Joe Posnanski did an interesting post on the types of pitches thrown to particular hitters, and Mark Teixeria’s name showed up on one of the lists:
1. Ben Zobrist, 17.6%
2. Mark Teixeira, 16.3%
3. Melky Cabrera, 15.6%
4. Shane Victorino, 15.4%
5. Cristian Guzman, 15.3%
(tie) Nick Swisher, 15.3%
(tie) Victor Martinez, 15.3%
Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera made this list as well, but I would like to focus upon Teixeira. Any Yankees fan who watched the Yankees regularly in 2009 probably could have noted that pitchers tend to throw Teixeira plenty of changeups. When he was struggling early in the season, it seemed like most of his strikeouts came on that pitch, as he would be sitting fastball and would swing over the slower change. Let’s take a look at the pitch type values from Fangraphs to see if the numbers support this strategy by pitchers. A “w” before a pitch type denotes that the number measures how many runs above average the player was on that particular pitch. A suffix of /C means that the number has been converted to a rate statistic, in this case runs above average per 100 pitches of that type.
I am going to focus on fastballs, changeups, curveballs, and sliders, because those are the pitches thrown to Teixeira most frequently. As you can see, Tex is above average against most pitches, a product of his being an excellent all around hitter. In regard to changeups, his wCH/C displays that he has not been below average on changeups since his rookie season. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that for his career, he hits the changeup better than he does sliders or curveballs, with only fastballs being a greater source of offense for Teixeira.
So, while it did seem like Teixeira struggled against changeups last season, the numbers do not support this assertion. Instead, they suggest that he has had a bit of trouble in his career with sliders, and that pitchers who have a split fingered pitch or a knuckler should likely throw them to keep Tex off balance. One caveat is that these numbers do not account for the way in which pitches help set hitters up. The changeup may have some value in terms of decreasing Teixeira’s effectiveness against other pitches that does not appear in these numbers. Still, it seems that the changeup in of itself is not actually hurting Mark Teixeira.