DOB Really Doesn’t Like Tex

I’m not sure what Mark Teixeira has done to annoy David O’Brien of the AJC, but he is reiterating his belief that Tex’s “lack” of timely hitting is a significant flaw in his game.

The Braves really needed [Teixeira] to help Chipper Jones carry the load in that first month and a half. It didn’t happen. Yunel Escobar and Brian McCann had torrid stretches in that period, but Tex didn’t.

The Braves got too far back and, each time they seemed poised to make a big move, they’d have a terrible series or two and push the frustration needle to the right.

Oh, it’s been a maddening season for Braves Nation, to be sure. Fairly or unfairly, Tex fell out of favor with many when he struggled early on and didn’t seen too concerned by it (he’d keep saying how he always started slow, that it was a marathon not a sprint, etc.).

People don’t want to hear that when they’re team is slipping in the standings and injuries are mounting. They want to hear how you feel terrible for not helping out, how you can’t look at yourself in the mirror because you’re not doing your part, that kind of thing.

Hey, it’s just human nature. And if you ask me, some people need a good PR agent to explain that to them, to explain that a little regret and beating one’s self up publicly goes a long way. But hey, I’m no PR agent.

Long story short, this was the year when Tex needed to buck his trend of slow starts. But it didn’t happen. Who knows if a huge first month from him could have made the difference for the Braves? But I can assure you, it sure would have made things a bit more interesting.

Last week, DOB argued that Tex wasn’t clutch, and wouldn’t back down even when accused of going on a mreetwass hunt. I looked at the numbers, and Tex’s performance in the clutch isn’t bad at all.

But, DOB is back with a new definition. Basically, Tex didn’t put the team on his back at a time when the team needed him. Now, I don’t think there is such thing as a clutch switch that allows the player to turn his ability on high at will. And, even if there is, why is it ever turned off? But, let’s break down the splits by month for the players DOB mentions.

Month		Tex	Escobar	Mac	
April/March	0.797	0.839	0.854	
May		0.792	0.698	1.075	
June		1.041	0.782	0.776	
July		0.983	0.546	1.145	
Season		0.896	0.733	0.949	

During the first two months of the season, Tex was good but nothing outstanding. In June and July, you know right after team ace John Smoltz announced he was out for the season (his last game was June 2), Tex exploded with an outstanding June and an excellent July. For the season, he’s got an OPS of about .900. That is the third best OPS on the club behind Chipper Jones and Brian McCann—there is no shame in that—but well above the other hitters on the team.

But, let’s compare him to the players that “carried the load” early in the season. McCann has been the better player for the season. April was his second-weakest month of the season, with an OPS of .854. That’s good, but not outstanding; and, I’m not trying to knock McCann. It was better than Tex’s first two months, but not by a wide margin. May was fantastic, and he blew Tex away—he blew most every player in the league away. Kudos to McCann; that’s why I’m a huge fan (see who sponsors his Baseball-Reference page). But in June, he dropped the load, at least according to DOB’s standards, with an OPS of .776. Tex, on the other hand, posted an OPS of 1.041. Both Mac and Tex are having a good July. Between Tex and McCann, Mac has been the better player, I’m not sure there is any shame in that. But if you’re going to complain about fluctuations in performance, McCann’s worst month was worse than Tex’s worst month.

As for Escobar, his best month was April, when he had an OPS of .839. Since that time he hasn’t been all that good an offensive player with OPS of .698, .782, and .548—all three of these months are worse than Tex’s season low. I don’t understand how Escobar has carried the team and Tex has not.

Player performance is variable and is heavily-influenced by chance. Fluctuations from day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year are natural, expected, and not really controlled by ability. If you think that you can gather meaningful information from these swings, then you might as well become a day trader. Tex is a fine player who is going to garner a $20+ million annual salary after this season because he is an excellent ballplayer. I’m sure he’ll have other months like April and May of 2008, but he’ll also have plenty of Junes and Julys. In the end, the good and the up and the down average out to be a valuable major-league player.

