Larry and I had an exchange about Tex and A-Rod yesterday before Larry left to watch one of the season's most exciting games. He and I concluded that we'd had enough of A-Rod's power outage and Tex's flirtation with the Mendoza line. Apparently Mark and Alex were on the same page.
Last night's performance aside (single, double, RBI for Tex and a Grand Slam for A-Rod), the Yankees 3-4 hitters have not yet performed to expectations this season. What follows is a closer look at their numbers. Next to each player's name you'll find his basic slash stats, and his wOBA.
Mark Teixeira - .209/.338/.396, .330 wOBA
Mark's numbers on the season aren't good. In 2007, 2008 and 2009 Tex had a wOBA above .400. The book on Tex is that he is a slow starter who gets going in May. So far, that line of reasoning is proving true once again. He hit .136/.300/.259 in April, and is batting .321/.400/.604 so far in May.
Tex is a little bit behind the pace he set for himself last year. Through 35 games in 2009 he was batting .213 with a .777 OPS. His numbers this year through 35 games translate to a slightly lower .734 OPS.
Tex appears to be repeating his trajectory from last season, but with steeper extremes. His April performance this season was the worst calendar month of his career. That explains why his averages are not as strong this year as they were at the same point last year, but by all measures he appears to be getting himself on track quickly. He's currently on pace to hit 28 homers and 120 RBI and he's batting .310/.375/.759 in his last 7 games despite a weak showing in Detroit. If this trend continues Tex will be close to where we was in 2009 by the end of May. It was an impressive feat last year, and would impress me once again this year.
Alex Rodriguez - .281/.371/.469, .363 wOBA
Alex's numbers aren't bad. In fact, the above translates to an OPS+ of 132, which can be interpreted to mean that the Yankee cleanup hitter has been 16% better than an average MLB player. The problem, of course, is that line is good enough for Nick Swisher but not A-Rod. Nevermind the expectations of Yankee fans, at $33 million this season the team can't have Alex hitting singles all the time.
Larry has already broken down A-Rod's lack of power this year far better than I ever could. For my part, when I broke down the numbers earlier this season I found plenty of evidence of comparable power outages for Rodriguez in prior seasons. This one is only different because he's never gotten off to such a slow start in the home run department before. He's on pace to knock in 123 runs, which is right around his career average.
(Special Note: I recognize the flaw in using RBI as a stat in most cases, but I challenge that for teams with high powered offenses. A-Rod plays for the Yankees, a team that will give him every opportunity to knock in 100+ runs. His ability to capitalize on those chances helps show if he's doing his job or not. So far, while his power numbers are obviously down, he's continued to hit with runners in scoring position, something Joe Girardi pointed out last night in the postgame interview.)
As with Tex, Alex's slow start masks how close to respectability he actually is. He's now on pace to hit 19 homers, about half of his career average to date. However, anecdotally, I can think of three near misses he's already had this season.
He just missed putting one over the Monster in the opening series in Boston. He put one just below the yellow line on the wall on the team's first trip to Tampa. He hit one about 328 feet to right in Comerica Park in the first game of the recent day-night doubleheader. In Detroit it was a long out, but in Yankee Stadium it's a few rows back.
If A-Rod had converted on those three hits, he'd currently have 7 bombs, be on pace to hit 32 for the season, have an SLG of .531 and no one is worried about his numbers. It's unfortunate that he didn't put those out, but by month's end, as Larry put it, we very well may be laughing about all this.
A final note on A-Rod: again anecdotally, my impression from watching him play is that he hits homers in bunches. For example, by late May, early June last season he was on pace to hit over 40 for the season at one point, before having the longest homer drought of his career in July-August. It therefore warrants mentioning that he's batting .360/.467/.640 with 2 homers in 6 games in the last week. He's teased us with similar hot streaks before this season, but if past trends continue he may be about to put on a show (knock on wood).
Derek Jeter - .267/.311/.407, .321 wOBA
I can't leave the Captain out of this. Tex has a better wOBA than Derek at this point, which defies belief. It gets uglier. He's hitting .133/.212/.200 in the last 7 days. After batting .330/.354/.521 in April, Jeter is slumping to the tune of .154/.246/.196 in May. Larry picked up on this as quickly as anyone, but the Captain is also walking as little as he has at any point in his career. When Derek is on his game his IsoD is around .070. This season it's at .044.
When I was in Detroit I was in a position to get super close to the field while Jeter was taking batting practice. He was the one Yankee who put on a show, not Tex, not A-Rod. Derek was routinely hitting line drive home runs in Comerica, which is a big ball park. Even though he got only one hit in the series, Jeter hit the ball hard everytime he was up, and got unlucky. The numbers bear this out. I don't have the data on where Jeter's BABIP was earlier this season, but it's at .277 now, compared to .358 for his career. Derek can't play much worse, so a correction may be coming.
There is one more silver lining for Jeter. At this point last season he was batting .270 with a .762 OPS. Granted, that's quite a bit better than his current .718 OPS (the difference almost certainly due to the walks) but it also means that Derek has proven, recently, capable of turning it on this far in the season. He finished last season with an .871 OPS.