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Just The Sports: 2011-05-08

Just The Sports

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Detroit Tigers: Austin Jackson Will Never Be That Good Again

With each passing month of Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson's career, it becomes ever more apparent that the way he tore the cover off the ball in the first month of his career was not representative of the kind of player he actually is. In fact, he has not come close to the heights he reached in the March/April days of the 2010 season.

Over the first 23 games of his career, Jackson probably did not know what the big deal about being in the Major League was all about; professional baseball, even at the highest level, was incredibly easy.

During that time span, Jackson hit .364/.422/.495 with a .410 wOBA, which is the hitting line for an All-Star and a borderline MVP candidate. Jackson's elite production was aided by an absolutely unsustainable .530 batting average on balls in play and a 37.5 line drive percentage.

For the season, Jackson hit .755/.748/1.000 with a .757 wOBA on line drives, further providing proof that line drives are the hits that help a batter the most, and he hit an inordinate amount of line drives in March and April of 2010. Since April 2010, ended, however, Jackson has yet to have a month where his line drive percentage was higher than 28.0 percent so he has not been able to benefit from as many line drives.

Jackson's opening month of his career was so extremely not indicative of his actual talent that his next-best month, which took place in July, represents a 13.7 percent drop in his batting average (.314), a 15.2 percent decrease in on-base percentage (.358), a 6.9 percent drop in slugging percentage (.461), a 12.4 percent decrease in wOBA (.359), an 18.5 percent decrease in batting average on balls in play (.432), and a 31.5 percent decrease in line drive percentage (25.7 percent).

His other months are an even more precipitous drop-off in his hitting ability as he spent just as much time being a below-average hitter as an above-average one. Last season, the average wOBA for a player was .320; for three months, he was an above-average player, and for three months, he was below-average.

Luckily for Jackson, his above-average months outshone his below-average ones so he still finished the season with a .333 wOBA.

Jackson's struggles as a hitter continued over the first month of this baseball season as he hit only .181/.252/.257 with a .232 wOBA. During those 27 contests, Jackson also posted the lowest batting average on balls in play of his career (.265) so it is no wonder it was another mediocre hitting month for Jackson.

With the way in which Jackson's career path is trending, his biggest struggle will not be trying to duplicate the first 23 games of his career. Instead, the biggest battle he will face is not being a below-average hitter more often than he is an above-average one.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

New York Yankee First Baseman Mark Teixeira Will Not Have To Play Catch-Up This Season

For the first time in his three seasons with the New York Yankees, first baseman Mark Teixeira will not have to spend every month of the baseball season after April playing catch-up so he can match his career numbers. Instead, all he has to do for the rest of this regular season is to match the production he had over his great first month of the season.

Over the first month of the season, including a lone game in March, Teixeira posted a batting line of .256/.392/.549 with a .410 wOBA. His .256 batting average and his .273 batting average on balls in play are not as good as his career marks of a .285 batting average and .302 batting average on balls in play, but Teixeira is not letting that keep him from having his best ever opening full month of the season; in 2004 over the course of eight games of a truncated April, Teixeira hit .276/.432/.552 with a .422 wOBA, but there is no certainty that he would have done that for the whole month.

The reason why Teixeira's start to the season has been so excellent has everything to do with his on-base and slugging percentages, percentages that are more indicative of a baseball player's true hitting level than batting average anyway. Riding the strength of a 15.7 walk percentage along with being hit by pitches on three separate occasions, Teixeira has managed to get on base at an MVP-level clip.

In fact, should Teixeira manage to maintain that on-base percentage for the rest of the season, it would give him his third-highest on-base percentage for a season since his career began in 2003.

Teixeira's March and April were also witness to a power explosion, the likes of which he has never experienced over a full March and April. His .293 isolated power is so impressive that should he manage to sustain it, it will be the highest such mark of his career. To sustain his stratospheric isolated power, however, he will need to also keep up a very impressive 20.0 home run to fly ball percentage. Since he has already had a higher home run to fly ball percentage in two previous seasons, 2004 (22.4 HR/FB%) and 2005 (21.2 HR/FB%), it is not outside the realm of possibility that he can do so again.

The 2011 March and April Teixeira put up is a far cry from what he did in his other two seasons as a New York Yankee. In 2009, he started off the season hitting .200/.367/.371 with a .330 wOBA. To get to his season totals, Teixeira had to improve his batting average by 46.0 percent (.292), his on-base percentage by 4.4 percent (.383), his slugging percentage by 52.3 percent (.565), and his wOBA by 21.8 percent (.402).

Last season, Teixeira dug himself an even deeper hole, starting off with a March and April batting just .136/.300/.259 with a .270 wOBA. With such a slow start to the season, Teixeira was required to improved his batting average by 88.2 percent (.256), his on-base percentage by 21.7 percent (.365), his slugging percentage by 85.7 percent (.481), and his wOBA by 35.9 percent (.367). The opening month hole was so deep that even with his stellar hitting the rest of the season, 2010 was his worst hitting season since his rookie year.

As one can see, it has been when Teixeira has put balls in play that he has struggled the most for the Yankees in March and April. Fortunately for him and his team, that has not been a concern this season since he is hitting with such a tremendous amount of power, he will not have to scramble to try to turn an awful start into a productive season.

With the sort of confidence that such a hot start brings with it, we might all be witnessing one of the best seasons Teixeira has had as a professional baseball player.

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