Thursday, May 27, 2010

Whither Mark Teixiera?

What the heck is wrong with Mark Teixeira? In fits and starts this season, he has showed some signs of life, but then he’s retreated back into his prolonged slump. One night he’ll go 3 for 4, the next he’s 0 for 4 with 2Ks. So what’s wrong?

Checking the numbers, one sees that for the most part, he’s doing what he’s done his entire career. He’s not swinging at more bad pitches this year. He’s actually walking a bit more this year than he normally does. His K level is about the same as its always been. So what could be the problem?

2 things. One is Batting Average of Balls In Play. Last year, Teixeira’s BABIP was .302. This year, it’s down about 80 points to .226. Simply put, he’s just not hitting them where they ain’t.

The other is Teixeira’s Home Run/Fly Ball ratio. Over his career, Teixeira’s HR/FB ratio was just under 19%. This year, it’s hovering around 11%. He’s hitting roughly the same percentage of fly balls; they just aren’t leaving the park. As Teixeira himself says: “”I feel great,” Teixeira said. “I’m swinging at good pitches, but I’m just not doing the damage that I want to do.”

Taking those stats a little further: Over his career, Teixeira has only hit for a .217 average on balls he hit on the ground. Not great. And he’s down on those a little for this year—batting .164 this season on balls he hit on the ground. But over his career, Teixeira has a .296 average on fly balls he hit—this year that average is .188. Over 100 points lower this season on fly balls he’s hit.

What does this suggest? Possibly that it’s just a mechanical thing. Joe Girardi said recently: “It seems like he’s having a hard time staying back right now. He’s out in front, swinging and missing some. It looks like he’s not picking up the ball at times.”

Teixeira’s swing has always had an uppercut hack to it—and when his timing is right, he can drive pitches out of the park in a hurry. Now though, out in front of pitches, Teixeira is getting a little under the pitches. He’s still driving them into the air, but not with the drive needed to put the ball out of the park.

Regarding his timing—whereas Teixeira’s 2010 numbers versus power pitchers is about the same; his numbers against “finesse” pitchers are way, way down. From a .304 lifetime average against finesse pitchers to .197 this year. Which, once again, would suggest he’s getting fooled on pitches and thus missing or fouling off pitches he should drive.

The good news is: his BABIP is way up in May—. 289, as opposed to .148 in March and April. And as most people know by now, Teixeira is a slow starter—his best months by far over his career are August and September—and as the weather warms, so does he. He’s just too good of a player not to get on track. As he said of himself recently: “This is my eighth year. I’ve had a lot of ups, a lot of downs. I’ve never tried to reinvent myself.”

In other words, he’ll be fine.


Pete S said...

There have been a lot of great plays this year to take away hits from Tex. So far this year, he's hitting the ball on the screws and fielders have been making great plays. The Yanks will go on a tear when luck turns his way.

Travis said...

That was one of those things that always bothered me when he played in Texas. He always started the season so bad, it always made you nervous. Now if if he still struggling in July then I would worry