Mark Teixeira is just getting started
July, 2, 2011
By Ben Duronio | ESPN.com
In the second leg of this year’s Subway Series, the Yankees got off to a quick start thanks to an opposite-field, two-run double off the bat of Mark Teixeira in the first inning. Teixeira ended the game going 1-for-3 with two walks, and added a run scored to the two he drove in. Ivan Nova was shaky at times, but finished five innings before handing the game over to the first of six men out of the bullpen to finish the Yankees’ 5-1 win.
This latest Yankees victory puts them at a 19-8 mark over their past 27 games. Entering Friday night, Teixeira had hit nine home runs over the previous 26 games, including the 300th of his career. While Teixeira’s on-base percentage of .312 over that same period of time is lackluster, he has been providing his team a ton of power.
The good news is that both his average and his OBP should improve as his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) begins to get closer to his career norms. His 2011 triple-slash line of .244/.354/.542 is not incredibly impressive, but his isolated slugging percentage of .298 certainly is. The Yankees first baseman leads league with 25 home runs, which puts him on a full-season pace for 51 long balls, which would put in the shade his old career high of 43 homers with Texas back in 2005. But the odd thing is that his BABIP currently sits at .210, compared to his career average of .298. That should certainly improve as the season progresses, which would boost his .354 OBP back up near the .370-.390 mark that he, the Yankees and all of us are accustomed to him having. Hammering line drives to the opposite field, as he did on Friday, could be a major key in his batting average climbing back up to a more respectable -- and more typical -- level.
Would the power go away, though? Teixeira’s rate of home runs per fly ball of 21.9 percent is marginally higher than his career mark of 18.6 percent, so it’s easy to expect that it should decline somewhat. However, he has posted full seasons with similar rates in the past. In his second and third seasons with Texas, for example, Teixeira netted HR/FB rates of 22.4 percent and 21.2 percent. With Teixeira delivering that kind of power in the past, and coupling that track record with the short distance of the walls in the new Yankee Stadium, it means that this number is not guaranteed to drop significantly.
Thanks to his power, Teixeira’s wOBA (weighted on base average) of .385 is right in line with career mark of .387. But to make matters happier still, this is all before Teixeira starts the second half of the season, which is when he has historically been much more productive. Known as one of the best second-half hitters in baseball, Teixeira’s career OPS of .957 after the All-Star break is potentially another sign of even better things to come.
Could that lead to hardware on his mantelpiece? Leading the league in home runs while ranking second in RBIs, the more traditional stats that some voters still place heavy emphasis upon, certainly doesn’t hurt Teixeira’s chances at the MVP Award. The man he is trailing in RBIs is Adrian Gonzalez, who is likely the midseason MVP in the American League. While Gonzalez is more than a viable candidate, you’d expect Gonzo’s BABIP of .386 to decline. Fewer hits, some of which would come with men on, would make the argument for Teixeira a bit more feasible. The idea of Teixeira getting even better while Gonzalez comes back to the pack is something the Yankees and their fans will certainly welcome.
If Teixeira is able to go on the second-half tear that is to be expected of him because of the combination of his current low BABIP and his past performance, all sorts of things are on the table. By the time October rolls around his numbers should have him in contention for American League MVP honors. While he likely would not be many voters’ top choice if voting was done tonight, if he is able to continue to hit home runs at a rapid pace and improve in the aforementioned areas, it isn't hard to see how Teixeira could take an MVP trophy home. More importantly for his team is what that stretch-run bump will mean for yet another great shot at the playoffs, giving Teixeira & Co. a shot at more than just one trophy.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Chris Humphreys/US PresswireAfter a homer, Troy Tulowitzki's brand of TGIF is a worth a smile.Ben Duronio writes about the Braves for the Capitol Avenue Club, part of the SweetSpot network. You can follow or tweet him at @Ben_Duronio.