The Teixeira Analysis: Closing Thoughts

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(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Over the last three days I spend way too much time looking at Mark Teixeira‘s declining offensive production — part one, part two, and part three. To save you the headache of readhing, here’s a quick recap of the findings…

  1. Teixeira is still a monster as a right-handed hitter. Nothing’s changed from that side of the plate in recent years.
  2. Teixeira’s walk, strikeout, and homerun power rates as a left-handed batter have not declined at all. His batting average and BABIP have steadily dropped, however.
  3. The shift is a problem given Teixeira’s new pull-happy ways, but he’s also added an uppercut to his swing that has resulted in more fly balls. Fly balls turn into outs more than any other type of batted ball, hence the BABIP and average decline.

That uppercut swing was on full display last night, as Tex flew out to relatively deep right field to end the game. He’s a notoriously slow starter, we knew this before he ever played a game in pinstripes, but this was probably the one year he could have used a strong start to help silence all the critics. He has come around a bit of late, with three straight two-hit games and nine hits in his last 25 at-bats. Strangely enough, Tex has yet to hit a homer in 2012, and that includes Spring Training. I know people are going to freak out about that, but I have a hard time taking it seriously after a dozen regular season games.

Teixeira acknowledged the problems with his swing late last year and has reportedly worked to correct them with hitting coach Kevin Long, but it’s still far too early to know if the adjustments are working. He’s only had 35 plate appearances as a left-handed batter so far, and in only 25 of the 35 did he actually put the ball in play (five walks, four strikeouts, one hit-by-pitch). Here’s his spray chart as a lefty…

He’s hit two balls pretty deep to left field — one came in last night’s game — but we’re still weeks away from being able to say anything definitive about an adjustment to his left-handed swing. This is all just window dressing at the moment.

I think the most important we have to realize is that the old Teixeira, the MVP-caliber hitter from 2005-2009, is probably never coming back even if Long’s fixes manage to stick. Tex just turned 32 a week ago and is leaving his prime years, so some semblance of decline is inevitable. Similarity scores hardly qualify as analysis, but Baseball-Reference says the most similar player to Tex through age 31 is Carlos Delgado. Delgado was one of the best hitters of his generation, but his production started to drop off at age 32. It’s the baseball circle of life.

The best case scenario probably calls for the adjustments to halt any further decline, at least temporarily. You can’t control age, but Teixeira can control his swing and perhaps break some of the bad habits he’s developed over the last two seasons or so. Remember, he wasn’t a bad hitter last season by any means, but his performance has fallen below his expected level of production. I think I know how this is going to turn out, but I’m going to ask the question anyway…

Will Teixeira be able to correct his swing?
Total Votes: 744 Started: April 19, 2012 Back to Vote Screen
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  • gageagainstthemachine

    “…but he’s also added an uppercut to his swing that has resulted in more fly balls.”
    Which makes me wonder how long the game would’ve gone last night considering the final out. When you’re hoping and praying you “got enough of it” to hit over the short porch in RF at 314 ft, and your name is Mark Teixeira who is not short on power by any means, well then you’ve definitely got an uppercut swing going on.

    • TopChuckie

      Two outs in the 9th, down 6-5, no one on, is exactly when I do want him swinging for the fences, and if the opposition still wants to put the shift on in that situation, fine.

      • neo

        i was actually screaming at the TV that he should bunt in that spot. :-)

      • gageagainstthemachine

        I was too, don’t get me wrong. My point was his swing is so uppercut right now, that even when he’s swinging for the fences, he’s still coming up short in the shortest RF in the league. A more level swing and it’s probably not a matter of that ball getting out, but by how much. That was what I was trying to imply. I hope figures things out soon. He looks lost from the LH side, in my opinion.

  • Typical MIT Nerd

    Exactly why you shouldn’t invest in big money corner players entering their mid-30s. Once their skills decline, they’re clogging up a power position with middling offense. What’s scary is he’s owed another $89M after this season and his OPS+ has dropped from 180 to 141 to 124 to 117 last season. If he falls any further below 120 he’s actively hurting them on offense.

