The Return of Pull-Happy Mark Teixeira

Yankees claim right-hander Danny Farquhar off waivers
Feliciano throws 25 pitches in first full bullpen session since surgery
(Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Mark Teixeira has been under the microscope since the moment he spurned the Red Sox for the Yankees in December 2008. He responded with an MVP caliber season in 2009 but saw his performance suffer in 2010 and further in 2011. Through the first 38 team games of the 2012 season, Teixeira’s batting line sat at a meager .228/.283/.386, well below even his normal slow start standards. It appeared as though his offensive decline was continuing even further.

At the same time, Teixeira was battling what was ultimately diagnosed as nerve damage to his vocal cords. Joe Girardi decided to give his first baseman three days off in mid-May in an effort to get his cough under control, a three-game series against the Reds. Since that little rest, Teixeira has hit .291/.396/.564 with nearly as many walks (18) as strikeouts (20) in 134 plate appearances. It’s obviously not the biggest sample in the world but it is vintage Mark Teixeira, a glimpse of the guy we were all hoping to see this season.

“I had a moment where I had to tell everyone I am who I am,” said Teixeira to Joel Sherman over the weekend, referring to the calls for him to hit the ball the other way. During those three games on the bench he decided just to give up on his efforts to beat the shift and get back to being the guy that was so successful in the past. “I am going to swing hard, strike out a bunch* and pull stuff.”

The funny thing is that when you look at his spray charts against right-handed pitchers — before the Reds series, after the Reds series (per Texas Leaguers) — it’s tough to see much of a difference. Most of the balls Teixeira put in play before the three days rest were to the pull side with a handful out to left, ditto the balls he’s put in play since those three games off against the Reds. He says his process is different and the results certainly have been, so I’m not going to argue with him. At the end of the day, I really only care about what he produces. I don’t want to get picky about how he does it after these last two years.

The offense’s general inability to hit with runners in scoring position has masked some otherwise stellar production of late, and I’m not just talking about Teixeira. Robinson Cano has hit .333/.411/.714 in his last 45 games and Nick Swisher has hit .345/.415/.672 in his last 17 games. Yes these are arbitrary end points, though you all know that those three weren’t hitting earlier in the season and now they are. They’re a big part of the reason why the Yankees have won 23 of their last 30 games, especially the pull-happy Teixeira.

* This continues to be the most misunderstood part of Teixeira’s game, and apparently even he buys into it now. You’d expect him to strike out a bunch as a power hitter, but his strikeout rate is just 12.9% (!) this year. The league average is 19.6%. His career average is 17.0%. The guy simply doesn’t strike out that much, especially compared to other power hitters.

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Yankees claim right-hander Danny Farquhar off waivers
Feliciano throws 25 pitches in first full bullpen session since surgery
  • Need Pitching

    Not sure we should be so optimistic about Tex yet. Most of that 291/396/564 production came in the first 7 games after the rest (480/581/1.120). In 24 games since (23 starts), he’s hitting only 235/340/400. I’m still hopeful Tex will finish strong, but I’m far from convinced.

    • Need Pitching

      In fairness, I should note he’s 346/387/577 over his last 8 games, so who knows?

      • jjyank

        Yeah, it’s tough to draw conclusions from sample sizes like that.

        I’m hopeful, but also not convinced.

    • Pat D

      Oh, come on, you know as well as I do that they need to trade Teix and half of his salary to some team that will want him, and then replace him with that Steve Pearce guy or some kid.

      • Need Pitching

        my bad, I forget the lessons taught by Duh

        • Pat D

          It is here we must begin to seek the wisdom of the children.

      • jjyank

        Some kid? You’re making fun of cancer bro. not cool.

      • JMK

        We should move Jeter to 1B.

  • Kosmo

    Tex has career-wise always been a better 2nd half hitter. So I´m optimistic he`ll post 30-100 with 35 doubles and maybe hit .270

  • 28 in 2012

    NL teams were not shifting him as much as the AL East does. I hate to be bearish, but the NL feast is over, here comes Joe Maddon and the shift that makes Tex look hopeless.
    Thanks for contributing while you could, Mark! You are still a gold glove at 1st base, dont change a thing!

  • Bran

    I’m so glad that Mark is returning to who he is and what made him great. Kevin Long tried to change him and it just didn’t work. It worked with Grandy, didn’t work with Jete so he’s hit and miss as a hitting coach. Teixera is going to heat up later in the season like he always does and he’ll need to as teams will start to pitch around Robbie Cano more and more as the games get more important.

    • Need Pitching

      except he didn’t really change back to what made him great, he returned to the pull happy ways that made his AVG and OBP plummet the last 2 seasons – good enough to remain a great power hitter, but no longer an elite all around hitter

    • Kosmo

      how did he fix Granderson ? Granderson is hitting .243 and still strikes out a ton.

