The Teixeira Analysis: Left-Handed Production

Resting Russell Martin
Robinson Cano's Slow Start
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

We started our little mini-series looking at Mark Teixeira‘s declining offense yesterday by first acknowledging that as a right-handed batter, the guy is still an elite hitter. He hasn’t shown any signs of decline from that side of the plate, and in fact he’s been able to increase his homer output with sacrificing his batting average, walk rate, or strikeout rate in recent years. The decline has been limited to his left-handed swing exclusively.

First things first, let’s take a look at Teixeira’s offensive performance as a left-handed batter over the last five seasons…

2007 0.284 0.284 0.397 12.8% 19.6% 9.3% 0.302
2008 0.311 0.277 0.417 12.9% 14.7% 8.2% 0.314
2009 0.282 0.296 0.402 11.2% 17.6% 8.6% 0.290
2010 0.244 0.213 0.350 11.3% 18.3% 6.9% 0.255
2011 0.224 0.229 0.339 11.6% 18.3% 7.6% 0.222

Just as a reminder, HR/CON is homers per plate appearances with contact. That’s the best way to measure over-the-fence power. Anyway, there’s quite a bit going on here, so let’s take it piece by piece…

Walk & Strikeout Rates

Let’s do the easiest stuff first. There’s no issue here; Teixeira’s walk and strikeout rates as a left-handed batter have barely changed over the years. His walk rate is much better than the league average while his strikeout rate is right there at the average. Given his power production, Teixeira really doesn’t get enough credit for striking out as infrequently as he does. Most 30+ homer guys whiff in 20+% of their plate appearances. So like I said, no problem here. Tex’s ability to control the strike zone has not changed over the last few years.

Power Production

This one’s kinda weird. The HR/CON rates indicates a very slight decline in over-the-fence power but nothing outrageous. A 6.9% HR/CON rate, which represents Teixeira’s worst year in our admittedly arbitrary five-year sample, was still well above the 3.4% league average that year. We’re talking about a guy that hits the ball out of the park at approximately double the league average rate when he makes contact. That’s impressive.

On the other hand, Teixeira’s year-by-year ISO indicates a significant decline in his over power numbers. That decline is relatively speaking of course, because a .213 ISO — his 2010 rate — is still really good. Tex has just gone from an elite power hitter (.270+ ISO) in 2007-2009 to just a really really good one (<.230 ISO) in 2010-2011. The HR/CON and ISO rates seem to be telling us two different things, that Teixeira is both hitting for less and the same amount of power simultaneously, but they’re not. It’s explained in the next section.

Batting Average & BABIP

As you probably knew coming into this post/series, this is where the problem lies. Teixeira has acknowledged that he’s altered his left-handed swing in an effort to take advantage of the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium, and that pull happy approach has led to a decline in his total number of base hits. That explains the contradicting HR/CON and ISO; Teixeira is still hitting homers at (approximately) the same rate as past years but he’s hitting fewer doubles as a result of his pull happiness, hence the declining ISO but relatively static HR/CON.

A lot of times a BABIP — and subsequently, batting average — drop is lazily written off as a fluke, but in Teixeira’s case we have tangible evidence supporting the decline. Being a pull-hitter is not automatically a bad thing, but in this case it has sapped his ability to get a simple base knock.

* * *

It’s easy to forget that Teixeira was still above-average as a left-handed batter last season, roughly 10% better than league average. That’s good but not great, and not what we’re used to seeing or expecting out of him. Given the lack of change in his walk, strikeout, and homerun power rates over the last few years, it’s safe the say the guy hasn’t just forgotten how to hit or hit the point where age is taking its toll. He’s gotten into some bad habits that are robbing him of base hits, dragging down his batting average and overall performance as a lefty. Tomorrow we’re going to look at Teixeira’s batted balls from the left side of the plate, so get ready to talk about the shift. That is not the only problem, however.

