Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On Your Mark

It is estimated that the Yankees saved roughly 40 runs in 2009, just by switching from Jason Giambi playing first base to Mark Teixeira.

According to Bill James Fielding Bible, from 2006 to 2008, Jason Giambi rated a -30 (meaning he made 30 less plays than the average 1st baseman), while Mark Teixeira was a +22.

All these facts and figures were on full display. As the New York Times’ George Vescey wrote this morning:

In the eighth inning, Bobby Abreu raced to second on his drive up the gap. Teixeira then did what first basemen are supposed to do — follow the play to second because there is nothing left to do at first. But how often do first basemen just gape at the proceedings down the baseline?

“Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it doesn’t work,” Teixeira said, noting that he made an out at second last season. This time he made the 90-foot run, and when Abreu slammed on the brakes 30 feet past second, a quick relay via Derek Jeter right to Teixeira’s outstretched first baseman’s glove.

One out later, Teixeira hauled in a wayward throw by Alex Rodriguez and made a perilous tag on Vladimir Guerrero thundering down the line.

In the 10th, Teixeira snatched two grounders down the line for outs. In between, he threw home for a force play to keep the game alive.

Amazing stuff, especially considering that for most of the 2000s, the Yankees penciled in “V. Frankenstein” at first base. In a tight, intensely played game, Teixeira made the kind of play that Jeter usually makes in those situations: smart and clutch.

That said, the man has got to start hitting.

After batting .467 in last year’s ALDS (with a .550 OBP), Teixeira can’t seem to buy a hit this postseason. And frankly, there is no reason he shouldn’t be hitting. With Alex Rodriguez en fuego behind him—batting .348 this postseason and slugging .870—Teixeira should be feasting on pitches around the plate. He hasn’t.

And so far, the media hasn’t done an “A-Rod” on him, writing how “…Teixeira is not earning his gargantuan contract…” etc, etc. Maybe because its only been 6 games. Maybe because the Yankees have been winning. Maybe because they like him better than Alex. Who knows? The only thing that matters is that a .120 BA with 6 Ks in PA is not going to cut it.

Not if you’re the number 3 hitter in the Yankee lineup. No, 6 total bases in the postseason is not going to cut it.

Neither is stranding 7 runners in scoring position while only producing 1 RBI.

The good news is that against Scott Kazmir, in 18 PA, Teixeira is batting .636 with 4 doubles, including going 2 for 6 this season. So he has a chance to break out of it.

He’d better.

Before this season, Alex Rodriguez batted .245 in the postseason for the Yankees.

And New York gave him hell for it.

So shape up, Mark, and hit some doubles. Because if you don’t show up in the ALCS and New York misses the World Series—all those fancy plays at first base aren’t going to matter one bit.

It’s time to get going.

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