Keep Your Faith in Mark Teixeira

When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira about a year and a half ago one of the first things we were told about him was that he is a very slow starter and then he showed it by putting up a .738 OPS last April. Then we saw him rebound by putting up a 1.138 OPS in May and we never looked back.

So this season when Teixeira only managed a .559 OPS in the first month nobody was really concerned. Why should we be, most of us thought, he’ll rebound in May. That’s partially true, he did improve his OPS by almost .300 points to .840 for the month.

The problem is that his April 2010 was definitely worse than his April 2009 and his rebound in May was not nearly as impressive. To top that off he’s slumping again during the first five days in June (He’s 3-for-20 good for a .150 AVG and .427 OPS this month). At a certain point a slow start becomes a bad year and maybe we haven’t gotten to that point just yet, but we are inching uncomfortably close to it.

For those fans who are starting to sweat when Teixeira comes to the plate, there are reasons to expect that he’ll turn it around soon. All of his peripheral numbers are at or close to his career averages, even with five strikeouts yesterday, and this is a good sign that his approach hasn’t changed. He just seems to be running into an extraordinary amount of bad luck.

The first things to look at are his BABIP and his LD% (batting average on balls in play and line drive percentage for those unfamiliar with those stats). His BABIP is .235 right now down from his career average of .304. This shows us that he’s getting incredibly unlucky as even poor hitters usually average around .300 BABIP. At some point there should be a correction here and his average will go way up along with it. His LD% is also at 20.1% right now compared to his career average of 20.4%. This means that he is hitting the ball with the same authority as he has his entire career. He’s just not finding spots.

There are also his walk and strikeout rates to consider. Teixeira has a BB% of 12.9 and a K% of 20.5 this season. Those numbers are almost identical to his career averages of 11.4 and 20.5, if anything he’s actually walking slightly more than he has in his career. This shows that he hasn’t changed his approach at the plate or expanded his strike zone.

Finally another good thing to look at is his home run to fly ball rate or HR/FB. This number is at 11.3% right now meaning that 11.3 percent of his fly balls turn into home runs. This number is down from his career mark of 18.5%. This statistic relies heavily on luck so the fact that his fly balls are leaving the ballparks at a less frequent rate this year shows that he is getting incredibly unlucky.

The point of this post is to point out that fans should not give up on Teixeira. He’s taking the same approach at the plate and not making it easier for pitchers to get him out by expanding his strike zone. His BABIP and HR/FB ratio show that up to this point he is getting incredibly unlucky. Five strikeout games sound bad, but his K% is still the same as its ever been.

Be patient, he’ll come around.

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5 Responses to Keep Your Faith in Mark Teixeira

  1. smurfy says:

    No way I give up on Tex, but I am a patient activist, Rob. In the spring, I suggested that Tex be tried at fifth, to protect Alex, with Matsui's departure. Blog fans did not want to consider it. They seem to feel that it would blow the mind and bat of such as Tex, Jete or Arod to switch their batting position. The metric people say, ahh, it doesn't hardly matter, except how many at bats they get over the season.

    While patience and Tex are true virtues, Tex is fighting steadfastly to keep his sanity. An outside shock is what he may need: I say put him down in the order, and let him bat back to his value spot.

    No booing a team player, hard striver like that, but no dumb (as in see no evil) patience with the status quo.

    Batting order position should be fluid, not fixed. Yanks should try Gardner at leadoff and Jeter at second. Vive la difference, and vive les Yankees!

  2. bob weisberger says:

    The only part of the statistical analysis I question is the homer fly ball ratio. I don't think that's luck, the way a line drive not dropping in is luck, because if you hit it hard and high enough it can't be caught. A 300 foot vs 400 foot fly ball is not an example of random variation. I could do the first but not the second, and no amount of luck will change that.

  3. I think the reason why they say that it is largely luck is because most line drives don't go out for home runs. Most home runs are the long, high, fly balls and there isn't a big difference between a deep fly ball 10 rows back and one 10 feet in front of the wall. Maybe a 10th of a millimeter on the bat.

  4. Jipic says:

    I think some of the problem relates to what lloks like a greater use of the Giambi shift on Tex when he bats lefty. Giambi never learned that going the other way, even with a bunt or groundball would bring up his average and stop the overuse of the shift. Hitting the opposite way would work ven better for Tex because he has A-Rod hitting behind him and Cano after A-Rod. Just getting on base will hurt enough teams that they will eventually have to use less or no shift on Tex and he'll become even more dangerous offensively. Tex has lost several hits to the shift already because he's pulling the ball too much batting lefty. He must take what they give him and go from there. He also seems to have forgotrten that he does have power to the left center and left field when hitting left handed. Drive the ball to the left-center gap a few times, ground some basehits to the left side, get a few bunt singles to the third base side and watch the shift disappear and the offensive numbers soar!

    • Joe says:

      Bingo on the above comment. Last night was the first time I saw a team not play Teixeira into the shift. Arizona must have not been following the scouting on Tex because I can count on one hand the number of times he's hit the ball to center or RF batting lefty this month. It's Giambi-itis Part 2.