Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Yankees’ Mark Teixeira changes diet, not approach at plate

New York Yankees’ first baseman Mark Teixeira had an answer this offseason for his inability to beat the shift when he’s hitting left-handed – go on a gluten-free diet, gain 13 pounds of muscle and trim 5 percent off his body fat. Teixeira vowed in an interview with reporters Wednesday to simply try and pull balls into the seats and the right field gap for doubles, or take a walk instead of changing his approach at the plate.

Some tweets from MLB.com's Bryan Hoch:

More on slap-hitting via ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews:

His work ethic over the winter is certainly commendable. Simply having Teixeira healthy could provide valuable production for the Yankees’ offense. He sees himself as a 30 home run, 100 RBI hitter and with 600-plus plate appearances he could approach those numbers.

The comment that he didn’t want to be a slap-hitter is an inane one coming from a professional baseball player who just added profound strength in the offseason. What about just using the whole field and if a pitch is on the outside part of the plate try to drive it to the left field gap?

A mindset to never try to go away with pitches that are on the outside part of the strike zone seems short-sighted. It also provides the opposition with a simple game plan when he’s at the plate. Away, away and away.

Teixeira seems to believe that he’ll be able to lay off pitches he can’t pull, and wait for mistakes either over the heart of the plate or on the inner half where he can try to launch them into the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. That’s all well and good but when you’ve laid your plan out there and show it won’t change, how many mistakes in does he think he’ll get?

Further, he apparently doesn’t understand that if he demonstrates that he can handle the pitch on the outside corner with some authority from his newly muscled body, that it might bring more pitches to the inner half. No one, at least not here, is asking Teixeira to drop down bunts or lazily slap at pitches to drop over the third baseman’s head. He can still look for pitches to pull into the seats, but he could just as easily go the other way with authority with pitches thrown on the outside part of the plate.

Teixeira proclaims he wants “to be himself” at the plate. He has not been who the Yankees thought they were signing since his first year in New York back in 2009 when he slashed .292/.383/.565 with 43 doubles, 39 homers and 122 RBI. His last 30/100 season was in 2011.

Of course, some of that is due to health, but a good part of it is also Teixeira’s stubbornness when it comes to his approach at the plate. In his 2015 outlook here, it was written that it was imperative Teixeira try something different with his approach and hopefully work with the new hitting coaches to figure out how to best tackle the shift.

His answer to fly everything over the shift is one that has failure written all over it. It is what he has tried to do from 2012-14; to the tune of a .229/.320/.431 line in just under 1,100 plate appearances. Teixeira hit 49 home runs in that time, so we are talking 25 homers at best for 550 plate appearances in a season. Aside from health, the likelihood of Teixeira generating a 30/100 season seems unreasonable without a new line of thinking.

Taking the steps to become healthier showed a true desire to be better on Teixeira’s part and it's great to see, but believing that it alone will allow him to elevate more pitches (ones he likely won’t see many of) into the seats is not grasping the big picture.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer and sports media strategist. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly Closer Report column. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



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