Perception is a funny thing. You can have an opinion about something, perhaps even be sure of it, but what do you do when the facts dispute that perception or simply challenge it? All sorts of factors can come into play, but at the end of the day, can you really go against the numbers?
Here’s a comparative analysis on a couple of great players.
Considering that both hitters are within 100 games of each other and also played the same position, it makes for a pretty even comparison, right? Player Y holds a solid edge in the power department but for whatever the reason may be, it doesn’t quite translate to him really being a superior hitter.
The sample size of an entire career takes a lot into account. However, there are different ways of getting there. Let’s now look at a three-year peak for each of them:
A nine-point advantage in wRC+ means a level of superiority that’s actually noticeable. It comes even with the same slugging percentage and lower OBP, primarily due to factors such as the league’s run environment since they are not contemporaries, and also the park factors. However, it’s hard to come away from this little exercise with the notion that these two players belong in different tiers.
Player X is Don Mattingly.
Player Y is Mark Teixeira.
I’ll be the first to tell you that in terms of icon status, it’s understandable to put Mattingly in a special category of great Yankees and this in no way is designed to take even a little bit of praise away from him. On the contrary, it’s merely a way to acknowledge Teixeira’s great career and although he wasn’t always a Yankee, two of those three peak years came with other organizations. Teixeira deserves all the recognition as one of the great first basemen of our generation.
The “problem” for Tex is that it’s easy to get overshadowed when you play in the same era as Miguel Cabrera and The Machine, while also sharing an infield with Robinson Canó, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take anything away from a great career that saw Teixeira become one of just five switch-hitters in MLB history to reach 400 homers, all while providing outstanding defense at first base.
Teixeira grew up an Orioles fan in Maryland but actually grew up idolizing Mattingly, so it makes sense that he would turn into a similar kind of All-Star. After turning down the Red Sox out of high school, Teixeira mashed enough at Georgia Tech to get taken by the Rangers as the fifth overall pick in the 2001 MLB Draft. Two years later, he made his debut in Texas, playing a full season (146 games) with — if not outstanding — above-average production. The rest was history.
Here’s a look at how Tex evolved from that rookie season in 2003, compared to his entire 14-year career, which ended five years and one month ago.
Following that rookie campaign, Tex managed to build a streak of eight consecutive years with at least 30 homers, all the way until 2011. That’s better than contemporaries such as Miguel Cabrera (7) and Ryan Howard (6).
Mark Teixeira wasn’t a Hall of Fame player, but he probably doesn’t get the recognition a first baseman with 408 home runs and 44.8 career WAR in fewer than 2,000 games deserves. During that three-year peak from 2007-09, he ranked second in WAR (16.4) behind Albert Pujols and third in wRC+ (146) trailing the aforementioned Pujols and Prince Fielder.
Within his own team and throughout the entire league in his position, Teixeira had a lot of competition. That shouldn’t take anything away from what was an illustrious career in the big leagues.