Batters need to switch their approach at plate
And though it barely registered a blip on the sports world's collective radar, in that quiet moment a groundbreaking new baseball ethos was born.
You wouldn't think that a baseball revolution would begin -- of all places -- in a Nook, but Washington's Logan may one day be looked upon as a pioneer, especially if the following hitters listen closely and "Stop Switching:"
Throughout his career, Sir Lance-a-lot has proven that he wields a sword rather deftly with his left hand, but has a tendency to chop away like a confused ogre with his right. Since 2002, Berkman has 156 homers from his natural left-handed side for the Astros, and 18 right-handed. Granted, some of that discrepancy is accounted for by the fact that he gets far more at-bats left-handed, but Berkman's stats from the right side have become downright anemic: So far this season, Lance is batting just .226 and slugging a ghastly .245 as a right-handed hitter.
Perhaps instead of "Stop Switching," a more appropriate slogan for Betemit might be "I'd rather not hit at all." In his first 116 at-bats in 2007, the Dodgers third baseman was hitting just .198. But during his productive 2006, Betemit showed a Berkman-like left/right split, hitting 281 with 15 HR as a lefty, and just .189 with 3 HR from the right side. This year, the Dodgers have sent Betemit a not-so-subtle message that it's time to focus on his stronger side -- he has just 22 at-bats against lefties.
Unlike Berkman and Betemit, it's not exactly clear which side is the Giant outfielder's weakest. In 2006, he hit .278 lefty and .219 righty, and this year he's done the opposite, hitting a relatively weak .268 from the left side compared to .346 right-handed.
Winn's flip-flopped stats illustrate a point you often hear switch hitters make -- namely, it's hard to stay hot from both sides of the plate at the same time. Which makes you wonder why players don't simply stick with whatever side is working best, regardless of what type of pitcher they're facing. Granted, the whole switch-hitting thing is based primarily on being able to see a pitcher's breaking ball (something you do better as a lefty against a righty, and vice versa), but isn't there something to be said for hitting with whatever swing feels stronger at any given point in time? In theory, then, you could always be at your best, keeping the better of your two swings hot as long as possible. And when one goes bad, you simply try out the other for a stretch. (This would of course be referred to as a "Winn-Winn situation.")
The Twins' leadoff hitter's game is almost entirely predicated on slapping the ball on the ground while simultaneously getting a running start towards first. On the whole, the pesky strategy works -- Castillo is a dangerous if not intimidating leadoff man who's hit .294 throughout his career. But why continue to waste at-bats from the right side of the plate, where Castillo once showed impressive clout (hitting a robust .423 in 2005) but has since lost all his mojo? (Castillo hit .256 righty in '06 and is at just .197 this year.)
Most likely, Castillo has continued to hit righty because, like everyone else on the planet, he absolutely loves home runs. And as it just so happens, 20 of Castillo's 23 career homers have come against left-handed pitching. But if he really wants to help the Twins as much as he can, Castillo will focus entirely on the slap-and-run technique and relive his glorious days of hitting the occasional dinger by watching as much old video tape as he pleases.
Remember April of 2005, when the Oriole busted out with a monstrous 8 HR, 26 RBI and 10 steals, looking vaguely like the second coming of some prodigious fictional character you once created (and named after yourself) on your Playstation? Roberts' days as a home run-swatting beast are over -- he has two in '07 -- but the dramatic lefty-righty splits he displayed in 2005 are still intact. That year, he hit .332 with 13 of his 18 HR lefty, while batting just .273 and slugging almost 100 points less from the right side. In the years since, the trend has become even more pronounced:
2005 Left-handed: .305 avg, 9 HR, .448 slugging % Right-handed: .235 avg, 1 HR, .324 slugging %
2006 Left-handed: .340 avg, 2 HR, .466 slugging % Right-handed: .258 avg, 0 HR, .292 slugging %
As much as anyone else on this list, Roberts has a legitimate reason to consider following Nook Logan's example and abandoning his weaker side of the plate for good.
And in case you're wondering about the man who started it all, there's not much point in showing you Nook Logan's lefty-righty splits, because frankly his numbers are rather ghastly from both sides of the plate. Furthermore, there isn't too much merit in beholding his stats batting exclusively right-handed, because one look at him trying to hit Roy Halladay's breaking ball last Friday would have said everything you need to know about that.
Clearly, it's not much of a secret that Nook Logan isn't a good hitter, regardless of whether he's switch-hitting. But like any great pioneer, he chose an unchartered and potentially risky course in the hopes of improving his place in the world. And above all else, the light-hitting center fielder embraced the philosophy that if things aren't going well - in baseball or in life - don't be afraid to make a change.
Or, perhaps we should say, a switch.
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