May
01

Mailbag: Mark Teixeira’s new stance

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The mailbag is our Friday staple, but this week we received a question worth its own post.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

Jonathan asks: Hey Mike, have you noticed any change in Mark Teixeira‘s stance so far? He’s standing up much more straight with less of a crouch and his hands are starting in a lower position.

I hadn’t noticed anything different until I read Jonathan’s question the other day, so I paid extra attention during Tuesday night’s game against the Mariners. Sure enough, it looks like Teixeira has changed his setup at the plate. To the action GIFs:


That is 2013 on the left and 2014 on the right, both homerun swings (not that the outcome matters much, but just in case) and both at Yankee Stadium so the camera angle is the same. I’m not much when it comes to media editing and all that, but I did my best to sync the two GIFs at the moment his front foot hits the ground.

There are definitely some differences between last year and this year, as Jonathan pointed out. Four that I see, in fact.

  1. Closed Stance: Teixeira’s front foot was further away from the plate than his back foot last season. He’d been like his entire career. The same is still true this year, but it isn’t nearly as exaggerated.
  2. More Upright: Look at his knees. He was in a bit more of a crouch last season. This year he’s standing close to straight up.
  3. Lower Hands: They wind up in the same place once he starts to load his swing, but Teixeira has brought his hands out in front of his body before the pitch is delivered. Before they were almost behind his head.
  4. Follow-Through: Last year Teixeira still had his big one-handed follow-through. This year it’s a more compact two-handed follow-through.

Do those adjustments sound familiar? They should. You’re a bad fan if they don’t. (Not really.) Those are the same exact adjustments Curtis Granderson made when he revamped his batting stance in August 2010 and turned into one of the game’s premier power hitters almost literally overnight. Here’s a pair of screen caps from a post I wrote about Granderson’s overhaul back in the day:

Granderson, April vs August

Granderson’s very first at-bat of the 2010 season is on the left (homer off Josh Beckett!) and an at-bat from August 2010 is on the right. It’s from the series immediately after he went through his crash course with hitting coach Kevin Long, so right after Curtis went through the overhaul.

The camera angle isn’t the same but you can see Granderson closed his stance and dropped his hands, pretty drastically too. Much more than Teixeira. (Lower hands is a classic adjustment players make in an effort to get their bat moving quicker.) He is not standing more upright, though he did replace his one-handed follow-through with a two-handed follow-through. I’m not going to make a GIF of that; I trust you remember Grandy following through with two hands these last few years.

Alright, back to Teixeira. Here’s a snippet of a relevant Mark Feinsand article from late in Spring Training, just before the Yankees traveled to Houston to open the season:

Kevin Long noticed that Teixeira had been letting the bat go early when he hit lefty, protecting his right wrist in the process. Teixeira said he fell into that habit last year when he tried to play through the injury, but until Long picked it up on video earlier in the week, he didn’t realize it was still happening.

“Lefthanded, mentally I have to continue to remember that it’s healthy now and even though it might be a little bit tight, and every now and then it’s a little bit sore, I can still take that full swing,” Teixeira said. “It was unbelievable how early I was letting go of my (left) hand to protect the (right) wrist. Just really a bad mechanical thing.”

Long and Teixeira worked on the adjustment in the cage and during batting practice, but it wasn’t until Thursday’s game against the Pirates in Bradenton that the first baseman truly felt he let loose during his lefthanded at-bats.

“It looked like a whole different animal,” Long said. “The problem is it wasn’t allowing him to drive the ball and he was cutting his swing off. I can’t tell you how positive the Bradenton game was for him and for us.

That’s the kinda thing I read in Spring Training and completely ignore. We hear that sorta stuff everyday and most of it means nothing, both short and long-term. Teixeira has noticeably revamped his stance though, and both he and the hitting coach talked about making adjustments back in camp. The early returns are positive too: .231/.375/.487 (140 wRC+) with three homers in 48 plate appearances this season, including two homers in his last two games. Suddenly that little blurb from March seems more meaningful.

Teixeira is a switch-hitter, but his left-handed swing has been the concern in recent years. I didn’t bother to look to see if he changed his righty stance as well. He never stopped mashing lefties (144 wRC+ from 2011-13), so there was never a reason to worry about him from that side of the plate. Teixeira’s production against righties took a hit though (104 wRC+ from 2011-13), plus a right wrist injury is more worrisome for a lefty hitter. The front arm is the power arm, so if any part of that is compromised, it’s tough to drive the ball. Teixeira has hit those two homers off righty pitchers the last two games, which is encouraging.

