Oct
25

What Went Wrong: Mark Teixeira

By

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

After two mortifyingly slow Aprils to start his Yankees career, Mark Teixeira wanted to start on the right foot in 2011. In that regard he was a smashing success. In 102 April PA he hit .256/.392/.549, which represented the best April of his career. That made for an optimistic 2011 outlook. If Teixeira had produced those numbers in April 2010, his numbers would have been much more in line with his 2009 performance. In May he came back with a .375 wOBA, which, while not as good as his April, was still cause for encouragement.

And then the wheels came off.

In June Teixeira didn’t record many hits, just 20 in 94 AB, but he did send 13 of those hits for extra bases, including nine homers. While he did pick up more hits in July, 28 in 106 AB, he produced only nine extra base hits. That absolutely killed his overall production, since his early-season value came almost exclusively from his power numbers. In August he rebounded some, but not much, and for the second straight year he closed with a slow September. The end result: .248/.341/.494, a .361 wOBA and 124 wRC+. The latter, which relates Teixeira’s numbers to the league average, represents his lowest mark since 2006, though it was pretty much in line with his 2010.

During that horrible July, Mike and I took a hard look at Teixeira’s production. Mike likened him to an expensive Tino Martinez. After that I looked at some of his plate discipline issues, or really, lack thereof. It did seem that he was getting unlucky in many ways, hitting right into the shift at times when he might have gone the opposite way in 2009. That brought on a rough analysis of Teixeira’s stance at the plate. He opened up his stance considerably from 2009 through 2011, likely because he aimed to pull the ball every time up. He even admitted as such in Spring Training. “If you hit a lot of home runs and you see that short porch, you tend to come around the ball a little bit and try to hook it. I got into that a little too much last year and it ended up hurting me.” It again ended up hurting him in 2011.

(Charles Krupa/AP)

The good news is that Teixeira realizes that there is a problem in his approach. He mentioned this as the season came to an end, saying he’d work with Kevin Long during the off-season to better balance his swing. We saw some tangible evidence of this later in the season; during the playoffs Teixeira noticeably stood upright, mirroring his 2009 stance. In Game 1 against the Tigers it appeared that he had figured out something, as his leadoff double led to the big inning that sealed the Yanks’ victory. But apparently closing his stance didn’t correct the problem; Teixeira had a poor series overall and received much of the blame during the fallout.

What went wrong with Teixeira? He tried to pull everything from the left side, and he far too often hit weak grounders and pop-ups. It comes as absolutely no surprise that he had a .222 BABIP as a left-handed hitter. From the right side he was a great deal better, producing a .410 wOBA (compared to .338 from the left side). That’s easy enough to define. The difficult part is finding the fix. Teixeira is far too expensive — and valuable on defense — to become a platoon player, especially when his strong side accounts for less than a third of his season’s plate appearances. If he can’t reconfigure his left-handed swing, the Yankees have a long five years ahead of them.

For now we can rest a bit easier knowing that he is actively addressing the problem. Teixeira has been the consummate professional during his time in New York, and it stands to reason that he’ll do everything he can to correct the flaws that have hampered his last two seasons. That’s all we can really ask at this point. Given Teixeira’s pedigree and work ethic I think we can remain optimistic at the moment. But if he continues his pull-happy ways in 2012, it will be much harder to remain optimistic for the remainder of his contract.

Categories : Players
  • ADam

    He’s an expensive Carlos Pena… simply has to get better from the left side… and really can no longer hit above the #5 Slot

  • JobaWockeeZ

    Well this won’t end well.

  • YankeesJunkie

    Tex’s hitting this year was fairly woeful for him at 126 RC+, but he did put up a 4.2 fWAR so while it went wrong it was definitely not a large hindrance on the Yankees overall season performance. However, if Tex can work on becoming a little less pull happy it would not surprise me to see his BABIP jump back to .260-.280 which should pretty much solve the rest of his numbers and get him back in that 5-6 WAR range which the Yankees paid for. Also, he will only be 32 and still draws a good amount of walks with excellent health so the comparisons to Giambi are still too early as of now.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Somewhere between 1-2 WAR he got was based on his defense which UZR liked this year. The declining bat in a power hitting position didn’t help him out a lot in 2011. But hooray for defense.

      • YankeesJunkie

        That is absolutely correct, but his wRC+ from 2009 to 2011 has dropped from 141 to 126 not a horrible amount by any means. If he is able to learn to use the field as a whole again and that leads to a raise in BABIP we will be seeing a Tex at 135-145 wRC which will be a 5-6 WAR first baseman depending on defense.

