Teixeira could be 2012’s big offensive addition

Phil Hughes and a dose of reality
Thanks, but no thanks, C.J.
(Kathy Kmonicek/AP)

If the Yankees off-season seems to be moving slowly, it’s for good reason. There just aren’t that many moves to make. The starting rotation would benefit from an upgrade, and the bench needs filling. The former will take time, and the latter usually comes towards the end of the off-season. In terms of starting position players and bullpen, the Yankees are pretty set. In fact, the biggest upgrades are likely to come from within. It all starts with the big bat at first base.

In the last two seasons Mark Teixeira has disappointed. The Yankees signed him to a $180 million contract with high expectations, and he delivered fully in his pinstriped debut. His 2009 season ranked among his best, and his 42.9 runs above average led the Yankees by a decent margin. Yet in the last two seasons combined Teixeira has managed only 50.8 runs above average. While he’s still ranked among the team’s best hitters, he hasn’t provided the top-level production expected of him. A return to his days of 40-plus runs above average could be vital for the 2012 squad.

Teixeira has talked about his failures in 2011, and this week he reiterated them as he received the March of Dimes’ Sportsman of the Year award.

“Right-handed, I thought I had a great year,” Teixeira said. “Power-wise, I thought I had a great year, but my average was very disappointing. Being able to hit the ball the other way a little bit more, use the whole field, take the shift away, it’s going to really help me out.”

There is nothing false about Teixeira’s assessment. Against lefties he hit .302/.380/.587, good for a 158 wRC+. That ranked 25th out of 204 players with at least 110 PA vs. left-handed pitching. In terms of power Teixeira is spot-on, too. His .246 ISO was the fifth-best mark of his career, despite declining league-wide power numbers — his ISO ranked 12th in the majors. And, of course, his average was quite disappointing. This was not only because it was so low in general, but also because it was two straight years of sub-.260 hitting from a player who hadn’t hit below .280 since his rookie season.

The issue of hitting the ball the other way is something that almost everyone sees when watching Teixeira hit every day. While hitting into the shift represents one aspect of his left-handed hitting futility, it’s not the whole of it. Oftentimes he tries to pull outside pitches, which leads to weak fly balls and grounders, not to mention the now-infamous pop-ups. A quick look at his spray charts against right-handed pitching makes the issue as clear as possible.

In 2011 Teixeira lacked any power to the opposite field. While the green and red dots denote where the ball was fielded, and not necessarily where it landed, the idea is still the same. The green dots deep to center, left-center, and left field are indicative of balls hit far enough, or hard enough, to get near the wall. In 2011 he hit just one baseball to the warning track in center, left-center, or left, and it was a fly ball that was caught. None of the ball he hit in that direction were hard enough to get by the outfielders, for the most part. So, again, this issue extends far beyond hitting into the shift. It’s an issue with his approach as much as it his his swing.

Thankfully, Teixeira is already hard at work. He hasn’t resumed baseball activities yet — that begins with the new year. But he knows the issue and plans to put a greater focus on hitting for contact from the left side. In the meantime, he’s already started off-season workouts and has dropped 10 pounds since the season. This might not seem that important, since Teixeira has never seemed anything less than athletic. But it does emphasize a point that I haven’t seen mentioned often. At this point last off-season, Teixeira was still rehabbing.

In fact, in the last two off-seasons Teixeira has faced unprecedented challenges. In 2009 he played deeper into October (and November) than he had previously in his career. That necessarily changes his off-season habits. Perhaps his conditioning suffered and that played a part in his disappointing 2010 season. Teixeira ended the 2010 season with a hamstring injury, suffered in mid-October. That takes rest and rehab, and chances are he was again thrown off his normal routine. This year, however, with an early October exit and a clean bill of health, Teixeira is able to go through the motions as he’s become accustomed. That he’s already lost weight is only a positive sign.

The 2012 Yankees offense might be set, but that doesn’t mean it’s worry free. Curtis Granderson, for instance, had a career year that will prove difficult to repeat. Derek Jeter is another year older, and could see a further decline in his numbers. It’s tough to know what they can expect from Alex Rodriguez. Teixeira stepping up, then, factors heavily into the strength of the 2012 offense. A return to stardom for him could help offset declining performance from others.

Phil Hughes and a dose of reality
Thanks, but no thanks, C.J.
  • William

    Tex at first, AROD has to DH in the near future, so where do the yanks put Montero? Montero is no catcher. He might serve best as trade bait, because he has no future position.

