The New York Yankees erupted for 17 runs in their win over the Oakland Athletics Friday night, aided by a grand slam from Mark Texeira. But following a season-long trend, the homer was his only hit of the contest.
When the Yanks signed Teixeira to an 8-year, $180 million contract prior to the 2009 season, the expectation was that they were acquiring a player with strong contact skills, elite power and impact defense at first base.
Unfortunately, over halfway through Year No. 3 of the deal, the trend is headed the wrong way for Teixeira. In the span of about three seasons, Teixeira appears to have gone from a well-rounded baseball player to a power-only slugger.
The first and most obvious indication of this is the steady decline in batting average without any sacrifice to his power output. In his final pre-Bronx season, spent split between the Los Angeles Angels and Atlanta Braves, Teixeira hit .308. Teixeira currently sits at .240 through 96 games in 2011, continuing a disturbing trend.
Batting Average vs Isolated Power
In other words, Teixeira is still contributing power at a consistent level over the last four years, but it’s been at a sacrifice to his contact skills. While it would be easy to point to his low batting average on balls in play this season – a career-low .223 – and suggest that is the entire reason for his downturn, the reality is that there appears to be both a trend and a reason for the decline – he’s not hitting balls as hard as he used to. His line drive rate has declined steadily over that period, not coincidentally bringing his BABIP down with it.
Line Drive Rate vs BABIP
The shift from well-rounded baseball player to power-only slugger is not limited to the offensive side of the game, however. Part of Teixeira’s wide appeal was his reputation as one of, if not the, best defensive first baseman in baseball. There was a time where that could have been true, but, much like his offensive game, Teixeira’s effectiveness on defense also appears to be waning.
From 2003 to 2008, Teixeira accumulated 48 Defensive Runs Saved at first base, good for 6 DRS per season. During the Yankees tenure of his career, he’s accumulated -6 Defensive Runs Saved more than half way through his third season. He has posted a negative mark in Defensive Runs Saved in each season with the Yankees, whereas he posted seasons of +17 (2003), +11 (2005) and +17 (2008) prior to that.
Teixeira's Defensive Runs Saved
Rank Among 1B, 2003-11
All in all, while Teixeira’s current skill set may allow him to be an effective player throughout the duration of his Yankees contract, there’s no question that he’s regressed from the well-rounded player he was through the first portion of his career. The Yankees likely hope that Teixeira halts the downward trend both offensively and defensively, as he’s still owed $112.5 million after the 2011 season.