Friday, January 21, 2011

Verducci: Is Tex heading down the same path as Giambi?

SI's Tom Verducci penned this piece on Mark Teixeira and the possibility the he may end up becoming another Jason Giambi..... Yea, I know, more Yankee-hate..... Verducci recently spoke with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long about Teixeira, and Long told him he will be working with Teixeira on three key areas of his offensive game--his poor starts, unothodox mechanics, and a lack of opposite-field hitting--so that he doesn't have a repeat performance of his .256 2010.

Here is Verducci's take on all three:
• Poor starts. Teixeira is a career .235/.342/.411 hitter in April. He basically writes off the first month of his season. To buck this trend, Long is working with Teixeira on taking more swings before spring training begins, as well as making suggestions to tweak the intense pregame workout regimen of Teixeira, a fitness freak.

• Unorthodox mechanics. Teixeira collapses his back side as he hits, rather than driving through the ball with his back side while letting his back foot fully pivot. The style has worked for Teixeira, an accomplished slugger. But the style means that Teixeira must catch the ball out in front and leaves him prone to lifting the ball rather than driving through it. As he ages, Teixeira becomes an even more extreme fly ball and pull hitter, trends that mean he will continue to lose points off his batting average.

• Opposite-field hitting. Teixeira always has been a pull hitter from both sides of the plate, but he virtually gave up hitting the ball the other way last season. From 2003 through '09 Teixeira had between 14 and 22 opposite-field hits each season. Last year he managed only seven.
Verducci goes on to mentions that Long will use a similar approach with Tex that he used with Nick Swisher prior to the '10 season, adjustments that led to a .288 batting avg for Swish.

"[Kevin Long] believes that if Teixeira makes the adjustment to drive his back side through the ball rather than collapsing it, he will maintain his slugging but also add to his batting average because he will be able to drive the ball to all fields."

He then leaves us with this:
Without adjustments, Teixeira is likely to lose more hits into overshifted defenses and lose chunks of points off his batting average as he ages through his 30s and loses the timing and bat speed advantages of youth. If he needs further proof, he can examine the careers of hitters such as Jason Giambi and J.D. Drew. They were versatile, dangerous all-fields hitters through their 20s, but as they aged they worked the ball more and more out in front of them and defenses began overshifting more and more against them to the pull field.
I'm not going to sit here and pretend that this isn't possible. It clearly is. However, I do have faith (hopefully it's not blind) that Teixeira and Kevin Long will put in the work and make the necessary adjustments to help him remain a very dangerous hitter in this league.

Tex has proven he's a hard worker, so there's no reason to believe that the he won't put in the necessary effort, and as for Long goes, he's proven time and time again that he can fix a player's swing. Why would Teixeira be any different?

If he has another down year I may begin to worry, but for now I'm pretty confident that Tex will do what he needs to do and be right back in the MVP voting next October.

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