How Legitimate Is Mark Teixeira's MVP Candidacy?

Teix HR vs BAL Mark Teixeira didn't hit a home run last night.  That's mainly because the Yankees didn't play, but with as hot as he's been lately I kind of expected him to still hit at least one out last night.  Teix has literally been on fire lately, hitting .378/.472/.889 with 5 doubles, 6 home runs, 10 runs, 11 RBI, and a 13.2% BB rate over the last 2 weeks.  He had back-to-back 2-homer games last Thursday and Friday, he even mixed a stolen base in for S's and G's, and he's continued to play solid defense at first base to help save his occasionally wild-throwing infield.

This hot streak has been an extension of what has already been a tremendous comeback season for Teix.  After missing almost all of the 2013 season and playing most of last year as a watered down version of himself, the whispers that Teix was done heading into his age 35 season got louder.  He's silenced every single one of them with the year he's had, to the point that those whispers have now changed to be about including Teix in the American League MVP discussion.  It's been a while since we've been able to talk about a Yankee hitter's inclusion in that race, so why not take a minute to see how well Teix stacks up against the competition?

First the statistics.  Here's where Teixeira ranks in the AL in some major statistical categories:

  • T-4th in Home Runs- 29
  • 3rd in RBI- 74
  • 27th in R- 53
  • 9th in TB- 200
  • 4th in BB- 55
  • 8th in OBP- .373
  • 3rd in SLG- .585
  • 4th in OPS- .957
  • 4th in wOBA- .402
  • 4th in wRC+- 158
  • T-10th in fWAR- 3.3
  • 4th in OPS+- 163
  • T-8th in bWAR- 4.1

The low run total doesn't look good compared to the other leading candidates (Trout, Donaldson, Machado), but Teix isn't a speed guy and he doesn't create run-scoring opportunities for himself.  He's a power guy and a run producer and he's right at the top of the heap in all of those important categories.  Top 5 in homers and OPS, top 3 in RBI and slugging percentage.  In terms of direct competition, Teix has more homers than everybody except Mike Trout and more RBI than everybody but Josh Donaldson.

If you're more sabermetrically inclined, Teix is right at the top of most of those offensive categories as well.  B-R's version of WAR scores him a bit more favorably, mainly because FanGraphs doesn't rate his defensive value very highly despite a positive UZR/150 and 4 defensive runs saved.  That tells you more about the usefulness of defensive metrics than how Teix has played, as anybody who's watched even a handful of Yankee games this season could tell you that he's still Gold Glove-caliber at first.  Even if the numbers don't support it, Teix's reputation as a plus defensive first baseman will give him a boost with the voters over someone like Nelson Cruz.

Teix has been a very good situational hitter this season as well.  He's got a 1.173 OPS in FanGraphs' version of high-leverage situations and a .978 according to B-R.  He's batting .333/.421/.708 in 98 tie game at-bats with 9 go-ahead homers.  He's been remarkably consistent, with an OPS over .872 in each of the first 4 months and at least 5 HR every month.  There's a lot to like about what Teix has done this year in terms of MVP criteria, whichever ones voters decide to value more.

Ultimately we know who's going to win this award, so to have a real detailed breakdown and argument for any other player is a bit of a waste of time.  But Mark Teixeira has had an incredible season up to this point, he's done it at an age where most people assumed he would be on his way out of everyday duty, and he's arguably the main reason why the Yankees are back at the top of the AL East.  He has a very strong and very legitimate MVP case in most years, and I honestly don't see how he can be any less than a top 3 finisher if he continues to hit like this and the Yankees win the division.  That's an impressive accomplishment considering where he was at the end of last season.

P.S.- Word to the wise.  Don't make any kind of Teix MVP comment to Sweeny Murti on Twitter, even if you're dead serious, or he'll block you.  Not sure what the deal is there, but apparently he takes that very seriously.