Missing a healthy Mark Teixeira

(Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

The Yankees needed the 2009 version of Mark Teixeira in 2012, but instead got something more closely resembling his rookie campaign. After two years of disappointing performances, Teixeira has turned in his weakest one yet. It doesn’t matter which stat you choose; they all look lousy compared to the expectations he set from 2004 through 2009. His 2012 campaign looks even worse now that he’s spent almost all of the last month on the shelf.

At the same time, the Yankees are desperately missing Teixeira’s bat in the middle of the lineup. That is, they’re missing what the healthy Mark Teixeira produced in 2012. While his overall numbers don’t reflect it, he was, for a stretch, a productive member of the lineup. Given the failings of other middle of the order hitters this month — Robinson Cano was hitting just .250/.353/.398 and A-Rod .256/.305/.384 going into yesterday’s game — they could use some more power behind Derek Jeter and Ichiro.

The Cough

Early in the season Mark Teixeira came down with some kind of cold, and without regular rest it lingered. It might seem like a small thing, a mere cough, but think about it from a hitter’s perspective. You’re at the plate with a guy hurling a ball at you, and you have this burning in the back of your throat. It takes an insane amount of concentration to hit a baseball as it is. Now imagine having that concentration distracted because you have a cough coming up. It’s no simple task, and Teixeira certainly suffered for it.

Instead of the slow starts to which we’ve become accustomed, Teixeira slogged through the first month and a half of the season. He hit just .228/.283/.386, and his numbers were greatly propped up by his one great performance, 3 for 6 with 2 HR in Boston. In mid-May Girardi gave him a weekend off, and it seemed to do the trick. Since then he has hit .270/.361/.526 — not quite 2009 Teixeira, but certainly quality numbers given his depressed numbers in 2010 and 2011.

Things actually looked a bit better for a while, but then another injury struck.

The Wrist

On July 30th Teixeira left the game against the Orioles after hurting his wrist. The timing couldn’t have been worse, and not just because the Yankees had just lost Alex Rodriguez a few days prior. Teixeira had been on an absolute tear since that weekend on the bench. In 256 PA he was hitting .277/.371/.568. Considering the overall league offensive decline, these numbers lined up pretty well with his 2009 production.

Wrist injuries are notorious for sapping power, and that’s exactly what happened to Teixeira. After returning on August 3rd he hit .250/.330/.408 in 88 PA. Worse, he re-injured the wrist in a game on August 16. He returned just four days later, but went 5 for 22 with a lone double before the calf injury.

The Replacements

Since the calf injury Yankees first basemen have hit .225/.343/.393, a downgrade from even Teixeira’s full-season line of .255/.336/.478, never mind a healthy Teixeira. Yet even those numbers are a bit high; they don’t consider the game that Teixeira himself played first base, in which he went 1 for 4 with a walk and a double. Absent that game Yankees first basemen are hitting .223/.340/.388.

There’s a trickle-down effect, too. Nick Swisher has taken many of those at-bats at first base. While he hasn’t had a banner September, hitting .212/.316/.388 prior to yesterday, his absence is noted in right field. Since the Teixeira injury right fielders are hitting just .204/.282/.312, and while some of that is certainly Swisher’s doing, clearly there are others bringing down the numbers in right.

The Postseason

The hope is that the Yankees can get Teixeira back in time for the postseason. We had heard that he might be ready for this weekend’s series in Toronto, but given his progress it doesn’t seem likely. He has been progressing in the last week or so, though he did take a planned day off from running yesterday. He still hasn’t gone full speed, and says he is still experiencing tightness and soreness in his calf. As Joe Girardi said this week, “The concern is that you rush him and then he has that one play and then you know he’s probably gone for the season. You have to make sure.” It sounds like a longwinded way of saying that Teixeira is back against Boston at the earliest.

Getting Teixeira back for the postseason could be huge, especially if his time on the shelf has given his wrist ample time to heal. Yankees fans might not be excited about the prospect of Teixeira in the postseason; he’s hit just .170/.276/.302 in 123 postseason PA for the Yanks. Yet we’ve seen other Yankees postseason heroes falter in the postseason. Tino Martinez hit .183/.294/.290 in his first 109 PA as a Yankee in the postseason before hitting .280/.351/.430 from the World Series, 1998, through the World Series, 2001.

