Mark Teixeira's and McCann's BABIP troubles

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Constant shifting seems to be putting both these pull hitters' averages in the toilet.

Mark Teixeira's success at the plate has been one of the few nice surprises for the Yankees in 2014. It seemed that the team putting their faith in the veteran first baseman with the creaky wrist was a big gamble, but thus far Tex has posted a 124 wRC+ which is downright respectable for a first baseman. Brian McCann, as we all know by now, has fared much worse in his first season in New York. His 80 wRC+ is among the worst for all starting catchers. While their hitting fortunes seem opposite in nature there is common ground between the two. They both are among the bottom ten in all qualifying hitters in batting average on balls in play.

Generally speaking, two players known for their power and almost astonishing lack of speed having a low BABIP is not terribly noteworthy. This season, though, both players are struggling in that department even by their career norms. Teixeira is sitting at .247 (7th lowest in the league/.289 career) while McCann is at .232 (3rd lowest in the league/.285 career). Both hitters are maintaining line drive and strikeout percentages near their career norms, so it would seem that the common issue they are both having is hitting into the shift. Most teams are employing a dramatic shift to pull for both batters and they seem to be suffering for it. It's fine when the two are powering balls over the fence, but if they fail to do that they're having hits taken away. Considering how popular shifting has become, it's likely that these issues are to be the norm for these two moving forward.

Fortunately for Teixeira he's maintained a walk percentage in double digits and been slugging at a good clip, hence the favorable wRC+. McCann, however, is walking less than he has in years and has a slugging percentage 90 points below last season. So he's been a dead pull hitter and adding zero value as a baserunner like a typical power hitter, but hasn't been getting on base or actually been hitting for much power aside from the occasional dinger. Teixeira seems to be fine keeping things as is despite protests that he should go to the opposite field more. McCann might have to start making adjustments, though, if he's going to salvage his season.

If the trend towards more dramatic and frequent shifting maintains (who knows, these things sometimes come and go in baseball) it could have a dramatic effect on both of these players moving forward. Teixeira famously rebuffed any changes to his batting approach before the season, so it's fortunate he seems to be the least effected of the two. It will be interesting to see if as the first year of his contract winds down McCann makes changes to his approach. It's easy to say "walk more and take some pitches the opposite way", but McCann might need to do just that if he's going to return to being one of the better catchers in baseball. I've always assumed that McCann would revert to his prior levels of success just based on statistics and projections, but the shifting is an interesting variable thrown into the mix. Maybe this is what we can expect until a change is made.

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