Pitchers Bring the Heat vs. a Declining Tejada

Several years back, Miguel Tejada was one of the standard-bearers at the shortstop position. The Dominican native combined tremendous power from his stocky 5-9, 215 pound frame with an uncanny ability to put the bat on the ball. Tejada’s high-power (career .184 Isolated Power), high-contact (13.5 K%) act has allowed him to accumulate 10.61 WPA/LI during the course of his career.

Unfortunately, that star-caliber player has since left the building. While Tejada turned in an unexpectedly slick season with the glove (+7 in John Dewan’s Plus/Minus system), his power continued on a downward slope in 2008. His .131 ISO tied his career-low mark, set all the way back in 1997 when he was a fresh-faced rookie. In fact, Tejada’s slugging percentage has declined every season since 2004. Since slugging a whopping .534 that year, he has posted marks of .515 in ’05, .498 in ’06, .442 in ’07 and just .415 this past season. With a -1.27 WPA/LI, Tejada was the fifth-least productive shortstop among all qualified players in 2008.

While the 34 year-old has never been mistaken for a patient hitter (his career BB% is 6.8), Tejada took his hacking to a higher level in 2008. After drawing walks at a 7.4% clip in 2007, be posted just a 3.7 BB% this past season. Miguel swung at 53% of the pitches that he saw, putting him near the top of the majors and in the company out-machines such as Jose Guillen and Carlos Gomez. After posting an identical Outside Swing Percentage (O-Swing%) of 28.4% in 2006 and 2007, Tejada chased 34.7% of pitches out of the strike zone in ’08. That figure was the 10th-highest among all qualified batters.

With Tejada’s power declining precipitously, opposing pitchers have become far more willing to challenge him with a fastball. As his slugging percentage has waned, Miguel has been seeing heaters with increasing frequency:

Tejada’s Percentage of Fastballs Seen, 2005-2008:

2005: 59.7%
2006: 60.7%
2007: 61.5%
2008: 66.1%

Miguel was challenged more than just about anyone in 2008, with the 9th-highest fastball percentage in the big leagues. Considering that Tejada is less of a threat to punish a fastball and deposit it in the bleachers these days, pitchers likely see less reason to pitch him so carefully. While Miguel Tejada in his peak seasons earned the veneration of hurlers everywhere, the later-career Astros version is treated more like a slap hitter.

Tejada was one heck of a player in his Oakland and Baltimore days, and perhaps there’s some hope for a bounceback- his Line Drive percentage (LD%) was still a healthy 23.4% in 2008. However, with rapidly declining pop and a willingness to swing at near anything, it’s best to evaluate Tejada based on his current merits, not his name value.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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