5 Responses “DOB Really Doesn’t Like Tex”

  1. flournoy says:

    Here’s my cynical view.  What has Teixiera done to irk Dave O’Brien?  Nothing.  Rather, O’Brien has received “hints” from the Braves’ brass that now is a good time to start down-talking Teixeira.  They’re about to trade him, and they want to turn the fans against him first.  Usually they wait until after getting rid of a player to start leaking this kind of stuff.

  2. leviinalaska says:

    I think DOB is a decent (actually good) sportswriter, but he’s way off base with this weeks Teixiera comments. Thank you, JC, for providing an alternate perspective that is backed up with hard numbers, instead of harsh words…

  3. David says:

    I just had this column linked to me by someone with whom I was having a discussion about Tex’s season. The circuitous aspect of this is that I am a diehard Braves fan who occasionally posts on DOB’s blog. I was having a debate with another person who pointed out that you had written this column arguing against DOB’s point of view. This amused me as I had debated this very point with DOB a couple of months ago. I’m at least part of the causality for this discussion, along with a couple of other posters there who felt the same way.

    At the start of the discussion, he disagreed with me in much the same you did. Both of us respect statistics as a means of measuring performance. We both recognize Mark Teixeira is statistically stellar. He produced numbers that supported the assertion that Tex was a stud. Over the time frame since that discussion (and DOB is classy enough to always find time to have passionate debates with all of the diehard Braves fans on that board), his tone has changed. He has gradually come to appreciate the POV I expressed a while ago. Teixeira is an anomalous player. The statistics he accumulates are exemplary. When you watch him play, however, he appears to attain these stats during some of the least valuable points in a season.

    Much has been made of the historic run of one-run losses the Braves are currently experiencing in 2008. Statistical measurements do not seem to encapsulate this but people such as DOB and myself who have watched 100+ games this year come to appreciate the same conclusion. Tex bears no small share of the onus for that. Has he been awful like Francoeur? Of course not. That’s not the discussion. Instead, it’s whether he has been the type of player Scott Boras will try to hoodwink teams into believing is worthy of $20+ million a year. He wasn’t that guy for us.

    In fact, I look forward to Casey Kotchman’s presence on this team because unlike Tex or LaRoche, he hasn’t been a seasonal, streaky hitter. As a Braves fan, I was aggravated by how many times Tex blew off a slow start as “something he goes through every year”. I recognize that’s an anecdotal aspect of his game rather than a tangible (i.e. mathematically defined) one. I do wonder if this is part of the reason Tex doesn’t play for winning teams, though. His timing is off and his priorities may be as well. He seems like the nicest guy, his teammates love him and he doesn’t give away at bats. But I saw all of his at bats as an Atlanta Brave (all of them…that’s the glory of TiVo). He isn’t the type of impact player his statistics make him appear to be. He gets an unusual amount of what other sports would describe as garbage time points.

    I know that’s heretical to say on a stats-focused board, but there is something poignant about the fact that the people who have watched him play all year are making this point.

    On a sidenote, I know the “Mark Teixeira has done to annoy David O’Brien of the AJC” quote is a nice combination of easy and incendiary. The reality is that DOB has been consistently complimentary of Tex as a player and a person. He’s simply also maintained his unbiased perspective on the subject and come to realize stats do not in fact always tell the whole story.

  4. JC says:

    I have watched or listened to almost every single Braves game for 17 years.

  5. David says:

    I’m new to the site. I had not realized you are primarily a Braves fan. If so, we have much in common. I’m 38 and used to attend Braves games all the way back to the time in the 1980s where there would be 800 people in the stands during rainy games. I was there the day we clinched the pennant in 91 and it was the best time I’ve ever had on the streets of Atlanta. Everywhere we went, people were going nuts with the chop.

    And if you can explain to me how Freddy Freeman can have 13 errors in 104 games at 1B for Rome, I’d love to hear it. Personally, I’d get him some contact lenses, because we’re going to need his bat.