Yesterday I mocked the idea that the Yankees may ask their power-hitting first baseman to eschew trying to hit the ball to Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field like God and Nature intended and, instead, try to square around to bunt or to slap it the other way when batting left-handed so as to beat the defensive over-shift.
My mocking was based somewhat on the notion that Mark Teixeira himself said that he never wanted to do that and, at least until recently, so too did Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long. But apparently everyone is changing their tune about that. From ESPN New York, here’s what Teixeira said last night:
“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 … I’m not going to complain about hitting 39 home runs, but I’d love to bring my [.248] average up, and it’s very simple, it’s left-handed singles.”
Eh. Fine, if he can actually handle the bat well enough to bunt it to the left side, go ahead and try it. At least to keep ’em honest. But I’m struggling to think of a power hitter who tried such a thing who had any success doing it at all. And if he can’t pull it off, the shift is just gonna get into his head more.
Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius had another fantastic night last night. He went 3-for-3, hitting a home run for the fourth game in a row, had an RBI single and reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances in New York’s 7-4 win over Minnesota.
For the year that gives Gregorius a line of .372/.470/.833, putting him atop the American League in average, slugging, OPS, and OPS+. He also leads the league in total bases (65) and RBI (29). He leads all of baseball in fWAR at 2.2, edging out Mike Trout despite the fact that Trout has played in two more games. He’s second behind Trout in homers with nine.
After last night’s game he insisted that he is not a home run hitter:
“I do have a lot of home runs, but it’s not like I am going out there to try to hit them . . . I’m not a power guy like Judge and Stanton, who hit 50 to 60 and up. Those are the guys who actually hit home runs. One year, let’s say, I hit five — then you ask me where that part went . . . if they go out, they go out. I’m just mostly trying to barrel it up and get a good swing . . . I try to hit line drives and if you check most of my home runs they were line drives,” he said. “It’s not like I am going up to hit deep fly balls.”
Given that he hit 25 homers last year and 20 the year before, he’s being a bit modest, even if he’s not likely to keep up this torrid pace. That modesty is not stopping some people from getting a bit carried away, of course:
We’ll forgive Bob for the hyperbole. Didi has been fun to watch.