Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hitting The Power Switch

I came across this post at The Yankee Universe this morning about the rarest feats in baseball and started perusing the list or accomplishments.

One of these feats was hitting a home run from both sides of the plate in the same game, which has happened 246 times in the history of the game. Not as rare as a no-hitter or a cycle, but certainly uncommon. I seemed to remember Melky Cabrera doing it fairly recently and it turns out it was back on April 22nd, and I had actually written a post about his performance in that game in which he ended a 14 inning showdown with a walk-off HR (from the left side).

Another thing I did not realize was how laden with Yankees the American League side of that list is. There have been four occurrences of a switch hitter hitting a home run as both a righty and a lefty this year and all four were by Yankees (Melky, Swisher and Teixeira twice). In fact, all of the last six and 10 of the past 12 were accomplished by current members of the Yankees' normal starting line up. The top three on the active career list (aside from Tony Clark who is technically "active" but not currently on a team) all play for the Yanks: Posada (8), Swisher (8), and Teixeira (7). Had they signed Carlos Beltran (6) when they had the chance, they would have the next in line as well.

Admittedly, this stat can be a little flukey but the Yanks have 72 HRs by switch hitters this year, tops in the MLB. That is far more than the Angels with 41 and twice as many as the next team, the Rays with 36.

The presence of switch hitters with power on the Yankee roster undoubtedly makes it difficult on opposing managers. On any given day the Yanks can plug in 4 guys who can go deep from either side of the plate, making a pitching change aimed at them much less effective and pinch hitting for them virtually unnecessary.

We have been spoiled in this respect since we rarely have to sit through National League-style move/counter-moves in the late innings of games. Perhaps part of the reason I loathe to see Joe Girardi make two out pitching changes based solely on the side of the plate the batter digs in on is that opposing managers have the option to do it to the Yankees far less frequently.

In any event, the Yanks seem to have the market cornered on switch hitters with power via the additions of Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira this past offseason. And it's one of the many reasons they are on pace to score about 900 runs this year, up from only 789 in 2008.

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