Tino hit well enough for the Mariners in the 1995 playoffs, .273/.360/.364 against New York and Cleveland. Teixeira actually hit better in his lone pre-Yankees postseason series, going 7 for 15 with four walks against Boston in the 2008 ALDS. This isn’t to say that Teixeira will turn around his postseason performance in the same way Tino did. But it is to say that Teixeira’s failures as a Yankee in the postseason don’t necessarily doom him to the same fate in the future.

If you only look at Teixeira’s 2012 season, you’ll only get part of the story. You’ll see his overall poor numbers and how they’ve hurt the team relative to expectations. You’ll see a third straight year of declining numbers, certainly a cause for concern for the final four years of his contract. But you won’t see how the season unfolded. The stat sheet doesn’t document his struggles early in the year, his resurgence when healthy, and his post-injury production. It’s not an excuse for his performances; rather, it’s a clarification of them. The Yanks could sure use that healthy mid-May to late-July Teixeira in the lineup in the postseason. It could make a huge difference in the offensive production.

Late-night standings update

The Orioles, Rays, and Angels all won on Wednesday night, meaning the playoff picture did not change at all. Another day did tick off the calendar, however. Baltimore is two games back of the Yankees in the AL East while the Rays are five back. The magic number to clinch the division is six with seven games to play. The Angels are four back for the second wildcard spot, and the magic number to clinch a postseason berth is down to just four. Hooray for that.

Teixeira resumes running in Tampa

Mark Teixeira has yet to participate in any Instructional League games down in Tampa, but the first baseman has resumed running as he works his way back from his left calf strain. Teixeira has been taking batting practice and fielding drills for about a week now, but he’s only been able to ease back into the running. Joe Girardi said the team hopes to get him into a simulated game soon. There’s only a week left in the regular season, so we’re starting to approach crunch time as far as getting him back in advance of a potential postseason series.

Wednesday Night Open Thread

Hooray for old baseball promos. It’s too bad I can’t remember anything that happened before like, 1989. Anyway, here is your open thread for the evening. The Mets are playing the Pirates (Hefner vs. Locke), and ESPN will air the Athletics at the Rangers (Parker vs. Perez) a little later on. Use this thread to talk about anything but politics. Thanks in advance.

Sabathia cruises as Yanks take series from Twins

For the fourth straight year and 11th time in the last 12 years, the Yankees have won 90 games. Their 8-2 win over the Twins on Wednesday afternoon gave the Bombers the series win, but more importantly it inched them ever closer to a playoff berth and a second straight AL East crown.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

CC on Cruise Control

The second half has been a bumpy road for CC Sabathia, but he dominated the Athletics last week and carried that over against the Twins on Wednesday. He allowed just two runs — on singles by former Yankees farmhand Matt Carson and Pedro Florimon, the second of which deflected off of Sabathia’s leg and away from Robinson Cano at second — in eight innings, striking out ten against just two walks. At one point he retired 14 of 16 batters faced and ended up throwing 118 total pitches.

Sabathia struck out the side on ten pitches in the fourth inning, so he was dangerously close to an Immaculate Inning. He also struck Joe Mauer out three times on nine total pitches (!) before getting a first pitch ground out in his fourth at-bat. It’s only the sixth time in Mauer’s 1,059-game career that he’s whiffed three times in one game (!!), and Sabathia joins Ryan Dempster and former 21-game loser Mike Maroth as the only pitchers to singlehandedly strike him out three times in a single game. CC is now the only guy to do it twice. More importantly though, he’s starting to round into form and that’s very, very good news for the Yankees.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Bring In The Lefty? Six-Run Third

The third of three Twins starters probably no one heard of coming into the series, right-hander Samuel Deduno lasted just five outs and 30 pitches due to a left eye issue. Ron Gardenhire replaced him with left-hander Brian Duensing, which seemed like a problem for the Yankees because six of their nine starters were lefties. Duensing struck out Raul Ibanez to end the second inning, but it was all downhill for the 2009 ALDS Game One Starter from there.

