When the Yankees acquired Mark Teixeira he was a career .290 hitter, but since joining the Bombers he has only had a .266 average and much of that is due to his deterioration as a left handed batter, hitting just .224 against righties last season.
Teixeira feels like the extreme shift that teams put against him is part of the problem and plans to try to lay down a few bunts next year to combat it, something he hasn’t done since he was a freshman in high school.
He told Dan Martin of the NY Post:
“One thing I noticed is that my average with men on base was good, but when no one’s on base, it wasn’t,’’ Teixeira said. “So when no one is on base, if they’re playing a big shift, I may lay down some bunts this year.”
Two things bother me right off the bat here. The first is, I would rather not see a guy who hasn’t bunted since he was 14 to start now at the age of 32. The second is, why is the shift a problem now, but it wasn’t for years when he was hitting .290 every year? Probably because the shift isn’t the problem.
For the shift to be an issue, Teixeira has to be hitting the ball on the ground. The problem with that is that he has actually hit the ball on the ground less since joining the Yankees. His ground ball percentage over the last three years has been as high as 36.4 and as low as 34.9 percent, his career average is higher than that at 38.1 percent.
Beyond just hitting the ball on the ground less, the problem could be his infield pop-ups. How many times can you remember him just popping the ball up over the past three years? It’s been a lot. Specifically that number increased from 10.8 percent in his career to 11.8 percent last season and a whopping 13.6 percent in 2010. Look back to 2009 when Teixeira only popped up 9.6 percent of the time and his average was a healthy .292.
That’s not to say pop-ups are his only problem or that getting rid of the shift wouldn’t help his average come up a little bit. But to think that his entire problem is the shift and that bunting is the cure all would be wrong.
Trying to avoid popping up so much would probably make a big difference, if he turned even 10 of those pop-ups into base hits his average would have gone from .248 to .265. The difference between the amount of pop-ups from 2009 to 2010 would have been roughly 28 at bats. See what I’m talking about?