16.8% of balls were hit to opp. field
              2009: 75/414 = 18.1% of balls were hit to opp. field
              2008: 57/346 = 16.5% of balls were hit to opp. field

              Maybe he’s hitting the ball better to left, but he’s not hitting it that way any more frequently.

        • Anchen

          Ortiz has always been plenty good at pounding balls off the monster. It is afterall one of the main reasons that Fenway is such a great hitter’s park. I don’t recall Ortiz “beating” the shift really like sending dribblers down the third base line or anything like that. I could be wrong. The only time I remember it recently was Adrian Gonzalez I think bunting one when teams were shifting on him early in the year.

  • Mike HC

    My money is on Tex hitting really, really well down the stretch.

    Career second half hitter, streaky hitter his entire career and he is still in his prime. I don’t think his average will ever really get back to where it used to be completely though.

    Also gotta give credit to his defense. That has not declined at all and just made an excellent play to end the game last night.

  • jim p

    I know it’s easier said than done, but you’d think a few times of “hitting them where they ain’t” would get managers to re-think the shift. Off the top of my head, I can’t recall a batter who gets the shift doing that, however.

    I wonder if Mark is seeing the shift and trying extra-hard to hit it over everyone’s head as a way to beat it, adding to his woes.

    • jim p

      s/b “can’t recall a batter who beats the shift…”

    • CP

      A ton of commentators like to point out that teams would play the shift against Ted Williams and he would hit over/through it. I have no way of confirming that, but assuming that is true then he’s an example that you can succeed that way.

      • jim p

        I saw Williams, and he did. But then again, he was Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters of all time.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    i know i will probably get kicked off this site for saying this, but why, at least in some situations just lay down a bunt or try to weakly punch something to the left side? the shift seems so extreme for him and barely anything is falling in for him on the right side. if he did this every once in a while, couldn’t it possibly reduce the shift in some situations. and as long as he gets on base, it’s not like he has shitty hitters behind him, especially when arod comes back. please don’t yell at me

    • Mike HC

      hahaha

      If he was good at precision bunting like that, it would be a great strategy. If he sucks at it, it would be quite embarrassing watching him try to do that.

      I don’t see him in practice trying to do that, but that would be the deciding factor for me if the plan was good or not.

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

      Why would anyone yell at you? I mean, when he’s going good it’s hard to argue for bunting, even with the shift. But when he’s slumping, as he clearly is now, it might just work out.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      It’s much, much easier said than done. Tex hasn’t laid down a bunt in years. He could legitimately end up hurting himself.

      And why would you get kicked off the site?

      • Guest

        I’ve never tried to lay down a bunt against major league pitching, but I have to imagine you are right that it is way easier said than done.

        That said, I would imagine hitting HR’s against major league pitching is even harder, and Tex seems to do a pretty good job of that.
        I just find it hard to believe that someone with Tex’s talent level can’t work on bunting for a couple of weeks in batting practice and learn how to do it just well enough to get a bunt by the pitcher/not get hurt in the process.

      • Bartolo’s Colon

        i was just joking about those two comments, i just know that bunting usually gets a rise out of people, didn’t actually think i was going to get booted or “yelled” at, however, i had to change my handle because my comments weren’t posting under my old handle.

        i realize that it is always easier said than done, it just seems crazy sometimes that there is no defense on half the field and he has no way of getting the ball over there, specifically when he is in a slump like now. However, i have no idea how hard it is for him to do that, just an observation

        • pat

          There’s a difference between sac bunting and bunting for a base hit.

      • Stan the Man

        What Tex hasn’t done in awhile is hit a ball hard, so trying to lay down a bunt probably would look terrible but is it any worse than what he looks like right now at the plate?

        I am confident that he will get back to hitting the ball hard and getting his homeruns but in the meantime a bunt is as good as a hit.

        I don’t think anyone has mentioned this either but his single last night was a routine ground ball if they didn’t play the shift and it was similar to his hit the other day in Toronto as well.

    • http://www.twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      I have to admit, this drives me nuts with every player against whom defenses employ an exaggerated infield shift. I sit there going “just serve it out there to the left side, there nobody fucking there,” all the time.

      • Klemy

        Sadly, I do the same thing. :(

    • Guest

      Couldn’t agree more.

      And i get that he probably hasn’t bunted since he hit was in little league, but I can’t imagine that he couldn’t learn to lay down a bunt that can get by the pitcher. The man has elite hand eye coordination, for heaven’s sake. Mark Texeira can learn how to bunt mediocrely (which is all it would take for him to get a hit).

      It would be dumb for Texeira to bunt often, or even semi-regularly. But I think he should just lay down a few of them so he doesn’t have to hit into that hit-robbing shift all the time.

      • KeithK

        It’s pretty much a no-brainer from a game theory perspective. Change your approach so you go the opposite way 5-10% of the time with the shift on and soon enough teams will have no choice but to change their positioning. Yes, Tex won’t get extra base hits that way but a near certain hit is something of great value even if it had no long term effect on the defense.

