2011 Fantasy Baseball: Mark Teixeira and Baseball's Notoriously Slow Starters

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2011 Fantasy Baseball: Mark Teixeira and Baseball's Notoriously Slow Starters
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The start of the season comes a bit later for some and often it takes the presence of short sleeves and the aroma of sunscreen to thaw a long winter’s offseason.

For players like Mark Teixeira, April might as well be February, and August, well—might as well be batting practice.

Justifying the slow starts for some of the game’s biggest stars like Teixeira is like rationalizing Vernon Wells’ contract; it just can’t be explained.

Teixeira’s career .237 April average has Yankee brass scratching their heads considering the All-Star first baseman’s .299 rate after the mid-summer classic. The annual April stall has prompted him to begin earlier spring training workouts during February rather than March, ratcheted spring training intensity, and even extended time in the batting cage.

The Yankees enter 2011 in a position where they can ill afford to have their slugging first baseman struggle from the onset considering the team’s weak starting pitching. Protected by a healthy Alex Rodriguez and hitting behind stars like Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano, there should be copious amounts of opportunities to break the April skid.

Teixeira’s Opening Day home run against Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander will go a long way towards dispelling speculation of another April struggle.

“Mark put in the work this offseason,” Yankee manager Joe Girardi said following the Opening Day win.

“Mark was in the cage each time I walked by this spring. He’ll be ready.”

2010 was no exception to Adam LaRoche’s perennial slow start as the power hitting first baseman hit just .253 before the All-Star break, right on par with his career .252 average from April to June. The lone caveat to LaRoche’s slow starts is that his power numbers remain unaffected. In a career 3,441 at bats, he’s slugged 76 pre-All-Star game home runs compared to 85 after the break, a subtle difference over an eight-year career.

Troy Tulowitzki may not have the measurable sample size of Adam LaRoche or Mark Teixeira but the Colorado shortstop has shown a tendency to struggle in the first half of his initial four full seasons at the major league level. Since 2007 he’s hit a meager .224 in April accompanied by a dismal .305 OBP.

The second half of the season is a different story for Tulowitzki who will forever be remembered for his torrid September last season that saw him smash 15 home runs and 40 RBI. The first half splits are glaring for a player whose name appears on the yearly MVP ballot and should “Tulo” catch fire this spring, we may just see him holding some serious hardware come October.

Perhaps growing up in sun drenched Vallejo, California contributes to C.C. Sabathia’s knack for slow spring starts since C.C. has forever played for teams above the Mason-Dixon Line. The 3.79 ERA from April to June pales in comparison to his second half dominance over the course of his ten year career.

Sabathia’s 2010 season witnessed the big left-hander post a season high 5.15 ERA in May but C.C. isn’t the only Yankee who’s known for early season struggles. Newly appointed fifth starter Freddy Garcia has his position at the back end of the rotation secured but the veteran right-hander’s history of poor April and May starts hurts the likelihood that Garcia will survive the season with the team.

A 4.15 April ERA is merely pedestrian for a pitcher whose repertoire hinges on his ability to keep the ball in play but the month of May sees Garcia hit even harder (career 4.40 ERA in 49 career May starts). With 2011 as likely the last opportunity for Garcia to play a role on a championship team, this spring will be an ideal opportunity for Garcia and many others to reverse the trend.

 

Written by Conor Gereg exclusively for www.thefantasyfix.com

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