There were a lot of reasons for Yankee fans to be happy yesterday. Most fans will focus on the Yankees’ improbable late innings rally against the miserable Boston bullpen. Others will focus on Nick Swisher‘s grand slam and six RBI. Others still will emphasize Mark Teixeira‘s two homers, which brought his season line to a robust .288/.354/.508, a line that I would welcome joyously from Tex at season’s end. But, for me, the biggest thing I took away from as exciting an April game as I’ve ever seen was that Tex poked one over the Monster … batting lefty. That’s right, Mark Teixeira, dead pull hitter, put one into the people in the opposite field. He did that precisely zero times last year.
The season is young. Mark has had only 65 plate appearances thus far. But there’s something encouraging taking place right now with Tex. After getting off to his customary slow start Tex has started hitting the ball well. He’s passing the eye test, hitting through the shift, putting the ball to every field, getting his walks and now showing some power. Furthermore, the numbers are backing this up. His wOBA is now .378. His wRC+ is now 134. Again, fourteen games aren’t enough to figure anything out, but Tex looks different up there, and the numbers suggest it as well. Most important, his BABIP is .286, which is still below what he did every season of his career until 2010, but it is also a significant improvement over the .268 and .239 he posted the past two seasons.
The real test, of course, is how Tex is doing from the left side. His troubles the past two seasons have emerged because he’d become an all (home run) or nothing (usually a pop out) left handed hitter. So far this season his lefty wOBA is .387 and his righty wOBA is .342. It is especially too early to draw any conclusions from Tex’s performance from one side of the plate or another, but the trend that is emerging is encouraging.
Mark is a feast or famine player. When he’s cold, he’s so bad that he’s actually un-good, or anti-good. He’ll make you wonder if you’ll ever see good baseball again. When he’s good, however, he destroys the ball. He can easily put up two or three consecutive months as the premier hitter in baseball.
My hope is that Mark is about to have a prolonged hot streak, but one that sees him maintain a high AVG. (Last season Tex hit a bunch of homers at the start of the season, but his on-base skills were struggling, which came back to bite him later in the year.) If he can do that it may be the foundation for as much of a bounce back season as you can need from a hitter who clubbed 39 dingers last year. The significance of that cannot be over stated. Tex is still young enough to power the offense for a season or two, provided he can cure what has been ailing him. So far this year the signs are encouraging.
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