Resting Russell Martin
Robinson Cano's Slow Start
  • jjyank

    Dayyymn, a .52 point drop in his wOBA from 2009 to 2010 as a lefty. This analysis makes sense to me as far as The Shift logic goes. He still hits is homers (where the shift can’t field, obviously), but he loses slugging percentage at least in part because of the shift. Sure, some singles can still drop in, but with that many fielders on the right side of the field, it’s kinda hard to hit many doubles.

    I think most of us already knew that though, these numbers just back it up. Tex needs to go the other way. I’m no hitting coach, so I won’t pretend to say how he needs to go about that or how easy/hard it will be to revert to 2009 Tex. Maybe we should only play Tex in road games from now on, until he forgets about the short porch!

    ….just kidding, of course.

    • jjyank

      To add to that, I’m not saying the shift is solely responsible for the drop in Tex’s LHB numbers. But I do think it plays a role.

  • Monterowasdinero

    So if I’m a righty facing Tex-no fbs down the middle and only try a quality 2 seamer on the inside. Stay away with all pitches since he won’t go the other way and throw as much offspeed stuff as possible. Does the shift have anything to do with his declining #’s? Is he worse against the heavy-shifting teams?

    • jjyank

      I’m sure the shift has something to do with it, but we can’t be sure how much. For a shift to work, two other things need to happen: the pitcher needs to pitch to the shift, and the hitter needs to take the bait.

      The shift is beatable, Tex just needs to change his approach. I know he is aware of the problem, but any LHB alteration hasn’t worked so far.

      • The Guns of Navarone

        I know he is aware of the problem, but any LHB alteration hasn’t worked so far.

        This is the most frustrating part for me. He’s aware of the problem, and we also know that he’s capable of hitting the ball to all fields as a LHB. I can’t find it but I believe RAB posted some spray charts from before he signed with the Yankees. He wasn’t quite Robbie Cano but he was capable of hitting the ball to left field.

        I have to wonder if he really does see a problem with it. If he’s hitting the same amount of HR, the same RBI, and scoring the same amount of runs, maybe he doesn’t think anything needs to change. The production has been the same. How does a .290/.385/.550, 38 HR, 120 RBI Tex differ from a .244/.340/.480, 38 HR, 120 RBI Tex?

        • LiterallyFigurative

          The production has been the same. How does a .290/.385/.550, 38 HR, 120 RBI Tex differ from a .244/.340/.480, 38 HR, 120 RBI Tex?

          Therein lies the rub. If Tex sees his job as play great defense and put up the counting stats, what is the impetus for him to change?

          The pop-up and ground balls into the teeth of the defense are annoying for us, but if he’s still getting the same production, why would he change the approach?

          • LiterallyFigurative

            There are a decent amount of power hitting Hall of Famers with shitty batting averages.

          • jim p

            To drive in runs when a single does the job with runners on base better than a pop-up would?

            • The Guns of Navarone

              But if he’s driving in and scoring the same amount of runs now as he was three years ago, then where is the impetus to change? Losing 40 points of batting average hasn’t hurt his production.

              • jim p

                Not sure that reasoning works. The thing is he could be more productive than he is. He still hits his HRs regardless or whether he’s trying to reach the short-porch or not. So if he comes up with two out and a man on 2nd and pops up instead of poking a single to the opposite field… he might have good production, but he could have better. Which means more team wins or at least bigger padding (saving the bullpen).

  • JoeyA

    The most highly anticipated post of 2012 at RAB.

    • The Guns of Navarone

      There’s even a tease at the end! Nicely done.

    • Monterowasdinero

      And the most well thought out, significant comment of 2012.

      You’re welcome Mike.

    • J

      The suspense is killing me!

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    If he can’t learn to hit up the middle or go the other way with pitches middle and outside maybe he’d consider corking his bat and trying some growth hormone.

  • David Ortizs Dealer

    I think the shift is a result of not cause of the problem, pre-shift what should have been line drives to LF or the LFCF gap or grounders through the left became ground balls to the right side, sometimes singles sometimes 4-3 outs. Well if scouting says he doesnt ground out to 3b or ss why have a guy on that side.

