Yankees first baseman and aspiring talk show host Mark Teixeira has struggled out of the gate. After 28 games, Tex has a .665 OPS* with just three home runs. In the final year of his eight-year, $180 million deal, the 36-year-old Teixeira has been a far cry from his 2015 season, when he had 31 homers after just 111 games.
Fortunately for Tex, another corner infielder's offensive woes have kept the vicious New York media off his back, and fortunately for the Yankees, it looks like it should only be a matter of time before he is back to his old, power-hitting self. Even if he is getting up there in terms of his age, an ISO of just .103* should not hold over a large sample size for someone with his tendencies and ability.
So far, Tex's kryptonite has been the groundball. He entered Saturday's game with a groundball percentage of 49.3%, well above his career average of 38.6%. While he usually hits flyballs in bunches, his 2016 flyball percentag is at just 26.1%, compared to a career mark of 40.5%.
One potential cause for concern is his that his hard-hit percentage has decreased. After hovering around 35% over the past two seasons, Teixeira's Hard% is down to 30.4%. However, this could also be attributable to a small sample size, and probably goes hand in hand with a sudden drop in his flyball percentage.
Statcast data also seems to suggest that he has taken a small step back, but not to the point where people should be extremely worried. Here are some readings on Tex's exit velocity this year, compared to last year's inaugural season of Statcast data:
|Season||Avg. EV||Avg. FB/LD EV||Avg. GB EV|
|2015||90.2 mph||94.3 mph||86.2 mph|
|2016||88.5 mph||94.6 mph||83.3 mph|
Even among regulars with exit velo data on at least 60 plays this season, Tex remains on the higher end of the spectrum. His average exit velocity on flyballs and line drives is just under that of Kris Bryant (94.7 mph) and just above Mookie Betts (94.4 mph).
Besides the lack of flyballs, the most noticeable change for Tex has been his even more passive approach in the batter's box. According to Pitch F/X, he hasn't had an above average Swing% since 2004, when he was in his second season with the Texas Rangers. This year though, he has swung at just 38.3% of pitches, the 20th lowest percentage among 195 qualified hitters. While he has never dipped below the 40% mark over an entire season, a traditionally patient hitter being even more patient over a month-long stretch shouldn't be that much of a cause for concern.
No matter how you look at it, Tex should be back to his old self as long as he can go back to hitting the ball in the air. In 2014, he annoyed fans with his inability to hit the ball the other way to beat defensive shifts. Doing what he does best by pulling flyballs into the right field bleachers should definitely not be a tall order for Teixeira.
With Alex Rodriguez on the DL, there is no better time for Tex to get off to a hot streak. So far, he has only hit third or fourth in the lineup, behind a combination consisting mostly of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Starlin Castro. Ellsbury and Gardner have been back to their aggressive ways on the basepaths, almost daring someone in the middle of the order to pick up where they left off in 2015. Despite the early season power outage, every sign seems to point at Tex being the one to step up.
*Includes Saturday's game against the Red Sox.
Data is courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.