Feb
26

The increasingly indispensable Mark Teixeira

By
(Star-Ledger)

(Star-Ledger)

It was obvious Mark Teixeira‘s importance to the Yankees increased as soon as they made it clear they were willfully downgrading their offense. New York signed Teixeira to that fat eight-year contract — fourth largest contract in baseball history when it was signed — assuming he would anchor the middle of their lineup for years to come, but he simply hasn’t lived up to those expectations. Teixeira was great in 2009 but has faded in recent years.

Despite that fade, Teixeira has never actually been bad with the Yankees. Last year was his worst in the Bronx but he was still a comfortably above-average hitter, producing a .251/.332/.475 (116 wRC+) line with 24 homers in 123 games. That last number was the problem though, the games played. Outside of a quad-related DL trip back in 2007, Teixeira had been a lock for 150+ games played from 2005-2011. Last summer he missed a few days with a wrist issue and more than a month with a calf strain. Let’s not forget the early-season cough as well, which didn’t keep him on the sidelines in the traditional sense but surely impacted his production. If we go back to 2010, there was the broken toe in September and the hamstring strain that ended his season in Game Four of the ALCS.

Thanks to Curtis Granderson‘s injury, Teixeira’s importance to the Yankees has increased even more. They were able to withstand his declining production the last three years before their lineup (and bench) was deeper and better able to compensate. That’s not the case anymore. Derek Jeter is coming off his ankle surgery and both Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner are injury risks, meaning the lineup is even further at risk of losing its more productive players. The Yankees not only need Teixeira to stay on the field for 150+ games in 2013, but they also need him to halt his decline and improve on his offensive performance. Maybe being healthy instead of battling through a cough and a wrist problem and a calf strain will help him do that.

“Stay healthy and have fun. That’s my number one goal because I know if I stay healthy the numbers are going to be there,” said Captain Obvious Teixeira to Mark Feinsand earlier in camp. “I’m going to help my team win. Have fun, because it’s a long season, there’s a lot of ups and downs and I’ve spent my entire career just trying to stay consistent. I know there are going to be low points, I know there are going to be high points. If I can have fun during both of those then I’ll be able to have a great season overall.”

Teixeira isn’t old, he’ll turn 33 about two weeks into the season. He plays a less-demanding/non-premium position and isn’t at an age where he’s at serious risk of falling off a cliff. His numbers — specifically his batting average and by extension, his on-base percentage — have declined because he’s gotten more pull/fly ball happy, and that’s not the best combination for maximizing offensive value. It’s been three years since Teixeira was the all-fields monster he was earlier in his career, so it’s time to stop expecting that guy to come back. Getting 150+ games of better than league average production, especially in the power department, out of Teixeira is the most important thing in 2013. If he continues to battle injury and/or sees his performance slip further, the Yankees will have a very hard time compensating.

Categories : Offense

65 Comments»

  1. Betty Lizard says:

    And here’s to you, Mark Teixiera
    Girardi loves you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)
    God bless you please, Mark Teixiera
    Heaven holds a place for those who pray
    (Hey, hey, hey…hey, hey, hey)

  2. Dalek Jeter says:

    Ha, nice coincidence, he just made a great play in the field and opened the following inning with a leadoff walk.

  3. Jersey Joe says:

    If he can produce like in 2011 I think the offense problems will not be completely detrimental.

  4. Mike HC says:

    100% on target. Also, his early season struggles are going to be magnified even more with Granderson on the DL. He needs to get off to a decent start this year more than any other year.

  5. RetroRob says:

    .255/.345/.495, 34 HRs.

    I’ll take it. They’ll need it.

  6. Andrew J. says:

    I know this is off topic. But I have an extra ticket to Sunday’s Yanks/Sox game at Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers. Always wind up going to these games with Sox fans (those tend to be all my baseball friends here!) and wondered by the wild chance there wasn’t a yankee fan in Fort Myers who would like to go to the game for free (if nothing else, we can talk smack with Sox fans at the stadium).
    AJ

    • RetroRob says:

      Get new friends. : -)

      BTW Speaking of off topic, why isn’t there a game thread for today’s game on MLBN? Or are game threads only when on YES?

