Mark Teixeira: Aging Or Stubborn Against the Shift (or Both)?

As I spent time this afternoon blankly staring at the Yankee lineup for 2013 (which is not great) and for 2014 (which looks downright awful, and that’s assuming that they re-sign Robinson Cano against my wishes), I took some time to take a fresh look at Mark Teixeira.  Normally, I would pencil him in for 30/100, strong defense and 150 games – but over the past three seasons he’s seen a significant drop in production whose cause isn’t immediately obvious.

A quick glance at Teixeira’s last 6 seasons, broken in half:

Year G PA AB HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2007-2009 445 1967 1677 102 250 319 .302 .398 .560 0.957 147
2010-2012 437 1920 1641 96 223 315 .252 .347 .480 0.831 121

Seems simple enough – he’s played almost the exact same number of games, is still hitting home runs, walking, and striking out similarly, but he’s hitting .250 instead of .300 (and that while playing full time in Yankee Stadium with a short RF porch and little foul ground).   But what is interesting is that there isn’t a straightforward explanation of the drop-off in his batting average.

If we delve into his breakdown at the plate, there is little that jumps out as significantly declining:

Season

G

HR

BB%

K%

OPS

wOBA

BABIP

wRC+

ISO

2007

132

30

12.50%

19.50%

0.963

0.407

0.342

146

0.257

2008

157

33

14.20%

13.60%

0.962

0.410

0.316

152

0.244

2009

156

39

11.50%

16.10%

0.948

0.402

0.302

142

0.273

2010

158

33

13.10%

17.10%

0.846

0.369

0.268

128

0.225

2011

156

39

11.10%

16.10%

0.835

0.361

0.239

125

0.246

2012

123

24

10.30%

15.80%

0.807

0.345

0.25

116

0.224

Teixeira hits for a little less power now than his his prime 27-30 year old seasons (but not exactly a precipitous drop off, to be sure).  Most interestingly, he is hitting line drives at exactly the same rate, hitting grounders and fly balls at roughly the same rate, and his home runs are leaving the yard at a slightly diminished (but still strong) rate.  He is not striking out any more than he used to, and he is still walking.

The big change is that BABIP number – somehow, despite no change in his batted ball profile, more of the balls he leaves in the yard are being turned into outs.   Below is a table containing Tex’s BABIP numbers over the past 6 seasons:

BABIP 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Pulled-RHB 0.541 0.413 0.442 0.362 0.278 0.300
Middle-RHB 0.387 0.280 0.228 0.269 0.266 0.253
Opp Field-RHB 0.300 0.304 0.462 0.188 0.273 0.182
Pulled-LHB 0.325 0.448 0.381 0.339 0.241 0.284
Middle -LHB 0.292 0.276 0.230 0.222 0.238 0.219
Opp Field-LHB 0.286 0.173 0.282 0.133 0.105 0.190

Of course, the BABIP numbers broken down by season and by hit location are susceptible to wild fluctuations.  Nevertheless, the trend is unmistakable – each number in 2012 is down significantly from 2007.

Why?  Tex still walks at a good rate, hasn’t seen a spike in strikeouts, hits home runs, hits line drives relatively consistently, and if anything, has seen a slight increase in groundballs (which would often result in a higher BABIP).  Having watched 100+ Yankees games per year since he came over from Atlanta, the only difference that would explain the dip in batted ball numbers is the increasing employment of over shifting against Teixeira.  While Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays typically shift more often that most teams (over the past 3 seasons, Teixeira’s BABIP against the Rays has been .173, .277 and .148, respectively), it is unmistakable that more and more Teixeira is hitting (from both sides of the plate) against over shifted infields, and his reluctance to change his approach is costing him batting average, and ultimately wOBA (though HRs are still leaving the yard, singles and doubles are becoming outs too often).

There isn’t enough data to say what a changed approach would do to Teixeira’s power numbers; however, as he ages, Tex is going to have to find a way to penalize teams that uniformly employ an aggressive shift against him to continue to produce at an above average rate at 1B.

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About Bill Porter

Bill is an aspiring sportswriter (attorney by day) born in Washington DC, raised in New York, and currently living in San Francisco with his wife Kirsten and two spazzy labs, Fletch and Bear. Follow me on Twitter at @wfporter1972
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3 Responses to Mark Teixeira: Aging Or Stubborn Against the Shift (or Both)?

  1. davomcflavo says:

    Good stuff. I am expecting Tex and Adrian Gonzalez to be in my keeper league draft this year. Who would you go with?

    • Bill Porter says:

      Still AGon, but whereas a year or two ago it was a blowout, I feel like Gonzalez’s power questions and declining walk rate are cause for concern, plus he plays in some of the games toughest pitchers parks. I own Tex in an Ottoneu league, so his batting average doesn’t penalize me, whereas if you play in a league with AVG Tex may be a drain and 1B is always a deep position. Still would value Gonzalez higher, but if he goes for an elite price at auction, Tex might provide more value.

      • davomcflavo says:

        Yea the AVG is definitely a factor there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see A-Gon’s power get back up despite the ball parks. He did do it in SD after all.

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