    • jjyank

      Right, the shift is a symptom for sure, but it is a symptom that also compounds the root cause. If Tex’s home run rates are relatively unchanged, but his ISO is decreasing, that tells me that he’s missing out on doubles that wouldn’t have been caught without the shift. You can’t blame the shift of course, that’s just teams responding to his spray charts, but it does make the problem worse in addition to being a symptom.

      • David Ortizs Dealer

        Agreed the shift is making something bad into something worse

    • Dick M

      Finally some sense in this thread, thank you DOD.

      Is anyone going to bring up those 100 putrid post season ABs? The bottom line is this guy’s mechanics are high school-esque and he is LOST vs good pitching.

  • mike

    its so annoying how he will not even fake a bunt – its amazing how even a pathetic bunt attempt gets fielders to shift their positions somewhat, and a few failed attempts will make managers think twice about the shift.

    its clear that Tex – who seems to be a bright baseball guy with a real game awareness – knows this, but its either pride or stubborness ( fear of embarassment?) which is hurting his game and ultimately the whole team.

    Too bad this wasn’t 30 years ago – Billy Martin would have duct-taped Tex into a bunting stance for a week :)

    • roadrider

      Bunting, and even faking bunts, is not the solution. Opposing teams would pay Teixeira to bunt. They’re conceding it to him – they don’t care if he does it!

      • jjyank

        Exactly. The other teams would be thrilled if Tex started sacrificing the potential for a home run in exchange for a bunt single.

        • neo

          If they Yankees were down by 2 runs in the 9th inning, I’d love to see a bunt for a hit.

          • jjyank

            But what would happen more likely, is Tex either misses or it goes foul, putting him in an 0-2 count, down by 2 in the 9th inning.

            The pro-bunting crowd seems to think it’s a foregone conclusion that if Tex bunts once a month or two (in situations like you described) that he would be successful. He could just as easily not be successful, and end up being right where the pitcher wants him.

            What’s wrong with Tex hitting a solo homer in your scenario? A bunt single will still require a rally to win the game. And if a home run from Swisher or Granderson (whoever is batting 6th) wins the game with Tex on first, well the outcome would be the same either way. I really don’t see the advantage.

            • Guest

              The issue I have with the “Tex shouldn’t bunt against the shift” crowd is that they seem to over-estimate his chances of hitting a homerun and underestimate his chances of learning how to bunt well enough to get a hit when the only person on the left side of the field is the pitcher.

              I also don’t think he should just “go up there and bunt.” This should be something he works on with K-Long and does only once he feels comfortable with it. If he never feels comfortable with bunting, so be it.

              But I think presenting this as a case of giving up a great chance of a HR for a small chance of a successful bunt doesn’t seem fair. It’s more likely the other way around (provided a hitter as gifted as Tex works on his bunting and continues to face an extreme shift.)

              • Guest

                BTW, I generally HATE bunting. I just think it might be useful when there is nobody there to field the bunt. (And when teams stop shifting, Tex can get his hits to RF back).

                • jjyank

                  True enough, good points. I didn’t mean to assume it was a forgone conclusion that Tex would hit a home run either. I just feel like it would take a lot of bunts to actually get rid of the shift. That’s a lot of times if Tex successfully executing a bunt, which isn’t easy: he was to get it past the pitcher and keep it fair, and he hasn’t done it in a game situation in forever.

                  It’s not like he’ll bunt once and the shift is over. Add up all the situations that Tex would need to actually successfully execute a bunt, plus all the times he does not do it successfully, and the chances are that Tex will have hit a few homers during that time frame. That’s all I’m saying.

                  • Guest

                    Fair enough retort. I think it all comes down to what Tex’s likely success rate at bunting against the shift would be.

                    He’d have to be very successful to (1)make up for any potential HR/2B/3B lost and (2) convince teams to stop shifting.

