By all accounts, Mark Teixeira had a disappointing 2011 for the Yankees. After a stellar 2009 when he hit .292/.383/.565, Teixeira had a down year in 2010 with a .256/.365/.481 line. His slugging rebounded slightly to .494 last year but he hit .248 with a .341 OBP. At age 31, in his offensive peak, Teixeira shouldn’t see his numbers declining so drastically.
To make matters worse, Teixeira exhibited some drastic splits. Against right-handed pitchers as a left-handed batter, Teixeira hit .224/.325/.453 in 464 plate appearances, and it seemed as though he had been programmed for pop-ups. In an effort seemingly to blast home runs over the short right field wall, Teixeira got under too many pitches. Watching him hit left-handed grew painful.
Over the course of the season, Yankee fans grew frustrated with Teixeira. Why would he keep batting lefty? Why wouldn’t he do something to change his approach? Why wouldn’t he — gasp — bunt against the shift?
Now, I can’t stand this idea. Mark Teixeira was brought in to hit home runs and play a solid first base. He wasn’t brought in to bunt, and the Yanks shouldn’t be messing with his swing after a disappointing season. Still, Teixeira is seemingly open to the idea. Pete Caldera was at the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner on Tuesday night when the Yanks’ $180 million man started talking.
“I’ve been so against it my entire career, [but] I might lay down some bunts. If I can lay down a few bunts, beat the shift a little more the other way, then I’m right where I need to be,” he said. “Maybe I’ll lay down 20 bunts in spring and see what happens. If I’m 1-for-20, maybe I’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”
On the one hand, I like the idea of beating the shift now and then. On the other hand, the idea of Mark Teixeira bunting fills me with sheer unavoidable dread. In theory, it seems like a decent enough idea, but this is a baseball player who admitted he hadn’t bunted since high school, 14 years ago.
Teixeira had a .239 BABIP last year. That could indicate that he was largely unlucky or that could indicate that he was simply hitting too many ground balls or pop ups. He still blasted 39 home runs, and that’s why the Yanks have him. In January, it might be fun to suggest bunting. In April, he should be up there swinging away, in search of a more productive season. The bunting can stay at home.