- Jose Bautista (TOR) continues to crush pitches regardless of where they are in the zone. His 5 HRs on outside pitches leads all major league hitters. Curtis Granderson (NYY), Mark Teixeira (NYY), and Ryan Howard (PHI) are tied for second with 4 HRs.
- Peter Bourjos (LAA) leads the league with 4 triples on outside pitches.
- Carlos Quentin (CWS) leads all hitters with 6 doubles on outside pitches.
- Carlos Santana (CLE) lead the majors last year with a .643 SLG on outside pitches. He's currently ranked 42nd with a .476 SLG. Albert Pujols, who was ranked 2nd last year with a .601 SLG, currently holds a .167 SLG on outside pitches, putting him in 235th place.
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Entries in Mark Teixeira (12)
The Yankees lead the majors in team home runs hit this season. The types of pitches they hit for long balls can be demonstrated with three particular players and opponents pitch velocity. First, a look at the team as a whole:
New York batters hit fast pitches high and low, and slower pitches in the middle. The papa bear here is Alex Rodriguez, who likes his pitches high and fast:
Alex, one of the great sluggers of all time, can handle the high, hard stuff. This alos gives him power to all fields, as he hit two homers to left this season, one to center and one to right.
Russell Martin comes in as mama bear, who likes his pitches soft and hanging:
Martin has not been much of a slugger in his career, but he's killing mistakes in the middle of the plate this season.
That leaves Mark Teixeira as baby bear, the slugger where every pitch is just right:
He hits them high, he hits them low, he hits them fast, he hits them slow. New York's diverse set of sluggers gives them the ability to take any kind of pitcher deep somewhere in the lineup, and their tremendous power to start the season vaulted them to first place in the AL East.
Mark Teixeira's 2010 was arguably his worst offensive season since his rookie year in Texas. He had a career low BABIP (.268), however his 19% line drive rate was essentially unchanged from his previous 4 year average. He did have a higher IF/FB% last year compared to his average (17% to 12%), which does include line drives. Maybe Teixeira was lining out to infielders more often last year, I really don't recall.
I took a closer look at Teixeira's line drives and found that he was hitting fewer liners on balls up in the zone. Compare his line drive rate graphics for the last 3 years:
Teixeira's overall BABIPs over that same time period: .346, .302, .268. If his LD% hadn't take a 5% dive, I'd be more willing to believe he was just having bad luck with high pitches. Pitches hit up in the zone tend to end up in the air more often than on the ground. There's a chance that Teixeira was hitting more infield flies on pitches up last season (I don't have any data on zone specific IF/FB% at the moment).
The shift is often deployed against Teixeira which might skew his LD%. Plays that are technically "ground outs" when the ball hits the outfield grass first on a line and then gets fielded by an infielder on a shift would otherwise get labeled as a line drive if there was no shift and the ball got through for a hit. We're working with a small sample size when isolating one portion of the zone, so it's possible just a few of those kinds of outs could have brought down his LD%. I guess an interesting study would be to see if players that see shifts have lower line drive rates in addition to having fewer ground ball hits.
As it stands, it doesn't look like Teixeira was unlucky on high pitches last year; he didn't have his best season at the plate and hitting fewer liners off pitches up in the zone was probably one reason why.