        • YankeesJunkie

          It should be 124 and not 126 which he hit 2010 my bad.

      • Ted Nelson

        I think 31, 32 is too young to talk about his bat as “declin-ING.” It has declined the last couple of years, but I still think that could easily change next season. Maybe he has health issues that he’s not disclosing, but I don’t think it’s physical decline so much as mechanical flaws.

  • Rich in NJ

    I’m hopeful that he can stop being so pull-conscious batting LH, but if he doesn’t improve, they may need another LH power hitter, unless Montero hits well v. RHP.

    • Monteroisdinero

      Unless? Surely you jest.

      • Rich in NJ

        By well, I mean like a .900ish OPS, but yeah, point taken.

  • Mike

    Mark let me down big time this year. More so than any other Yankee including (Arod.)

    – All i know is …. I can’t watch another post-season in which Arod Tex and Swisher don’t hit.

  • duzzi23

    I was always a huge fan of Tex even when he was on Texas. The season he gave us in 09 was MVP caliber. His defense is amazing and saves countless errors for the other infielders. However this season was atrocious way worse than his offensive numbers indicate. His postseason contributions were zero on top of the woeful 0-14 he put up before getting hurt last year. Saying Tex has to pick it up next season is an understatement.

  • pat

    Kevin Long better be living in Tex’s guest house this winter.

  • MattG

    I am not optimistic. At some point, RAB posted a comparison graph using a toy found on Fangraphs. The graph helped me learn that first baseman age like crap.

    Teixiera is not athletic. His defense is due almost solely to really, really soft hands, and a lot of effort. I am sure he will still have the occasional .400 wOBA month here and there, but I hate to say I side with history on this one. 2009 might as well have been 1929.

    (on a related note, I think expecting more than 3 good years out of Prince is foolhardy, yet Pujols is so good, he defies all rules…and he was actually a third baseman first, so, not sure how that changes the equation)

    • CP

      Pujols … was actually a third baseman first

      That same logic would then apply to Teixeira. In fact, he played 3B more recently than Pujols.

      • MattG

        Oh yeah…forgot about that. Then again, so did Giambi, and he was no athlete.

        Well, I just don’t want my argument to be refuted with Pujols. That man is a freak, and he’s not to be used for comparative purposes. Agreed?

        • I wonder

          What about someone like Paul Konerko? Doesn’t he refute your argument? The man is 35 years old, wouldn’t be considered “athletic” and continues to play at a high level both offensively and defensively.

          • Ted Nelson

            Good point. It’s really just a trend, there’s no rule that 1B will decline.

          • MattG

            At first, I thought yes it would.

            But then I found the fangraphs thing I was talking about, here:

            http://www.fangraphs.com/graph.....,1093,1177

            With it, you can see why I am not optimistic that Teixiera is due to reclaim 2009, or even improve on 2011.

            As for Konerko, he doesn’t even belong on this chart. His 3.9 WAR is a career best, but wouldn’t even be in the top 5 for the other guys I’ve compared him with.

            You can change the players for the comparison with the form in the upper left.

            • Ted Nelson

              Why did you choose those particular players? A lot of your premises and assumptions seem very shaky.

        • Ted Nelson

          Pujols is the same age as Teixiera… he can’t be used to show how Teixiera will do going forward (not that looking at one example is the way to do that anyway).

          He had his worst season since his rookie year at 31 anyway… so he makes your point more than hurts it (if this weren’t a ridiculously small sample). That does probably hurt your point about him not aging, though.

          • http://bloodfarm.tumblr.com mattdamonwayans

            Glad someone said this. Teixeira is probably one of the most athletic 1st basemen in baseball.

    • Ted Nelson

      Uhh….

      Teixiera is an athletic freak of a baseball player. A total specimen. He doesn’t have great run-jump athleticism, but this isn’t basketball or football. For a baseball player he’s a stud.

      Pujols defies the rules, huh? A bit like A-Rod defied the rules? 90-99% of the players in the history of baseball who defied the rules of age were juicing.

      Pujols is also Teixiera’s age, but probably looking for a longer contract from here forward than Teixiera’s 5 remaining seasons. Prince Fielder is only going to be 28 next season. I’m not saying he is or isn’t a better guy to sign than Pujols, but 4 years into his deal he’d be about the same age Pujols is now.

  • BK2ATL

    What went wrong…let’s see….let’s start with the pop-ups…..

    I think he’ll address that in the offseason, and, hopefully, he goes back to driving the ball to all fields. He was so much harder to defend when he did that.

