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Slumpbot .200: The bad bookends of Mark Teixeira's season

Big League Stew

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Using the best technology available today, Slumpbot .200 identifies a few players who are currently having trouble and then offers solutions for recovery.

Mark Teixeira(notes), New York Yankees

Data: .254/.363/.473, 30 HR, 101 RBI

Malfunction: Sorry New York, but this is the second time this season that Teixeira has required a visit from Slumpbot. He first landed here after starting the year 9-for-70 and in late April, I wrote, "he'll be fine. He always hits as the calendar turns." And Teixeira did, racking up 29 homers and an .870 OPS since then. However, he's reverted to being atrocious this month, going just 12-for-68 with no homers. It was easy to predict that such a notoriously slow starter would heat up after yet another lousy April. But September slumps aren't his style. Is something wrong with the Yankees first baseman?

Diagnosis: According to the Bergen Record, Teixeira is banged up "with a painful bone bruise on his right thumb and a broken small toe on his left foot."

Injuries aside, this is almost the exact mirror image of his April slump, when he went 9-for-70 in his first 19 games with two homers and three doubles. In September, Teixeira is 12-for-68 with no homers and two doubles. So it's not very unusual to see him go through a three- or four-week stretch with almost no power or batting average. And with all that pain, it's not remotely surprising that his power's gone.

The good news is that there's nothing wrong with Teixeira's batting eye, at least. He's walking almost as much as he's striking out, with 13 walks to go along with 16 strikeouts in 19 games this month. (In April, it was 15 walks and 17 strikeouts.)

It may be more worrisome that his BABIP is much higher this month than it was during April; his absurdly low April BABIP was a good sign that his batting average would bounce back. This month, it's .226, almost a hundred points higher than his ludicrously low .137 BABIP through 19 games in April.

Reboot Directions: Teixeira is a streaky player, prone to going through these sorts of slumps. He doesn't usually do it in September, and barring a late-season surge, this will probably be his worst season since his rookie year. But he still has his 30 homers and 100 RBI, which is all the Yankees really expected when they gave him his massive payday. But with the playoff spot all but sewn up, Tex doesn't really need to be playing every day, especially with his bat as cold as it has been. He'll hit when he's healthy and his timing is back. He isn't doing anyone any good in the lineup right now.

Who else is currently slumping?

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Brandon Phillips(notes), Cincinnati Reds .272/.327/.422, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 15 SB, 11 CS
Back in the offseason, I noted that Brandon Phillips had seen his power decrease since joining the 30/30 club in 2007. The slide has continued this year, and it's manifested on the basepaths too, as he's already set a career high with 11 times caught stealing. This is especially worrisome, because back in 2006, he swiped 25 bags and only got caught twice; this suggests that he's lost a step. He has always had bad plate discipline, never having produced an OBP over .331, so it's exceptionally worrisome that he's losing power and speed without any concurrent gains in plate discipline. Chad Dotson of Redleg Nation thinks it's an injury. Whatever the reason, he's having his worst season since he was a rookie.

Michael Young(notes), Texas Rangers .284/.331/.444, 20 HR, 86 RBI
The Texas Rangers have been Michael Young's team pretty much ever since they traded Alex Rodriguez(notes), and he's produced consistently high batting averages from the top of the batting order. His plate discipline isn't great, as he has never walked more than 58 times in a season. That's why his standard results — 20 homers and an average over .280 — are merely good, not great. But recently his power stroke has vanished. He's batting .273 in September, but he has just three walks, and two extra-base hits, neither one a home run, so his decent-looking .273 BA is accompanied by an awful .593 OPS. Heavily BABIP-dependent hitters like him go through these sort of slumps over the course of a season, so it isn't anything to get too worked up about.

Alcides Escobar(notes) .237/.288/.327, 4 HR, 40 RBI, 10 SB
Escobar was always the Brewers' shortstop of the future, the fielding whiz who convinced them to move J.J. Hardy(notes) to Minnesota. His bat was always viewed as a work in progress, but he assuaged some of those fears when he hit .304 in a late-season callup last year. Unfortunately, it was an "empty" .300, because he did it with negligible power or plate discipline; this year, the power and plate discipline are just as nonexistent, but the batting average has tumbled, and he doesn't look much like a major leaguer at the moment. He's 8-for-58 in September, with a .387 OPS that makes Mark Teixeira look productive. No wonder he got a day off last night.

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