Following hitting for the lowest average of his career over the last two years, Mark Teixeira correctly assessed his problem this offseason, his poor numbers hitting lefty. The initial word from the first baseman in January was to drop a few bunts to help beat the exaggerated defensive shifts that robbed him of hits through the hole in the right infield. The general consensus from our readers and many other fans was that he’d be far more successful taking a different approach hitting right-handed pitchers, going the other way. Only a few weeks ago did we hear that Tex and Kevin Long were working on staying back, and thus moving away from the pull approach from the left side. So now that we’re at the end of March, has the switch hitter been successful with his tweak?
|Hit Location||As L to L||As L to C||As L to R||As R to L||As R to C||As R to R|
|Balls in Play (ST)||11||8||7||5||4||3|
|Percent in Play (ST)||42.31%||30.77%||26.92%||41.67%||33.33%||25.00%|
|Balls in Play (2011)||60||90||167||88||48||34|
|Percent in Play (2011)||18.93%||28.39%||52.68%||51.76%||28.24%||20.00%|
|Batting Average (ST)||.455||.500||.000||.000||.750||.333|
|Batting Average (2011)||.086||.318||.337||.379||.326||.265|
As you can tell by the chart, the location of his hits while batting from the right side have largely been consistent with last year, but the numbers from the left side have flipped. As a lefty in 2011, Teixeira pulled the ball to right field 52.68% of the time and sent it the other way only 18.93% of the time, resulting in a .223 batting average against right handed hitters. While his average going to right field and center were both well above .300, his average going the other way was .086, thanks to only five hits to left last year. In his 43 at bats this spring, Teixeira has already achieved five opposite field hits from the left side. The rate of balls to left field has more than doubled from 18.93% to 42.31%, and though the sample size is too small to dig too deep into analysis, his batting average on those hits is .455.
Since Teixeira had such a successful power season last year, I was originally against an attempt to change his approach at the plate, but it appears that the switch hitter has successfully done so already. I’m not particularly worried that a decline in pulling the ball to the opposite field porch will result in less homeruns, but I can understand a fan’s concern. Regardless, it would be an incredible tool for Texeira to have the ability to place hits around the field. He’s clearly been killed by defensive shifts in the past, so I’ll trade a few less homeruns for the 30 hit difference between his 2009 and 2010/2011 seasons. With a more promising approach at the plate and a more athletic body, I expect big things from the first baseman.