First pitch does not exist for Mark Teixeira

Diagnosing a problem happening with a member of the Yankees is pretty much a moot point right now. But sometimes, an observation has to be tested simply out of curiosity. My observation is that Mark Teixeira never, ever swings at the first pitch and it is usually the best pitch he sees in an at bat. The numbers back up the observation and they are not pretty. Most assume correctly that Mark Teixeira's batting average has shriveled up like a cold cut left out in the open air because he has not adjusted to the shifts deployed against him. His .237 BABIP attests to his inability (or lack of interest) in adjusting to the shift. But the shift being deployed in baseball is just the most visible sign of how much statistics and the trending they bring has changed the game. Number crunchers working for teams look for any trends that can be exploited. With Teixeira, it's not just the pull tendency, but also his first pitch strategy.

Let me illustrate with numbers. In 2008, Mark Teixeira put 13.3% of first pitches in play. It worked out well for him and he had a 1.009 OPS when he did so. In 2009, his first year with the Yankees, Teixeira put 12.2% of first pitches in play and had a 1.157 OPS when he did so. Even as late as 2011, when Teixeira's batting average started sinking, he put 11.2% of first pitches in play and had an .817 OPS when he did so with a slugging percentage over .500.

Fast forward to this year. This year, Teixeira has only put 35 balls in play on the first pitch. That is only 8.2% of the time. And when he has done so, nothing good has happened. His OPS on those 35 balls in play is .283! Yikes. Pitchers are aware of this tendency and are grooving pitches right down the heart of the plate against Teixeira on a regular basis with the first pitch of his plate appearance.

Why is that important? It's important because Mark Teixeira is virtually helpless when he gets behind in the count. After Teixeira is in an 0-1 count, he has a .638 OPS. After an 0-2 count, he has a .320 OPS and has an OPS of .430 after a 1-2 count.

I was watching the first game of yesterday's horrid double-header and Teixeira came up with two runners on base in a scoreless game. The first pitch was a grooved, batting practice fastball right down the heart of the plate. 0-1. The final result was a pitcher's pitch for strike three. The Yankees would fail to score.

Today's statistics exploit tendencies. That is what they do. Mark Teixeira has developed a strong tendency not to have any plan on the first pitch other than to watch it go by. Pitchers are exploiting this tendency for an easy strike which puts Teixeira in a position of failure.

I get that a big part of Mark Teixeira's game is his walk percentage. It is the major difference from him being a total non-offensive entity to one with at least a wRC+ over 100.  But in the past, it is obvious that he had a zone he was looking for with the first pitch and if he got a pitch in that zone, he took advantage of that pitch to great success. There is no such plan now other than to hope the first pitch is a ball.

If there is one thing to be learned from this sad season of offense, it is that the Yankees have not adjusted or responded to what pitchers are trying to do against them. Due to scouting and the numbers, teams are exploiting Yankee tendencies and the Yankees have not responded or adjusted at all. Mark Teixeira has become an easy out and is a symbol of the entire Yankee season because teams can throw him a first pitch strike and bunch up the infield.