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OK, so Mark Teixeira will bunt after all

Feb 1, 2012, 8:50 AM EDT

Mark Teixeira

Yesterday I mocked the idea that the Yankees may ask their power-hitting first baseman to eschew trying to hit the ball to Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field like God and Nature intended and, instead, try to square around to bunt or to slap it the other way when batting left-handed so as to beat the defensive over-shift.

My mocking was based somewhat on the notion that Mark Teixeira himself said that he never wanted to do that and, at least until recently, so too did Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long.  But apparently everyone is changing their tune about that. From ESPN New York, here’s what Teixeira said last night:

“I’ve been so against it my entire career, but I might lay down a few bunts. If I can beat the shift that way, that’s important … I’m not going to complain about hitting 39 home runs, but I’d love to bring my [.248] average up, and it’s very simple, it’s left-handed singles.”

Eh. Fine, if he can actually handle the bat well enough to bunt it to the left side, go ahead and try it. At least to keep ’em honest. But I’m struggling to think of a power hitter who tried such a thing who had any success doing it at all. And if he can’t pull it off, the shift is just gonna get into his head more.

  1. lyon810 - Feb 1, 2012 at 8:54 AM

    Why disclose this information about their strategy? I know it isn’t a huge deal. But I still don’t see the point of this…

    • Francisco (FC) - Feb 1, 2012 at 9:13 AM

      Strategy? *snicker* I think opposing teams are well aware any hitter on whom they attempted the shift might try such a thing. I’m pretty sure their POV is: Let him try…

    • bigharold - Feb 1, 2012 at 10:29 AM

      He’s not really giving away much. All he needs is to say he will then do it a few times successfully and the shift will disappear.

      The point is to get them to stop using the shift. This will do that quicker presuming that he can put the ball in play down the third base line.

    • cur68 - Feb 1, 2012 at 10:52 AM

      Bautista squares up to bunt about once every other at bat. He never does, but its great watching the first baseman crash home. No shift for Bautista.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 1, 2012 at 12:40 PM

      Disclosing it is the strategy. If they think he might bunt, opposing teams may spread out the shift a bit more. I’d rather see him try to bunt than pop out to second four times a game.

  2. kopy - Feb 1, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    We are glossing over this most important factor in all of this. Mark Teixeira is in the BSOHL this season. I foresee a heavy dose of singles, and less of those selfish, boring home runs to the short porch.

  3. randygnyc - Feb 1, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    The type of bunt he will attempt to utilize is far simpler to execute because it requires far less precision than a sacrifice or drag bunts.

  4. yankeesgameday - Feb 1, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    Dude, just work on hitting line drives the other way. I mean professional hitter needs to that. And he’s going to be batting 5th now that Cano is the true #3

    • Francisco (FC) - Feb 1, 2012 at 9:14 AM

      Wait! Does this mean A-Rod will be sending Tex signals now? (#4 A-Rod, #5 Tex)?

  5. Ari Collins - Feb 1, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    It makes sense to bunt. Not only do you get a hit if you can lay it down right, but he might force them to stop shifting him, which would lead to more hits that way. Essentially, the shift is so successful because they don’t have to guess whether he’ll bunt or not. They know he won’t.

  6. fredverd - Feb 1, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    I can still see Mantle beating out those “drag bunts” toward first… Keeping the fielders honest and away from where he often shoots those BB’s will raise Teixeira’s average and open up zones when the fielders are forced to play in a more normal position. “Hit ’em where they ain’t,” (even if it isn’t always into the stands) should become his mantra. The Yanks have enough fire power to compensate for Tex’s singles-instead-of-homers/outs. RBI opportunities down the order…

  7. dodger88 - Feb 1, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    I understand wanting to hit left against RH pitchers but why wouldn’t a switch hitter at least try to counter the shift by swithing sides. Pujols has established hall of fame credentials as a RH hitter batting a majority of the time against RH pitchers so I would think that someone like Teixeira could put up decent numbers if he switched to the right side against RH pitchers.

    • bigharold - Feb 1, 2012 at 10:41 AM

      Pujols doesn’t have that short right field wall to think about. It gets in leftys head at the Stadium. LH power hitters that play for the Yankees see that wall and think that they can hit it out there pretty much at will, .. all they have to do is get in up in the air. Giambi was the same way before Teixeira. He hit the ball all over the place before he signed with the Yankees. They sign with the Yankees and they both became dead pull hitters. Both had MUCH better averages before they signed with the Yankees and both became .250 hitters once they got here.

      The only guys that really didn’t fall into that trap was Tino Martinez and Mattingly. I don’t think Tino ever really saw himself as a power hitter and Mattingly’s ttade mark was driving the ball the other way.

    • anxovies - Feb 1, 2012 at 7:25 PM

      Uh, then you would be a RH hitter, not a switch hitter. Slapping it to left a few times is a better option. He would stop the shift and some of those line drives and ground balls to right would go for hits.

  8. needtoplay - Feb 1, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    Tex needs to at least STATE that he will bunt or hit the other way. He has to plant those thoughts AND at least fake a bunt every now and then…. hopefully more ‘now’ than ‘then’. Sometimes it is better to share your strategy with the enemy.

    And I agree with the other commentors…. he should… should….. be able to slap that ball the other way, or at the least TRY to do so. He has to get the opposition thinking that he will go the other way. Right now, they all know that he will not even try. Very frustrating when you see the WHOLE left side of the infield vacant and yet he still is determined to pull it: “Nope… not gonna let them beat me. *I* am going to do it the way *I* want to do, regardless if it is best for the team.” Frustrating ! Must be for him, too :)

    Go Tex !! You will enjoy the 5-slot !

  9. kiwicricket - Feb 1, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    Does he know the consequences of fouling out, while trying to bunt, while making 22million as a Yankee power hitter??
    Good luck Sir.

    • bigharold - Feb 1, 2012 at 10:44 AM

      I’m sure he does. Also, all he has to do is bunt or put the ball in play successfully a few time and the shift will go away.

      Being obstinate and hitting the ball repeatedly to the 2b man who relocated to short right field makes no sense.

      • kiwicricket - Feb 1, 2012 at 11:06 AM

        Yup, I’ve covered the appropriate thinking involved with regards to this article. Thank you though.

  10. deathmonkey41 - Feb 1, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    He doesn’t even have to bunt- with that obscene shift they play against him, all he has to do is hit a slow roller towards the 3rd base line and it’s probably a double. It drives me crazy that he’s become such a dead pull hitter and grounds out as much as he does.

  11. 18thstreet - Feb 1, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    I think that lefty sluggers ought to drop down a couple bunts down the 3rd base line in the 8th and 9th innings of blowout games — just to show that they can. It would probably kill the shift against them.

    Just a theory.

  12. Kyle - Feb 1, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    Just bunt, or attempt to, until they stop shifting. Then swing away. I don’t see why this doesn’t make perfect sense.

  13. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 1, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    There is a time and a place for everything. Hopefully he can bunt/slap one just often enough that he knows he can do it when he needs to.

    Sometimes a single is as good as an HR (bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, down by 2 with nobody on). If the other team is giving you a free base, go ahead and take it. Let the next guy do his job.

    I remember seeing Carlos Pena doing this a few times. Ugly bunts through the IF, but he got to 1st base, and could have even thought about 2nd if he was daring.

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