Getting Teixeira Back on the Mark

Thanks for the title, John Sterling.

After coming to the Yankees last offseason, Mark Teixeira put up an absolutely stellar 2009 campaign with a .292/.383/.565 slash, 39 HR, 122 RBI, a 149 wRC+, 5.6 WAR, and a Gold Glove to boot.  As we all know, this year has somewhat fallen short, with Tex so far posting a .221/.336/.380 slash, 8 HR, 34 RBI, a 99 wRC+ and a 0.3 WAR.  What the hell happened?

To get a better understanding of Tex this year, let's take a look at Tex last year.  When things are going right, how and where does Tex hit the ball?  Are there any glaring statistical differences in his splits that could lead to his trouble?  Is he expanding the zone? Getting unlucky?  Pressing?

I looked into it, and you can too if you'd like, here's a few links:

Tex's Splits

Some analysis and a pretty picture of home runs after the jump!

Here is where Tex hit his home runs last season (hat tip to hittrackeronline.com):

So, as you can see, Tex had a thing for pulling the ball, and he did it with some pretty great power.  To expand on this, last year, Tex hit 32 pull Home Runs, 6 center field Home Runs, and 1 opposite field home run.  And in addition to power numbers, despite getting shifted on most of the year, he hit .408 to right field when batting from the left side.

Mark Teixeira is a dead pull hitter even when everything is going right.  He isn't going to hit the ball the other way.  He isn't going to slap the ball to get out of this slump.  He has an uppercut swing, and the \$180 MM that we invested in him was on his ability to pull the ball over the fence.

Plate Discipline: Is Tex swinging at bad pitches and expanding the zone more this season? No, not really.  Last year Tex swung at 21.8% of pitches out of the zone, 63.7% of pitches in the zone, and made contact 83% of the time. This year, Tex is swinging at 22.0% of pitches out of the zone, 67.4% of the pitches in the zone, and has
made contact 85.4% of the time.  So, he's swinging a little more, but still pretty much in line with his career averages.  So I'm going to declare his plate discipline to be fine.

Ball In Play Luck?  Are all of Tex's batted balls finding gloves?  Somewhat.  Tex has a career .305 BABIP, and posted a .302 BABIP last season with a 19.8 LineDrive%.  This season, Tex has actually upped his LD% to 20.2%, but is sporting an anemic .236 BABIP.  We can expect some more of those hard hit balls to fall in in the near future.

But what really troubles me is how Tex is handling the fastball. Batting, in front of A-Rod, you can expect that Tex is going to see a lot of fastballs (57.9% of all pitches seen so far this year), and throughout his career, Tex has always killed the fastball.  Last year, Tex was at a +32.2 runs on the fastball (and to put that in perspective, he wasn't above 6 runs on any other pitch) and is at +181.3 runs on the fastball in his career.

This season?  Tex is at -4 runs on the fastball, and that's where I think the biggest difference is between this year and last year.  He's just not catching up to the fastball.  Is this fixable?  Probably.  And it also falls in line with Tex saying he is struggling picking the ball up. I'm not exactly sure what needs to be done to get Tex back in line, but one things for sure, if we want to see him round in 2009 form, he's going to need to figure out how to stay on the fastball.

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