Switch to Not Switching?

Boston C Jason Varitek went 0-for-3 to drop to 3-for-26 batting left-handed. He is 3-for-4 from the right side.

That four at-bat sample is hideously small, for sure, but it reinvigorated thoughts that we’ve had over our lifetime of watching baseball: at what point is switch-hitting no longer advisable?  How little  (or big) a differential in batting average, OBP, slugging, justifies hitting from both sides of the plate?  From 2004-2006 Jason Varitek has hit .302 as a righty (in 388 at-bats) and .263 as a lefty (in 910 at-bats).  His OBP has been .355 and .384, respectively, with slugging percentages of .438 and .515.  Clearly he’s better as righty hitting against lefties.  What would Tek do as a righty hitting against righties?  Has age impacted his ability to hit from his weaker side?  Has any player made the switch from a switch back to not a switch, particularly this late in a career?  For that matter, is 35 too late for any player to do this, to learn how to hit pitchers from an unfamiliar side?

10 comments… add one
  • Didn’t Tek once try batting right-handed against Mike Mussina, who has always had his number anyway? It seems like something he ought to at least consider trying more regularly, though I do wonder what they think his main issue is. If it’s a matter of bat speed–maybe he’s slower batting left-handed then right-handed at this point–then a switch would make sense.

    desturbd1 April 16, 2007, 4:45 pm
  • SF – there seems to be a rash of comments recently that start with, “I know its a small sample, but…” To me, theres no ‘but.’ Its a very small sample, which means that the two samples are not comparable. You can’t say, ‘i know you can’t compare these two samples or draw anything from the comparison, but allow me to compare them and draw a conclusion.’
    I don’t mean to be rude, so I hope this doesn’t come across like that. I’m happy that people are starting to understand, at least on the surface, what a sample size means. I think thats vital to understanding baseball. However, in this case, those four at-bats by Tek don’t tell us anything.

    mattymatty April 16, 2007, 4:57 pm
  • mm: I only cite that small sample because it got me thinking about an issue about which I have always been curious, as I say right at the outset. The sample has nothing to do with the actual discussion I hope to instigate.

    SF April 16, 2007, 5:10 pm
  • Yes, the four at-bats this year don’t tell us anything.
    But the 900+ ABs pointed out in the post do. He’s clearly a better hitter right-handed. Giving up the switch-hitter routine might not be such a bad idea. I can imagine trying to judge pitches from both sides of the plate (let alone hit them) is one of the tougher aspects that nobody ever focuses on, as well.

    Steve April 16, 2007, 5:12 pm
  • Carl Pavano Ex GirlFriend Alyssa Milano has finally her own Major League blog

    JP-Yf April 16, 2007, 5:14 pm
  • SF – Sorry if I took it too literally. I’ve just heard a lot of people recently mentioning small sample sizes before delving into a discussion justified entirely on a small sample size.

    mattymatty April 16, 2007, 5:35 pm
  • Thank God. I’ve been waiting for Alyssa Milano’s opinions on baseball for what seems like my whole life…
    That is funny, though, and my guess is that was one of Lasorda’s all-time favorite Christmas moments. I bet it stops getting updated around August, although I have to admit, she (if it’s actually her) does seem to know a bit about the game. And I suppose it’s a bit sexist to assume this is just some BS PR stunt just because she’s a woman.

    desturbd1 April 16, 2007, 5:39 pm
  • Steve:
    The counter-argument is that he’s been looking at pitchers a certain way for almost 20 years now, if he’s been a switch since high school. So facing righties as a right-handed batter may not be so easy; the infamiliarity could be as debilitating as a slowing bat. This is what I would love to find out more on, though. How many reasonably accomplished guys gave up the switch, at what ages did they give it up, and how did it impact their career? This would be such an anomaly, such a rarity, that it probably doesn’t really enter anyone’s mind as an option. And that might be for really good reason. I just don’t know.

    SF April 16, 2007, 5:43 pm
  • I had the exact same thought SF had when I read that AP notes stat. The main problem, to my mind, would certainly be the adjustment required to see righties as a righty. If he’s not doing so hot against them as a lefty — the better handedness with which to hit them — he could be no better than a platoon player as an all-righty hitter.

    Paul SF April 16, 2007, 6:48 pm
  • Bernie Williams in these last few years also had pretty extreme splits. He was much better righty than lefty (where he was postively Womackian last season) but there was not much discussion of a change being made.

    Nick-YF April 16, 2007, 6:58 pm

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