I was watching the Astros play recently and the announcers were commenting on the incredible speed of Myles Straw, who has been a center fielder in the minors but is learning to play shortstop due to Carlos Correa’s injury.
Straw, one of the fastest players in the big leagues, hits right handed. I wondered if he ever considered switch hitting? Left handed hitters have a step and a half advantage over right handers running to first base, so imagine how that could play out if Straw hit from the left side.
Obviously, he would beat out more infield hits, and therefore be on base more often. This means he would score more runs, and that could translate into more wins for the Astros. Imagine is Jose Altuve was a switch hitter, or Mike Trout?
Another advantage is that only 25% of MLB pitchers are left handed, so as a left handed hitter 75% of the pitchers seen will be right handed. This means the ball is easier to see and the breaking pitches are coming in to you not away from you.
According to the article below, switch hitting is a dying art.
Since I began my coaching career in 1977, I have only had one player successfully learn to switch hit, and he started late…at age 15 and a freshman in high school. He was a right handed hitter who had good speed, but not great speed. He became a good lefty hitter and did go on to play in college, so it was a good move for him. So why should a player consider learning to switch hit? What should be the criteria for making a huge commitment like that?
In my opinion, anyone who is considering learning to switch hit should have excellent speed and be a right hander wanting to hit left handed for the extra step and a half. There is no upside that I see for a left handed hitter to become a right handed hitter as well.
I asked my friend Dave Hudgens, hitting coach for the Astros from 2014 to 2018 and currently the Toronto Blue Jays bench coach, his thoughts on switch hitting. Dave said “It’s just really hard to do, it’s like having two different hitters. Carlos Beltran was a good switch hitter, but he said it’s just really hard to keep both sides going.”
It’s not easy to learn to switch hit. It’s a huge commitment that takes years of practice. Then there is making the commitment to stay with it. This means in all situations, with the game on the line, you have to stick to the change. The urge can be situational…to go back to right side just for this one at bat because the game is riding on the results. You have to be all in all of the time. The younger you start the more chance for success.
If you have a son or daughter who hits right handed, has outstanding speed and a burning desire to be really good, they may want to consider switch hitting. The earlier you start this process the better.
I know a coach here in Austin that started his son switch hitting at age 9…five years ago. He swung the Rope Bat left handed literally every day. The beauty of using the Rope Bat is you can swing it anywhere…in the garage, the living room, wherever. Mikey hits the foam Anywhere Ball in the living room. The instant feedback is critical in making adjustments and “feeling” the correct movement. Today at age 14 he has a great left handed swing and hits with more power left handed!
Got any thoughts on switch hitting? Any success stories?