Will the adjustments Teixeira made this year be as effective as the ones Granderson made in 2010? Man that would be so cool. It is the same basic stuff, after all. Closed stance, lower hands, two-handed follow-through, etc. That said, no. Probably not. Granderson’s fix was 95th percentile stuff. Turning into a 40+ homer guy with a few mechanical tweaks is damn near the best case scenario. I wouldn’t expect the same results from Teixeira just because they made the same adjustments. They are two different players at two different points of their careers.

Still, can this new stance help Teixeira regain some of his lost production as a left-handed batter? It’s possible and I hope so. There’s really no way of knowing at this point though. Teixeira wasn’t bad in his last full, healthy season (116 wRC+), he just wasn’t as good as he had been during his prime. The easiest way for him to improve his overall production is to improve against righties, and these recent changes could help him do just that. Hopefully this recent power surge is a sign of things to come and an indication Teixeira’s new batting stance is paying real dividends.

Categories : Analysis, Mailbag
  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I’d gladly continue to sacrifice batting average with him as long as his contact continues to be more productive and he continues to lose some of the rust on defense and returns to being the defensive first baseman we know he is. Still a fairly young man. Still very able to be a contributor. A great person, and a man I’m still very proud to have on my team.

    • I’m One

      I’d love for him to get back to being a ~.280 hitter with power, but that ain’t happening, so continued power (and I hope the recent homers are a sign of things to come) is greatly appreciated. As long as he hits for power and drives in runs, he’s valuable.

    • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod

      I agree with you to a point. If he can stay batting .240-.260 with increased power and solid 1B I’ll be ecstatic (that’s not asking for too much, right? :-P). Once the BA starts getting in the .200-.230 range (without an increase in walks) I start getting annoyed.

      I know a lot of people on here would probably sign up for Teixeira batting .200 if they could guarantee 40 HR power. I personally would not, I don’t like watching Adam Dunn types string together a bunch of weak ABs then send one to the upper deck every 5 games or so. I’m sure plenty will disagree with me and probably provide good counter-arguments, but personally I just don’t like watching that type of hitter. They’re more frustrating to me than exciting.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I’d take a .230 that put a few more balls in play than a “three true outcomes” .230 like Dunn, but I agree with your overall point.

        • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod

          Yeah, I was kind of arbitrary with my .240-.260 range. I’d be content with a productive .230 as you state it.

          • RetroRob

            Right. As Mike noted he’s triple slashing to a .231/.375/.487 line, and a 140 wRC+. I’ll take that over the course of the year, yet I suspect they’ll be some rebalancing in those numbers.

  • Looser trader droids FotD™

    Man. Teix improving from the left side would be most excellent.

  • TWTR

    If it doesn’t work, Tex can consider giving up switch-hitting.

    • nyyankfan_7

      I don’t think guys who have a career .267 avg with 247 HRS from the left side of the plate decide they are going to give up hitting from that side.

      • Steve (different one)

        Who play 81 games in Yankee stadium….

        Not saying it could NEVER get to that point, but it’s a long ways off still.

      • TWTR

        You are citing his career splits. That doesn’t reflect the LH hitter he has been since he peaked here in 2009. That is the point. Maybe this adjustment turns that around; that would be awesome. But if his LH splits continue the prior path of decline, batting RH should be an option. His swing as a RH batter is more level, giving him greater plate coverage, and he appears to have more bat speed.

        • nyyankfan_7

          You mean his RH swing versus LH pitching – we haven’t seen his RH swing versus RH pitching….and God knows how long it has been since he has either.

          He’s 34 and plays in Yankee Stadium – he’s not ever going to consider it. Not every player in the lineup has to hit .300. Guys who hit .240 with 30 – 35 HRS are productive.

        • Now Batting

          Great now all we would need to do is get our 34 year old 1B to get used to seeing MLB pitches break away from him – something he’s literally never seen in his life. Gtfo

    • Preston

      Guys who give up switch hitting usually do so to become LHB. As a RHB he’d be giving up the platoon advantage to the majority of pitchers he faces, I don’t think he’d be better against RHP hitting from the right side. It’s not like he’s ever been unplayable against RHP, he’s been better than league average.

  • The Great Gonzo

    Other thing I noticed (not that its analytical or anything… more anecdotal): The Beckett pitch was a clear mistake. Salty setup low away and the pitch floated in. The pitch the other night was a legit decent pitch and Tex picked it up. It might mean nothing, it might speak to the approach, it might just prove he loves that inside pitch to pull.

