Switch Hitting or Picking a Side of the Plate?

From the time most kids are toddlers, they have already started to pick things up and chuck them around the house...or daycare...or pretty much anywhere for that matter. The point being, it is very easy to determine which arm will be a baseball or softball player’s “throwing arm”. Picking a side of the plate isn’t so simple. To further complicate matters, some individuals choose not to choose a side, and instead become switch hitters.

We will discuss the benefits of switch hitting, whether or not switch hitting is even worth it, what side of the plate is best for youth players, and more.

The Benefits of Switch Hitting in Baseball

Today’s world is becoming desperately specialized. Even in high school and college, pitchers who can hit are becoming rare, as are utility players and switch hitters. At the highest levels of baseball, being able to do a single job very well is often valued more highly than being able to do many jobs pretty well. So why would any youth baseball player consider being a switch hitter?

  1. Plate vision - the biggest advantage to batting from both sides of the plate is the ability to see the ball more clearly. When a right handed batter faces a right handed pitcher, the ball comes across the hitter’s body into the zone at an angle which compromises vision and reaction. Switch hitters always have the ability to view the ball more clearly from an opposite handed hurler.

  2. Better matchups with pitchers - an extension of that point is that pitchers who specialize in getting out righties or lefties are effectively nullified by switch hitters. Fans of the game will be familiar with one batter appearances by relievers just to get one guy out. This is impossible against switch hitters.

  3. Overall versatility - Managers also love switch hitters because of the matchup advantage. The versatility to have a player be able to counteract any pitcher is always a plus.

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Are Switch Hitters More Successful?

An argument against switch hitting is the lack of great hitters who do it on both sides of the dish. To put it bluntly, this is flat out nonsense. Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Bernie Williams, and Chipper Jones are all switch hitters, just to name a few. Mantle won the triple crown in 1956 as a switch hitter.

Clearly, it is possible to hit at the highest level from both sides of the plate. Is it better? That is a harder question to answer. Those names listed above are very impressive, but the list of traditional left handed or right handed hitters is much more extensive. Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Mel Ott, and Stan Musial batted from the left side exclusively. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, and Roberto Clemente batted from the right.

It can be argued that this is just a numbers game - switch hitters are more rare, and therefore the accomplishments of switch hitters are fewer and far between. However, if the best hitters in the history of major league baseball could pick a side of the plate and stay there, it is safe to say that switch hitting does not offer a significant advantage.

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Should Your Youth Baseball Player be a Switch Hitter?

Probably not.  For most individuals, switch hitting in baseball or softball will lead to one side being overwhelmingly dominant. If this is the case, switch hitting is certainly not worth the effort. Other baseball and softball players find switch hitting to be quite natural. This situation will give players, coaches, and parents reason to consider each option. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Switch hitting carries some advantages as reviewed in previous sections. However, it also requires an individual to have the rare ability to be able to develop a swing from both sides of the plate. This means potentially double the work to do just one job. This is the primary reason why most hitters choose not to switch hit.

Batting from the left side of the plate is generally thought of as the superior option. Most kids are right handed, but this does not mean that they should necessarily bat from the right side of the plate. Throwing right handed and batting left handed is the most “desirable” at higher levels. If you are working with a young player who is still open to changing or deciding how to hit, this may be the best choice.

Batting from the right side of the plate is still the most common way to hit, regardless of any perceived advantages to switch hitting or batting lefty. Quite simply, most people are right handed and are more comfortable here. Do not worry too much if a youth baseball or softball player wants to bat right and throw right. As long as they are producing, that is what matters most.

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