Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Texiera Comes Alive - Thanks to A-Rod or Tino?

Mark Texiera has come on strong lately, scoring runs, driving in runs, hitting home runs and basically acting like the player everyone knew he was. The question is, what happened?

The emotional answer is that Texiera loosened up a bit and got out of his mental funk after a brief discussion with Yankee great Tino Martinez. Tino has been on salary with the Yankees as a special consultant, which basically means that when the Yanks need him, he stops by and gives some advice and pep talks. At the start of the Twins series, Tino did just that and had a little chat with Texiera. Shortly afterward, Tex started hitting.

The more scientific answer is that pitchers approached Texiera differently when A-Rod came back in the lineup right behind him. Walking Texiera was no longer as attractive of an option with Rodriguez backing him up. Instead of throwing a lot of balls hoping to get Tex to chase, pitchers had to put more pitches over the plate to challenge him more and being a good hitter, Tex took advantage of the situation. Texiera himself said that since A-Rod has come back, he’s been seeing a lot better pitches to hit.

So which is it? A little veteran advice to pop him out of a mental funk or the presence of an all-star backing Tex up in the lineup? Personally, I think it’s both. The easy answer is to say yeah, he’s getting better pitches with Rodriguez in the lineup but there is more to it than that. A-Rod has been back for a while and when he first came back there was no noticeable difference in Texiera. Sure, once Alex started hitting better he probably changed the way pitchers thought about Tex, no doubt, but hitting in baseball is all about being in the right frame of mind. A little too much tension, being a little out of synch or being slightly off with your timing can kill a good hitter and cause a downward spiral of performance anxiety of a sort. Never underestimate the value of a good pep talk to put a guy in a different state of mind and drastically change his performance.

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