Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New York Yankees: Should Mark Teixeira bulk up or get back to basics?

New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira should be commended for his work with Harlem RBI, a great program for kids in the Bronx. But, he should be called out for his comments that next year he’ll be stronger so he can be the player he once was.

In an interview during a golf event for Harlem RBI, of which Teixeira is a major benefactor and sits on the Board of Directors, Teixeira gave us this tidbit, courtesy of

"Coming off the surgery last year, I didn't feel like I was as strong as I needed to be. This offseason is going to be really working hard in the weight room and getting stronger and hoping to have a healthy and productive 2015."

Does he have a new offseason strength training regimen lined up?

"It's not that much different," Teixeira replied. "It's just being more focused on strength and making sure that power gets back. Because being able to play 150-plus games and being able to hit home runs, that's what I've done my whole career, so I want to get back to that."

Look Teixeira has been in a downward spiral since 2011. Here’s a stat line from his seasons in pinstripes.

2009 ★ 29 NYY 156 707 609 178 43 39 122 81 114 .292 .383 .565 .948 141
2010 30 NYY 158 712 601 154 36 33 108 93 122 .256 .365 .481 .846 124
2011 31 NYY 156 684 589 146 26 39 111 76 110 .248 .341 .494 .835 121
2012 32 NYY 123 524 451 113 27 24 84 54 83 .251 .332 .475 .807 115
2013 33 NYY 15 63 53 8 1 3 12 8 19 .151 .270 .340 .609 68
2014 34 NYY 123 508 440 95 14 22 62 58 109 .216 .313 .398 .711 101
162 Game Avg. 162 706 610 167 37 36 116 80 124 .273 .364 .516 .881 128
NYY (6 yrs) 731 3198 2743 694 147 160 499 370 557 .253 .348 .485 .834 121
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/7/2014.

After watching Teixeira for several seasons, I’m not all that certain that the issue here is simply power, but rather the approach and the stroke. Simply put, Teixeira has lost focus on how to hit effectively, not necessarily for power.

It’s not a stretch to say that coming back from a wrist surgery would certainly sap some of his power, but in reality his 22 home runs in 508 plate appearances equate to about 30 in 680 PA so he didn’t lose too much power. In fact, he had similar numbers in 2012.

The bigger issue is Teixeira staying on the field long enough to accumulate 600 PA let alone 680. Instead of getting stronger and concerning himself with home runs, he needs to come to spring training limber with similar muscle mass. He’ll be more flexible and that should help him withstand the rigors of the baseball season.

Further, Teixeira should spend more time reviewing video tape and honing his swing in an effort adjust to the massive shifts against him. He’s strong enough to drive balls to the opposite field and force teams to then readjust their defensive scheme when he’s at the plate. That will in turn provide more opportunities for success when he does pull the ball.

If he cannot or will not work on how he hits, then his gaining 15 pounds of muscle mass simply produces harder hit ground balls to second base (or to the shortstop or third baseman on the second base side) or strikeout swinging at balls outside the zone. For Teixeira the power will be there, but the need control the strike zone and find holes in the defense is more important for his success at this stage in his career.

It should be back to the basics for Teixeira, not time to bulk up at the gym.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. 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.