In the middle of the New York Yankees’ lineup, you can find two aging hitters who seemed to be past their primes but are now hitting as if they’ve found the fountain of youth. The one who’s gotten the most press is Alex Rodriguez with his .284 batting average, and deservedly so. But we’re going to give some overdue credit to the other guy: Mark Teixeira.
Teixeira came into Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium with two home runs in his last three games. And he made it three out of four with a two-run shot off Jered Weaver in the third inning. That home run doubled the Yankees’ lead to 4-0, and it proved to be pretty important when the Angels mounted a six-run ninth-inning rally that fell just short as the Yankees won by an 8-7 final.
At any rate, Teixeira now has 17 homers. That ranks second in the majors behind only Nelson Cruz, Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton. Also, Teixeira’s 17 home runs put him on pace to shatter the mark of 22 homers he hit in his age-34 season in 2014. To boot, it’s not all about the home runs.
The 35-year-old switch-hitting first baseman is also getting on base at a .353 clip. Add that to a .581 slugging percentage, and you get a .934 OPS. For all the attention Rodriguez has gotten, his own.904 OPS falls 30 percentage points shy of matching Teixeira’s.
Is it all too good to be true?
More than likely, yes.
Teixeira is on pace to hit 50 home runs and finish with his best OPS since his first season with the Yankees back in 2009.
It’s a stretch to say that Teixeira has completely remade himself. In many aspects, he’s the same hitter he’s always been. Strength, discipline and lots of fly balls to his pull side have been Teixeira’s defining characteristics since he first set foot in the big leagues back in 2003.
Although he may not be doing anything new, Teixeira is simply doing his usual thing better than he was able to in the last three seasons. He’s had to make some changes to pull it off, but it’s all been worth it. For him, it’s meant a return to status as one of the game’s elite hitters that he enjoyed for many years. And for the Yankees, well, it’s never bad to have a player like that in the middle of your lineup.
Rodriguez deserves recognition for the role he’s played in getting the Yankees to their AL East-leading 30-25 record. So do Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Michael Pineda, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. But of all the reasons the Yankees are where they are, Teixeira’s resurgence belongs near the top of the list.