The issue of Mark Teixeira’s play over the last two years has made some Yankee fans scratch their heads. There are three major questions pertaining to this. How much did his play really hurt the Yankees? What went wrong? Also will he improve in the future? If Teixiera continues this downward spiral the Yankees could have a serious issue. Teixeira has been given a pass by the media for the most part because he is not a polarizing figure like Alex Rodriguez. He is very respectful to the media and always says the right thing. However, he needs to go back to being the 2009 version of Mark Teixeira if the Yankees want to win another World Series.
Teixeira has had very good and respectable years the last two years. He has hit for great power and has played gold glove defense. It is very hard to get on somebody who hits almost 40 HRs a year, knocks in a lot of runs, and plays gold glove defense. The issue is we know he is capable of more. He did more in 2009 when he hit .292, with 39 HRs, 122 RBI, and a .948 OPS. I am not a huge batting average guy and think the stat is overrated. OPS in my mind is the most important stat because it tells your ability to get on base and hit for power. However, a guy with Teixeira’s ability should not be hitting around .250 for two straight years. I would not care what his average was if his OPS was around .900. His OPS as a Yankee has declined from .948, to .846, and to .835. An OPS in the .800 range is very good but elite players like Teixeira should be around .900. It has usually been that way for Teixeira, as his career OPS prior to the last two years was .922. Where Teixeira has really hurt the Yankees is in the postseason. His career postseason line of .207/.315/.322/.637 is atrocious. That is where needs to take it to a whole other level for the Yankees to win it all. They were able to do it once without much from Teixeira because Alex Rodriguez was a one man wrecking crew. Teixeira is only 31 so he should still be capable of returning to his elite level of play.
Teixeira’s main problem last year was his performance batting lefty. One problem when he batted lefty was the shift that teams were playing on him. His .222 BABIP batting lefty indicates that. That is batting average on balls in play if you do not know. His splits were .224/.325/.453/.779 batting lefty and .302/.380/.587/.967 batting righty. Teixeira did hit for more power left handed, as he hit 24 HRs batting lefty, and 15 HRs batting righty. This is probably a result of Teixeira going after the short porch in left field to much. The upper cut in his lefty swing definitely indicates that. However, his home/road splits of .245/.352./.511/.862 at home, and .251/.331.479/.810 on the road are not drastically different. He also only had only 5 more HRs at home. My theory is that his bad habits at home are translating on the road, so there is not that big of a difference. From my perspective, he has developed to wide of a base in his batting stance. Look at these two videos:
Video 1 (2009) http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=5941183
Video 2 (2010) http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=11106861
The first one is from 2009 and the second is from 2010. Pause each video at around 0:01-0:04 on each video. Right about when the pitchers are about to release the ball, you can see in 2009 he was standing much more upright and had a much smaller base. In 2010 he had a much wider base and is hunched over more. There is a clear difference and if I can see it, I know Kevin Long can see it. I think he should be able to do something about it, and hopefully Teixeira can see results similar to as when Long fixed Curtis Granderson.
Even with his down last two years Teixeira remains one of the best first basemen in MLB, but for the Yankees it’s not good enough. They need him to start performing at an MVP caliber level again, and not just at a very good level. He definitely has the talent and potential to make that happen next year. If he does that, especially in October, the Yankees chances to win the World Series increase enormously. It is time for Teixeira to turn up the heat this offseason to improve, and be the MVP candidate he can be.