Is Mark Teixeira Having a Slow Start or Is His Career in Decline?

Peter AlfanoContributor IIMay 17, 2012

Is Mark Teixeira Having a Slow Start or Is His Career in Decline?

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    I have seen Mark Teixeira play since his rookie season with the Texas Rangers in 2003.

    I lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area back then and Tex, as he was nicknamed, had a promising first season, batting .259 with 26 home runs and 84 RBI.

    He started slowly, batting just .237 with five homers and 25 RBI through May. That's when he got the reputation for slow starts.

    A little research, however, reveals that the perception of Teixeira as a notoriously slow starter is wrong.

    That won't comfort Yankees fans who have been waiting for him to break out this season.

    The cold hard facts show that Teixeira's batting average has gone down every season since he signed as a free agent with the Yankees in 2009.

    The power and run production are still there. Teixeira hit 39 homers and drove in 111 runs in 2011.

    The question is whether the over-shift that some teams use against him when he bats left-handed has contributed to the falling batting average or whether Teixeira, at 32, has begun the downward trek of his career.

    He batted just .248 in 2011 and actually had his best stretch in April and May when he hit .257 with 16 home runs and 38 RBI.

    Teixeira is hitting .234 with five home runs and 20 RBI thus far in 2012 and has shown some signs that better days are ahead.

    The question is, what is his ceiling at this point in his career?

    The Yankees already have to live with Alex Rodriguez's enormous salary and shrinking production. At least A-Rod is 36.

    The guess is that no one in the Yankees organization is counting on Teixeira's career to begin heading south when he should still be in his prime.

    The remainder of this season will give the Yankees a better idea of what they can expect from Teixeira in the future.

    A month from now he may be carrying the team with his bat.

    His defense at first is also still worth its weight in a Gold Glove.

    Let's take a look at several of Teixeira's past seasons and see how his April and May production compare to his final statistics.

That's Texas in Texas Rangers

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    Mark Teixeira took several big steps forward during his second season in Arlington with the Texas Rangers. He improved his batting average to .281 and had 38 homers and 112 RBI.

    This was all despite a second consecutive slow start.

    In April and May of '04, Teixeira hit just .228 with five home runs and 14 RBI.

    He was as hot as the Texas summer the rest of the season. 

Teixeira Has a Career Year in 2005

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    Even though his career batting average is .280, Mark Teixeira has hit .300 three times.

    The first was in 2005 when he finished at .301 with 43 home runs and 144 RBI. He played all 162 games and excelled on defense too, winning his first Gold Glove.

    One important reason for his career-best numbers at the time was that Teixeira did not struggle in the first two months of the season.

    He batted .293 in April and May wit 13 homers and 36 RBI.

    The hot start propelled him to a monster year.

    Did anyone say superstar? 

Teixeira's Brave New World

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    By 2007 Mark Teixeira had solidified his reputation as one of the best young players in baseball.

    Nonetheless, the Texas Rangers had doubts that they could re-sign him. Rather than lose him to free agency, the Rangers traded Teixeira to Atlanta for several prospects.

    It looked like a steal for the Braves, who were in the thick of a division race and had high hopes of signing Teixeira to a new contract before he became a free agent after the 2008 season.

    The gamble didn't work.

    Teixeira had another outstanding season, finishing with a .307 average, 30 homers and 105 RBI for the Rangers and Braves.

    He also had another strong start to the season, batting .295 with nine homers and 33 RBI in April and May.

    That start helped enable the Rangers to trade him to the Braves, although Rangers fans were not happy at the time.

Texeira on the Road Again

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    You won't find too many perennial sluggers who are traded as often as Mark Teixeira was between 2007 and 2008.

    When the Atlanta Braves sensed that they would lose him to free agency, however, they dealt Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angels during the season, rather than risk losing him and the prospects they had sent to Texas and getting nothing in return.

    It didn't matter to Teixeira whose uniform he was wearing.

    He batted .308 in 2008 for the Braves and Angels, with 33 home runs and 121 RBI.

    Again he was helped by a good start. Teixeira hit .270 with seven homers and an impressive 39 RBI in April and May.

    It positioned him to cash in big-time when he entered free agency after the 2008 season and the New York Yankees emptied a Brinks truck at his front door. 

Teixeira a Yankee Doodle Dandy

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    Several teams courted Mark Teixeira during free agency, among them the Baltimore Orioles, his hometown team.

    Early in his career with the Texas Rangers, Teixeira had hinted that he might like to play for the Orioles some day.

    The lure of Yankee pinstripes and dollar signs were stronger, however.

    Teixeira signed an eight-year contract with the Yankees for an estimated $180 million.

    He had found a home, ostensibly for the rest of his career.

    Teixeira delivered in 2009, batting .292 with 39 home runs and 122 RBI. He won another Gold Glove at first and finished second in the voting for Most Valuable Player.

    Teixeira had the best start of his career as well.

    He batted .281 for April and May, with 16 home runs and 44 RBI.

    Yankees fans had found the successor to "Donnie Baseball" at first base.

Teixeira Loses Some Points in 2010

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    Just a blip on the screen or a sign of things to come?

    Mark Teixeira was productive in 2010, hitting 33 homers and driving in 108 runs.

    His batting average dropped to .256, however.

    It might be attributed to his slowest start since 2004. Teixeira hit only .221 for April and May, with eight homers and 34 RBI.

    His batting average never really recovered.

Teixeira and the Shift

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    With Yankee Stadium having inviting dimensions in right field, replicating the "House that Ruth Built", Mark Teixeira had become more of a pull hitter from the left side in 2011.

    Teams were playing an over-shift against him and rather than use his power to the opposite field, Teixeira tried to hit over the shift and into the seats in right.

    That helps explain a career-low .248 average for the season, although his power numbers were still impressive. He had 39 homers and 111 RBI.

    This time Teixeira couldn't blame his average on a slow start.

    He batted .257 for April and May with 16 homers and 38 RBI.

    So what can Yankee fans expect for the rest of 2012?

    Is Teixeira due to break out and raise his average closer to his lifetime mark of .280?

    Will the home runs start coming in bunches?

    Or is his career trending downward?

    The Yankees are hoping he will break out of his funk sooner rather than later.

    They owe him $22.5 million per year through 2016.