Notoriously a slow starter, Mark Teixeira’s 2016 turnaround has taken far too long and is something the New York Yankees are truly reliant upon.
The struggles of the first baseman have been uncanny. Seldom have fans witnessed long stretches of non-existence throughout Teixeira’s tenure in the Bronx. Nonetheless, Tex entered Monday night’s contest with 11 RBIs and a .614 OPS in 34 games and a batting average of .200.
Perhaps a 3-4 performance in the series opener in Arizona can lead to bigger and better things for the switch-hitter, but there is no denying he is an enormous piece to the puzzle. “He is a big piece to our lineup”, Joe Girardi told Meredith Marakovits of the YES Network following Monday’s 12-2 loss.
Despite a terribly rough start, the Yankees have kept themselves in the mix and appear alive of late without much production from the middle of the order. With that said, their lineup simply cannot stay productive without key bats doing their part.
The sole reason the Yanks were able to contend and play in a wild card game last year were the aging chips in the middle of the lineup: Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. A-Rod delivered 33 bombs and Tex left the yard 31 times before missing the last month and a half with a fractured leg.
Is it realistic to expect that production from the two with health concerns and added age? No. Do the Yankees need decent production from both of them in order to contend? Yes.
This starts with Teixeira. He is in much better physical shape than a normal 36-year-old and is also in a walk year. Ideally, Tex should thrive if he wants to play himself into a contract with another club next year. More importantly, the Yankees can win a sizable amount of games if he produces.
For a team that ranks 29th in baseball with a .210/.300/.344 slash when runners are in scoring position, run producers are essential. The Yanks do not need Teixeira to be the 30/100 (30 homer, 100 RBI) force of the past, but they need something. Certainly more than what has come their way.
The good news is that Teixeira is not behind the ball and he is not cheating, two signs of an aging baseball player. In fact, according to Brooks Baseball, he is catching up with the four-seam fastball well enough to slug .511 and bat .298 against that pitch. It is Tex’s timing that has somehow taken him a month and a half, and possibly more time, to figure out. He is a combined 2-30 (.067) against cutters, sliders, and curveballs this year with 17 strikeouts.
When watching Tex, particularly throughout the last five years, the obvious conclusion is that the over-shift is a thorn in his side. He thrives off pulling and driving the ball, but that comes with a price. The same has transpired in 2016. If you take a look at Teixeira’s spray chart, courtesy of FanGraphs, the amount of ground balls (green dots) that he has hit to the right or left side of the infield or even shallow outfield have victimized him. More times than not, an infielder is standing right there to gobble it up and throw him out.
This is not to let Tex off the hook for his lack of production. He has not driven the ball with authority and the results are evident. However, there is some reason to believe the bad luck factor is antagonizing the first baseman yet again.
Regardless, if the Yankees look to continue their recent string of success they will need Teixeira to create his own string of success. He is a vital piece that a hungry Yankee offense has been longing to gain.