      • Need Pitching

        Granderson used to suck against lefties. Now Granderson doesn’t suck against lefties.

        • jjyank

          He also never hit more than 30 homers in a season before coming to the Yankees.

          • Need Pitching

            16 HR vs. Lefties last year. Previous career high – 5.

            The improvement against lefties, as well as the switch from Comerica National Park to YSIII, are the primary reasons.

            • Kosmo

              I understand he hits LHP better now but he still remains a very streaky .250-.260 hitter who strikes out a ton.
              He´s currently stuck in yet another prolonged slump.

              • jjyank

                That doesn’t mean that K-Long didn’t make an improvement.

                • Kosmo

                  Granted a slight one. It´s only showed up in HR totals and to some extent hitting lefties better.
                  A .243 hitter is nothing to rave about.

                  • Need Pitching

                    a .243 hitter with above average OBP and elite power is. Granderson is by no means anywhere close to being the best hitter in baseball, but he still has been a greatly productive offensive player since the KLong swing changes went into effect.

                    • jjyank

                      Yeah, this. Picking one statisitc over less than half a season of games doesn’t make sense to me. Yeah, .243 isn’t elite. But the power numbers are, and a .343 OBP isn’t terrible.

                      Is Granderson the best player ever? No, of course not. But “fixed” doesn’t need to imply that.

                  • Need Pitching

                    “and to some extent hitting lefties better.”

                    Granderson’s previous full season career best season vs. lefties: 259/310/429 93 wRC+ (and this was his full season best vs. lefties by a very wide margin)
                    last season vs. lefties: 272/347/597 151 wRC+

                    That’s is a drastic, phenomenal improvement.

                    • jjyank

                      And that was the biggest flaw in his game. Striking out can be frustrating, but that comes with the territory of being a power hitter (for most guys). But he went from terrible against lefties, to above average, so I don’t see how someone can say that he wasn’t fixed (either by Long or himself). It’s a night and day difference.

              • Need Pitching

                “Fixed” doesn’t mean “magically turns into Joe Dimaggio”. “Fixed” means “improved performance”.

                and the slump is currently at 7 games – not exactly prolonged

                Every hitter has slumps like that.

                • Kosmo

                  he´s so far hit around .200 for the month of June and he´s, if you noticed, is good for a number of slumps over the course of a season.

                  • Need Pitching

                    as is, if you noticed, every other hitter in the history of baseball

                    last 7 games: 111/250/111
                    previous 8 games: 333/436/758

                    the slump hasn’t been that prolonged, it’s just been especially awful over the past week

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Tex should replace CC in the rotation.

      • jjyank

        Don’t give him any ideas.

    • RI$P FTW

      Was Paul O’Neill insinuating that Cano doesn’t have a good work ethic last night? Or was he insinuating that Kevin Long doesn’t know how to keep him on task?
      He made a bunch of comments like “Robbie really needs someone to keep him focused. He could be good, but needs to keep working.”
      Is there a problem I don’t know about?

  • Rey22

    That last bit about the strikeout rate is so weird, I feel like the image of Tex swinging over a low changeup for strike 3 is ingrained in my head because it happens so often. Apparently it doesn’t.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Really? When I think of Teixeira I think either of HR or a pop up.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      It is more frequent in the postseason. We tend to remember this longer.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    Where are the spray charts from?

  • AndrewYF

    Cano is a beast – his swing is a thing of beauty. He’s the kind of player who can retain his skills well into his 30s.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      If Raul can contribute at 40 as an outfielder…..

      gotta sign Robbie to age 37 or so.

      • MattG

        I’ll give him Ibanez’s contract through age 50 if he’ll sign it.

        He won’t.

        • CS Yankee

          I’d give him Raul’s contract until he was 110.

          • MattG

            He still wouldn’t sign it!!

  • MattG

    I would like to see him return to his opposite field happy ways.

    In 2007, which is a season I just selected because it was a while ago, Mark had a .429 wOBA on “opposite” plate appearances…whatever that means…as compared with a .477 wOBA on “pull” plate appearances. The total pas were 177 and 70.

    In 2011, the totals were 253 and 92, for roughly the same ratio, but “pull” sported a .503 wOBA as opposed to .173 for “opposite.”

    The approach did not change. The ability to hit to the opposite field did. If he’s going to be Mr. Pull-happy, he’d better improve the production to the pull side, improve the ratio, or both.

  • CS Yankee

    Add his K-rate to his IPO-rate and it likely exceeds 25%; which is about the same as a K to me.

