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Mark Teixeira’s Quiet Decline


When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira to an 8-year, $180m contract in 2009, everyone knew that eventually they’d regret it. However, Teixeira’s decline is occurring sooner than expected. Though still a productive hitter, Teixeira hardly resembles a player who earns in excess of $20m a season. Even though he has the luxury of playing half of his games in Yankee Stadium – a ballpark that’s tailor-made for his left-handed pull-swing – Teixeira’s offensive production is slowly, but surely, dipping.

Teixeira’s Yankee career got off to a great start, as the slugging first baseman hit .292/.383/.565 with 39 HRs in his first season in pinstripes. His 4.8 oWAR that season placed him seventh overall in the American League in the category, and 17th overall in the majors. Using a different metric, Teixeira’s wRC+ that season was 141, which was tied for 16th best in the majors and sixth best in the AL. By all means, Teixeira was a top-20 (admittedly an arbitrary cut-off point) offensive player in baseball in 2009. It would be fair to expect Teixeira to either improve on that season – as he’d enter his age-30 season the following year, a prime age area for sluggers – or at least maintain the same level of production.

The 2010 season didn’t go according to plan, as Teixeira took a step backwards with his offensive production. His oWAR dropped to 3.3, tied for 23rd in the AL and tied for 52nd in the majors. Subsequently, his wRC+ descended to 126, tying him for 16th in the AL and tied for 38th in the majors. To be fair, that’s still fine offensive production, but not for a player making over $20m a year.

Furthermore, a concerning trend started to form. In 2010, Teixeira hit .244/.342/.457 with a 114 wRC+ vs. right-handed pitchers. Versus left-handed pitchers, Teixeira performed much better, hitting .278/.413/.528 with a 151 wRC+. Granted, he faced RHPs more than twice as many times as he did LHPs (486 plate-appearances compared to 223,) but it was still bothersome.

Entering 2011 and his age-31 season, Yankee fans expected the slugger to perform more like he did in 2009. However, Teixeira took yet another step in the wrong direction with his bat. His oWAR continued to drop, finishing the season at 2.5, tied for 43rd in the AL and tied for 85th in baseball. The drop in his wRC+ wasn’t as significant, ending up at 124, but his peers performed better than the previous year, which meant Teixeira was tied for 22nd in the AL and tied for 42nd in the majors in the category.

Teixeira’s platoon splits weren’t corrected either. His rather poor performance vs. RHPs got even worse, as he hit .224/.325/.453 with a 110 wRC+ against them. On the other hand, he continued to rake vs. LHPs, producing a slash-line of .302/.380/.587 and a 158 wRC+.

Going into 2012, manager Joe Girardi decided to bat Teixeira fifth in the order rather than his usual third slot, taking away some at-bats from him in the long-run. Moving from third in the order to fifth isn’t a huge change, but it’s good to see that Girardi noticed Teixeira’s decline as well.

What isn’t good is the fact that Teixeira is already declining and is only 32-years-old, and is owed $112.5m over the next five seasons (including 2012.)