Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ten for Tuesday - Active, Dangerous Switch-Hitters

Hey everyone, Drew back here today with yet another Ten for Tuesday topic to start this week's conversation! Mark Teixeira crushed his 11th home run on the season last night, and with that I decided to research who the very best switch hitters are in today's game. Switch hitting appears to be a dying art, as recent players like Chipper Jones and Jorge Posada have since left us behind, but there are still some players who know how to get it done on both sides of the plate.

For this list, I made sure to take into account player's splits, not just their overall talent. The young base stealing talent Billy Hamilton is great on the basepaths, but he will not be on this list despite his switch hitting capability. The qualifications are hitting only, and over anything else concern players who became increasingly dangerous by being able to switch their hands and move to the other side of the dish. Without further ado, let's see where your favorite players fell.

Top 10 Active Switch-Hitters

Honorable Mentions - Chase Headley, Neil Walker, Dexter Fowler

Headley was the hardest player to keep off this list, especially while he was having a great offensive day yesterday, but just missed the cut because his defensive skill normally outweighs his offensive contributions. Fowler's all around game is what makes him a good player over his offensive output, while Walker has been improving every season but is significantly worse at reaching base when batting right handed against left handed pitching.

10 - Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles (Splits)

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It may not be fair to the players who just missed the cut for a player who has not played in 2015 to be featured on this list, but come on, what is more valuable than a switch hitting catcher? Wieters may not have ever lived up to the ridiculous hype surrounding him that landed him on a Sports Illustrated cover in his rookie season, but he has been very good when healthy. Health is a huge factor for the Orioles backstop, as he has recently missed a lot of time thanks in part to undergoing Tommy John Surgery. He was off to a torrid start in 2014, but only wound up playing in 26 games. In those 26 games, he was substantially better facing right handed pitchers as a left handed batter, but his career splits have shown that he reaches base for a higher percentage when batting right handed.

One thing I had to keep in mind with this list to make sure I don't take home run and RBI totals into account when viewing career splits, because every player faces much more right handed pitching than left handed pitching unless they are in a platoon situation. Wieters has 58 home runs against RHP and 34 against LHP, but has over a thousand more career at bats against RHP.

9 - Kendrys Morales, DH, Kansas City Royals (Splits)

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Billy Butler was the heart and soul for the Royals for the first eight years of his career, but both sides were ready to move forward after a magical 2014. They moved on to Morales, a player who has been up and down his entire career. He is infamous for his 2010 MVP caliber season ending quickly when he broke his leg jumping into home plate after hitting a walkoff home run for the Angels. Ever since, he has been trying to regain some of what he lost that day, and slowly but surely he has worked his way back to relevancy.

This year, he's back, and while he may not have the power from five years ago, he is still a can't miss bat in the middle of one of baseball's most impressive lineups. He is batting over .300 currently and his slugging percentage is the highest it has been since that 2010 season. While he was performed better in his lifetime as a left handed batter, his all around peripherals are impressive on both sides.

8 - Jimmy Rollins, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (Splits)

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J-Roll has appeared to have been around forever. The longtime Phillies shortstop and former MVP winner made his way to Los Angeles this past offseason in what was perhaps the craziest offseason yet, and is now setting the table for one of the best offenses in the game. Rollins has put together a very nice 16 year career, and although his time in Hollywood hasn't been as impressive as expected, he is still a huge threat that can not be overlooked.

Through his career, his batting average and on base percentage have been eerily similar from both sides of the plate. At the top of the lineup during most of his career, he has posed as an immediate threat because he can get things started no matter who is on the mound. That is a very valuable commodity, and it earned him 8th place on this list.

7 - Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees (Splits)

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You're on the Mark, Teixeira. For once, the career .236 hitter in April, prone to horrible starts for years now; Mark Teixeira is on a roll kicking off his 2015 season. Perhaps its due to the gluten free diet, or the fact that he's simply healthier than he's been in recent history, but he's already got 11 home runs to show for this season and he does not appear to be slowing down. The Yankee first baseman has always been known as a great offensive and defensive threat, but at the age of 35 he hasn't quite been the player that the Steinbrenner family paid for ever since his 39 home run 2011 campaign.