    Maybe I am talking out my ass, what do I know

  • Reggie C.

    Whatever gets Tex to at least a .250/.350/.475 line is fine with me.

    • Mikhel

      I’d want nothing less than a 0.880 OPS; an 0.825 OPS is in line with his past 4 seasons averages.

      If he keeps batting 0.230 then he should at least put OPS’s closer to 0.900 than to 0.800.

      • nyyankfan_7

        So you didn’t like his 2011 season when he had a .835 OPS which included 39 HRS and 111 RBI? I’d gladly take that from him but I think that is wishful thinking.

        He’s 34 and hasn’t had a .900 OPS since 2009 – I don’t think it is going to get there again.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Anyone who wouldn’t take 75% of that season from him needs to adjust their expectations bigtime.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Only 17 qualified hitters had an .880 OPS last year.

        • Preston

          I think a lot of people are having trouble understanding the fact that the decline in offense league wide is part of Teixeira’s decline. His 2014 triple slash of .231/.375/.487 gives him almost the same wRC+ that his 2009 line of .292/.383/.565 did (141 this year 142 in 2009). Blame expanded strike zones, teams putting an emphasis on defense, the shift, specialized bullpens, steroids (lack of) or just a better crop of pitchers, players don’t hit the way they did 5 years ago.

          • Reggie C.

            Good stuff Preston!

          • nyyankfan_7

            Thank you – no one seems to understand this fact.

          • LK

            Excellent point, one that often seems to not get enough attention.

            The converse of this is also true: the pitching numbers we’re seeing are all less impressive than they appear at first glance. The same is true for salaries as well, which have grown enormously over the past few years.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Excellent point. Thank you.

      • http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/ ALZ

        Temper your expectations. Currently offense is declining around the league, and no one on the team currently has more than 0.880. Personally I would be very content with a .250/.330/.470 line. It would put him as the team’s #5 hitter.

        • RetroRob

          Agreed. Players approaching/exceeding 900 OPS lines are getting harder. We may not be back in the 1970s, but offense is on the decline.

  • I’m One

    what do I know

    Probably as much as most of us ….

    • I’m One

      Reply fail to The Great Gonso …

      • I’m One

        Bad morning. Can’t even spell his name correctly. Need coffee!!

  • mike

    if he became Granderson as a lefty ( all-or nothing swing with actually driving the ball, not weak pop ups we have seen from a slower bat thru the zone) and he continues to hit well RH, i think we all would be quite happy

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      As long as he doesn’t become NEW YORK MET Curtis Granderson….

      • nyyankfan_7

        here here

      • RetroRob

        But Curtis is happier playing in front of true New Yorkers.

  • Mikhel

    From what I can see he changed his stance, but his swings is still the same, it doesn’t matter what a batter does before he gets ready to swing, when he begins the act of swinging is what matters.

    In both cases Teixeira gets ready and his hands drop more or less to the height of his chin. In both cases his front foot ends up aligned with his back foot. In both cases he is inclined when he begins his swing and drops his hands. Both swings are “uppercut” swings (2013 looks more “flat” his swing because the pitch is away, in 2014′s swing looks like he is pulling the ball from below in an uppercut motion because the pitch was in the inside part of the plate).

    There are lots of cases of players changing their approach to gain a bit of time when they lose reaction time, but to me it looks like this new stance was adopted to make him feel more comfortable with his wrist, by allowing him to rest the wrist a bit more, compared to the strain of having the bat in 2013′s type of stance, nowadays his wrist are in a more natural position.

    There are other things they could change to check if he can make more contact, by making Teix have a more flat swing so he can swipe the zone and still make contact if the pitch is off from where he calculated it after watching the ball come; an uppercut swing is less forgiving than a Tino-Martínez-kind-of-swing.

    Look at what Solarte is doing, he changes his approach depending on how the game is. In the latter innings he pulls the ball and seems to make a faster swing (which maybe in the long run we could see more extrabases from the 7th to 9th inning).

    Solarte’s approach remind me of what Tonny Gwynn did, early in the count he would pull hard, when the count was not in his favour he would try to slap hits, either by choking the bat or by choking the swing (making a more compact swing but not a full swing, in spanish is what is called: chocar la bola; just to make contact and direct it to the holes). That way Gwynn could take advantage of pitchers throwing him a fastball trying to get ahead in the count, and just putting the ball in motion when pitchers used “garbage” pitches to try and fool him with offspeed stuff.

    Now, Solarte I think is trying to take advantage of the type of pitchers modern relievers rely more: fastballs.

