Earlier this week, Josh Weinstock at The Hardball Times examined Mark Teixeira's shrinking batting average on balls in play. Weinstock found that the switch-hitter's BABIP remained steady from the right side of the dish, but Tex is getting far fewer hits on balls in play as a lefty in 2010-2011 (.234) compared to 2008-2009 (.302). As a result, Teixeira's batting average has dipped from the high .290s to around .250.
Weinstock also discovered that Teixeira's BABIP decline as a lefty hitter has mostly been on pitches located on the outer part of the plate. Here's a look at Tex's in-play average as a lefty hitter from 2008-2009 and then from 2010-2011. While the in-play average graphs do include home runs, you can still see the cold spots appear on the outer portion of the plate:
Righty pitchers have long tried to stay away from Teixeira's pull power by locating their stuff on the outside corner. But they're throwing him even more outside pitches since 2010, and those pitches are thrown farther outside:
Righties have thrown Tex an outside pitch 57 percent of the time from 2010-2011, compared to 53 percent from 2008-2009. Interestingly, Teixeira's swing rate on outside pitches has increased (from 33 percent over the '08-'09 seasons to 36 percent in '10-'11), and he's hitting more foul balls on those outside pitches (32 percent of the time he swung from '08-'09 to 36 percent in '10-'11).
Those extra foul balls tack on strikes in the count and put Teixeira in less favorable hitting situations: his percentage of hitter's counts against righties has dropped from 27 percent in 2008-2009 to 25 percent in 2010-2011, while his percentage of pitcher's counts seen has increased from 37 percent to 39 percent.
It's possible that Teixeira's batting average dip against righties is just a fluke. But the increase in pitches thrown outside and Tex's taking a cut at (and fouling off) more of them could be an indication that scouts, coaches and pitchers think that the Yankees' first baseman has become more vulnerable when extending his arms and trying to cover the outside part of the plate. Keep a close eye on how righties pitch Teixeira in September and, more importantly, October.