February 29, 2012 posted by Patrick DiCaprio

Debate Me: Paul Konerko or Mark Teixeira?

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Paul Konerko, CHW

This week, Albert Lang and Thomas Saucke debate whether fantasy owners should prefer Paul Konerko over Mark Teixeira, a notion that was inconceivable a few years ago.

Albert Lang—Paul Konerko

Since Paul Konerko got healthy at the start of the 2009 season, he has averaged 33 HRs, 78 runs and 101 RBIs with a .296/.378/.530 line.

During that same span (his first three seasons with the Yankees), Mark Teixeira averaged 37 HRs, 102 runs and 114 RBIs with a .266/.363/.514 line.

Yet, Teixeira is being drafted comfortably in the early parts of the third round and Konerko is going 18 picks later. It’s easy to argue that Konerko is the better value as their overall performance will be close and Konerko is cheaper– however, even if Konerko was drafted right in front of Tex, he’d be the better fantasy value.

Since signing with the Yankees, Mark Teixeira’s batting average has been in a Tom Petty free fall, from .292 to .256 to .248. His 2010 average was explained away by a poor .268 average on balls in play. Well, his 2011 set new lows in average and average on balls in play.

Basically, Tex is selling out to hit homers. His line drive and ground ball rates have dropped each of the past two seasons, while his fly ball rate has increased significantly. Last season, his LD rate was 1.6% below his career average, his GB rate was 3.2% lower than his career average and his FB rate was 5.8% higher than his career average.

According to Mike Axisa in Fangraphs:

Fly balls tend to go over the fence for extra base hits, but they also wind up in outfielders’ gloves quite often. Furthermore, [Teixeira’s] infield fly rate has jumped from 8.8% in 2007-2009 to 13.0% from 2010-2011. Infield flies are the bane of BABIP. It’s not unrealistic to think that Teixeira has altered his swing in recent years, adding an uppercut to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch.

You want Teixeira for elite performance, but he is, at best, a three-category guy.

While Tex led the position in HR last season, over the last three years he is third. Konerko is tied for 6th over that span but hit just 11 fewer HR than Teixeira.

Tex is also third over the past three seasons in runs scored among first basemen, while Konerko is 10th. Tex outscored Konerko by roughly 70 runs.

Tex comes in fourth in RBI at the position from 2009-2011 and Konerko comes in seventh, but only 37 RBI (or 12 per season) behind.

Konerko flips the tables when it comes to average. Konerko has the sixth best average during that span, while Teixeira has the 19th best average among first basemen.

There is a massive gulf between them in only one category (average). Quite simply, Konerko has a huge edge in average – and that margin is only getting bigger. Konerko helps you in four categories. Tex helps you in three categories but damages you in one other.

At the end of the 2012 season, Mark Teixeira will bat .265, hit 35 HRs, score 95 runs and knock in 105+. Konerko will bat .305, hit 33 HRs, score 90 runs and knock in 100. Tex will edge Konerko slightly in all of the counting stats, but Konerko will take Tex behind the woodshed when it comes to batting average.

In addition, if it is true that Teixeira has added an uppercut to his swing (to hit more HRs, satisfy the contract, avoiding the shift, etc.), a .265 average might be a pipedream, as his ability to hit much better than .250 will be significantly tested (and probably require multiple sacrifices to Lady Luck).

Tex is a fine fantasy option, but his price tag is of a premium talent. He is no longer that and Konerko is cheaper and safer. Wait and take Konerko.

Mark Teixeira, NYY

When sizing up the market for first basemen in 2012, it’s pretty clear that four will be off the board by the end of the 1st round.  Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, and Adrian Gonzalez are all run-producing machines and excellent cornerstones on fantasy rosters.  With Prince Fielder likely to go by the end of the 2nd round, 5 to 7 managers (depending on league size) will most likely be left wondering what they can do to fill their first base slot. Next up will be Konerko and Teixeira; who should fantasy owners prefer?

The answer should be Mark Teixeira over Paul Konerko 10 times out of 10.

Tex plays in a more favorable ballpark, hits in a better lineup, and has the career numbers to prove that he’s the superior selection.  He also has age on his side.

In his three years with the New York Yankees, Tex has averaged 102 R, 37 HR, 114 RBI, and a .266 BA.  His BA has taken a nosedive from earlier in his career as he’s attempted to transform into a fly-ball hitter thanks to the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium and the ridiculously accessible porch in right field.  Tex’s shockingly low .239 BABIP in 2011 contributed largely to his .248 BA.  Of note, this coincided with another increase in his fly ball rate, which has moved from roughly 39% before signing with New York to 46.8% in 2011.

Moving forward, there isn’t a lot that needs to be said about Tex.  He’s a lock to hit 35+ HR, score 95 runs, and drive in 110.  The only major question mark is his batting average which will improve slightly in 2012.  His BABIP should come back to .265 and, in turn, raise his BA to somewhere near .259.

Paul Konerko, while consistent over his career, isn’t on the same level as the Yankee first baseman.  Over his last three seasons, Paulie has averaged 78 R, 33 HR, 101 RBI, and a .296 BA.  This is very nice production.  The counting numbers, especially runs scored, aren’t as good.  It’s clear, though, that BA represents the differential.

How much does the BA difference matter, though?

The 30-point BA gap is substantial in the grand scheme of things.  I don’t think it matters enough to justify Konerko, however.  BA is such a difficult statistic to predict.  Look at Matt Kemp from 2010 to 2011 and you’ll scratch your head.  Which Kemp can we expect in 2012?  Anyone who drafts him is paying for a career year but the reality is probably somewhere closer to .310.  Konerko has been very consistent over his career.  The problem, though, is his age.  Konerko will be 36 in March whereas Tex is on the verge of turning 32.  While Teixeira is on the downside of his prime years, Konerko passed them about 10 miles ago.

I know you might remember reading my argument for Pedroia over Kinsler on account of his batting average and you’d be right.  The difference is that Kinsler is injury prone.  Tex doesn’t have these concerns; he’s appeared in 156 games or more every year since 2008.

Regression is coming and we don’t know when.  I’m typically a glass-half-full type guy but there’s something about Chicago’s lineup that really scares me.  Tex can hide in the New York lineup if he struggles, as he did last year at times, and still end up with great numbers.  Konerko doesn’t have much protection in Chicago, he’s getting old, and his counting numbers simply aren’t as good.

Draft Tex and take solace in the fact that, no matter what, he can abuse that right field porch if the going gets tough.



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