    • Monteroisdinero

      Montero is no catcher? We shall see. Posada never won a gold glove and caught his first game at age 25 for the Yanks. Montero at 21.

      Matt Wieters won the gold glove this year. Slow, tall, unathletic, no cannon arm.

      • Hector Noesi

        I understand the comparision you’re trying to make, and it may turn out to be fair (although I don’t think it will), yet:

        1) Not all defensively challenged catchers are created equal; some are much, much worse than others.

        2) Not all tall catchers are created equal; height is one aspect, but body type and overall athletcism are the bigger part of the equation. Two similar-sized catchers, Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters, rated well ahead of Montero defensively as catchers. Scouting reports rated Wieters as very agile behind the plate, with good hands and an above-average arm. Montero’s arm is strong, but he does not score well in the other two areas.

        He has a chance to prove the talent evaluators wrong. Other players have, and I’m hoping he becomes the latest!

      • Jim Is Bored

        Wieters is absolutely athletic, and is amazing at throwing out runners. I don’t have any idea how you can be madly in love with Montero and not appreciate Weiters.

    • Rob

      I think it would be a mistake to trade Montero. The kid is going to be a beast in the middle of the line up. I think if he can just work out some of the kinks defensively behind the plate he’ll be good to go. Or maybe give him a shot in right field?

  • LiterallyFigurative

    A .285 hitting Tex will be a monster in this lineup. I figure he hits 5th, so I think his IBB’s may go up with Montero batting behind him, at least in my mind.

    I have a question for RAB-ers: Does it make more sense to have Granderson 2-Cano 3, or Cano 3-Granderson 4? I ask because I think Granderson’s a safer bet to be healthy and have the power #’s than Alex Rodriguez. Grandy would be the cleanup hitter, and Alex would be 5th, Tex 6th, Jesus 7th. You are getting the back-to-back lefties anyway, so why not give your top HR hitter more chances to drive the ball with Cano in front of him?

    • UYF1950

      Girardi has stated publicly that you want your best hitter batting 3rd. And that without question is Cano.

      From this fans perspective 2 through 7 should be: Granderson, Cano, A-Rod, Tex, Swisher then Martin (DH). I could see possibly switching Martin and Swisher though.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Of course, you mean Montero (DH), not Martin. I could see Swisher/Montero in either order. With Swish’s high OBP, having him up prior to Montero could have advantages.

        • UYF1950

          Sorry, Yes that’s what I meant. Thank you for the correction.

      • Dan 2

        Girardi’s actions speak louder than his words. He kept a flailing Tex batting third until September.
        I think that whether facing a lefty or righty, this is the year that Gardner leads off every game. He is one of our greatest offensive weapons, hit, walk, SB, advance on passed ball, advance on an out and score from first. The key is who bats second? Could it be martin or swisher? They have the ability and willingness to hit behind the runner and are not afraid to work counts to give Gardner a chance to steal. I like cano, grandy, a-rod, tex, jesus, swisher/martin and jeter to round it out.

        • Cris Pengiucci

          Gardner will not hit leadoff every game. That won’t be handed to him and Jeter, especially in the 2nd half, was quite measurably better than him against left handed hitters. Over the course of the season, Gardner and Jeter’s numbers against RH pitchers were pretty close.

        • RetroRob

          He is way too inconsistent to be given the lead-off spot. He hit .219, or there abouts, from July forward.

      • Rob

        Good point about the line up! I wish Girardi had done what you suggested in the ALDS and dropped Swisher down in the line up. Posada had no RBI’s the whole series because he was frequently leading off the innings or coming to bat with noone on base. I still don’t understand how you don’t get the kid a bat in game 5….

    • Need Pitching

      Tex will likely continue to hit third vs. lefties

      My dream lineup: (and yes I know it won’t happen):

      vs. LHP – Jeter, Grandy, Tex, Cano, ARod, Swisher, Montero, Martin, Gardner

      vs. RHP – Swish, Grandy, Cano, ARod, Tex, Montero, Martin, Gardner, Jeter

      • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

        Wait, Swisher leading off vs right handed pitching? Why?

  • UYF1950

    If Tex can improve his numbers in 2012 and A-Rod can stay healthy and give the Yankees 140 games/500 plus PA’s the Yankees offense will be lights out. Now add Montero’s offense to the equation as DH and fans are looking at one explosive year offensively come the 2012 season.

