It’s hard to tell in retrospect how much of Teixeira’s early season struggles were due to his own approach/failings at the plate and how much were attributable to his physical condition, but whatever the case, Joe Girardi finally decided to give his ailing slugger a rest last weekend against Cincinnati. Tex basically say out the entire series, making just one appearance as a pinch hitter in the final game of the set, before returning to the lineup against Kansas City in the seventh spot in the lineup. Teixeira responded with an okay performance against the Royals, going 2-9 with three walks and a double, before getting another day to rest thanks to the team’s scheduled off day last Thursday.
Since the Yankees began their current road trip, however, Tex has legitimately been on fire. In the four games played so far, Teixeira is 10-16 with three walks, three doubles, and four home runs. His overall season line is all the way up to .263/.330/.491, which is pretty remarkable for its respectability, and his wOBA/wRC+ are up to .351 and 120 respectively, which are both right in line with where he was at the end of last season. So what’s behind this turn around? Given the amount of attention his struggles with opposing defenses shifting against him received, he must be doing a much better job of shortening up and going the other way, right? Actually, not so much. Here’s all of his balls put in play over the past four games:
The chart doesn’t differentiate between his left-handed and right-handed at bats, but you can still see that there are more squares on his left-handed pull side than the other way, including most of his home runs. It’s not exactly the most profound bit of insight I could offer, but the biggest difference in Teixeira right now is simply that he’s hitting the ball much harder and, as such, is getting better results from the balls he puts in play. For all of the attention his problems with the shift got last year, it was somewhat under reported that, as a left-haned batter, his line drive, infield fly, and HR/FB rates were all worse than his career average, while the total number of fly balls he hit from the left side of the plate climbed to just under 50% of all his batted balls.
Then again, tales of Teixeira’s demise were always somewhat exaggerated. In terms of wRC+, he was the fifth best hitting first baseman in the A.L. in 2011, behind Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Paul Konerko, and (by one point) Casey Kotchman. In terms of fWAR, he was the American League’s third most valuable first bagger at a very respectable 4.2 wins above replacement. As for 2012, entering play Tuesday Tex currently has the league’s sixth best wRC+ at first (behind Konerko, Adam Dunn, Edwin Encarnacion, Prince Fielder, and Chris Davis), and is essentially locked in a four way tie with Dunn, Encarcion, and Fielder behind Konerko in terms of total value at the position. That’s not to say he hasn’t been a black hole in the lineup at times (or for 95% of this season, for that matter), but he is still a very talented and productive player relative to his peers, and certainly not the lost cause plenty of people thought he was three weeks ago.