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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Teixeira’

Before Spring Training, Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman labeled the Boston Red Sox as the team to beat. In September, everyone who played them seemed to agree.

In the past, Red Sox fans could blame misfortune on the Curse of the Bambino.

Thanks to a 7-20 record down the stretch, the Red Sox blew a nine game advantage over the Rays in the standings, thereby authoring the “greatest” final month collapse by any team in baseball history.  Since the fabled sale of Babe Ruth in 1919, such disappointment has been an integral part of life in Red Sox nation. From the Babe to Bucky to Buckner and Boone, the Red Sox have regularly been on the short-end of many historic moments. Now, you can add Baltimore to that list.

Of course, before the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, all of the team’s most tragic moments could be explained away by the Curse of the Bambino. That one catchall was the perfect way for Red Sox fans to both retain their passion and their sanity. Because Boston has won two World Series since then, however, that security blanket has been stripped away. So, as Red Sox Nation begins to deal with the aftermath of the team’s September to misremember, below are a few suggestions for a new curse that the Fenway faithful can use once they are done with the four letter ones.

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Even though most studies suggest that incremental changes in batting order position have minimal impact on run production, each slot still carries a certain connotation. Leadoff is usually reserved for a player with speed, while cleanup is the domain of a slugger. The third position, however, is the slot usually reserved for a team’s best hitter. As the Yankees enter the 2011 post season, Joe Girardi has decided that Robinson Cano is the hitter on his team who best fits that description, at least against right handed pitchers.

Cano’s elevation in the lineup not only represents a promotion for the second baseman, but it also constitutes a partial demotion for Mark Teixeira, who has primarily occupied the role over the last three seasons. Most teams coasting into the playoffs with their league’s best record usually don’t make significant changes at the end of the season, but Girardi should be commended for his willingness to reverse course at such a late stage. With consecutive MVP-caliber seasons under his belt, Cano has firmly established himself as one of the American League’s best players and arguably the most feared hitter in the Yankees lineup. Meanwhile, Teixeira has seen his overall production decline, particularly from the left side. On that basis alone, the lineup adjustment seems warranted, but when you consider the relative post season performance of each player, the switch makes even more sense (although that’s more of an indictment of Teixeira than complement to Cano).

Mark Teixeira vs. Robinson Cano, Post Season Performance

  G PA R H HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Mark Teixeira 26 122 17 22 3 12 0.214 0.320 0.330
Robinson Cano 37 152 19 35 6 20 0.248 0.296 0.461

Source: baseball-reference.com

It remains to be seen whether Girardi’s lineup switch will be maintained after the 2011 post season,  but regardless, Teixeira has had a pretty good run in the three-hole. Since 1919, the Yankees have had 183 players bat third, but only eight have been penciled into that slot more than Teixeira. What’s more, Teixeira is one of only six Yankees to primarily bat third in three consecutive seasons.

Yankees Top-10 Third Place Hitters, Ranked by Games Started Since 1919

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated atTheYankeeAnalysts.)

Back in May, I examined some trends that suggested Mark Teixeira was evolving into a much more one-dimensional hitter. Despite beginning the season with what was for him an especially hot start, the switch hitting slugger’s splits still seemed to suggest the continuation of a pull-conscious batting approach that started in 2010. At the time, only 41 games had been played, so the sample size was limited, but now that three-quarters of the season has passed, we can take a more definitive look.

Using All Fields: Where Mark Teixeira Hits the Ball (% of batted balls)

Note: Off field = Opposite + Center.
Source: fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com (OPS+)

The chart above looks almost exactly like the one from May 18. It shows a slight moderation in the number of balls pulled by Teixeira, but continues the more prevalent rise since 2007. The chart also continues to display the gradual decline in balls hit to the “off field”, although an inverse relationship between balls hit to center and the opposite field seems to exist. In addition, a moderate correlation between OPS+ and percentage of balls hit to the off field is also evident in the data.

Since the first analysis was run on May 18, Teixeira has been using the entire field a little bit more, especially as a left handed batter. Whereas the switch hitter had been pulling the ball in 57% of his at bats from the port side, his current rate stands at 55%. A more moderate decline has also been experienced from the right side (50% to 49%). However, there is a divergence in where those balls are being hit instead. As a lefty, Teixeira is now hitting the ball to left field in almost 19% of his at bats, an almost 2% rise since earlier in the season, giving him one of his highest opposite field percentages as a left hander over the last five years. Meanwhile, from the right side, the first baseman is using center field more, and mostly at the expense of the opposite field. On May 18, Teixeira’s split was 25%/25% to each sector, but now it stands at 30%/21% in favor of up the middle.

Mark Teixeira’s ”Spray Chart” as LHB, RHB (% of batted balls from each side)

Source: fangraphs.com

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

At this point in the season, Mark Teixeira is usually starting to emerge from his April doldrums. This year, however, the Yankees’ first baseman got off to a hot start. As a result, Teixeira’s current OPS+ of 141 ranks above his career rate and on par with some of his best seasons.

Although he has been one of the Yankees’ best offensive performers, one part of Teixeira’s game has been a little concerning. Despite establishing himself as a well-rounded hitter before joining the Yankees, Teixeira has gradually turned into a more one-dimensional slugger, particularly when batting from the left side.

As evidenced by the chart below, Teixeira has evolved from an all-field approach into a much more pull conscious batter. Although the percentage of balls hit to center and the opposite way have fluctuated during this period, the overall trend toward pulling the ball has persisted since 2007. Also evident from the chart is a potential relationship between the first baseman’s production and where he hits the ball. Over the years, it seems as if Teixeira’s output has increased in accordance with his use of all parts of the ballpark, particularly the opposite field.

Using All Fields: Where Mark Teixeira Hits the Ball (% of batted balls)


Note: Off field = Opposite + Center.
Source: fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com (OPS+)

Although it’s clear that Teixeira has been pulling the ball more overall, has the same trend emerged from both sides of the plate? By isolating Teixeira’s directional splits based on handedness, we can better answer that question.

Mark Teixeira’s “Spray Chart” as LHB, RHB (% of batted balls from each side)

Source: fangraphs.com

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