    • UncleArgyle

      Agreed. Texeria was instramental in the 2009 season and flags fly forever. But….This was a horrible signing. I’m terrified by how bad this contract will look when its all said and done. If he looks this bad at 32 imagine how bad he’ll be at 35.

  • JoeyA

    All the more reason the Yankees need to lock up Cano…he’s basically our only hitter in his prime in next 2-3 years, with no positional help coming from the minors for a while.

    • The Guns of Navarone

      I think it’s the exact reason why you DON’T lock up Cano. You see how sharply (for one reason or another) truly great players can decline. Cano doesn’t have Teixeira’s power and he certainly doesn’t have Teixeira’s patience. A declining Cano could get really, really ugly.

      I don’t want to get in to a debate about whether or not to sign Cano to an extension, but I think Teixeira provides yet another example of how risky it is to lock up players into their mid 30s.

      • Virginia Yankee

        Not the best comparison (handedness, position being two reasons), but I could imagine the same fate for Cano as with Vlad Guerrero.

        • marechal

          But middle infielders decline even faster than corner guys. If Cano wants a contract that is much bigger than what Kinsler and Phillips got, the best thing may be to actually let him go.

        • Matt

          Cano is not Vlad. Vlad got beat up by the turf in Montreal. Totally different scenarios.

    • forensic

      Cano will be 31 in the first year of his new contract. Tex was 29 in the first year of this one.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      It’s a tough call. Middle infielders fall off a cliff relatively fast but if they let him walk then the offense suffers greatly in the long term.

      • Bubba

        If the offense would suffer greatly in the long term then sign him but I think the offense would only suffer in the short to maybe intermediate term. Long term there’s a good chance we’d have ARod 2.0

  • forensic

    That spray chart sure is disappointing. One bloop on the left field line and one hit to shallowish right center. Otherwise, everything is within maybe 15-20 feet of the right field line. Dead Pull.

    There isn’t even anything that would’ve reached the warning track in this hitters park…

  • Annie Oakley

    I think we’re seeing an aging player doing all he can to stay productive and he’s chosen to try to hit a home run every at bat. That’s not what we need. Cashman made a grave error not going after Prince Fielder who would have given the lineup the jump start that it needs right now. We’ve got age at the corner infielder spots and that’s a recipie for disaster. Look how bad it is now and imagine how bad it’ll be in 3-4 years.

    • forensic

      How would signing Fielder till his age 38 season fix having already signed Tex till his age 37 season?

      • Mike Axisa

        Then in three years when Fielder is where Tex is now, they could sign Mike Morse. Then when Mike Morse is where Tex is, they could sign Eric Hosmer. Then when Eric Hosmer is where Tex is, they could sign Bryce Harper. It’s a wonderful circle of albatrosses.

        • forensic

          That sounds like it would make for some real fun offseasons. Lets do it!!!

        • Bubba

          Just don’t shoot the albatrosses and everything will be ok

  • TopChuckie

    This is the thing, maybe he can “correct his swing” and maybe he can’t, but if he just put a few bunts past the one infielder on the left side I believe most managers would take off the shift and then some of those black squares on the dirt on the right side would turn green and he would put up better numbers without even “correcting” anything.

    He would add the hits from the bunts and he would add the hits from the grounders that would now get through on the right side because the SS is where he belongs, and that’s without changing anything in his swing. If in the process he can also “correct” his swing, or if the act of getting more hits on ground balls and line drives also leads to him leveling off his swing, well then all that is gravy.

    • The Tenth Inning Stretch

      I don’t think a few bunts would discourage opposing managers from employing the shift. He’s generally going to be hitting with men on, and I have to think they’d rather give up a bunt single than leave the right side open for a line drive double.

      • TopChuckie

        With men on they usually have to lessen the shift anyway, and if they don’t, if there’s a man on 2nd (or 3rd obviously), a bunt single is a run. Plus, if a manager is that scared of a line drive double, wouldn’t you expect him to just intentionally walk Tex? No you wouldn’t, but with only one infielder, a bunt to the left side should be almost as surely successful for getting to 1B as a walk, plus the unlimited advancement of the current baserunners.

