If anyone needed a hot start to the year, it was Mark Teixeira. After coming off a second straight season in which he fell short of expectations, everyone was expecting more. Yet Teixeira turned in yet another dismal April performance, hitting .244/.290/.395. Of course, when looking at Teixeira, April is hardly an indicator of things to come.
Last season Teixeira had the best April of his career, hitting .256/.392/.549, but we all saw how that ended. From May through September he hit .247/.332/.485, ending with a 119 OPS+ — his worst mark since his rookie season. In 2010 he got off to the worst April of his career, hitting .136/.300/.259, but hit .275/.376/.515 from May through September to finish the season with a 124 OPS+. He also started slowly in 2007, hitting .231/.346/.341, but ended the season with a 149 OPS+, which was the best of his career at that point (and is still the second best of his career).
What stood out about Teixeira’s April 2012 was his lack of walks and his lack of power. His ISO of .151 wasn’t the worst April of his career power-wise, but it ranks down there. More startling was his walk rate, just 5.4 percent, by far and wide the lowest rate of his career in April. Yet he’s turned things around on both fronts. And it all seemed to come together during the Kansas City series.
As you can see, both his walk rate and his extra base hit rate (XBH/AB) took a nosedive early on, recovering around the same time. The XBH% stopped diving in Game 24, the first game against Kansas City, when he doubled. Three games later he drew two walks, ending the walk rate nose dive. Since then everything has trended upward, and he’s hitting .333/.425/.683 in 73 PA since they left Kansas City.
There’s another Kansas City connection, too. Teixeira sat during the Cincinnati series on the weekend of May 19th, to help alleviate the cough that has pestered him all season. Kansas City came to town right after Cincinnati, and Teixeira was back in the starting lineup. Since then he’s gone 12 for 25 with four doubles, four homers, and six walks. It’s a small stretch to be sure, but clearly something has changed with Teixeira. He’s gradually improving, and his numbers are starting to round into form.
The last two seasons have been tough for Teixeira, especially since they weren’t quite expected. When the Yankees signed him he was a proven producer who was right in the middle of his prime. Not only did he own a 134 OPS+, but he had just averaged a 150 OPS+ in his previous two seasons. A career .290/.378/.541 hitter who played a slick first base, he didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would drop off a cliff. He’s since admitted his issues, which is the first step to recovery. If this really is Teixeira’s hard work finally coming to fruition, the Yankees will have added a weapon that they mostly missed the last two years. For a team struggling to bring home runners on base, that could make a huge difference for the next 114 games.