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Great Moments in Consistency: Mark Teixeira-against-the-shift edition

Jan 31, 2012, 4:00 PM EDT

teixeira getty Getty Images

Mark Teixeira has had a tough time hitting left-handed. Teams are pulling the old Ted Williams shift on him, stationing everyone on the right side and daring him to keep pulling the ball.  Which he has been, to less-than-great results of late.

Last August, the New York Times ran an article on this, and reported this as the official position of Yankees’ hitting coach Kevin Long and manager Joe Girardi with respect to Teixeira trying to thwart the shift by hitting to the left side and such:

“‘The main thing is he can’t get hung up on it,’ Long said of the shift, ‘because we’re seeing it more and more …’  Long and Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said they did not want to see Teixeira try to change who he is as a hitter.”

And here’s Long quoted in Andrew Marchand’s piece over at ESPN New York today:

Kevin Long said he has told Teixeira, “Hey, take a single sometimes. . .”  His power is to the pull side, which is why he’s reluctant to go the other way. I think he needs to learn to hit the ball up the middle or the other way, because if you consistently hit into the shift, there just ain’t no holes. It’s something he’s got to work on …  There’s got to be a little give-and-take. He’s going to have to change his routines a little.”

I suppose everyone is entitled to change their mind. For what it’s worth, though, Teixeira doesn’t seem to be changing his.  In both articles he says he’s not gonna become no slap hitter.  So this spring should be fun in Tampa.

  1. Detroit Michael - Jan 31, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    Bad link to this article from the Hardball Talk home page.

  2. Kyle - Jan 31, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    I don’t know why every slugger who gets shifted doesn’t just bunt for a base hit until the defense cuts it out. Even a few foul balls would probably scare them into realigning.

    • bigharold - Jan 31, 2012 at 5:15 PM

      Part of it is that short right field wall. Every left hander with decent pop looks at that wall and thinks I don’t even have to get it all to put one out there. Giambi was the same way, he got to Yankee Stadium and fell in live with that wall, .. like Teixeira. Both of these guys had MUCH better averages before they got to the Yankees. They didn’t just forget how to make contact.

      To some extent I would think that it’s also, they get the big contract and feel like they have to hit more HRs. And, perhaps on some level they are being told either directly or indirectly that their job is to hit the ball hard and do damage, .. not to worry about their average. Regardless, as a Yankee fan it’s infuriating to watch Teixeira, and Giambi before him, to hit into the teeth of the shit without success. It’s as if they are completely unwilling to even entertain a strategy that might make a defense play them honest. You’d think that they’d realize that Don Mattingly made a pretty good name for himself driving the ball the other way.

      “So this spring should be fun in Tampa.”

      Spring is ALWAYS fun in Tampa during ST.

      • goawaydog - Jan 31, 2012 at 6:15 PM

        “… to hit into the teeth of the shit without success.”

        assuming you meant “teeth of the SHIFT” this has to be my favorite typo in awhile. Probably because I hate the shift and that no one seems to be able or want to hit around it

      • bigharold - Jan 31, 2012 at 7:17 PM

        Yeah I meant hitting into the “teeth of the shift”.

        Once again I demonstrate that the only thing worse than my typing is my proof reading.

  3. yankees177 - Jan 31, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    I just dont understand why he cant stick out his bat and bunt towards third. He starts doing that and teams have to respect that and the shift comes off and his BA rises 40 pts. instead of hitting .240 hes now hitting .290 and still mashing hrs.

    • cur68 - Jan 31, 2012 at 5:00 PM

      Good point Yanks: but never mind bunting. Just slap them into left once or twice and really hurt the opposition, like your coaches want. Stubbornly doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is not the definition of madness but of stupidity. As a Beaver Lovin’ fan of the Blue Jays I hope he keeps up the “I’m too good to slap hit” BS: the shift will continue to reduce his BA to Adam Dunnsian levels and my boys will continue to send hm back to the bench looking sour.

    • Francisco (FC) - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:34 PM

      It occurs to me that if he becomes proficient, he can get a few doubles off those singles to LF. The shift also occurs in the outfield. The Left Field corner has to be tempting…

      • cur68 - Feb 1, 2012 at 12:22 AM

        This is precisely why he shouldn’t bunt: there’s greater upside with the slap-swing.

  4. Reggie's Bush - Jan 31, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    ^^Kyle I’ve thought the same thing forever.

    I do remember Carlos Delgado, while on the Mets, try to bunt for a hit against the shift but he could never pull it off

  5. ptfu - Jan 31, 2012 at 6:10 PM

    I once saw Adrian Gonzalez bunt down the third base line. It was an OK bunt and it was plenty good enough. Adrian’s pretty slow but he could have walked to first base and been safe.

    Tex should take what he can get and bunt to the left once in a while. Take your guaranteed base until the defense backs off. Tex, can you really beat a 2.000 OPS by hitting into the shift?

  6. randygnyc - Jan 31, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    Ironic this article lands today. On MLB.com today, Tex finally says that he will be bunting this year and going the other way to defeat the shift. He said that he hasn’t hunted since high school, but will bunt every game during the grapefruit league.

  7. needtoplay - Jan 31, 2012 at 11:22 PM

    It is a little… frustrating… to watch a trained professional balk at change, especially one who is paid over $22 mil per year. He sees what they are doing, but does nothing about it. He needs to hit to the left, or at least attempt to, each time they use the shift. If he does, they will soon stop shifting. Will they be satisfied with holding him to singles to left instead of potential HR’s to right ? Possibly. But if he starts getting those hits, they will change. And a few well-placed hits down the vacant 3rd base line into the vacant left field, will result in some number of doubles. He is an excellent base runner and could easily take advantage of that.

    A quick look at his relativistic statistics: he hit only .224/.325/.453 left-handed vs .302/.380/.587 right-handed. That is too large of a difference to ignore. The real problem is that he hits twice as often left-handed as right-handed. And he does so with a lot less relative productivity. Yes, he hit more total HR’s and had more total RBI left-handed, but that was only due to that same fact: twice as many at-bats left-handed.

    Let’s hope he at least, and finally, starts trying to go to left. We do not need another Giambi for the next 5 yrs… and $120+ mil.

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