Thursday, January 20, 2011

From Under The Radar To Can't Go Unnoticed

Mark Teixiera's first season in pinstripes could not have gone much better. He carried the team for much of the summer, lead the AL in both homers and RBI, finished second in MVP voting, and won a World Series. His second season wasn't quite his first, but he still managed to punch 33 homers, drive in 108, and lead the league in runs with 113. His average was off and his power was down slightly, but he made up for that by posting the second highest walk total of his career, finding a way to produce runs, and continuing to do his best work in high leverage situations (his AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS splits were higher in these spots than any other in 2010). At the end of the day, while it could certainly be deemed a down season by Teixeira standards, he did the things you want a star to do when he's not a having a typical season, and that's find ways to contribute in important ways so that it's more "down stats" than "down year". That's what Teixeira did, and it made a big difference for the Yankees' season. On that note, his defense was a big reason why the Yankees' starting infield only made 20 errors all season...combined.

With this all said, it is astonishing how little is said about Teixeira. You can find similarities between him and a lot of other guys that get a lot more talk. He and Sabathia joined the team the same year for big money, and have both been smashing successes thus far. Rodriguez and Cano are the team's other superstar offensive players. You hear more about all of them than Teixeira despite their common importance to the team. Sabathia is a key fronting the Yankees rotation. Is Rodriguez in a state of decline? Cano is the best second baseman in baseball. You hear these things and other similar commentary over and over and over. Little on Tex.

It doesn't necessarily even have to be guys of similar qualities and importance to the team. Everyone seems to get talked about and analyzed more than this dude. How much will Posada catch? Will Jeter rebound? Is Brett Gardner going to regress? Can Granderson continue his improvement against lefties that was seen late in 2010? Nick Swisher is awesome. Can Phil Hughes do it again? What is Burnett going to do in 2011? You hear these things and other similar commentary over and over and over. Little on Tex.

I spend a lot of time on the Yankees, and honestly, the only two things I've seen written about him this winter are a brief update that his hamstring was healthy and a general statement that a bounceback to a typical Teixeira year would be big for the Yankees.

A lot of this has to do with his consistency I'm sure. He's in a period of his career where big production can be reasonably expected, and there aren't yet concerns about his decline the way there are for Jeter, Rodriguez, and Posada. Since he's been doing it for a long time, it's no longer a novelty the way it is for Cano. He doesn't have weaknesses in his overall game besides his April weirdness, so outside of that there is nothing to over-analyze the way there is with Granderson against lefties. He also doesn't play in an area of decided concern for the Yankees, as the offense was the game's best last year, so there isn't added attention to the need for him to perform. He's not really a guy that you have to worry about, and that's a good thing. I find it strange how little a guy this talented has been talked about recently, but I certainly don't see it as a problem.

His not being talked about shouldn't be confused with how much the Yankees need him. He was talked about a lot more in 2009, and there was a reason for that. His performance was more noteworthy. This is a totally subjective measurement, but is very much tied to an objective reality. The 2011 Yankees could really use Mark Teixeira to reassert himself as one of the 10 best bats in the game as he was in 2009. Questions surround Jeter and Rodriguez and Posada and what they are going to get from the catching position. While I think the totality of those answers will be positive for the Yankees, it would be immensely helpful to have MVP caliber Teixeira in the middle of the order, not the more under the radar version.

8 comments:

The GM said...

This is a good call on most of these things in the post. The most astonishing thing, and something I'm glad you brought up, was the 20 errors for the whole defense. Robinson Cano had three errors this year. That's ridiculous.

Jeter and Arod had both singlehandedly exceeded 20 errors (Jeter had 24 in 2000, Arod had 24 in 2006), and Cano had 13 errors the year before Teixeira's arrival. That's insane.

While everything else is completely contrived, you can't argue with the performance.

That said, he's not being paid to hit .256. I mean, he led the league in runs scored, but .136 in April? 0-16 in the ALCS? Guy has to step up.

Anonymous said...

DV

There came a time around 2005 or so when people in Boston really cut back on talking about Manny Ramirez as a hitter. As a headcase/potential trade candidate? Sure. All the time. But he had been so great for so long that his consistency was something that only the most astute baseball fans (not me) and Manny fans (definitely me) appreciated. Teixeira has probably hit that spot in his career. He's a big time hitter and an excellent fielder things well. He rarely is controversial (a huge departure from my Manny analogy, worth mentioning because...) which is always going to help someone fly under the radar in a city like New York where ARod and Jeter and the on-going drama of the Steinbrenner family will dominate. Prime example: I watch a ton of SportsCenter. I especially pay attention to the Sox highlights and the Yankee highlights. And in the last two years I can't remember one memorable thing that Teixeira has said. And that's actually smart for him to do. But that also explains why he flies under the radar despite being one of the five best first basemen in baseball (a legitimate accomplishment considering all the talent at that position: Pujols, Fielder, Gonzalez, Howard, Cabrera, etc).

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

PF

Sorry, that last post was to be addressed to you. My bad.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

Pat,

The reason the guy doesn't get a lot of press is because he has anti-charisma. The guy is just not a compelling personality in any way shape or form. And while he is remarkably solid and consistent, he doesn't make the number of "wow" plays that's usually associated with a guy that puts up those types of numbers.

Alright, now that we have solved that quandry, does anyone have anything relevant they want to talk about?

Anonymous said...

I guess not.

Anonymous said...

I guess not.

Patrick said...

gm -

the yankees need more than .256. no question. impact (read: more noticeable) performance across the board.

gunn -

i think that's exactly the phenomenon we are seeing here. teixeira's performance has become expected/taken for granted on some level so it doesn't get much play. manny always stayed in the news because of his antics, and since teixeira doesn't have any of that it is even more understandable why there can be so little talk about him.

bandi -

yes on your first point, no on your second. teixeira is right there with cano in terms of the number of "wow" plays you see on both sides of the baseball. he makes 2-3 plays a week on defense that are difficult to comprehend, and hits moonshots. a-rod is there offensively in terms of "wow" hits but doesn't wow on D as much anymore the way these two do. gardner does it on D but not on offense really. so it's really these two in terms of tops on the yanks. of course you have to watch them play a lot to really notice this, but this is definitely the case. maybe people who don't watch the yanks frequently just expect that teixeira would be a player that doesn't wow because of his personality, that he just goes out there and quietly puts up good numbers, but it's really quite the opposite.

the gm at work said...

Regarding the personality, it's like he's JD Drew, except he actually produces. You could say the same about the .256 batting average, as well. At least JD doesn't contrive emotions.

At the same time, you also don't see Teixeira boasting about how he's jumping in front of trucks going 50 MPH and saving children's lives on Newbury Street in Boston. You don't see him kissing himself in the mirror - at least not publicly. The guy doesn't do anything good to make himself notable, but he doesn't do anything bad either.

So yeah, I guess I just agree with what y'all already said.