        I’ve never met Texeira but I would imagine that he’s too stubborn and proud to try this. He sees himself as a power hitter not someone who slaps the ball weakly down the third base line. No matter how much it makes sense I can’t see him doing it.

        • Jim S

          Meh, game theory incorporates more though, you have to change the percentages to incorporate the success rate of the bunts(not trivial given Tex’s lack of bunting history), and how many doubles/hrs/walks he’s costing himself in the process.

          IT still could be beneficial, but it’s not a no-brainer.

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona

          Pride is what caused Butch to be tied up in a basement with Marcellus Wallace.

          Screw pride.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            -Which one is Trudy? The one with all the shit in her face?
            -No, that’s Jody. That’s my wife.

  • Bronx Byte

    Too many moving parts with Teixeira’s stance while he’s in the batters box. He’s a swing for the HR type of hitter and it will catch up to him sooner than later. He needs to make adjustments to use thr whole field.

  • monkeypants

    Teix is 31. His numbers have declined since peaking in his late twenties (e.g.: OPS+ 125, 126 the last two years v. 141, 152, 149 the previous three years). And as great a hitter as Teix was at his peak, his trajectory was never at a truly elite/HoF level. In other words, the easiest explanation is that he has simply entered his career decline. Or in other, other words, this is the risk in signing a 28 or 29 y.o. to a long contract. Or in other, other, other words, his performance this season should really not come as a total surprise.

    • Greg

      So Boston has trouble looming for AGon becasue they did exactly the same thing.

      • Klemy

        Might be a stretch to believe that simply because of contract length and age. AGon uses all fields, so he’s less likely to run in to this sort of dropoff for 2 years, no?

  • http://johnsterling.blogspot.com/ Xstar7

    There is no simple answer as to why Tex is struggling.

    It’s not just his low LD%, or just his career low BABIP, or just the shift, or just that he’s hitting more fly balls. It’s not just that he’s swinging at more pitches out of the zone, or just that pitchers have figured out his predictable approach. It’s not just that he’s trying to beat the shift, or just that he’s plain in a slump. It’s ALL OF THESE THINGS.

    But he could be doing a lot worse. And surely he’ll break out of it and go on another hot streak at some point later in the season. This is who Teixeira is now. I doubt he’ll ever revert back to being the career .290 hitter he was before 2010. But that’s fine as long as he gets his OBP back up and starts producing runs again.

    There is one thing I think that should be done though. Switch Tex and Cano in the lineup. Your best hitter should be hitting 3rd, and Tex just isn’t that anymore. (But there’s about as much chance of that happening as Girardi moving Jeter down to the bottom of the lineup.)

  • Ted Nelson

    I think it’s a strong analysis, but I don’t agree with the conclusion:

    “The question is of what he can do to solve the problem. For Teixeira, a nine-year veteran, there doesn’t appear to be an easy answer.”

    Hitters have to adjust throughout their careers. At 31 I have a hard time believing that Teixiera is doomed to never fix his problems.

    • Jim S

      Yeah I don’t think Joe’s quote implied there wasn’t any answer. Just not an easy one.

      I imagine the reason most successful hitters are successful is that they’re good at figuring out the more difficult answers.

      • Ted Nelson

        Hitting MLB pitching in general isn’t easy… My point is more that I would expect Teixiera to turn it around, not expect him to not turn it around. Doesn’t mean he will, but I think you’ll find more elite hitters who struggled in their primes and got back to where they were than never figured it back out.

        • Jim S

          Sure, I’m agreeing with that, I’m disagreeing with your interpretation of what Joe wrote. I think he’d agree with you too.

  • Jon G

    Hey Mike –
    How about a post defining Russtache Martin’s issues at the plate. His offensive #’s are largely behind the averages you cited for backup catchers in the Cervelli post.

    Martin has been good with pitchers and at blocking pitches, but is he really our best option at starting catcher right now? Or from an offensive/full-package standpoint are the Yanks better off with him splitting time with Montero (and then they can jettison Cervelli, which is bound to happen sooner than later with Romine on the way too)?

    Thoughts?

  • Brian S.

    Let me paraphrase: He sucks.

    • first time lawng time

      No he doesn’t. At all.

      • Jim S

        Also not what the article said. at all. Brian S sucks at paraphrasing.

        • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

          No relation?

          • Brian S.

            Don’t listen to my brother.

          • Brian S.

            Jim is just mad that Dad gave me the car.

      • Brian S.

        No you’re right. Maybe if we’re lucky he’ll get to 4 whole WAR this year! Hurray!

        • http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com bexarama

          Is a 3 WAR player awful and terrible? Disappointing at what he’s getting paid but that’s not “sucks.”

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      What Brian didn’t tell you is that those were NOT real pirates.

  • Greg

    Yeah I dont buy that the league has caught up to him. After all, he’s been around since 2005 and it takes the league 6 years to figure him out? No, this has to do with Tex.

  • nathan

    You reap what you sow. FA giveth, FA taketh. Tex is an elite defender and a decent offensive force.

    Maybe his talents are better used at the 5 or 6 hole. Move Cano up to 3.

