Teixeira still not interested in changing his swing, and he doesn’t need to

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.)

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

9 thoughts on “Teixeira still not interested in changing his swing, and he doesn’t need to

  1. We could always tell Gardner and Ichiro to learn how to hit homers.

    Or ask Stewart to learn how to hit, period.

    I wish Tex was more; but I'd rather have him as he is, than have him end up less while trying to do more. (as you so clearly stated above.)

  2. "There seems to be an expectation that Teixeira should be a consistently elite hitter and MVP candidate."

    Wow, I guess $22.5M/yr just doesn't buy what it used to.

    • This is generally true for all sport salaries. Thankfully it isn't my money or I would have higher expectations. :-)

      More seriously though, part of his salary is based on his defensive value at 1st base. Whether they overpaid him or other players for what they are getting on their return is always going to be debatable. Teixeira does have a world series ring with the Yankees though.

      • And free agent salaries are thrown somewhat out of whack by the issue of limited availability.

        • Yes, but it's still one of the higher salaries in the league and that does carry with it a certain level of expected production. Scott Hairston, for example, doesn't ask for $20M/yr because he—and a team—knows he can't produce enough to justify that salary. Just as the Yankees were willing to give Tex this money, they did it expecting a certain level of production. And as a player, to demand a certain level of compensation implies that you should meet it.

          This is the issue I've always had with A-Rod, and players like him. He demands to be payed as the best player in the game, but then wilts under the burden. Instead, it's "just doing my part, being part of the team." Sorry, bro, your part is carrying the team.

          (And leave the defense out of this. 1st base isn't a premium defensive position, so even being an outstanding fielder there doesn't balance out the lack of production at the plate.)

          • Alright, but you’re still left with the fact that Tex’s production with the Yankees has been right about in line with the rest of his career. It’s not like he’s completely fallen apart or anything.

          • Then, I guess it's more a case of he was never quite as good as we thought he was? Because, to me, he certainly doesn't hit like one of the best players in the league. (And his salary is what gives me that expectation that he should.)

          • Well, then I think you need to recalibrate your thinking with respect to comparative salary, because that's not really how it works.

            Anyway, there's nothing all that shocking about Teixeira's production. He had a great season in line with his career best numbers in 2009, then fell closer to his career average since. I guess he could have had a longer peak, and maybe the Yankees thought he would, but it's hardly the end of the world given that he's been durable and productive for a team that doesn't need him to carry their offense.