After Chris Stewart opened the third with a ground out, the left-handed Chris Dickerson grounded a two-strike single back up the middle to start the rally. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a single to almost the exact same spot, then Derek Jeter drew a walk to loaded the bases. The day’s 3-4-5 hitters plated five total runs with a two-run double to right (Cano), a one-run single to right (Nick Swisher), and a two-run triple into the right field corner (Curtis Granderson). Granderson scored on a wild pitch as Eric Chavez was being walked, then Duensing’s day was over after retiring Ibanez for the second time. Of the seven left-handed hitters the southpaw faced, five reached base. Ibanez was the only one who didn’t. I guess that strategy backfired.

Leftovers

Jeter took an 0-for-4 with a walk, so his hitting streak came to an end at 19 games. It was the third longest streak of his career. The Cap’n has still reached base in a season-high 27 games though, and that’s the fifth longest single-season streak of his career. Pretty neat. Ichiro extended his hitting streak to ten with a 2-for-4 afternoon.

Dickerson plated some extra insurance runs with a two-run blast off the facing of the right field upper deck in the sixth inning. I’m telling you, the guy can hit righties. He can also play some strong defense in all three outfield spots and is a high-percentage base-stealer. Not calling him an All-Star or anything, but C-Dick is a better player than most people realize. Ichiro, Cano, Ibanez, and Dickerson all had two hits while Swisher (single, walk), Chris Stewart (single, walk), and Chavez (two walks) all reached twice as well.

Cano had himself a nice day at the plate with the two-run double, but he also turned several nice plays in the field as well. Some were solo jobs coming in on ground balls, but on two occasions he teamed up with Swisher on relay plays at the bag, like the play above. Brett Gardner also got into the game in the ninth inning, taking over in left field for the final three outs. He didn’t have to make any plays because Cody Eppley didn’t allow anything to be hit out of the infield.

Chavez forgot how many outs there were in the fifth inning, simply stepping on third base and trotting towards the dugout with runners on first and second with one out. I don’t think it would have been a double play anyway because he was playing back and the speedy Florimon was running down the line, but still. He can’t be making mistakes like that. Sabathia escaped the inning unscathed but had to throw four extra pitches, assuming the double play would have been turned.

The six runs the Yankees scored in the third was their fourth highest-scoring inning of the season. They’ve scored seven runs in one inning on three separate occasions this season, including in both the seventh and eighth innings of the 15-9 comeback win in Fenway Park. They also plated seven in one inning as part of a big win over the Orioles on August 1st.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights while ESPN has the updated standings. The magic number to clinch the division is down to six while the magic number to clinch a postseason berth is just four. Those numbers could drop further tonight depending on what happens with the Orioles, Rays, and Angels.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

It’s off to Toronto for the final road series of the season. The Yankees will open the four-game set against the Blue Jays on Thursday night, when Ivan Nova squares off against Brandon Morrow.

Must-Click Link: The Silent One

Here’s a fantastic story for the afternoon: ESPN’s Jorge Arangure wrote about fill-in closer Rafael Soriano, a quiet man who puts baseball and family above all else. Arangure chronicled Soriano’s climb to the majors, which started as the child of a poor single mother who refused to falsify documents so he could sign with the Hiroshima Carp as a switch-hitting outfielder at age 16. It’s an awesome read and gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so make sure you check it out.

Game 155: Escape with a win

More high fives, please. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

There’s only a week left in the regular season, but the magic number to clinch the division still sits at seven. The Yankee control their own destiny but I don’t think anyone wants to see this thing go right down to the wire. Being able to rest some guys, particularly relievers, in that final series against the Red Sox would be nice. That’s why last night’s loss stung so much, it was a chance to inch closer to the division title and make life a little easier. The Yankees have a chance to atone for that loss this afternoon with their ace on the mound against a pitcher a) with a 5.9 BB/9 in nearly 80 innings this year, and b) starting on three days’ rest. Here’s the starting lineup…

RF Ichiro Suzuki
SS Derek Jeter
2B Robinson Cano
1B Nick Swisher
CF Curtis Granderson
3B Eric Chavez
DH Raul Ibanez
C  Chris Stewart
LF Chris Dickerson

LHP CC Sabathia

This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start at 1:10pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.