    Tex will and should be loved for his defense. But, its not the worst time of the game to do some channel surfing when its his AB

  • Now Batting

    Fascinating post. I wonder how strong the correlation is between the shrinking zone and the league wide decrease in offense. Would go a long way in evaluating the improved pitching narrative.

  • Brandon W

    What about the Joe Maddon approach? Have Tex bat righty against extreme changeup pitchers to try to neutralize their best pitch. I know it’s unorthodox and not what he’s used to, maybe even uncomfortably so, but the offspeed stuff gets Tex out in front, which just exacerbates his tendency to hit into the shift.

    I’m certainly not suggesting he drop switch hitting, but it isn’t like he’s a slouch from the right side. Just a thing to try against certain pitchers that his left-handed swing doesn’t handle as well. Just a thought.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Perhaps, but I’d prefer to just have the coaches work on him staying back on the ball and being less pull happy than to start only switch hitting against certain pitchers. Seems like you’re adding too much complexity to an activity that is already overly complex.

      Keep facing lefties as a righty and righties as a lefty, and just work on your approach from those respective sides of the plate.

  • bob

    RE: TEX better fielding Giambi: Giambi only hit over 300 one time in pinstripes. Hi BA dropped drastically after he bacame a Yankee. This fact was the basis of my comparison. Bot Tex and Giambi stopped hitting to all fields after putting on the pinstripes. Thus the success of the shift.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Giambi only hit over 300 one time in pinstripes.

      That’s true. And his career BA in pinstripes was .260, which isn’t great (but isn’t awful either).

      Giambi’s .404 OBP in pinstripes was the 6th best on-base percentage in all of baseball from 2002-2008, though. His .521 SLG was 15th best. His 215 HR is the 15th most in that span.

      His wRAA+ (a measure of how many runs better than the average ballplayer he was) from ’02-’08 is 212.7, making him (offensively) the 11th best hitter in baseball during that span, behind only Pujols, ARod, Manny, Helton, Berkman, Ortiz, Chipper, Vlad, Thome, and Abreu.

      To claim that Giambi wasn’t a productive player as a Yankee just because his batting average dipped misses the point that Giambi contributed in tons of ways despite not having a good batting average. So to say that you “fear” that Tex is turning into Giambi with a better glove is a valid fear, I guess, but one that—if it happens—we should still be pretty okay with, because that player is still an upper-echelon player in baseball.

  • bob

    Also, Tex’s hitting style of collapsing his back leg so drastically has worked so well for him because of his tremendous bat speed. The bad thing is once the bat speed starts to decline it becomes almost impossible to succeed with that unorthodoxed style of hitting.

    • Monteroisdinero

      bat speed declining does not explain swing and miss on changeups and does not explain hitting into the shift. If his bat speed declined he wouldn’t be pulling pitches and he wouldn’t be catching up to fastballs. This is not the case.

      He is a dead pull hitter who can’t hit changeups because he is out in front.

  • Bob Michaels

    It`s an easy fix, He wiggles his bat too much, his swing is not level, his uppercut makes him look like an ass on the change up down and away batting left handed.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      Kevin Long better watch his back. With analysis like that, I’m sure you’ll have multiple offers as a ML batting coach.

      • Stan the Man

        Kevin Long should watch out for his job since the Yankee lineup as a whole isn’t hitting very well this year. There are a lot of soft outs in the line up. (Jeter, Tex, Martin, and Posada).

        • Samuel

          Those are also the three guys who dont work with Long and anohter (Martin) who is with the Yankees for five months. It takes quite a while to change hitting approaches and swings.

          But jeter, Tex and Posada are very much part of the non-Long group.

          Not Long’s fault that those three can’t hit.

  • Samuel

    If Tex wants to improve his batting average and, therefore, his OBP and slugging percentage, he can not try and pull every freakin’ pitch thrown to him.

    It’s as simple as that. Stop trying to pull the ball!!!

    Trying to pull the ball into the shift does not work. First, he will not make consistent hard contact on pitches on the outer third and second, too many fielders covering a small patch of earth on where the ball can land.

    Also, Tex needs to work with Kevin Long, but Tex is not a fan of using hitting coaches.

    Even with the success that Granderson, Swisher, Cano and Alex have had with Long, guys like Jeter, Posada and Tex are well known to shrug off any help.

    • YankeesJunkie

      Honestly, I would be very happy if Tex just launched a bunt to the left side early in the game with no one on base. If he gets past the pitcher on the left side of the field he has himself an easy single and he continues to do that until the defense plays him a little more honestly. I know it is harder than it sounds, but still there is like 100 feet of open to bunt or slash the ball through and it would pay later dividends.

  • Jon A.

    One thing I have noticed this year is Teixeira has a serious problem with the outside part of the strike-zone when batting lefty. I would love to know his avg on pitches thrown in the outside portion of the plate. He especially has issue with the 12-6 curve, that drops over the outside plate. In addition he seems to take a lot of fastballs over lower outside and middle outside part of the strike zone as well. It’s very frustrating to see a guy with so much talent struggle this much.