                    I concede it’s quite possible that the Yanks and Tex have already undertaken this analysis and decided that he’s not likely to succeed enough times to make bunting against the shift worthwhile. I have no qualms with that approach.

                    But if they haven’t, and the only reason we haven’t seen it is because “Big Boys Don’t Bunt (Even if they know how to/can learn how to and the only guy with a realistic chance at getting him out isn’t allowed to catch infield pop-ups if another fielder is in the same area code)”…then I may a qualm or too.

                    • jjyank

                      I agree with that. No harm in doing the analysis.

  • LiterallyFigurative

    The thing with Tiexiera is that even with his above average/pretty good power # and counting stats, the approach is not what we thought the Yanks were getting.

    In his previous career stops he was a guy who hit homeruns and doubles. He was a .290-ish hitter who hit with power to all fields. Even in Atlanta and Anaheim, which aren’t hitter havens, he was an offensive beast.

    Now, he seems preoccupied with the porch, when he could still hit 35-40 HR’s just by driving the ball to left center when the pitch calls for it. His average and BABIP would return to 2009 levels. A change in approach would return him to the dominant offensive player we thought he was. He’s still good, but could be better.

    His defense is still top notch though.

    • jjyank

      Good points. The second-to-last sentence is something a lot of people forget. Teixeira is still a good player. Very good, even. He’s just not elite.

      The comments about Tex when he has a bad game would lead one to believe that he is a mere scrub, replaceable and useless. People need to perspective. Is Tex elite right now? No. Is he still a really good player? YES.

      Tex can do better for sure, but too many people completely write him off.

      • Bubba

        It shouldn’t matter but I think many people factor the contract into their assessment. He’s paid like he’s elite but he is not performing as such. It’s a sunk cost so it shouldn’t matter but people often have a hard time ignoring money issues.

      • Tex, the real Big Poppi

        He is good, but at his rate of decline, the next 5 years could be more painful than Arod and Jeter combined. Many on this board hate the albatross contracts of those two, when its Tex who could prove to be the biggest liability.
        Honestly, what makes you cringe more, Arod or Tex for the next 5?

      • Dick M

        This guy is like 18 for 106 in the post season for us. He is not a really good player (except for his D).

        • Adam Parker

          Is Arod a “good player”? What were his stats before the ’09 playoffs?

  • David Ortizs Dealer

    Whats does the binder say about this?

    • jjyank

      Thankfully it appears to not say “bunt”.

    • Slugger27

      same thing we already know: tex pulls lefty but is good anyway, righty hes awesome

  • Rich in NJ

    I wish he’d go back to the approach that got him the big money, long-term contract. My guess is that if he didn’t have that contract in hand, he would have already done that.

    • Havok9120

      Possibly true. He also wouldn’t be on the team.

  • Cuso

    You trying to say Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?

  • Brandon W

    Has Tex changed his distance from the plate at all during this time? I don’t really know which way is better for his approach, but video should be able to tell us if he is standing closer or farther from the plate than in 2009.

    If he’s standing too close to the plate then his only chance at getting to the inside pitches (that he will get a lot of if pitchers are pitching to the shift) would be to pull them straight into the shift. Maybe if he stood back a little farther he might have a shot at scattering the inside pitch better and with more authority. Conversely, it might lead to more problems with the outside pitches that he should be hitting the other way, so I’m not sure where (if anywhere) the answer lies.

  • Tex, the real Big Poppi

    “Teixeira has acknowledged that he’s altered his left-handed swing in an effort to take advantage of the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium”

    If Tex was able to alter the swing then, why cant he alter it back?
    Home runs are awesome, but at this rate his average is going to what Kenny Singleton would call an Interstate.

    Mike, how about a poll in regards to Tex. It would be fun to see how many fans believe he can turn it around. I personally am becoming more skeptical as i see that he changed nothing this off season and the teams are shifting him like baseball is played in right field only.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    What is this……civilized discourse occurring on this thread?