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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Mark Teixeira: smart or dumb hitting against the shift?

Dumb.  And boring.

For Hitters in Baseball, Facing a Shift Can Mean an Adjustment, or Not
By BILLY WITZ MAY 23, 2015 The New York Times


Wee Willie Keeler ... said his objective was to hit ’em where they ain’t...

Mark Teixeira, a switch-hitter whose batting average from the left side has plummeted since teams began shifting regularly against him in 2010, said in spring training that his solution to the shift was simple: He would hit through it and over it. His objective was to collect doubles, home runs and walks.

Entering play Saturday, he was second in the American League in home runs (13), tied for third in runs batted in (31), and fifth in slugging percentage (.596) and walks (26).
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Photo of Mickey Mantle
Mickey Mantle retired after the 1968 season, 47 years ago.  Ty Cobb retired after the 1928 season, 40 years before Mantle.  So any reference to Mantle would be like mentioning Cobb to me back in 1968: ancient history.  Maybe interesting but largely irrelevant.

OK, I get that.  Except ...

Mickey Mantle and others who bunted for hits. Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mickey Mantle batted .527 for all of his regular season plate appearances I could find that ended in a bunt.  My many 2014 posts encouraging the likes of Mark Teixeira to bunt against the extreme shift assumed that any big league non-pitcher should be able to achieve a .500 batting average (BA) bunting against the extreme shift.  It turns out that research had been done on all batters back to 1950 and that a .500 BA was low among the best.  And this was for batters against whom the fielders were positioned to defend against an attempt for a bunt single...

The Best Bunter of All-Time
By James Gentile @JDGentile on Dec 10, 2012, 9:01a

All hail, Lee Mazilli (Lee Mazzilli)! Bunt King!

The runner-up to this contest, Don Blasinghouse (Don Blasingame), scored a Hit% just two percentage points behind that of Mazilli (Mazzilli), but his actual rate of Reaching Base while bunting with the bases empty was a marginally superior 88.3%...
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I've mentioned several times that Mickey Mantle achieved his triple crown in 1956 by bunting: 12 for 20, which raised his batting average (BA) from .343 to .353.  Ted Williams finished second with .345.  Mantle also hit 52 HR...

Let's consider Mantle's 1956 season.  Bunting v. overall:
BA: .600  .353
On Base: .600  .464
SLG: .600  .705
OPS: 1.200  1.169
HR: 0  52

Even in his triple crown season The Mick could not match his bunting success by swinging away...

And Mantle's bunts were almost exclusively against non-shift defenses.  When he retired after the 1968 season Mickey Mantle was number three in career home runs, behind only Babe Ruth and Willie Mays.  That despite 179 PA, including sacrifices, which ended with bunts.

Today players will not try to bunt for hits against the shift.

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