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Player Profile #116: Mark Teixeira | 1B | NYY

While researching on what to write about for Mark Teixeira I came to a simple conclusion: he should stop being a switch hitter.

At first, I thought I would write this post about how Teixeira is constantly maligned despite his production (minus his batting average) has been rather consistent throughout his career — even in recent years.

Year PA BA R HR RBI
2003-2009 (avg) 662.6 .290 95.6 34.6 114
2010 712 .256 113 33 108
2011 684 .248 90 39 111
2012 524 .251 66 24 84

If you take away his 2012 season where he only played 123 games and you have a perennial 100 R/100 RBI player who hits in the mid-to-high 30s for home runs. So what happened to his batting averages recently?

I looked deeper expecting his LD% to have plummeted or his GB% to have gone up. Something has to explain the steep decline in his average, right? Not so much.

teixeira_battedball

His LD% remains pretty constant over his career and while there seems to be a spike in his GB% in 2012 it’s not totally out of proportion with his other seasons. One marked difference is his increased FB% since he became a Yankee in 2009. This certainly explains some of a drop in the AVG, but not everything.   His K rate has also remained pretty constant at about 15% and his walk rate in the 10%-14% area. So what the hell is going on with this guy?

I found the answer when looking at the handy info provided at at BrooksBaseball.net. For those of you that have never checked this site out it’s really amazing. Below is how Tex has been hitting fastballs since 2008, the first year data was available.

vs. LHP vs. RHP
Result 2008-2009 2010-2012 2008-2009 2010-2012
BAA .347 .298 .352 .229
BABIP .331 .306 .329 .202
ISO .227 .213 .363 .246
LD% 20.7 22.0 18.9 16.2
GB% 41.4 32.7 28.4 26.5
FB% 27.1 33.3 42.9 40.1
IFFB% 10.7 11.9 9.8 17.2

Before we analyze that table it should be noted that Teixeira is strictly a right-handed hitter vs. LHP and a left-handed hitter vs. RHP — he’s had a total of 6 PA as a righty vs. RHP between 2008-2012.

We can see that in 2008 and 2009, Teixeira absolutely feasted on fastballs from either side of the plate. Given that data wasn’t available prior to 2008 we aren’t able to look earlier into his career, but I’m going to guess he was just as good then based on his overall offensive output.

Teixeira is still solid from the right side of the plate despite his batting average falling from .347 to .298. The fact that his FB% rose from 27.1 to 33.3 can help explain that phenomenon. However, if you look at how he’s fared from the left side — it’s not good.

He’s cut down a little on his line drives, ground balls, and fly balls, which is usually OK, but not when it’s all added to the player’s infield fly rate. That increase of 7.4 percentage points easily explains his dip in batting average (.352 to .229), BABIP (.329 to .202), and ISO (.363 to .246).

Unfortunately, we have no idea whether it’s a realistic possibility for Teixeira to hit right-handed pitching from the right side of the plate, but it’s clearly not working from the left side. He could be even worse for all we know. Plus, if he moves away from the left side of the plate he loses that short right field porch in Yankee Stadium.

The bottom line is that Tex is getting older, now going into his age 34 season — and the increase in age could be a reason for his inability to hit fastballs. However, he has been able to jack home runs at a pretty good rate and post very good RBI and run totals. He plays in the perfect park and is surrounded by a good lineup. I don’t see him rebounding in the batting average department, but everything else should be just fine.

At A Glance

  • Strengths: HR, SLG, OPS, BB
  • Neutral: R, RBI, OBP, K
  • Weaknesses: SB, BA, 2B, 3B

Players With Similar Fantasy Value

2014 Fantasy Baseball Projection

2014 Projection: 600 PA, 74 R, 28 HR, 88 RBI, 1 SB, .253 BA

Overall Rank: 116 | 1B Rank: 24

Given his age and the fact that he’s coming off an injury there’s a good chance he will not be on many people’s target list, which makes for a great buy-low opportunity.

Another big question mark surrounding Teixiera is his wrist injury. Honestly, this doesn’t concern me all that much. The worry that most people cite with wrist injuries is a loss of power. However, if we use a recent example — Jose Bautista — he seemed to rebound fairly well in 2013 (28 HR in 118 G) after a wrist injury in 2012.

The bigger worry with Tex is what we already covered above (age and vs. RHP). We project a full season out of Tex and a bit of a dip in his R/RBI totals. He’s slated to bat cleanup for the new-look Yankees, who will have Jacoby Ellsbury, Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann batting around him. That’s a pretty sweet place to hit and if they can all stay on the field for a majority of the season we could see Teixeira surpass those projected R/RBI totals.

I’m guessing Tex’s value is at an all-time low going into 2014, which is good news for fantasy owners. Given his age and the fact that he’s coming off an injury there’s a good chance he will not be on many people’s target list, which makes for a great buy-low opportunity. A perfect example can be found in our early 12-team mock draft, where I landed him in the 15th round. I consider that complete and utter larceny.

2015 & Beyond

Teixiera will continue to decline as the years progress. His saving grace is that he will be a Yankee for two more years after the 2014 season. Playing in that ballpark and around that lineup will preserve his value past when it should really be viable. But every year I expect his power numbers to decline and therefore his spot in the lineup. If his inability to hit RHP continues a precipitous drop off would not surprise me.

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  • Dan

    The reason for all of this is the short porch in right. Teix has always been a better right handed hitter, but from the left side he has become pull happy trying to hit the ball out every at bat. They also play a shift on him from the left side. So pulling the ball to a shorter field with more defenders=lower BA and dramatically lower BABIP. Those homers are nice though

  • broutman

    Dan:

    Thanks for reading. Astute observation. His FB% has increased when he is hitting from the left side of the plate since he has become a Yankee. Hence the lowered BABIP (fly balls simply fall for hits less often than line drives). As for the shift, I tried to look into that and I didn’t see a huge difference in his spray charts. Intuitively I agree that the shift should decrease the number of hits he gets, but it was hard to find evidence to support that. But I think it’s more than that he is pull happy. I think the numbers are pretty strong evidence that as he has gotten older fastballs are giving him a real problem from the left side.

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