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José Reyes, a switch hitter, batting left-handed (at left, in 2012) and right-handed (at right, 2015).

In baseball, a switch hitter is a player who bats both right-handed and left-handed, usually right-handed against left-handed pitchers and left-handed against right-handed pitchers, although there are some exceptions.[citation needed]

Characteristics

Right-handed batters generally hit better against left-handed pitchers and vice versa. Most curveballs break away from batters hitting from the same side as the opposing pitcher, making them harder to hit with the barrel (or "sweet spot") of the bat. Additionally, the pitcher's release is farther from the batter's center of vision. In the words of Pat Venditte, one of the few ambidextrous pitchers in major-league history, "If I'm pitching right-handed and they're hitting right-handed, it's tougher for them to see. And then, your breaking pitches are going away from their barrel rather than into their barrel."[1] Even so, many switch-hitters perform better from one side of the plate than the other.

Numerous switch-hitters have achieved a higher batting average on one side of the plate but hit with more power from the other. For instance, New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle always considered himself a better right-handed hitter, but hit home runs at a higher rate from the left side of the plate.[2] However, many of Mantle's left-handed home runs were struck at Yankee Stadium, a park notorious for being very friendly to left-handed power hitters due to its short right field porch, and Mantle batted left-handed much more often than right-handed, simply because there have always been more right-handed than left-handed pitchers. Mantle's longest home run, a 565-foot clout in 1953 at Washington's Griffith Stadium, came batting right-handed.

Most switch-hitters have been right-handed throwers, but there have been several notable switch-hitters who threw left-handed, including Cool Papa Bell, Lance Berkman, Dave Collins, Doug Dascenzo, Mitch Webster, Wes Parker, Melky Cabrera, Nick Swisher, Justin Smoak, Michael Toglia, David Segui, Dylan Carlson, Daniel Nava, and J. T. Snow (who, in the final years of his career, hit exclusively left-handed). As of the 2018 season, there were 48 active switch-hitters on MLB rosters. Five of the league's 30 teams did not have a switch hitter on their roster in 2018.[3]

History

The first switch-hitter in baseball history was Bob Ferguson. His switch-hitting was different that of today's baseball game, as he switched sides simply based on his feeling at a particular moment or certain situational reasons (such as an elite fielder on one side of the diamond). Ferguson took a notable at-bat in 1870, where he walked off the game while batting from the left side, when he had typically batted right-handed.[4]

Switch hitters were not productive in the dead-ball era or the early live-ball era. Since the advent of the live-ball era, switch hitters have served to produce a high on-base percentage.[5]

Switch-hitting pitchers

While pitchers batting has become increasingly rare with the adoption of the designated hitter by the American League in 1973 and by the National League in 2022, there have been some major-league pitchers who could bat from either side of the plate. These include: Mordecai Brown, Norm Charlton,[6] Marvin Rotblatt, Sid Monge, Johnny Vander Meer, J.C. Romero, Kyle Snyder, Wandy Rodriguez, Troy Patton, Tim Dillard, Tyler Johnson, Carlos Zambrano, Dock Ellis, Vida Blue, Anthony Claggett, Kris Medlen, Justin De Fratus, Drew Storen, Kenley Jansen, Derek Holland, Turk Wendell, Pat Neshek, Adam Ottavino, Ken Waldichuk, and Dylan Bundy.

Joaquín Andújar sometimes hit right-handed against lefties, sometimes left-handed. Tomo Ohka batted left-handed against right-handed pitchers in three games in 2006, but otherwise batted exclusively right-handed. Left-handed reliever Steve Kline was primarily a switch hitter, but batted right-handed against right-handed pitchers several times throughout his career.[7] Management also had a say in the switch-hitting careers of Bob Gibson and Dwight Gooden. Both Gibson and Gooden—each right-handed and capable batters—had reached the major leagues as a switch hitter, but their teams required them to bat only right-handed to reduce the possibility of their pitching arms being hit by a pitch.

Switch-hitting pitchers should not be confused with the term "switch pitcher" referring to a player who can pitch both right-handed and left-handed, which is very uncommon.

Notable switch hitters

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See also

References

  1. ^ ESPN E:60 Pat Venditte segment, 2009 on YouTube
  2. ^ "Mickey Mantle Obituary", Baseball Almanac. Retrieved on July 14, 2008.
  3. ^ McCauley, Jamie. "Switch hitters not anymore frequent even in age of analytics". USA Today. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  4. ^ "Bob Ferguson – Society for American Baseball Research". SABR. Retrieved 2023-06-05.
  5. ^ "Mantle is Baseball's Top Switch Hitter – Society for American Baseball Research". SABR. Retrieved 2023-06-05.
  6. ^ Stone, Larry (16 July 2006). "10 great moments in switch-hitting history". Seattle Times. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  7. ^ "Tomo Ohka Career Batting Splits", Baseball Reference. Retrieved on November 15, 2014.