Why Mark Teixeira Should Be the New York Yankees Cleanup Hitter for 2009
The signing of Mark Teixeira considerably boosted the Yankee offense, and their infield defense, too. While his glove will save a few throwing errors from the left side of the infield, the signing was to primarily aid an offense that scored 179 fewer runs in 2008 than in 2007.
Many stories and comments have been written about how Teixeira is “the perfect No. 3 hitter,” and that he will “provide Alex Rodriguez protection in the lineup.”
But, unless A-Rod is hitting in the Yankees No. 2 hole, the above statements are contradictory. Teixeira can not protect A-Rod in the lineup if he hits in front of him, just as he didn’t “protect” Vlad Guerrero this year after the late July trade from Atlanta because Teixeira hit in front of Guerrero every game.
The way Guerrero approaches hitting, with his wide strike zone and completely free swinging ways, Vlad doesn’t really need anybody protecting him.
But Teixeira has been a hired gun via trades twice within the last two seasons, going from Texas to Atlanta in 2007 and then from Atlanta to the Angels last season. In both instances, Tex had much better stats after the trade than he did before the trade happened.
After the trade to the Braves, Tex hit BEHIND Chipper Jones and also hit behind Jones in 2008. After the trade to the Angels Tex hit IN FRONT of Guerrero.
With Teixeira hitting fourth in Atlanta, Chipper Jones mostly had minimal changes in either batting average (BA) or on base percentage (OBP).
Jones’ BA was .340 before and .333 after the trade, while his OBP was .424 before and .417 after. In 2008, Jones hit .369 with Tex and .352 after Tex with OBP’s near similar at .482 with and .484.
With Tex hitting behind him for a longer period of time, Jones’ overall numbers were considerably better in 2008, with Jones hitting 17 points higher before Tex was traded to Anaheim.
But, what really stood out was Jones’ power numbers, or slugging percentage, were far superior with Teixeira hitting behind Jones. Before Tex came aboard in 2007, Jones slugged .587, but then slugged .631 after Tex arrived.
Also, in the first several months of 2008, Jones slugged .596 but dropped to .525 after Tex was traded to the Angels.
It is readily apparent that Mark Teixeira hitting behind Chipper Jones allowed Jones to get better pitches to hit. For which Jones responded with better power numbers, plus the higher average in 2008.
Even Garrett Anderson of the Angels benefited from Tex’ presence after the trade to LA, hitting .322 with two homers and nine RBI when batting in front of Teixeira.
Rodriguez had what can be considered an off year in 2008. All his offensive numbers were near the bottom of yearly output. He also continued his interesting trend during his five-year Yankee tenure of alternating MVP seasons with extremely down years. Here’s hoping A-Rod continues with that trend in 2009!
And the way to bring Rodriguez back to MVP form is to hit him third and Teixeira fourth in the new star-studded lineup. A-Rod had his way with pitchers during 2007, when he hit in the cleanup spot the entire season.
He produced a .314/.422/.645 line with an OPS+ of 177, the highest of his career. He scored a career-high 143 runs, hit 54 homers and drove in a career high 156 runs.
But Rodriguez also had a very hot hitter hitting behind him the entire season. Not one particular guy, but a terrifically concocted Joe Torre combination of Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada, and Hideki Matsui.
Giambi started the season hitting behind A-Rod and was extremely hot in April, hitting .322 while slugging .517. He hit five doubles, four homers and drove in 17 runs in April, providing great protection for Rodriguez.
I used only batting average and slugging percentage because OBP doesn’t factor in the thoughts of opposing managers in regards to lineup protection. The fact that Giambi walks a lot doesn’t matter as much as his being hot at the time, a good combination of a high average and strong power production threat.
When Giambi started to slump, becoming the real Giambi we know, Jorge Posada started to make everyone notice his hot hitting from the beginning of the season.
After a strong .311 average in April, Posada hit .394 in May while slugging .606; hitting 11 doubles and three homers. He began to hit behind A-Rod on May 19, a long stretch which lasted until July 3.
Even though Posada “slumped” to .294 and .457 in June, his reputation was already cemented as having a career season and was honored accordingly, and, as a result, A-Rod benefited.
NOTE: Posada was amazingly consistent during his 2007 season, hitting exactly three homers with 15 RBI in each of the first four months. In August and September, he hit four homers while averaging 15 RBI per month.
When he started a 15-game hitting streak on May 3, his average went below .325 only for one game the balance of the season.
Matsui started to get hot in July and on owner George Steinbrenner’s July 4 birthday, Torre inserted Matsui into the fifth spot of the order, hitting behind AROD until mid September. Matsui proceeded to hit .343 with 13 homers and 28 RBI in July, following a great July with a .333 average in August.
Matsui then alternated with Posada hitting fifth the rest of the season, providing Rodriguez the necessary protection he needed...and A-Rod responded with a monster September.
While A-Rod had great protection throughout the 2007 season, injuries to Posada and Matsui in 2008 cost both of them most of their seasons...and cost Rodriguez his needed support. Without that support (Giambi was too inconsistent all year to provide any), pitchers never gave Rodriguez quality pitches to hit.
His frustration at being pitched around led him to repeatedly swing at bad pitches, not just pitches outside the strike zone, but also good pitchers pitches within the strike zone. He began to get himself out, and his lack of patience is shown in his 65 walks, his lowest total in 10 years.
A-Rod has shown impatience at the plate and at this point of his career, he needs proper lineup support. Teixeira has shown that he provides that support, helping Chipper Jones during their time in Atlanta, especially the power numbers.
While Teixeira had Guerrero behind him in Anaheim, he did not have a big hitter behind him in Atlanta, but still put up amazing numbers. He has shown he can hit without protection.
Like Chipper’s power numbers improving in Atlanta, Tex will help A-Rod get better pitches to hit and improve on his 35 homer season a year ago. With Teixeira in his prime and A-Rod getting older, Rodriguez is going to need that lineup support more than ever.
Rodriguez should hit third and Teixeira should hit cleanup. That “perfect No. 3 hitter” the Yankees just acquired should be “downgraded” to cleanup.
And A-Rod will likely have another MVP-type season...with a little help from his new fellow corner infielder.
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