It’s been slow for Yankees news the past few days, so we’ll be bringing you some links from around Yankee-verse and give you our take on the matter.
If you’re a fan of sabermetrics, which most of us here at YGY are, then you know that bunting is one of the more worthless occurrences in baseball. A team is only given a finite amount of outs (27) and bunting pretty much ensures a team is giving one away. In a recent article from MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, he takes a question from a reader who asks, in order for Mark Teixeira to beat the shift, should he bunt more?
Since joining the Yankees, Teixeira has become a dead pull hitter (.335/.332/.721 in 2012). Of his 113 hits, 67 were to his pull field (59% of his hits in 2012 compared to 61% in 2011). If we take his 2008 season in comparison when he played for both the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, he had a .440/.438/.828 slash line (235 wRC+) when hitting to his pull field, however, of the 177 hits he had that season, 102 were to his pull field (63% of his hits). So where is the problem?
If we look at his batted ball profile from 2008 and 2012 we see negligible differences. For example, in 2008 when he hit .311/.405/.588 and had an MVP-type season, he had line drive rates of 19.5% hitting from the right side and 21.3% from the left side. That didn’t waver too much in 2012, but they flipped, with him hitting 21.1% from the right side and 18.4% from the left side. So the issue isn’t him making great contact with the ball, but a 3% drop from the left side does do a little bit of damage to the ole slash line.
So let’s switch it over and see if he’s driving the ball into the ground more, making it easier for the defense. Again, there’s not much difference his GB% from the right side in 2008 (50.9%) is actually more than what he recorded in 2012 (43.4%). Meanwhile, from the left side, which seems to be his trouble side, was pretty much the same (38.6% in 2008 vs. 39.5% in 2012).
Alright, are strike outs bringing his slash line down? Again, that’s not an issue. From the right side in 2008, Tex struck out in 16.5% of his plate appearances compared to 13.6% in 2012. From the left side in 2008, he K’d 14.7% compared to 17.2% in 2012. From the left side that number increased a little bit, but not enough to dramatically decrease his slash line across the board.
What about BABIP? Herein lies the true problem. In 2008, Tex was on the high end of the BABIP spectrum. From the right side he recorded a .321 BABIP, while in 2012 that number dropped to .261, which is well outside the accepted norm (.280 – .320). Unsurprisingly, the same could be said when he hit from the left side (.314 in 2008 vs. .243 in 2012). For most players, BABIP is mostly about luck, but your batted ball profile has much to do with how this number is formulated. If you hit more line drives, your BABIP increases because line drives are the most difficult batted ball to make an out on. Meanwhile, groundballs and flyballs are easier. Since Tex doesn’t have a huge variance in his batted ball profile from 2008 and 2012, we can’t attribute bad luck to his struggles.
What it comes down to is aging, injuries, and teams playing the shift against him. Last season the Yankees saw Joe Maddon employ the shift against Tex in the first series against the Tampa Bay Rays and with great results. Teams also did that in 2011 and you can see his slash line and overall effectiveness at the plate diminish. Also, hitting as a lefty, the right field porch is mighty enticing and Tex told Hoch in an interview that he’s not bunting anytime soon:
“The older I get, and this is going to be my 11th year, the more I realize there’s very little that you can control. I want to hit the ball hard every time up, I want to backspin balls for home runs, I want to hit line drives for singles and doubles. I want to play great defense. Other than that, where they play, we talked about it ad nauseum the first couple months of the year … I tried [hitting the other way]. I tried it at the end of last year, I tried it at the beginning of this year. It didn’t work. Most really good players that are consistent, they don’t change things in the middle of their career. That just doesn’t really make lot of sense.”
He’s not a spring chicken anymore either (turns 33 in April) and with age comes a slower bat and more injuries. The latter part of that last sentence is what has affected his play the most the last few seasons. He’s suffered a myriad of injuries which have kept him out in 2012, where he missed 53 games for various reasons, while in 2011 he missed 20 games. As for his age, he’s coming out of his prime, and unfortunately the Yankees are stuck — like with so many of their other older high-priced players — with this type of production until his contract runs out after the 2016 season.
Topics for discussion:
- Should Tex just suck it up and start bunting to keep defenses honest?
- Does Tex’s increasingly ineffectiveness against right-hand pitching lend itself to him being dropped in the order?
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs