“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.”
While I despise bunting by sluggers in most situations, I never understood the strategy surrounding pull-hitters refusing to lay down a squibbler on major defensive shifts. Statistically, an infield single off a bunt is equivalent to any other single or walk, and the defense will be forced to play a more regular position with such a threat. In my opinion, refusing the free bunt single is a stubborn act of pride handed down through baseball tradition. When you participate in such antique practices, there’s more to be ashamed of in your inferior batting average than learning to drop an occasional slow roller between unsuspected infielders. After a season sporting a .224 batting average as a lefty (.191 with no men on, and the defense available to shift), Teixeira has grown tiresome of this unnecessary baseball etiquette.
So will bunting help Teixeira? The free single on the massive shift will obviously add to his batting average and on base percentage, but the defense returning to a normal position should make a huge impact on Texeira’s BABIP. In 2011, his .222 BABIP from the left side was significantly below his career .281 BABIP. In this case, he may be seeing the first signs of an early drop off by hitting an absurd amount of ground balls or fly balls with a lack of line drives, but his 17.7 LD%, 34.1 GB%, and 48.3 FB% are all within respectable ranges. Instead, the major culprit for such a low BABIP is likely the extra defensive infielder and outfielder on the right side catching line drives, ground balls, and fly balls that would usually result in base hits.
“We play 30 spring training games and I’ll play in about 20 of them, maybe I’ll lay down 20 bunts. But if I go 1-for-20, I may have to go back to the drawing board.”
The key is for Teixeira to learn the bunt to beat the shift, and to beat the shift ONLY! If his bunt work pays off, it may set an example for the team to drop their indifference towards bunting on defensive shifts. For one, Nick Swisher could improve after seeing a modified defensive shift in 2011 with the second baseman playing to their right side and shortstop positioned up the middle. Although not as bad as Teixeira’s, Swisher’s left side BABIP also fell from a career .283 to .259. With any success, hopefully, this ends a counterproductive baseball tradition for lefty pull-hitters.
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