Tex has been a productive player on both sides of the plate, with considerably higher averages against left handed pitching despite a much smaller sample size. 269 of his career 374 home runs have come against right handed pitchers as a left handed batter. When he's on, he clearly can not be stopped, and I hope he's got at least one more healthy, All Star caliber season left in him.

6 - Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Boston Red Sox (Splits)

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"The Panda" has been a staple in the middle of the San Francisco Giants lineup going back to 2008, but much like Rollins, he was on the move this past offseason, heading to the Red Sox on a 5 year, $100 million dollar deal. He claimed to have been "disrespected" by the Giants organization, which I personally cannot fathom and it made me lose quite a bit of respect for him. He has been a key playoff performer over the years although his regular season stats have left much to be desired.

His general offensive ability has brought him to #6 on this list, but he would be higher on the list if his statistics translated on both sides of the dish as well as they have for the next five players. As a right handed batter, he's batted .264 with 18 home runs, whereas as a left handed batter he has batted .307 with 92 home runs. Last year, he batted .199 against lefties, proving that perhaps switch hitting hurts him more than helps. Overall, he still lands high on this list thanks to his prior success, but if there is any player on this list that may not want to keep switch hitting, it would be Kung-Fu Panda.

5 - Ben Zobrist, UTIL, Oakland Athletics (Splits)

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I wonder how the conversation went in Little League when little Ben Zobrist was asked what position he wanted to play. Zobrist has gone on to play practically every position, and play them significantly well. On top of that, he's a switch hitter, basically making him the switch army knife of Major League Baseball. He took his talents to the West Coast this offseason in a trade from Tampa Bay, where he played his first nine years, all of which under the tutelage of one of baseball's more creative managers in Joe Maddon. Zobrist became the cover boy of the WAR statistic argument, posting six seasons with over 4 Wins Above Replacement. Whether or not you feel like he should be considered an MVP candidate despite average offensive statistics, Zobrist is a player every team wishes they could have.

At 33, Zobrist is beginning to hit his decline, but is still capable of hitting well at the top of the A's order. He's been on the Disabled List since April 24th for having torn cartilage in his knee, and should not be back until mid June. His career peripherals indicate a slightly better performance as a right handed hitter, and in 2014 he batted .340 against lefties versus .247 against righties.

4 - Melky Cabrera, OF, Chicago White Sox (Splits)

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One thing I've learned through this research is that a significant amount of the players on this list are on new teams in 2015, proving how much teams value players capable of hitting both lefties and righties. Melky Cabrera traveled south from Toronto to Chicago this offseason, and now sets up for Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche in the "Pale Hose" lineup. Cabrera has been a better player as a left handed batter, but is solid on the right side as well. He has evolved into one of the best contact and doubles hitters in baseball during and after his PED suspension in 2012 when he was with the Giants. Like him or hate him, Melky is one of the best switch hitters in the business, and makes a case for the best #2 hitter in any lineup.

3 - Carlos Santana, 1B/3B, Cleveland Indians (Splits)

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Carlos Santana (not the Latin guitar legend) has snuck into one of the more consistent offensive threats in baseball. He never seems to finish with a high batting average, but he walks more than anyone else and has hit at least 18 home runs in each of his last four full seasons. He is off to a good start in 2015, with 4 Home Runs to his credit and a league leading 25 walks. He may not be the most exciting player to watch, but he more than gets his job done for a team desperate for offense.

As far as his switch hitting prowess goes, well, his career statistics show a much better offensive player when facing left handed pitching, and in 2014 he batted .271 in that situation as opposed to .214 against right handed pitchers. Because of his career success and ability to get on base, he has made it all the way to #3 on this list, but he's in jeopardy to fall if he continues to struggle against right handed pitching as much as he has.

2 - Jose Reyes, SS, Toronto Blue Jays (Splits)

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Jose Reyes. Wow, where to even begin. What a career it has been for the long time shortstop, beginning with some excellent seasons in the Big Apple with the Mets, then heading down south to Jeffrey Loria's Miami circus, and then being shipped all the way back up north to Toronto where he's now been for two plus years. Staying on the field has been the only problem holding Reyes back from becoming an annual elite player and the respect he could have attained otherwise. He may not be the best defensive option, but it's hard to find another shortstop in the American League that can do what he does. Even as he is beginning to age past his prime, few teams find it easy to deal with this man, who sets up for three of the best right handed sluggers in the game that follow suit in Bautista, Encarnacion, and the newly acquired Josh Donaldson. He may not steal 50 bases anymore, but is a lock for at least 30 when he is able to stay on the field. Currently, Reyes is battling a cracked rib that he played with for a while until the Blue Jays eventually placed him on the DL.

Reyes has a lifetime batting average of .291, and surprisingly both his left handed and right handed batting averages lie in the .290's range. He produces almost identical averages from both sides every year, and only compiles more statistics batting left handed due to the increased amount of right handed pitching. He is an unstoppable force when he's playing on the field, and not many players show the combination of passion and skill like he does. It was an easy decision to place him as runner up on this list, however there is one player I do think takes the cake by just a little more.

1 - Victor Martinez, DH, Detroit Tigers (Splits)

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There isn't much to say about the man who has provided a fantastic presence behind a former Triple Crown Winner in the Tiger's lineup that hasn't already been said. Victor Martinez is what they call a pure hitter, and somehow even at 36 he seems to be only getting better. His 2nd place MVP finish in the American League last year behind only Mike Trout was amazing - he batted .335 with a career high 32 home runs as well as over 100 RBI's for the fifth time of his great thirteen year career. In addition, he only struck out 42 times over the course of the entire season, the fewest of anyone in the game. He once spent almost an entire calendar year without striking out looking, if that says anything about just how disclipined he is. And on top of it all, he bats from both sides of the plate, which allows manager Brad Ausmus the ability to construct his strong offensive lineup in many ways and still pose a threat even to the best bullpens such as their division rival Kansas City Royals.

Martinez hasn't gotten off to the best start this year, but this past week he has shown signs of turning things around. He underwent knee surgery last offseason to fix a torn medial meniscus, and that could be most of the reason for his slow start. However, he'll have to pick it up soon, as the Tigers recently rewarded his excellent 2014 with a 4 year, $68 million dollar contract. Hitting behind Miguel Cabrera could be enough to make that contract worthwhile either way, though.

He has bat over .300 as a left handed and right handed hitter, and has 120 home runs on the left side opposed to 69 on the right; with about 2000 at bats separating the two sides. He batted .371 in 2014 against left handed pitching, proving just how capable he is of owning both matchups.

When thinking about this topic, I knew initially I had no way of taking V-Mart out of the #1 spot, even after a lackluster April this year. I wanted to focus on the players between 10-2, and I think I covered all of the players worth mentioning. Carlos Beltran would have made this list a few years ago, and possibly Coco Crisp as well.

This week, I decided to try something different to try to open up conversation, as I haven't gotten as much feedback as I initially expected in doing these posts. Check out the poll below, and feel free to leave your input on who you believe is the best switch hitter in the game. I love to write these posts, but half of the few is getting to hear what you all have to say, and I hope this may help spark some more debate between you guys. Comment below if you think my positioning was off with a few players or if I should have considered someone else. Are there any real prominent switch hitters coming up soon?

Who do you believe is baseball's best current switch hitter?
Victor Martinez
Jose Reyes
Carlos Santana
Melky Cabrera
Other (comment below!)
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Let me know your thoughts on this week's subject! See Ya!

3 comments:

  1. I coached Ben Zobrist when he played American Legion baseball in the late 90's and he played every position except catcher. He was our best pitcher. He was not a switch hitter at that time.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mike: That's really neat! He is so versatile, it's incredible.
    Frankie: I am a Beltran fan, and I did mention him afterwards in the post, but I have a hard time putting him on this list based off his recent years in New York. I see he's beginning to turn it around, but I wanted to make the post highlight who is best right now, and the only person I can see Beltran ahead of right now is Wieters because he isn't on the field. Over the past ten years, you can argue him as the best switch hitter, but as of right now, it was tough to get him on the list. When I did my ranks, he came in around 14th.

    ReplyDelete

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