Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Positioning Has Hurt Teixeira

Mark Teixeira in 2007 and 2008 was Joey Votto. Since he's become a Yankee, Teixeira is now Adam Dunn (before 2011). Well, that might be an over-exaggeration. But the truth is that Teixeira was a .300+/.400+/.500+ guy in 2007 and 2008 and with the Yankees the last two years has become a .245+/.340+/.480+ kind of guy. You could look at his BABIP that has been .268 and .239 the last two years respectively. The reflex would be to say that he's been unlucky. If it's just luck, then he's broken his rabbit's foot for two years running. The big difference in his outcomes seems to be positioning.

To be frank, this writer isn't an expert on the science of positioning. But there is a nebulous understanding that teams have gone high tech in this area and plot charts of every batter help teams understand where to play their fielders in just about every situation. This seems to be the case with Teixeira's numbers. Most aspects of his game have been consistent.  His infield pop ups have increased the last two years somewhat dramatically. And the last two years have shown a rise in his overall fly ball rates. His home run to fly ball ratio has been consistently high. His pull rate has been remarkably consistent. You can count on 130 to 133 balls in play being pulled every season like clockwork. The only evidence missing here is the MPH of the balls off his bat, which admittedly is a big hole in this writer's logic.

The positioning effect on Teixeira's performance seems to show itself most prominently in his ground balls. If you watch enough Yankee games (and this writer watches a lot of them), most teams now employ the shift on Teixeira, especially as a left-handed batter. Teixeira has struggled mightily with this strategy. In 2008, Teixeira hit 209 grounders and batted .278 with those hit trajectories. In 2007, Teixeira hit 151 grounders good for a .245 average. In 2006, he hit 199 grounders and had a batting average of .236. Now jump ahead to his Yankees years. In 2009, he hit 182 grounders with a .187 average. In 2010, it was 172 grounders and a .186 average. In 2011, he hit 170 grounders and batted .184. We can see this better in chart form:

Obviously, Teixeira's power production hasn't suffered. He hit 39 homers in 2011 and drove in over a hundred. Perhaps the Yankees would continue to be happy with that. But Teixeira needs to make adjustments. Batting left handed, he has to beat the shift occasionally to make teams pay for their execution. Without the adjustments, this writer is firm in the conviction that what we've seen from Teixeira the past two seasons is what we will continue to get for the duration of his Yankee contract. That may be good enough, but he could be a whole lot better too.

It's also obvious, that a better analyst than this amateur could do more with these numbers. Feel free to do so. There will never be a claim here to expert analysis. But the points do raise questions about how positioning has defeated the overall effectiveness of Teixeira as an offensive player.


Anonymous said...

I've been saying this for the past three seasons (well, ever since the 2009 playoffs). In the 2009 playoffs, every team got to see tex center-stage and saw exactly how to beat him. He is cheating the Yankees by refusing to make adjustments in his swing. If Jeter and Granderson can do it - so can Tex. Yankee management need to have a 'come-to-Jesus' meeting with Tex and remind him that it wouldn't take much to teach Montero how to play 1B and that the bench is just a few feet away.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Thanks for the comment, Anon. Tex still has a great glove and his power gives him value. His offensive game has become two-dimensional unlike the past though and he could be more valuable with as adjustment.

Thomas Slocum said...

Hadn't thought about the impact of a shift on Tex but I believe you have a solid point. What I have opined about in the recent past is the marked parallel between the careers of Jason Giambi and Mark Teixeira after their respective arrivals in the Bronx.

At age 31, Giambi was coming off 3 successive .300+ seasons and carried a lifetime BA of an even .300. With a .314 BA in his initial NYY season and 41 HR's (his 2nd best total to that point), Jason was as advertised but after that he was a .248 hitter in pinstripes while averaging 35 HR's every 155 games played.

Teixeira was two years younger, coming off 2 successive .300+ seasons and boasted a .290 lifetime BA. Again, he was right there (.292) in his first Yankee season while showing the expected power (39 HR's, his 2nd best total ever); over the past two years his cumulative BA is .252, though he's maintained his HR power - average of 36.

So, back to back, the Yanks handed out, respectively, a 7 and 8 year contract at the kind of money needed to attract a 35-40 HR high average first baseman. And, after one year, both turned into Adam Dunn (before the collapse) and Carlos Pena.

I submit that they DID make adjustments to their swings, becoming completely pull and homer happy. Or they just got old (in Teixeira's case, old quick).

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Great comments, Thomas. Hard to argue with you. Thanks.