Mark Teixeira crushed 39 home runs and drove in 122 runs for the Yankees while finishing 2nd in American League MVP voting. However, those big 2009 numbers have not carried over into this season.

It’s been well-documented here and on every Yankee media outlet—Mark Teixeira is struggling. Really struggling. Entering today’s action, Teixeira is wielding a .207 batting average and .324 on-base percentage. Fans remember Teixeira slow start in April 2009 (.200 BA, .367 OBP), but he rebounded pretty quickly. At this point in the season last year, Teixeira was hitting .271 and his OBP was .382. Fans are still waiting for that big rebound in 2010.

So why exactly is Teixeira struggling???

There's nothing to smile about, Teix.

Teixeira’s approach has not changed at all. His walk and strikeout totals from 2009 at this point, 28 and 32 respectively, are pretty close with his 2010 numbers, 29 and 37.  His contract rates all fall in lines with his 2009 numbers. He is making contact with 85% of pitches he swings at. He isn’t swinging at more pitches out of the zone either (21.4% in 2010. 21.7% in 2009). Needless to say, Teixeira is not doing a David Wright impression with the stick. Let’s look at how pitchers are attacking him.

If we look closely at the numbers, pitchers really aren’t changing their approach to Teix. 57% of the pitches he has seen have been fastballs (59% fastball seen throughout his career). The number of curve balls, sliders, and change-ups are almost identical to last year. His contact rates with these pitches are the same as well. So there isn’t one pitch that has been baffling him this season.

Here’s the key: For whatever reason, Teixeira is not pounding the fastball this season. In his career, Teixeira has always been one of the league’s best fastball hitters, always producing runs above league average. In his seven year career, he has produced 184 more runs via the fastball than the average first baseman, an average of 26 runs per season or 4.6 runs per month.  In 2009, he produced 31 more runs from the fastball. In 2010, Teixeira has produced -0.6 runs from fastballs. This can directly attributed to him simply making more unproductive outs in fastball counts. Granted this stat is cumulative over the course of the season, so Teixeira isn’t doomed by any means. It just shows how much he’s struggled producing this year. Given the numbers above, Teixeira is recognizing the pitches. He just isn’t putting good swings on the fastball.

My Evaluation: Even though I’m not a scout, Teixeira’s stride looks a little long to me this season. With a longer stride, hitters are prone to dipping their back shoulder resulting in popping the ball up. His fly ball propensity (43% of batted balls) is a tick higher than his career average of 39%, so this may be the case.

Other than that, he just needs to RELAX. The old saying goes that baseball is 90% mental and 10% physical. You can tell by his body language and demeanor that he’s pissed off with this slow start. He needs to remember he’s an All-Star caliber player and needs to keep working with the ‘Swing Doctor’ (aka Kevin Long) to iron out any small wrinkles in his swing.

Numbers and seasons can be changed instantly with hot streaks. Hell, if Teixeira goes 10 for his next 20, his batting average would shoot up 30 points to .237. It’ll be an uphill climb, but the sooner he hits, the easier it’ll be to dig out of this hole.

It’s imperative that Teixeira starts hitting. The Yankees aren’t going anywhere until he starts to hit. The third hitter is normally a team’s best overall hitter. It’s time for him to start playing like it.

Are you worried about Teixeira’s slow start?

Stats Used:

The above runs produced/fastball compared to the league average is coined: wFB. These stats can be found on Fangraphs.