Over the next few days I’m going to spend some time analyzing Mark Teixeira‘s offensive performance, one of the most polarizing topics in Yankeeland. We’re going to start with the piece of the equation that actually isn’t a problem.
During his three full seasons with the Yankees, Mark Teixeira’s overall offensive performance has declined each year. He put up a .410 wOBA with the Braves and Angels during his walk year in 2008, then put together a still stellar .402 wOBA during his first year in New York. That dropped to a .367 wOBA in 2010, then again to a .361 wOBA in 2009. Now a .361 wOBA is still really good — more than 20% better than the league average — but it’s not up to the lofty standards Teixeira has set for himself with his past production and contract.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of Teixeira’s declining offense, the very first thing we have to understand is that we’re dealing with two different hitters. As a switch-hitter, there’s a right-handed version of Teixeira and a left-handed version of Teixeira. They’re two different hitters with two different swings and two different sets of tendencies. Lumping the two together doesn’t help us identify the problem.
Here’s a look at the right-handed hitting version of Teixeira over the last five full seasons, the guy that tees off against left-handed pitchers…
HR/CON is homers per plate appearances with contact, the most accurate way to measure over-the-fence power.
Aside from the typical year-to-year ebbs and flows, Teixeira has been a consistently elite producer as a right-handed hitter since 2007. His strikeout and walk rates are both much better than the league average, he’s a .300 hitter (.306 to be exact), and his power output has actually increased each year. Because he’s hit more and more homers against lefties in recently years, his BABIP has dropped. Homers don’t count as balls in play because the defense never gets a chance to actually field them. That’s why his batting average has remained steady despite the BABIP drops; he’s traded some singles and doubles for homers. I’ll take that trade every day of the week.
Batted Ball Profile
Outside of a pretty big outlier in 2008, Teixeira’s batted ball profile as a right-handed hitter hasn’t changed much in the last half-decade (and dating back even further than that)…
Remember, the batted ball information we have these days isn’t perfect, especially when it comes to balls right on the fly ball/line drive bubble. Teixeira hit a few more air balls against lefties last year, but nothing insane. The continued rise in his HR/FB% jives with his increased homer rate, but otherwise there hasn’t been much of a change through the years. That’s a good thing, because Teixeira is a monster from the right side and any change at this point is unlikely to be positive.
Whenever you’re successful at something, the opposition is going to adjust. Here’s a look at how pitchers have attacked the right-handed hitting version of Teixeira over the last four years…
PitchFX data only goes back so far, and anything pre-2008 is unreliable. Even 2008 is pretty sketchy, but anything from 2009 through today is a-okay. Pitchers haven’t been approaching Teixeira any differently in recent years, he’s still seeing the same amount of fastballs and just a touch more changeups.
Teixeira is a difficult guy to pitch to because he always has the platoon advantage. Most left-handed pitchers are fastball-slider guys, and the slider typically isn’t as effective against batters of the opposite hand unless you’re talking a Randy Johnson, CC Sabathia, Madison Bumgarner type of slider. Teixeira has only seen one breaking ball out of every five pitches as a righty over the last few years, and the league hasn’t shown much inclination to adjust. Perhaps that’s a sample size issue, perhaps most left-handed pitchers just aren’t good enough to mix it up any more than they do.
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Teixeira’s offensive problems over the last two years are exclusively limited to his left-handed swing. He still hits for a high average with light tower power from the right side while also drawing walks and avoiding strikeouts. It’s the lesser used half of the platoon, but righty Tex isn’t a problem. Tomorrow we’ll begin breaking down the left-handed hitting version of Teixeira, starting with his overall performance before figuring out where exactly the decline is coming from.