Mark Teixeira (1B, TEX)
In the first half of the 2006 season, Teixeira struggled to generate the kind of home run power that we’d come to expect. He managed just nine home runs in 353 at-bats for a rate of one home run every 39.2 at-bats. When he hit 43 homers in 2005, his rate was 14.9. There wasn’t an apparent injury that impacted his first half last year, though some rumors floated around that he had some issues with a knee. This spring, a sore left knee plagued him, but not enough that there was talk of surgery or a trip to the DL.
Now, almost a month into the 2006 season, Teixeira is struggling at the plate again. What really catches your eye is the paltry .369 slugging percentage. This tells us he isn’t driving the ball. A sore left knee could reduce his leg drive and cut down on his power numbers, which would help explain his slow start. Until the knee becomes a public issue or the Rangers place him on the disabled list, we won’t know for sure if this ailment is the reason for his struggles. Teixeira owners are going to have to sit tight until this situation plays itself out.
Gary Sheffield (OF, DET)
Sheffield suffered damage to several ligaments and tendons in his left wrist last season. He underwent surgery in mid-June of 2006 to repair the damage and, to his credit, made a quicker than expected recovery and was back before the end of the season. He was traded to the Tigers in the offseason, as Detroit was looking for a power bat in the middle of the lineup. But he has just one home run and is batting just .167.
Compounding the concern is his history of success in April. The past two Aprils, he has hit over .300, as he traditionally gets off to a fast start. Sheffield is 10 months removed from the surgery. Could it be the cause of his struggles?
There is one additional factor. He’s now being used as a designated hitter in Detroit, and this may have some influence. Back in 2005, Sheffield hit a homer once in every 17.1 at-bats. This year he has one in 83 at-bats (at press time). Sure, a multi-homer day could change all that, but he’s definitely not swinging the bat well at the moment. The combination of the wiggle he has with his bat at the plate, his age (38) and the wrist surgery less than one year ago are all contributing to his struggles. In time, he’ll bounce back, but the poor April (and maybe part of May) will keep his home run total below 30 this season.
Carlos Delgado (1B, NYY)
Delgado had surgery back in October 2006 to repair carpal tunnel syndrome in his right wrist. Like Sheffield, he’s off to a very slow start at the plate, hitting just one home run in 91 at-bats. Last season, even with the carpal tunnel syndrome bothering his wrist, he managed to belt one home run in every 13.7 at-bats. In April 2006, he hit nine home runs and batted .298. In April 2005, he batted .300, though he managed just two homers.
Like Sheffield, Delgado’s personal history says he usually gets off to a fast start. We haven’t heard any excuses coming from New York regarding his slow start, but the fact that he is just six months removed from the wrist surgery is probably a contributing factor. The good news is that his strikeout rate is about the norm for the past few years, so making contact isn’t a problem. The wrist will get stronger and his swing will quicken, too. Unfortunately, that might not happen until sometime in May.
Albert Pujols (1B, STL)
In the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game, Pujols limped to first base, the first sign that he’s having knee problems. After the game, Tony LaRussa indicated that Pujols’ knee was “barking” at him. Pujols downplayed the ailment, as is his nature; he can and will play with pain, much in the same way teammate Jim Edmonds has in the past.
On the surface, this looks like a minor ailment, and there is no need to worry. From a cumulative viewpoint, however, I have to wonder if Pujols is starting to break down some on a physical level. Yes, the season is long and almost all players suffer some sort of injury during the season. Very few are close to 100% by the time the postseason rolls around.
However, in the past two years, he’s battled a strained oblique, plantar fascitis, this knee soreness and a sore right hamstring. Last season, he landed on the DL for the first time in his career with the strained oblique. This is not a “call to arms” for his owners to start shopping him around. Rather, this is just some advice that he may not remain as durable as he has been in the past.