      • Mike HC says:

        I actually like having a few friends who are fans of rival teams. Well, except Mets fan, who are usually just angry and bitter about it and not playful about the rivalry at all. My Sox fans friends and also Philly fan friends are actually all pretty cool about the whole rivalry thing. (Maybe this has to do with my specific friends and not representative of the entire fan base)

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Actually living in NYC, you can’t avoid having Mets fan friends, so I have plenty, including my son’s godfather.

          I’ve never been friends with a bad Sox fan. Most of my Sox friend experiences have been good ones. I also don’t think I’ve ever had a male Sox fan friend.

          • Mike HC says:

            Yea, I didn’t mean to imply I don’t like having friends who are Mets fan. Like you say, it is all but inevitable living in NY. Meant to say my Mets fan friends are usually not fun about the rivalry but are legitimately bitter and grating about it.

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              I have one pretty bitter Mets friend who never fails to find an opportunity to try to rub salt in my Yankee wounds, especially on FB, so I know those folks are out there for sure.

              I also get a ton of “I hate Yankee fans, but you’re not THAT kind of Yankee fan” nonsense.

              • Jim Is Bored says:

                I get that last point too.

                Although to be fair, out of the 10 or so yankee fans I know in person, non-family division, 6 are douchebags to begin with so, they aren’t helping the rest of us.

        • RetroRob says:

          All kidding of course. One thing about living in the New York region that fans of other teams don’t quite get is we’re actually used to have friends who root for other teams. It’s not a one-team town, and the city being what it is means people are moving here from all over the country. We’re used to the bantering. I’m not sure fans of other teams (in their markets) are as tolerant.

  7. Andrew J. says:

    Hard to get new baseball friends in the spring training home of the Sox and Twins! And we’re trying to attract the Nationals as well.
    AJ

  8. Robinson Tilapia says:

    My response to this post: Yes.

  9. jerry says:

    $20 million doesn’t buy u what it used to

  10. Do you blame Mets fans for being angry and bitter, especially since many are also Jets fans? They seem to find every Mo Vaughn and Jason Bay on the market. Beware of NY teams whose name ends in ets. They have no Bambino curse. But the do have the Ryan, Seaver, Dr J, and Kenny O’brien curse.

    • Mike HC says:

      I am Jets fan, so I get being the “ugly sister” of sports teams. And I get why they could go down that bitter and angry route, but that is just not how I operate. I actually root for the Mets, Giants and Nets when not playing the Yanks, Jets and Knicks. I enjoy the excitement of the city when any of the New York teams are playing well.

  11. Steve (different one) says:

    There was a long stretch last year where Teixeira raked. I know you can split any player’s season up to make it look how you like, but (i know, i know) if you accept that he was sick at the beginning of the season and his hand hurt at the end, I am hopeful that he has not completely lost the ability to carry a lineup for long stretches.

    Seems like Girardi sat him down in the beginning of that Reds series (May 17) to help get him healthy, and he then hit .269/.359/.524 until August 27, when he went down again with injury.

    That’s 345 PA’s of middle of the order production. Not saying he will do that all season, b/c he always starts slow anyway, but it’s not the craziest thing in the world to hope for an overall line better than last year.

  12. JobaWockeeZ says:

    No one said Teix has been bad but he sure isn’t meeting expectations.

    • Havok9120 says:

      Plenty of people last offseason and at the start of last season were saying he was bad. Hopelessly so. Go back into some of the comment threads from last year, some of those arguments got way out of hand. He was the guy everyone wanted to beat up on since Granderson had taken off and people were resigned and/or hopeful about ARod to start the season.

  13. voiceofirrationalrationale says:

    J R murphy bomb to center !

