We were all hoping for a hot start for the Yankees, but as a team they've managed to come up just short several times already this season. Even if the team hasn't started hot, certain key players look good, and no one has surprised me more than Mark Teixeira, whose OPS is currently over one.
Obviously, I don't expect him to keep it up. Only two players in the last three years have put together such stellar offensive seasons (Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis, both in 2013). What's really impressive to me about the hot streak that Tex is currently on is how much power he's shown, and how he's beat the shift. Through his first 29 ABs, Tex has three homers and three doubles, an impressive six walks, and only one single.
We can read these same numbers the other way, of course. If Tex weren't hitting into a shift, he would likely have even more hits and be boasting even more impressive numbers than he currently is. That's an analysis I'll agree to accept, but to my thinking, it's a glass half empty view of the situation. I'd much rather focus on the positive. And the truth is that right now, Mark Teixeira is doing exactly what he always said he'd try to do to beat the shift: hit over it.
Mark Teixeira's strategy this season for dealing with the shift that has beguiled him and plenty of others in recent years is simple. "Hit more home runs, hit more doubles and walk more," Teixeira said on Wednesday after reporting to Yankees camp.
I will be glad to see Tex push a bunt up the third base line and leg out a single... once he's struggling. However, if he can hit like this, or even just hit in the neighborhood of this, then the Yankees will have a cleanup hitter they can really count on to provide some thump for the first time in what feels like forever. Our own Nikhil Chadurvedi can walk you through the details much better than I can at this stage. Ah, I long for the simple days when we were excited to discover a strong correlation between getting on base and winning baseball games. No matter.
The real question seems to be, is this a change in Tex's approach that he can keep up? Having been confined to highlight reels and radio broadcasts, I don't have much direct observation to work with yet in 2015, but I was always struck by how the Yankees seemed to get a little less patient after Nick Swisher left the team after the 2012 season. I shouldn't blame everything on that small turn, of course; offense cratered across baseball, and the Humbler spent two seasons just riding the Yankees' bench. But an inability to work the count has characterized these last two Yankee teams. Maybe a healthy Tex can bring that mindset back.