        Again, I’m not saying make a habit of it, I’m saying let it be known it’s an option if you’re going to put on the shift. Give the opposing manager another risk to consider.

        It would also help if after he got on base via the bunt, the batter behind him (typically Swish I guess) were similarly dangerous.

        Any argument against the bunt assumes there’s something to lose. A few POTENTIALLY less productive bunts now (but more likely more productive than a probable popup), will theoretically pay off in far more productive AB’s down the road without the shift.

        Again, if the opponent is gaining an advantage by putting on the shift, making them take it off negates that advantage.

    • the Other Steve S.

      Bunting is for girls.

      • TopChuckie

        Weak ground outs, popups, and hitting .220 is for girls.

  • nsalem

    Jim Thome, Willie Stargell. Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Mark Grace weren’t exactly regressing at 32. Delgado actually had one of his best years at 33 and his ral regression took place when he was unhappy with his geographical location. I think these are mental issues rather than physical.

  • jim p

    Seems clear he’s gone for the uppercut swing, not only because the porch is tempting, but because pulled ground balls into the shift are guaranteed outs. Like he wants to lift the ball past the infield, as someone noted in the last Tex story.

    If he can start hitting to the opposite field, getting more frequent hits — starting a rally-chance, extending innings, moving up runners, driving in runs with men on 2nd, 3rd — that would be more valuable than the 1-in-20 at bats home runs, no? And he’ll likely still keep hitting hr’s at near that rate anyway.

    As it is now he’s trading lots of outs — and rally-killers, etc — for the occasional blast. If he was hitting .280 with 25 HRs wouldn’t that be more productive, given our lineup, than .230 with 30 hrs?

    • TopChuckie

      “And he’ll likely still keep hitting hr’s at near that rate anyway.”

      Yeah, it’s not like he’s doubled his HR output with this decreased BA. Typically when a guy alters his swing to hit more HR’s his BA will suffer, all we’re getting is the suffering BA.

  • Havok9120

    As to the poll:

    I’d answer Yes if he thought he had a serious problem that needed to be corrected. Otherwise, I answer “somewhat.”

  • Monterowasdinero

    Classic Tex puff in that pic. Tex should age well. He plays 1B and he can’t get much slower. It is still April. I’ll worry in June.

    • TopChuckie

      It’s still April? It’s been 2 or 3 years. It’s not the lack of a HR people are concerned about.

      • Monterowasdinero

        One year and a post season. I’d be happy with Tex of 2010. Slow start and all.

        • TopChuckie

          A .52 drop in wOPA and .290 to .255 drop in BABIP from 2009 to 2010.

          Fly ball rates for 2008, 2009, 2010: 40.1%, 46.1%, 48.3%.

          Read Mike’s Parts #2 and #3 again.

    • gc

      I loved the Don Mattingly puff in the olden days. He used to chug around those bases and puff away. Good stuff!

  • #28 in 2012

    Mike, thanks for this work on Tex.
    If I am not mistaking, during the off season in one of the chats you mentioned his pop-up rate was the fifth in baseball in 2011.
    Once we pass the small sample size part of the season, it would be really cool to see his current pop-up rates.
    Maybe this statistic could also indicate to us how his new adjustment is going. If he pops-up, say, 15-20% less than last year, I would consider it a success even if his avg doesn’t jump that much.
    The uppercut was deadly for Iron Mike, but not for Iron Mark…

  • pistol pete

    Tex is a decent player just one not worth 23m per year. His open market value would be about 3 yrs 18m or so. So he’s overpaid by about 17m per year. In the past in wouldn’t have mattered George would have shrugged it off and signed the next great free agent. But with the new Yankees it could be an albatross for years to come similiar to Arod’s baggage he’s carrying around. If Hal doesn’t ante up to cover prior mistakes the Yankees will not have the long term regular season they have enjoyed for years.

    • Tim

      Tex would get significantly more than 3 yrs 18 mill. That’s a joke. He would probably end up with a contract of 4-5 years in the area of $15 mill per year minimum.

  • Greg

    I thought Tex was young when we signed him? He had to be 29 when we signed him.