Apparently, Mark Teixeira learning how to bunt is going to be one of those things that pops up sooner or later every offseason. Much like last offseason, however, I think this is much ado about nothing, because Teixeira isn’t being significantly hurt by the shift. More specifically, given that Tex tried to make adjustments and is now quite clear that he isn’t comfortable with the approach, whatever Tex may have to gain by beating the shift isn’t worth the potential cost of putting him off of his game at the plate. It’s obviously better for a hitter to use as much of the field as possible, but by the same token, if everyone could spray the ball all around the outfield it wouldn’t be such a valuable skill, would it?
If Teixeira does have a problem, it might well be outsized expectations. There seems to be an expectation that Teixeira should be a consistently elite hitter and MVP candidate, even though he’s only finished above 18th in MVP balloting twice (including a second place finish in his first year with the Yankees), and his offensive production over the past three seasons isn’t actually that far out of line with his overall career numbers. He’s definitely down from the tremendous numbers he produced from 2007-09, but “down” is a matter of context, and in Teixeira’s case his 2010-11 numbers are more or less where he was earlier in his career, outside of his four seasons with a wRC+ north of 140, and his 2012 season may have been in that same range if not for the early season struggles with illness and the attempt to change his swing.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of professional athletes, especially veterans, knowing their limitations and not hurting themselves by trying to do too much, so I’m actually kind of happy with Teixeira’s “it is what it is” attitude. I’m sure some people will have a problem with it and think that he ought to be less of a pull hitter, but it’s important to remember that he did try to do that last year, with mildly disastrous results. Maybe that would be okay if there wasn’t much production to lose, but Teixeira is still a pretty darn good hitter with plenty of strengths to play to. He might not put up MVP caliber numbers, but he’ll take his walks, work a count, hit for plenty of power, and (believe it or not) not strike out all that often for a hitter with his amount of patience and power. If Tex is most comfortable as a dead pull hitter, then so be it, because the most important part of his game, by far, is getting those home runs. To paraphrase a man much smarter than I*: Get those big guys who hit the ball out of the park, and ya can’t make any mistakes.
*(Warning: if you don’t immediately get the reference, that link is definitely not safe for work. Unless your workplace doesn’t have a problem with some rather, um, blue language.)