    Vinny Castilla made a living by swinging hard in the first two pitches because he knew pitchers would try to pass him a fastball to get ahead in the count, current cuban baseball players usually swing early to try and hit the fastballs, nowadays they have not had a good outcome vs offspeed pitches when compared to fastballs. Their amount of Homeruns will stay basically the same because they have power and are talented, their AVG will drop because they won’t get as many hits as before (Trout for a bit the past two weeks showd a bit of trouble hitting the fastballs in the middle and a bit inside, as well as offspeed pitches low and away; most pitchers afraid of good hitters would not pitch them fastballs in the middle, and that’s how Manny Ramírez also was dealt with a lot of times in pressure situations).

    • 28 this year

      Are you saying that we should hope Tex adopts a Solarte-like approach?

      • Preston

        Everybody should, the guy is hitting .303/.404/.461! Mark Teixeira could learn a thing or two about sustained success in the big leagues from Solarte.

        • 28 this year

          Haha, I asked the question to first confirm that that is what the guy was saying because like you, it is an utterly ridiculous thought to say Tex would benefit approaching the game like Solarte. I hope Solarte is good because that would benefit the Yankees but say that Solarte is as good as he is right now, I remain skeptical.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            I somehow don’t think Tex would be willing to bounce around AA and AAA for a few years at this point in this career. That would make it hard to take on the Solarte approach.

            Poor Yangervis. We give him so much undeserved grief on here due to the sins of others.

    • Rick

      The whole point of changing his stance though is so that his swing will remain the same. Hitters get to the major leagues and experience sustained success when they can repeat the swing that made them so successful. As some players get older, they need to make adjustments to replicate that same swing from prior years. Any adjustment in his stance that can return Teixeira swing back to the same plane with the same bat speed can only be positive.

  • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

    “it doesn’t matter what a batter does before he gets ready to swing, when he begins the act of swinging is what matters.”

    If you actually believe that your stance doesn’t effect, at the very least mentally, how you swing, then you never played any baseball.

    • Preston

      The biggest challenge to hitting is timing, and where you position yourself may not effect how you swing, but it definitely effects WHEN you swing. He’s bringing his hands down allows him to start to swing the bat quicker.

      • Rick

        Bingo.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        This too.

      • Lukaszek

        Wow you’re really hitting them out the park today

  • lou

    New stance or no new stance still a .240 20-25 hr guy. Everyone is so quick to not notice the 60 pts in average drop.

    2003: 146 G, 529 AB, .259, 26 HR
    2004: 145 G, 545 AB, .281, 38 HR,
    2005: 162 G, 644 AB, .301, 43 HR,
    2006: 162 G, 628 AB, .282, 33 HR,
    2007: 132 G, 494 AB, .306, 30 HR,
    2008: 157 G, 574 AB, .308, 33 HR,
    2009: 156 G, 609 AB, .292, 39 HR,
    2010: 158 G, 601 AB, .256, 33 HR,
    2011: 156 G, 589 AB, .248, 39 HR,
    2012: 111 G, 408 AB, .257, 23 HR,

    am not optimistic that Teixeira can return to his old self. ding ding

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Number of people saying he’s going to return to his old self on here: zero.

      • RetroRob

        He’s having a discussion with himself.

        We should step away.

  • blingnit

    Good catch by Jonathan.

    A few comments just to hear myself talk:

    His 2014 finish has his feet more square to the plate. In 2013, his front foot ended up closer to the plate. The 2014 version should give him better access to inside pitches.

    The lowered hands require less movement to get into the hitting position; that’s probably a good thing especially as players age.

    I like the more upright batting position and the lower front shoulder. He looks much more comfortable; less scrunched up. He now starts much closer to the hitting position.

    I hope he stays healthy and continues his current success. The Yanks really need Tex. I’d rather see him in the 4 hole than McCann.

  • Deathstroke Heathcott

    We all know Teix is a slow starter with a .770 OPS for his career in March/April but somehow he’s started off much hotter this year in a limited sample size with an .862 OPS so far. Now imagine if that’s the cold starter version of Teix + Long adjustments. 1.000 OPS, here we come!

    • Preston

      Love the optimism!

  • Some hack

    His stride is completely different too. Being closed in his stance helps with this but that front foot is not moving nearly as much. That reduces how much his head moves when he swings. The more your head moves the more the ball appears to move.

    That and the upright bat are the things that jump out at me. The upright bat puts his bat head closer to the hitting zone initially which shortens the path to the ball.

    Thanks for the really cool gif Mike!