  • http://www.twitter.com/matt__harris Matt :: Sec110

    His swing needs to be completely revamped, as mentioned. His upper cut only allows for an ‘all or nothing’ outcome.

    • BK2ATL

      I’m not sure where that uppercut swing came from either. He didn’t have it down here in ATL, nor in Tex.

      • I wonder

        It came from our hitting coach Kevin Long. He is the only hitting coach I have ever heard of who works on pulling the ball. We saw video of ARod and Cano “working on pulling the ball”. Long even put up a barrier to block off the opposite field. Correct me, I may be wrong but, your approach should be up the middle/away and REACT to anything inside by using your hands. That “pull approach” worked on Granderson, who btw pulls EVERYTHING and his BA isn’t that great either, but has hurt Tex. Cano has continued to spray the ball around the field but hopeully Long doesn’t influence him too much!

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

          Your approach should be what’s comfortable to you.

          Also, the point of the drill is to keep your hands in close. Yes, you pull the ball a ton in practice, because you don’t have room to do much else. But keeping your hands close gives your bat more force coming through the zone. The sooner you extend your arms, the sooner you lose that torque.

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    If there is anyone Tex needs to go to school on it is Paul O’Neil. When Lou was trying to make Paulie a pull hitting power hitter, he turned him into an all or nothing .240 hitter for the Reds. When Paulie changed his approach, he became a .300+ hitting 20+ homer guy and as good as any 3-hole hitter in the game for a decent stretch.

    Step One: Go to school on/with Paulie and develop the plan.
    Step Two: Work the implementation tirelessly with Kevin Long.

    And damn it, become more clutch in the postseason ! ;)

  • http://twitter.com/andrewjcalagna Drew

    I’ll deal with the pop ups as long as he is still a stud defensively at 1B.

    • Monteroisdinero

      I agree with this. He saves so many innings defensively that never appear in the boxscore. With the erratic ARod, lollypop-throwing Jeter and adventurous Nunez we need Tex at first and can put up with his offensive shortcomings.

      I think he will improve next year but I do prefer Cano 3rd and………….somebody else 4th.

      • LarryM.,Fl.

        Roberto Penna batting fourth!

    • MattG

      Really? My guess is you can find a AAA first baseman that can save about 10 runs a year on infielder errors, and pay him league minimum. You do know nearly all major league first basemen are pretty adept at this, right?

      • Ted Nelson

        Even with the pop-ups and what not… still a .360 wOBA, which still puts him 8th among qualifying 1B. Not a great bargain, but not bad production at all when you consider strong defense and ignore the contract and ceiling.

  • nsalem

    I think Tex’s problem are more mental than physical. He has been seduced by our right field where a Home Run is only a pop up away. This really hurts the team in a big time way. It’s hard to imagine someone having 39 HR and 114 RBI and being able to call it a bad year, but it’s true. Roger Maris had similar issues here and was berated by both fans and the press for doing so.

    • Ted Nelson

      I think it hurt the team in a more marginal way, not really big time.

      • nsalem

        I would agree over the course of a regular season. In the playoffs I think he hurt more than marginally.

        • Ted Nelson

          The Yankees lost that series at the margin… they lost two one run games and a two run game.

          Anyone can have a bad playoff series, though. He could have concentrated completely on singles and still had a bad series. Drawing causation on one bad 5 game playoff series is tough.

          • nsalem

            I’m not solely blaming him, but one good game from Tex, A-Rod or Swisher in that 5 game series could have turned our season around. If Tex changes changes his approach and things turn around. Sorry I’m just pissed off from losing to teams I think we are better than and not being totally objective about the season. .

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    I have cursed Teix. a few times over the past two years. In no way falling in love with his Yankee Stadium HRs. Why? because he’s far better a player than Pena and all others who play first base because they can hit HRs.

    IMHO, Teix. needs to use all fields. Do not concentrate on RF seats. With this approach he may hit a few less HRs. but continue to drive in runs and stop killing rallies trying to hit through 5 guys stacking the right side. His batting average will improve along with on base %.

    He’s no dummy but may have gotten a wee bit self centered with HR glory.

    Its about the trophy at the end with all the little flags on it, nothing else counts.

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher (formerly Jorge)

    If there is any player on this team who gets a pass from me for their offensive woes, it’s Tex. I’ll never understand how players can’t just learn how to avoid the shift. Even when the bat is ice cold, though, the job he does at first never wavers. How many great stretches to save bad throws? How many rockets don’t make it out to right? It’s one of the most beautiful jobs at the position you’ll ever see.

