The importance of Mark Teixeira

(Al Bello/Getty)

(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees made a huge splash in the free-agent market back in 2009, landing CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher (via a trade), and A.J. Burnett. Each player contributed in a huge way and helped the team bring the 27th World Series Championship back to New York. Teixeira, specifically, had a monster year in 2009 as he batted .292/.383/.565 (.402 wOBA, 142 wRC+) with 39 home runs. FanGraphs valued him at 4.9 WAR (trailing only Miguel Cabrera and Kevin Youkilis among AL first baseman).

Since then, Yankee fans have watched Teixeira steadily decline. Over the past few seasons he’s become increasingly one-dimensional offensively even though his defense has remained very reliable. He’s been far more prone to hitting the ball down the first base line (presumably aiming for that enticing short porch), which in turn, has made him increasingly more susceptible to the defensive shift. Consequently, his batting average has ticked downward by about 40 points from where he has historically hovered prior to coming to New York. Discouragingly, we’ve also seen Tex struggle against right handers the past few seasons as well (last season he batted .239 as LH batter verse righties, .224 in 2011, .244 in 2010, and .282 in 2009), and then show an unwillingness to adapt his approach.

Fortunately for the Yankees, they haven’t exactly been hurting for offense for the last decade or so. During Tex’s tenure in pinstripes alone, the Yankees have been among the top three teams in all of baseball in terms of wOBA and wRC+. At least until now; 2013 is a new animal altogether. For the first time in what seems like forever, the offense is most certainly not the strength of the team. The Yankees rank 21st in AVG, 19th in wOBA, 24th in wRC+, 19th in K%, and 19th in BB%. Ironically, the only offensive category that the Yankees favorably crack the top 10 in this season so far is in home runs (68 in total, eighth best in MLB — so much for the #toomanyhomers meme).

This is where Tex steps in, and where I personally think he could play a huge role if he can rebound a bit. Immediately, he (and Youkilis) will provide some additional patience to the lineup. As of now, the Yankees have averaged 3.79 pitches per plate appearances – for perspective, 2012′s squad averaged 3.89 Pit/PA, 3.92 in 2011, 3.92 in 2010, and 3.88 in 2009. Power and patience. That’s the Yankees model. It works, and Tex knows how to do it.

With Vernon Wells cooling off and Travis Hafner always one step away from injury, Robinson Cano has been forced to shoulder much of the load in the power department. Home runs are always a good thing and one part of Tex’s game that has always been solid is deep out-of-the-park hits. With a little luck, it may help stem the tide a bit further until the rest of the Walking Wounded return. A few consecutive singles are nice. They’re even nicer when a 4o0-foot blast brings them home.

Additionally, Cano, Lyle Overbay, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, Curtis Granderson and Hafner are really all the Yankees have for left-handed threats. Gardner’s been better of late with the bat, but he’s not the guy who’ll be driving in runs nor is that his role. Given Ichiro‘s struggles, Granderson’s injury, and Hafner’s durability concerns, it’ll be very nice to add another guy capable of batting left-handed. Even if Tex’s splits this season are similar to his last few, he’ll also still likely be an offensive upgrade over Overbay (despite the fact that Overbay is having a great year by his standards thus far). Moreover, having another switch-hitter available provides that much more lineup flexibility for Girardi.

Defensively, Tex provides some options too. As we’ve seen the last few days, Overbay could get some opportunities in right field, which will help mitigate Ichiro’s exposure. When Overbay is at first, Tex can give Pronk a spell at DH which provides him rest and aligns him closer to the situational hitting role he was originally hired for. This also limits the need for Youkilis at first on the depth chart, which can only help given his injury tendencies. Third base and shortstop are still points of concern, but that was basically always the case. At least with Tex at first, you know some of those inevitable throwing errors to first may have a chance of being erased.

The Yankees have done a fantastic job of not just staying alive, but staying competitive with role players while some of their headliner names have been side-lined. However, some of these role players (i.e. Jayson Nix, David Adams, Wells, Overbay) are clearly playing above their norms, or in some cases, have already begun to be exposed. Who knows how long the team can continue to win with these guys starting all the time. Now that some of the marquee players are beginning to return from their various injuries, it’s time for them to step up and contribute. Hopefully they’ll be able to sustain the success, and be a lot less likely to falter down the road. I hope Tex gets the ball the rolling.

Categories : Analysis, Players


  1. pat says:

    ***Swish was a trade.

  2. Eddard says:

    I don’t go by the numbers, I just go by what John Sterling’s eyes tell me. Teixera is going to be just fine. It’s Cano that needs to get going again. He’s got Teixera hitting behind him again instead of Vernon Wells so you’d think that would help Robbie. Klong needs to get Robbie fixed. The biggest thing Teixera does is give us a legitimate 3-4-5 again. They need to use Youk more in the 2 hole.

