With more and more players getting into camp, there have been some more stories trickling out among the A-Rod nonsense; meaningful, baseball-related stories. Like Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira being asked about their thoughts on facing the shift this season and the approaches they want to take to beat it. Quotes via Chad Jennings. McCann:
“I want to hit the ball where it’s pitched. It’s not necessarily that I’m going to try to go up there and hit the ball to left field. If it’s away from me, it needs to go to left field. If they come in on me, I need to be able to pull it, but pull correctly. If you pull correctly, you create back spin which is going to help you hit home runs. … If I hit two or three singles in a row to left field, they’re going to continue to play the shift because that’s where my power is. That’s just the way it is and whether that takes a couple of points off my batting average, if I take the approach I have day in and day out for 500 at-bats, at the end of the year things will be there.”
Pretty reasonable if you ask me. He acknowledges the value in hitting the ball where it's pitched, being flexible in his approach, and knowing the nuances of when and how to swing to pull for maximum effectiveness. All the kinds of things I want a guy who's going to be facing the shift all year to be thinking and doing when he's up there.
“Thoughts on (beating) the shift? Hit more home runs, hit more doubles, and walk more. We’ve talked about it ad nauseam. Every time I try to slap the ball the other way, it doesn’t go well for anybody. That’s what the other team wants. They want to take a middle-of-the-order power hitter and turn him into a slap hitter. So if I can hit more home runs, more doubles, walk more, that takes care of the shift. I don’t want to ground out to second base. That’s not what I’m trying to do up there.”
And this is why your production has tanked the last few seasons, Teix. This and the wrist injury, to be fair.
I get that Teix's greatest strengths are his patience and his power. I understand and respect that his power from the left side is almost all pull power. All things being equal, I want him to hit a home run every single time he comes to the plate. But the one thing that still doesn't make any sense to me is Teix's belief that he automatically has to become a "slap hitter" and hit dinky (and valuable) little base hits to left field as his only response to the shift. Where did this idea come from?
In no universe should a dude as big and strong as Mark Teixeira ever be taking the approach of a slap hitter, regardless of how the defense is positioned against him. Teix should be swinging to drive the ball at all times in all situations, and there's no reason he can't adjust his approach to drive the ball hitting the other way from the left side of the plate. This is a guy who used to be a .300 hitter. He knows what he's doing up there. At least he used to. If you don't want to just "slap" the ball the other way, don't! Adjust your swing and your timing and hit the damn ball into the left-center gap with some authority. For $23 mil, you can at least try to do that.
The point is that Teix's mindset of only having the option of becoming an opposite-field singles hitter in response to the shift is shortsighted, stubborn, and quite frankly stupid. It's a lazy excuse being made by someone who doesn't strike me as a lazy person, and more than anything else this year I want new hitting coach Jeff Pentland to get him out of that "I'm a home run hitter so I have to hit home runs" mindset and into something more flexible. Whether he's mashing home runs over the short porch, grounding out to second, or whatever, Teix is easier to pitch to and defend when the opposing teams know what he's trying to do. Making an attempt to hit the other way with some pop gives the opponent one more thing to consider, and even that could help make life easier for Teix in terms of trying to pull for power like he wants to if he would just give it a chance.
It's great that Teix is stronger and leaner and gluten-free and feeling like a little kid and all of that. But if he doesn't smarten up, recognize that his old ways of hitting at age 30 might not be the best ways to hit at age 34, and try to at least be a potential threat to hit to all fields, none of it will matter.