Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mark Teixeira = Jason Giambi ?

Soon after Mark Teixeira signed that huge 8-year, $180 million deal back in 2008, I stumbled across an interesting comparison, talking about how Tex could go down the same path as Jason Giambi, who had just finished his 7-year deal with the Bombers.

When I first heard this, I couldn't help but laugh. Giambi was a steroid-user, DL prone for a good part of his contract, and couldn't play first base for his life. Teixeira was arguably the best switch hitter in baseball, and arguably the best first basemen defensively in the league. Teix was a shoe in to dominate and hit .300 every season, and become the new face of the Yankees for years to come.

Or so I thought.

After a terrific 2009 season in which he batted .292 with 39 homers and 122 RBI, Teix's average dropped 36 points the following year, and another 13 in 2011 where he batted .243. Sound familiar?

In Giambi's first year in pinstripes, he batted .314, but out of the blue batted .250 in 2003, and played in only 80 games in 2004, where he batted .208. The final four seasons - .271, .253, .235, .247. Mediocre, and certainly not worth the $120 million George Steinbrenner was paying him. The home runs and RBI were still there, but when he wasn't driving in runs he was striking out, popping out weakly, or killing rallies.

Unfortunately it's not unlikely to say that's what Teixeira will do in his final 5 years of his deal. A promising young star when he signed, Tex is now 31 and this is when he should be putting up his best numbers, not his worst. There's still a chance he could turn it around, but to me, the only way for that to happen is for Teixeira to stop hitting left-handed. 

Teixeira is still a career .304 hitter from the right side, but .271 from the left. As is the case with most switch hitters, Mark has much more power from the left (227 home runs) than the right (86 home runs). But making him a solely right-handed batter would be huge as far as the overall production the Yankees would get out of Mark .

Sure, Tex's power would drop, but 25 home runs is still likely. What should be guaranteed is a return to hitting for average and a huge increase in OBP. More doubles, more RBI. You name it. Making Tex a right-handed batter would show incredible improvement and a return to form of the guy the Yankees signed him to be.

However, the likelihood of this happening is not good at all, and it's likely Tex will continue to switch hit and decline. The fans still have his back, as do I, but another year of batting .250 and not hitting in the clutch will make them think back to the days of gold thongs, the 'Stache, and seasons of Yankee playoff failure.

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