Can Teixeira Reach His Career Numbers?

Mark Teixeira, for whatever reason, typically gets off to slow starts. Maybe it’s because he’s a switch hitter and has to fine-tune two different swings. This is the explanation he offered when the Yankees introduced him. That might not be true of switch hitters in general, but it still might be something Teixeira personally struggles with. As he explains, he’s a “power hitter that relies on timing,” so it might take him a game or 25 to get in sync. But whatever the reason, the results are clear.

Teixeira has a career .389 wOBA, but in April it is just .329. That does mean that he’s producing at an even higher level in the following five months, but those first 25 or so games still put him in a hole. This year he started off quite a bit worse, a .271 wOBA in April. He came back in May with a .365 wOBA, though that was still lower than his career .386 wOBA in May. Things got even worse in June, where he dropped to a .352 wOBA. By the end of the month it was certain that he would not reach his numbers from 2009. The chances that he’d even reach his career numbers even looked bleak.

On Monday I wrote about Raul Ibanez and the rock bottom point of his season. Not only did Teixeira have one of them, but it came at the same time. Ibanez hit his low point on June 6. Teixeira hit his on June 5 when he struck out five times in a 14-inning game against the Blue Jays, one the Yankees lost 3-2. Since then he’s been on a tear, outpacing even his 2009 season with a .299/.399/.626 line. It has come with steady improvement in both his OBP and ISO, as the following graph shows.

Click for larger

The vertical line is the five-strikeout game. Before then he was up and down, though that’s to be expected of early season numbers. But since then he has steadily increased his output. What this makes me wonder is where we’ll see these lines level off. Clearly they can’t keep going up — and the OBP line has leveled off a bit already. At some point he just won’t be able to hit for any more power, or raise his OBP above a certain point. Will that come at the end of the season? Or will he level off at some point before that?

This leads me to the further question of whether Teixeira can reach his career numbers this season. Reproducing his 2009 season is essentially out of the question. He’d have to hit .380 the rest of the way to accomplish that. But if he reaches the same 707 PA he did last year, could we see him get back to his career line of .287/.377/.540?

Teixeira has 198 PA before he hits 707. At his current 13 percent walk rate, he’d take a free pass about 25 times. He’ll also probably get hit by three more pitches (1.5 percent of his PA) and will hit maybe one more sac fly. That’s 29 PA, leaving him with 169 AB, or 602 on the season. In order to hit .287 he’d need 173 hits on the season, 62 more, so he’d have to hit .367 the rest of the way. To reach his career .540 SLG he’d need 325 total bases, or 110 more than he has now. That would mean a .651 SLG the rest of the way.

His OBP throws off the situation because of his higher than normal walk rate. For his career that rate is 11.5 percent, but to change that would throw off all the other calculations. But, just for fun, if he walked in 11.5 percent of his remaining 198 PA he’d have 23 walks, which we could make, say, 26 because of HBP and SF. That gives him 172 AB the rest of the way, so he would need a .360 BA and .651 SLG to reach his .287/.540 career marks. At the 11.5 percent walk rate he’d then reach a .386 OBP, which outpaces his career (because of the walks he took earlier in the season, I guess).

Can Teixeira hit .360/.444/.651 the rest of the way? Almost certainly not. Even at his currently torrid pace that’s an unrealistic expectation. It seems, then, that Teixeira will end the season with numbers considerably below his career marks. It happens to the best of them. But at this point his season numbers mean very little. If he continues to hit .299/.399/.626 the rest of the way I don’t think anyone in New York will complain.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

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Of course, Teixeira’s ZiPS ROS projection is actually .270/.366/.489. That might make them a little bit… less happy.