  3. I'mVernonI'mVernon4U says:

    Oh god. I remember what happened a week after the last “the importance of Mark Teixeira” article. Kidding aside, great write up Matt!

  4. LarryM Fl says:

    Matt, I agree Teix. has to get it going. I know he is focused on the long ball and RBI’s. His task is now changed. Its not only the RBI situation. Its getting it started when the team is mired in one of its 2 hits after 5 innings mode with the pitcher having thrown 50 pitches. The shift is on. Its big enough to to slap one down anywhere on the leftside for an ez hit. One I’m trying to say is the focus of his hitting approach can not be one sided all the time. This team needs someone with ability and intelligence to get it going. I don’t believe Cano is that guy. Yes, a hitting machine but can get reckless with the strike zone which means poor at bats. I do believe Cano gives up some at bats with his aggressive pitch selection outside the zone.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      We don’t need Tex to slap one down the left field line; there isn’t anyone reliable enough to drive him in. That could have been fine any of the past 3-4 years. This year we need his power.

      • trr says:

        Clearly we need a healthy and productive Tex; A few people seem to favor O-bay over Tex, SMH….No, we don’t need Tex to start slapping the ball the other way. If he’s ever inclined to drop a bunt in the right situation that’s fine, but what we really need from him is power/rbi production

        • LarryM Fl says:

          When the team is doing nothing. Not even working the pitcher as these guys have shown prior to Teix and Youklis coming back. Hitting it the other way to get it started might be a good thing. I do not want him to be a slap hitter as Ichiro is.

  5. Nick says:

    Surprised no one has caught this yet….

    His numbers against lefties (as a righty hitter) have not really declined. They’re still pretty great. The numbers posted in this article are his stats against righties (as a lefty hitter).

  6. mt says:

    OK – I was originally confused by this raticle because we had been saying for weeks that we needed both Youkilis and Teix to combat our dreadful batting against lefty pitcher (due to their historical prowess as RH hitters) but then this article seemed to contradict it.

    So I believe the true narrative is he does relatively well as a righty hitter but has declined as a lefty hitter due to increasing defensive shifts and possibly short porch fixation.

  7. Dave M says:

    Keep the Tex messages coming!! Oh you’re on the Mark Teixeira!!

  8. Darren says:

    Matt can you explain what you mean by saying that when Tex is hitting as the DH, that is more aligned with his role as a situational hitter?

    How would there practically be any difference between Tex’s job as a hitter when he’s DHing versus when he’s playing 1B? I mean, even if you substitute out Hafner for Overbay in the lineup(when Tex is DH), would that change Tex’s approach at the plate? If anything, I would think that ostensibly should make him LESS of a situational hitter and more of the prototypical slugger. And in reality, as we’ve seen, Tex does not have the ability to adjust when he’s at the plate, regardless of circumstances. For the reocrd, even though I wish he would be able to go thr other way when the shift is on, I recognize that it is nearly impossible for 90% of all hitters, even very good ones. Jeter’s inside out swing, Gwynn, Boggs, Carew, Mattingly all of those guys had/have an extraoridnary ability to go the other way in certain situations.

    • mike says:

      i believe he meant Hafner, not Tex’s, situational hitting, which means Hafner only hitting against RH pitching, and Letting Youk/Tex handle 1B/DH when a LH pitcher is pitching- not their approach at the pl;ate

      • vicki says:

        right. and of course he meant parttime, or platoon, hitting, as ‘situational hitting’ is a phrase that has specific meaning.

    • Matt Warden says:

      “…Tex can give Pronk a spell at DH which provides him rest and aligns him closer to the situational hitting role he was originally hired for.”

      The way this was intended to be read was, Pronk can be used more situationally rather than as an everyday player. He was originally brought on board to be a platoon bat.

      • Darren says:

        Got it. Thanks, and I agree (for what that’s worth). ALL of these guys except maybe for Overbay seem overexposed when they have to play every day – Wells, Ichiro, Nix (duh), Pronk, etc.

  9. RetroRob says:

    I certainly don’t think Adams is playing over his head at all. What’s he hitting?

    I think he’s better than what he’s shown.

  10. lee says:

    are there any theories as to why Ichiro is struggling so much this year against RHP? against righties he’s .207/.267/.298/.565, and lefties it’s .381/.375/.444/.819. career-wise he’s always hit righties as well as lefties, and even as late as last year his splits were almost identical — if anything, better against righties.

    reason i ask is probably obvious — sure would be nice to see him out there every day instead of Wells. Ichiro is a better defender and better base runner. and for that matter, so far this year, is hitting righties with about the same lack of production as Wells. i don’t see a downside to having Ichiro out there every day.

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