With the aid of Steve Donahue and Joe Girardi, Mark Teixeira limped off the field in the fifth inning of last night’s Game Four, an unceremonious end to his 2010 season. A Grade II hamstring strain suffered while running out what should have been a double play grounder (thanks for the bad throw, Michael Young) was the culprit, attacking Tex’s right leg a few steps before he reached the bag. It was a fitting end for a type of season he had, a disappointment made bearable only by the help of others.
Now, it’s important to remember that disappointing is a relative term here. Tex was a legit MVP candidate last year, one that hit .292/.383/.565 with a league-leading 39 homers. From 2004 through 2009, basically every season between his rookie campaign and 2010, Tex amassed a .295/.385/.554 batting line, undeniably elite production regardless of position. He slumped down to a .367 wOBA and 3.5 fWAR this season, still very good, but well below the lofty standards he’s set. Both totals are his lowest since his rookie season. Teixeira’s 33 homers were plenty given the overall decline in offense around the league, but an all-or-nothing approach yielded nothing more than all compared to the past.
Much like 2009, Tex battled through his customary April slump, though this time it stuck around a little longer. He showed signs of life in May but didn’t really hit his stride until June, far too late for the three-hole hitter on the defending World Champs. He then hit another rough patch late in the season that carried right on into the playoffs. Now two full years into the Mark Teixeira Era, that’s the one aspect of his game that’s become painfully obvious: the guy is extremely streaky.
Perhaps it’s just confirmation bias, but there appears to be no middle ground to Tex’s offensive game. When he slumps, he really slumps and for an extended period of time. He’ll hack at pitches in the dirt and pop hittable pitches up on the infield or into the shallow outfield, and that was never more obvious than during the postseason. Tex took an 0-for-ALCS and was salvaged only by a game winning homer in Game One of the ALDS against the Twins. When he’s right though, when he’s in a groove and his swinging is working well, he’s one of the five best players on the planet. In 2010 though, there were far more downs than ups.
To be fair, there is one aspect of Tex’s game that doesn’t slump, and that’s his defense. His glovework at first is world class and remains that way even when he isn’t hitting, so he’s never a total zero. He can still, and often does, prevent runs defensively even when he isn’t producing with the stick. That’s definitely a big positive.
Tex’s season personifies the MSM narrative whenever the Yankees are losing or fail to win the World Series; he’s a 30-something on a gigantic contract with albatross potential not living up to expectations, particularly when it comes to vaguely defined and often arbitrary “clutch” situations. It’s a gross oversimplification of course, but that’s the way it goes in this town. Tex was clearly upset and disappointed during his postgame meet with the media last night, as he should have been. After his monster pinstriped debut last year, Teixeira’s follow-up campaign can best be described as underwhelming.