Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mark Teixeira vs. Lyle Overbay

When Mark Teixeira returns, he will surely be the primary first baseman. Mark hasn't played at third base since his rookie season back in 2003, and hasn't play in the outfield since 2004. One might believe that a Gold Glove first baseman would be just fine playing at third or the outfield, but one look at his Fangraphs page tells me that that's not true, seeing as how his UZR/150 was -18.9 and -33.2 at those respective positions.

He's coming back, and bringing ugly faces like this with him.

Meanwhile, Lyle Overbay has not played anywhere except for first base in his 12+ MLB seasons. There was some talk about Overbay trying to play some right field, but Brian Cashman clarified things by saying it simply wasn't something the team would reject without giving it a thought. Furthermore, Lyle himself laughed at the notion, but went on to say "I’ll do whatever. If they want me to catch, I’ll catch."

And if there's anymore doubt about whether or not Mark Teixeira will be the Yankees' regular first baseman, then there's the words of Brian Cashman... "Mark is our first baseman."

When it comes to facing lefties Teixeira's return is very welcome. So far this season Overbay is doing little to nothing against same-sided pitchers, posting a batting line of .157/.200/.275 against them this season. If you want to blame the small sample size (55 plate appearances) that's fine, but allow me to point at his career line vs. LHP of .253/.302/.390.

On the other hand, Mark Teixeira hit lefties to the tune of .269/.333/.531 last season, and .301/.389/.541 throughout his MLB career.

The problem arises when the Yankees face a right-hander, which happens a lot more often. So far this season Overbay his hitting .289/.333/.545 against righties, which is better across the board than the .239/.331/.438 Teixeira put up in 2012 against them. But can that amount of production continue? I'm not so sure.

"Yes, Joe Blanton, you're a right-hander, but nobody is afraid of facing you."

While it's true that Lyle hit .265/.339/.412 against right-handers last season, he did put up a poor triple-slash vs. RHP of .231/.314/.364 two seasons ago. His strikeout rate is lower this season than it's been over the previous three years (18.5% vs. 21.5%), while his line-drive rate is also a bit out of whack (20% between 2010 and 2012, and 22% this season). So there's a chance that Yankees fans should just be happy with what Overbay has done up to this point, and not expect that it would have continued for the rest of the season. 

The main reason a lot of Yankees fans want Lyle Overbay to continue to get at bats has to do with his "clutchiness". Lyle does have an OPS of 1.122 in late and close situations according to Baseball Reference. They would have a fine point if it wasn't for the fact that Tex's OPS in late and close situations last season was 1.398. And let's keep in mind that those "clutch" situations have only arisen in 27 of Overbay's 184 plate apperances, or 15% of the time. 

So the fact of the matter is this... Mark Teixeira should be the regular starting first baseman upon his return.

That doesn't mean I believe Overbay should simply be let go. If he can be dealt for help at catcher, shortstop, or right field, then Cashman and Co. should definitely pull the trigger. But Lyle's bat could be a nice weapon off the bench should Girardi need to make a late-inning move. And let's not forget that Mark DeRosa's career was never the same after injuring a wrist tendon sheath, although his injury was apparently worse than Teixiera's. Jose Bautista did have a similar injury to Mark's last season, and after trying to return in August without having surgery he ended up going under the knife the next month. So Overbay sticking around would be nice insurance should Teixeira suffer a setback.

One final thing, and that has to do with Lyle Overbay possibly seeing regular at bats as the team's designated hitter... It's not going to happen. Travis Hafner, who was told not to bring anything to camp but batting gloves, has hit .258/.378/.508 this season, with no discernible righty-lefty split (152 wRC+ vs. LHP, and 134 wRC+ vs. RHP). 

"Yeah, you want me."

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)