    Now if the Yankees can only add a solid #2 in the starting rotation either before the season starts or at the deadline at the latest.

  • Ethan

    I highly disagree with William. Yes I feel Rodriguez needs to DH more. But Montero is a catcher and he will become the catcher after russel martins stint is over

    • Fin

      I hope you’re right but I doubt it. From what all the scouts outside of the yankees say and Girardi’s refusal to let Montero catch meaningless games in September, instead going with Romaine who had never even caught a game in AAA, I think the writing is on the wall that Montero is probably not a major league catcher. I’m not even sure he is going to be the back up. I have a feeling Cervili is going to be the backup catcher, Montero is going to be the DH and when A-rod needs a rest he will get a full day off.

      • Mickey S

        I hate to agree, but point well made. Montero SHOULD have caught those games Romine caught. That showed other teams and Montero himself that lack of faith Giradi has in Montero’s catching ability. Can he really be THAT bad?

        • Monteroisdinero

          Or they didn’t want to risk injury before the playoffs? Lousy reason but Girardi is wimpy enough to consider it.

          Montero did get hurt/ nicked in the final game against Tampa and had to come out in the 7th inning when we were up 7-0-before the epic collapse.

          7-0!!!! with Montero catching!!! and scrubs pitching!!!!!

  • Larry Koestler

    A bounceback year from Tex would be just what the doctor ordered. As I noted back in October, the first three years of Tex’s contract have actually been somewhat similar — at least on the offensive end of things — to how Jason Giambi’s unfolded, and the Yankees could do worse than Tex continuing to coincidentally follow Jason Giambi’s pinstriped career arc.

  • ADam

    For 23 Mill he better be I dont want to have to call him Carlos Teixeira next year

  • Paul from Boston

    Or he could be another overpriced past prime Yankee. For a guy who’s never hit like a truly elite 1B, it was a crazy contract. Don’t get me wrong, he’s well above average. But he’s not even Giambi.

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

      In the three years prior to free agency, Teixeira was the 5th best hitting 1B in all of baseball. That’s not elite?

  • Ted Nelson

    Great point… who knows what will actually happen, but at this age Teixiera certainly has a pretty solid chance of correcting his lefty swing and getting it back together another season or two. At least he has a good chance of remaining at this level for another 2, 3, 4, years. I don’t really get why so many people seem so convinced that Tex is declining… as if it’s an ongoing process that he can’t recover from. His 2011 wOBA was right there with his 2010 wOBA.

  • RetroRob

    Is there clear evidence that he pulls the ball more from the leftside since coming to NY? If there is, then that’s a good sign that he can revert to his old ways.

    Regarding not hitting the ball as deep to center and left, I suggest that it is related to hitting intot he shift. All of them are signs that he’s attempting to pull the ball too much.

  • bankers hours

    I love Cano in the 4 hole between Arod and Tex. It gives left right balance throughout the lineup. Cano will get a ton of RBI opportunities and I think it’ll help both Arod get better pitches and it still puts Tex in a solid RBI slot with Cano ahead of him. Jeter/Grandy/Arod/Cano/Tex/Montero/Swisher/Martin/Gardner. This lineup eliminates 2 leftys at the top for late inning loogys. Cano will be the MVP, Arod rejuvinated, and there’s pressure off Tex who was a terrible 3 hole hitter.

  • http://yesnet tendollarcard

    you guys that are talking lineup are great. i can see that you put a lot of thought into it. cool. im not even going to pretend im in the same league as you. no pun intended. keep on keepin on!

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    For those of you who don’t believe that Montero could be a good catcher may I remind you of two specific cases where the scouts or manager did not think a certain player could be a catcher, First is Yogi Berra whom Bucky Harris Yankee Manager at the time thought that yogi was too awkward to be a catcher. He had Yogi playing outfield and sitting for three years until Casey put him behind the plate permanently until his latter years. The second case you already know and that is Mike Napoli whom Sciscia another no hit good field catcher said he could not catch. you all know the rest of the story. As for Teix, not to worry he is going to have a great season. On another front, yeste4rday I read many commenters diminish Bernie’s chance at the HOF. Last night I saw Kenny on Baseball Confidential where by Sabermetrics he compares Bernie with Puckett and Bernie is just as good or better because of his great postseason exploits.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    To continue my diatribe I should like to say that the same scouting report minus the hitting part is given to Romine in the 2010 Best prospects list. It is as if the scouts have a form made out and only have to fill in the blanks.

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