    I am rooting for a bigtime rebound from him at the plate next year.

  • http://bww.com Adam

    He has got to start going the other way. He looked like Kevin Maas this year.

  • https://twitter.com/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S

    My biggest problem with Tex is that he rates out as being ridiculously un-clutch, and I see it watching the games, too. But I can’t see if that’s even an issue, or if it will correct itself over time.

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com GT Yankee

    I know it is against the grain but honestly I think the guy needs to learn to bunt to 3rd base while batting left-handed. Once he pulls this off a few times it will force infielders to take a more straight up approach to him. Yes, I understand there is a bit of risk here, but to keep deluding oneself into thinking overcoming the shift will just “happen” is ridiculous. Papi pulled it off a few times. I’m convinced if he can, that it should be easy-peezy for Tex.

  • UncleArgyle

    As I’ve said before Mark Texeria’s contract will be an albatross by the time his 8 year (8 Year!) contract is up. The Yankees are basically paying 22.5 million a year for Matt Stairs like production. Tex will hit lots of dingers if you give him enough at bats, but don’t expect much more than that. And before everyone freaks out at that comparison:

    Mark Texeria 2011 OPS: 835
    Matt Stairs Career OPS: 832

    Mark Texeria 2011 .248/.341/.494
    Matt Stairs Career .262/.356/.477

    • MattG

      One of the greatest Bill James essays ever is on the subject of Matt Stairs, in the context of ‘Players that could’ve been hall of famers if their circumstances were slightly different.’

      I have it in hardcopy, but it might be on the internets somewhere.

      • UncleArgyle

        I’ve read that! Its a very intresting read. My point isn’t that Matt Stairs sucks, rather, would the Yankees have given Tex 8/180 if they knew he would produce like Matt Stairs…

    • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher (formerly Jorge)

      You should try watching the half of the inning where the other team bats every now and then.

      • UncleArgyle

        So are you implying that solid defense at first base is worth 22.5 million dollars a year? I hear doug mientkiewicz needs a new agent. You should give him a call, give him your pitch.

        • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher (formerly Jorge)

          I actually think no human being on earth is worth 22.5 million dollars a year. Let’s not go there.

          What I am saying is that calling him Matt Stairs not only underestimates his offensive ability, but completely ignores what an amazing first base the man plays.

          Frankly, calling him Doug Mientkiewicz (who I very much like, thank you) might even sell him short as a defender.

          • UncleArgyle

            I agree that Tex is a quality defender, but I was trying to make a point about his offensive production. I should have been more clear. Anyway, you say I’m “underestimating” Tex’s production compared to Stairs. How so? Mark Texeria’s numbers last year were on par or worse than a typical Matt Stairs season.

            • Ted Nelson

              But the Yankees are not paying him for his offensive production in a vacuum. They are paying him for his entire impact on the team. Your comparison to Matt Stairs completely ignores that.

              Teixiera’s numbers from last season were not on par with a typical Teixiera season, which is how you’re underestimating him. You are assuming he is incapable of fixing his problems and having a better season.

            • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher (formerly Jorge)

              Tex, in many offensive categories, had a bad season last year. That does not suddenly make his entire body of work comparable to Matt Stairs.

  • bankers hours

    Tex was brutal this year hitting below 230 from the left side and blocking an MVP run by Cano by hogging the 3 hole that is the position for the teams best hitter who obviously was Cano. His contract kept him in the 3 hole and all the Yankee announcers coddled him all year long. Not only did he stink all year he only hits poor pitching. His stats against Boston and in the playoffs have been brutal, he hits under 170 in these pressure situations. I’m so tired of hearing about his glove, Doug Meinkevicz had a great glove and he wasn’t worth 23m per year. He’s Don Baylor offensively and should be hitting anywhere from 5th to 7th. Ever wonder if he was a juicer, his stats have consistantly declined since PED’s have been tested. Arod gets crusified, and sometimes justifiably so, and Tex always gets a pass and frankly I’m sick of it.

  • shimig

    at what point does it become worth i do simply drop the switch hitting and hit righty permanently? i mean, a difference between a 410 and 338 woba is huge

  • hawaii dave

    Tex has been my whipping boy all season, mostly due to his poor production in meaningful at bats. As a great athlete, I have complete faith in Tex to change the things he tries to change. I suppose waiting to the off season is a benefit of the doubt. I won’t believe it till I see it, mostly due to a common sense concept that if he wanted to change it, (the pulling every pitch) we would have seen it already. But I’ll wonder all winter will he really put the focus and effort into changing.