Definitions

switch hit

Switch hitter

[swich-hit]

In baseball, a switch-hitter is a batter who is able to hit from both the right and left sides of the plate.

Switch-hitters are commonly taught to switch-hit at a young age, as learning to hit from the other side of the plate is often very difficult (but not impossible) to do after years of hitting exclusively from one side.

Usually, right-handed batters hit better against left-handed pitchers and vice-versa. Most curveballs break away from batters of the same handedness as the pitchers they oppose, which makes them slightly harder to hit. Switch-hitters can avoid this disadvantage by always batting from the opposite side of the plate as the pitchers they face. Because of this, the team would not need someone to platoon with a switch-hitting batter.

Regardless of how well switch-hitters can hit, they invariably hit better from one side than the other. Many switch-hitters often hit for a higher average from one side of the plate, yet have more power from the other. For instance, New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle always considered himself a better right-handed hitter, but he actually has more home runs batting left-handed. (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 the short right field porch. Additionally, since most pitchers throw right-handed, Mantle would have batted more frequently as a left-handed hitter.)

Switch-hitters tend to be overwhelmingly right-handed throwers, but there have been exceptions: Lance Berkman, Dave Collins, Doug Dascenzo, Mitch Webster, Wes Parker, Melky Cabrera, Nick Swisher, David Segui and J. T. Snow (who in the final years of his career hit exclusively left-handed).

Baseball observers might find that the most successful switch hitters are natural left-handed hitters, but throw with their right hand. This is most likely due to the facts that a) since most pitchers are right-handed, a switch hitter who is a natural lefty can bat from his good side for the majority of the time, and b) a switch hitter who throws right-handed will have a strong right arm, so when swinging left-handed, their right arm, and stronger arm, is in front, so they will have a quicker, more powerful swing because the front arm is more important for power in the baseball swing.

Switch-hitters are also very rare among pitchers; notable switch-hitting pitchers include Mordecai Brown, Vida Blue, Norm Charlton, Sid Monge and Johnny Vander Meer, J.C. Romero, Kyle Snyder, Wandy Rodriguez, Troy Patton, Tim Dillard, Tyler Johnson, Carlos Zambrano. The pitcher Joaquín Andújar was the rare switch hitter who hit righty against righties yet lefty against lefties.

Cricket

In cricket, a rare variation of the reverse sweep, in which the stance is changed during the bowler's delivery action, has been compared to switch-hitting. England's Kevin Pietersen is a notable user of this shot. The shot has generated much debate in the cricket world, some heralding it as an outstanding display of skill and others arguing that if the batsman changes stance he gains an unfair advantage over the bowler. On June 17, 2008 the MCC deemed that the shot was legal under the laws of the game and that Pietersen was free to continue to use the shot at his own discretion.

Criticisms

It is rare for a switch hitter, even a great, Hall of Fame-caliber switch hitter, to post similar numbers (average, OBP, and SLG,) from each side of the plate, which has led some to question whether switch-hitting is such an advantage after all. Some managers believe they are a necessary evil, essentially taking the position that switch-hitters are entirely different hitters from one side of the plate from the other and thus have different strengths and weaknesses.

There have been a few young switch-hitters who have been called up to the majors that were convinced (or told) to bat exclusively from one side of the plate, as switch-hitting can make an already complex task like hitting a baseball needlessly more complex. Mike Schmidt, the Philadelphia Phillies' Hall of Fame third baseman, is such an example. But on the other hand, the St. Louis Cardinals' Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, originally a right-handed hitter, taught himself to bat left-handed in his late teens, and, although known as a defensive wizard, eventually became a .300 hitter.

See also

References

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