    • Need Pitching

      his IFFB% is a career low 5.9% this season

    • 28 this year

      His pop out rate this year IFFB% is 5.9% which added to his K% which is 12.9% and you’re very wrong and with that, Mark’s K rate based on your absurd definition is still league average for other people when only looking at the average K rate and NOT factoring in IFFB. Its amazing what stats tell you about how wrong you are.

      • MattG

        Nice one, but you gave up too soon. Career low 14.1% HR/FB this season, ergo, his pop ups are in the outfield, and he pops up too much.

        He is a Popupotamus.

        • jjyank

          “Pip? Pip-pop? Pip-pop-unanamus???!!

          DAMN YOU, YOU GAVE HIM THE EASY ONES!!”

          Sorry, I had to.

        • Need Pitching

          flyballs =/= popups

          nice try though

          • MattG

            In this case, it does.

            This is a man who consistently was over 18% HR/FB, often by a lot. There are two explanations:

            His raw power has declined.
            He is popping the ball up more.

            Which is it? Am I missing any other explanations?

            • Need Pitching

              a fly out to medium OF wouldn’t be considered popping up, and would not be remotely considered a pop up

              “Which is it? Am I missing any other explanations?”

              There’s still over half the season to play, maybe just random statistical variation? For his career, his HR/FB% has always been much lower in April (as it was again this season), which considering June isn’t even over yet, would still disproportionately weigh down his season numbers.

              • MattG

                Random variation, of course. I’ll give you that.

                Lazy fly ball to medium OF is still a pop-up to me. They are fly balls that become outs. There is more of a chance that an OF FB becomes a hit than an IF FB, but how much of a chance? If you watch Teixiera play, as we all do, we know his fly balls that don’t leave the yard also don’t often find grass.

                It’s good to know he doesn’t strike out too often. It might be totally mitigated by how often he makes easy outs (that don’t advance runners) on what some call fly balls, and I call pop-ups.

                • DT

                  Well he’s hitting less flyballs this year too. So there’s that as well.

            • DT

              it’s only a 4% decline from his career numbers. If he has a week where he hits multiple homeruns, the rate instantly goes back to career form.

              • MattG

                You realize that 4% might equal 10 home runs?

                Is that math right? 250 fly balls * 4% = 10 home runs. Yeah, seems right.

                • DT

                  Well Tex has never hit 250 Flyballs in a season. And second, he has hit 85 flyballs. So it’s essentially 3 homeruns off his normal pace right now. Like i said, if he has a hot streak where he hits a few Homeruns and then the rates look like they are back to normal. I mean yesterday he missed a homerun by literally 5 inches.

                • DT

                  So furthermore so far he has made 3 more outs than he normally should on flyballs by your own measure.

                  • CS Yankee

                    MattG has a good point, 3 divided by 85 is close to 4% (3.529) and those are three less HR’s versus outs (your pointing out only three outs).

                    /titfortat’d

    • 28 this year

      BTW, if you guys are going to start saying OF flyballs count as outs, wtf is your point? Isn’t that the point of OBP, you want to start breaking every type of out down?? Are you guys kidding?

  • Brian S.

    He sucks.

  • DT

    Tex’s flyball rates this year are more in line with his his rates prior to the last two years. Last two years he he fly ball rates north of 45%, now it’s at 38% which is around he did from 2003 -2008. Less flyballs = potentially better BABIP?

  • http://thecarsboneblog.tumblr.com Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

    Do whatever you want Tex, just be average/above average offensively and continue being a top 3 defensive 1st baseman.

    • CS Yankee

      Cashman: “No Teix, don’t do what you want unless it is hitting close to .300 with power (35/110)…why, you ask?”

      :::pause:::

      “…because we are the fricken Yankees and you were given a boatload of Bengies to stay out of crab and bean town.”

      Teix: “Yes ninja!”

      :::finshes 9th in MVP voting this year while helping secure #28this year:::

  • http://fendersonandhampton.com Cuso

    Yes, I continue to find this claimed “change in approach” strange. I don’t recall him ever attempting to go the other way early in the season.

    What I see is a notoriously slow starter starting slow but was also sick at the time so it was exaggerated.

    Even if it’s just a mental “shift,” Tex has turned it around.

    I am, however thrilled that he has cut down the strikeouts. As long as he brings his glove and his 35/110 every year, I’m totally cool with it.

    • Need Pitching

      It did seem like he was trying to go the other way occasionally, but certainly not on a consistent basis. If April was him trying to go the other way, he certainly had a strange manner of trying to do it (and he was horrible at it)

  • Yankeefan1421

    Watching Tex and ARod for the next four years, as they consume about 30% of the total payroll, is going to be brutal.