New York Yankees Need Mark Teixeira to Work with Kevin Long on Hitting Righties
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Brian Cashman, call the doctor. Please.
Mark Teixeira needs Curtis Granderson treatment from Kevin Long. Well, reverse Curtis Granderson treatment, actually.
Teixeira, the New York Yankees' switch-hitting first baseman, struggled against right-handed pitching all season, hitting just .224 from the left side of the plate. As a lefty, Teixeira struck out once in every 5.5 plate appearances and homered once every 19.3.
From the right side of the dish, Teixeira hit .302 with a homer in every 14.4 plate appearances and a strikeout every 8.6. All-star numbers.
Teixeira’s .239 BABIP, a sabermetric essentially measuring a hitter’s luck, indicates his woes can be attributed to misfortune. However, the reason he appears “unlucky” is because he consistently hit right into the defensive shift designed to exploit his tendency to pull the ball as a lefty.
Almost every night, Teixeira would smoke a ball that would normally get through the 3-4 hole. Instead, the second baseman, stationed in shallow right field, would make the play to retire him.
Without having any qualms, opposing teams could consistently apply the shift because Teixeira simply could not hit the ball hard to the opposite field.
According to Fangraphs’ splits on Teixeira, the first baseman hit 58 balls to left field as a lefty. He recorded just five hits for a .086 average, his worst opposite field clip as a Yankee.
Let's put it this way: Teixeira could have made a fortune selling "cans of corn" to left fielders across the league.
Kevin Long transformed Granderson, formerly a feeble hitter against lefties, into the league’s home run leader versus southpaws. After hitting .234 with four round-trippers against lefties in 2010, Granderson hit .272 with 16 home runs in 2011.
Teixeira doesn’t necessarily need a boost in power from the left side of the plate—he did hit 24 bombs against right-handers—but Long can help the first baseman change his hitting approach to use all fields.
The potential benefits of doing so are obvious.
If Teixeira displays an ability to hit to the left side, defenses won’t risk shifting. Without the shift, Teixeira will undoubtedly earn more hits to the right side as well.
Some have been critical of Teixeira's seemingly stubborn refusal to laying a bunt down the vacant third baseline to make defenses think twice about applying a shift.
While bunting could work, it's easier said than done. Teixeira has never even successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt—not at the professional level, at least.
Learning to direct a bunt can be a challenge in little league, against pitchers throwing 60 MPH fastballs and nothing else. It's much harder when a pitcher can throw one of any four or five pitches, all of which have different velocities and movements.
Although learning to bunt would add a valuable asset to Teixeira's game, his offseason would be better spent in the cage, working against right-handed pitching and taking outside pitches to left field.
Let's face it. Even if Teixeira’s glove will still be valuable in the future—he posted an 8.6 UZR, the second-best among first basemen, this season—he’s not worth $22.5 million per year if he hits .224 against right-handers.
(Aside: even if he hit .290 against righties, could any ballplayer really be worth $22.5 million? Let's save that for another time.)
If Long, who has already fixed Granderson’s woes and helped to rejuvenate Derek Jeter’s career, can teach Teixeira to hit to the left side, the Yankees’ No. 3 hitter will be a much more intimidating pitching assignment.
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