  14. Now Batting says:

    More of that JR

  15. Barry's Gift Basket says:

    O/T but, Jesus, J.R. Murphy showing some power!

    I love me some catchers with power.

    • Dalek Jeter says:

      Did you see his second AB? He caught it off the end of the bat and still had the power to get it to the base of the centerfield wall.

  16. voiceofirrationalrationale says:

    Ladies & Gents ….., starting catcher is ….., too early ?!

  17. voiceofirrationalrationale says:

    Zach Nothing ! Whoa, flat, straight with zero deception. And everything in heart of plate.

  18. TomH says:

    The Yankees can’t afford one of Tex’s patented slow starts this April. In fact, good starts from him and Cano can go a long way towards reducing the pain of the Granderson loss.

  19. Hey, Mike C, no offense. We had an agreement in my house growing up; we root for any team with NY on their hat. I can’t imagine more exciting teams than the ’69 Jets (Can anyone forget Joe Willie’s promise) or the ’69 and ’86 Mets. That said, it always seems to me that Yankee fans will root for the Mets but that Mets fans would root for the Red Sox or Al Quaeda if they play the Yanks. While we listen to all this moaning and groaning about the present team, let’s not forget how successful they have been and will be. Even Baseball Prospectus, not exactly Yankee friendly, picks them this year as the best in the AL East. And the poor Mets; they just make bad decisions, and when they get great players, e.g., Gooden and Strawberry, they self destruct.

    • Mike HC says:

      ” but that Mets fans would root for the Red Sox or Al Quaeda if they play the Yanks”

      haha … and no offense taken. I definitely see what you are saying. It is easy for Yankee fans to be gracious.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        Not my experience of many Mets fans. I know a few of which this would be true for, but know others who’d root for the Yankees as the New York team in the playoffs.

  20. ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa says:

    So have we all accepted that Teixeira won’t ever be the .292 hitter he was in ’09 again? I would certainly sign up for the .255/.345/.495, 34 HRs referenced above, but is it entirely unfathomable that he could ever be a near .300 guy again?

    • RetroRob says:

      I have. By the end of 2011, I figured this is what he is now. He’s still good, but he’s a 120 OPS+ player instead of a 145. It’s not all that shocking for his type of hitter, although his decline to this level started a little sooner than expected, although maybe only a year. Hopefully he doesn’t step down another level for a few more years. He could maintain this level to his mid-30s.

  21. Forget how much he is being payed and that he is not Pujols. If Tex could put up those numbers, it would be a blessing. Forget .300. Those days are gone.

  22. Manny's BanWagon says:

    I’m sorry but at $22.5 million per year as a 1st baseman, a .345 wOBA which placed him 14th among 1st basemen in baseball just isn’t acceptable.

    I still don’t understand why he can’t get back to driving the ball to all fields like he used to, be it stubbornness or something physical but I think it’s a failure on the part of he and Kevin Long that hasn’t been corrected.

    • RetroRob says:

      It’s called age.

    • definitely not pablo says:

      I’m sorry but at $22.5 million per year as a 1st baseman, a .345 wOBA which placed him 14th among 1st basemen in baseball just isn’t acceptable.

      I still don’t understand why he can’t get back to driving the ball to all fields like he used to, be it gonnorhea or something physical but I think it’s a failure on the part of he and Kevin Long that hasn’t been corrected.

  23. Tom says:

    Good article Mike.

    I think a lot of folks (including myself at times) look at the salary and tend to have that influence the perception of his actual production. It’s still pretty good production, albeit a bit overpriced.

    The one thing though is that while wRC+ of 116 makes him an above average hitter, the average wRC+ for AL first baseman last year was 110, so he is not really that far above the offensive production of an average AL first baseman.

    In 2013, I think they will need above average 1B production and even him being flat to last year I think will be an issue. That said I think he is going to bounce back some.

  24. Larry B. says:

    Ehh maybe I’m oversimplifying but I think it’s an approach thing. He swings for the fences way too much.

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