There were 48 active switch-hitters on MLB rosters as of the 2018 season. In 2018, five of the league's 30 teams did not have a switch hitter on their roster. Switch-hitting pitchers are uncommon. As far back as 1920, at least 15 switch-hitters have appeared in Major League Baseball games.
An infielder or outfielder who can hit with either hand is said to be a switch-hitter. Most players are left-handed; right-handed hitting players are called righties and lefties depending on which hand they use to swing the bat. A few players such as Paul O'Neill and Alex Rodriguez are considered "true" switch-hitters because they use both hands equally for batting from the left or right side. However, some coaches believe that a player is more effective if one hand is used exclusively for batting from one side of the plate.
Switch-hitting is much less common among pitchers than among hitters. There have been at least 15 switch-hitters in Major League history who also threw right-handed, including Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Left-handed switch-hitters who also pitch right-handed include John McGraw, Bob Lemon, and Jim Bunning.
According to reports, just 4% of recruited players can switch hits. Switch hitters are still prized in the professional game: Switch batters accounted for 61 players on MLB rosters in 2013. As a result, around 8% of players on big league clubs are switch hitters. Although their representation in the major leagues is small, there are still many famous switch hitters such as Paul O'Neill, Maysie Roderick, and John Rocker.
Switch hitting is a defensive strategy used by baseball players who hit left-handed when facing right-handers and vice versa. It requires a batter to be able to hit with both hands; one must be proficient at batting right-handed and left-handed. The term "switch-hitting" came into use during the 1920s when several prominent hitters including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx began playing all games left-handed. Although this was not a common practice then, today it is estimated that only 4% of major league players can switch-hit.
There are several advantages to being a switch hitter. For one thing, it makes it easier for a player to hit from both sides of the plate. This is particularly important for left-handed hitters who often have trouble finding the strike zone on the outside part of the plate. Being able to switch-hit allows them to expand their approach and try to make contact with pitches anywhere on the plate.
However, in a sport that is always changing, the quantity remains astonishingly consistent. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the number of switch hitters with 300 or more big league at-bats every season has been at least 30 but never more than 42 since the expansion to 30 clubs in 1998. The most recent example is Chris Denorfia, who had 312 plate appearances as a switch hitter for the San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
In fact, switch hitters have the highest career batting average of any position player not named "pitcher." This is because they get to see both left-handed and right-handed pitching throughout their careers which allows them to hit for a high average overall. However, it does reduce their on-base percentage because they can't draw walks. A low on-base percentage combined with a high slugging percentage leads to many switch hitters scoring plenty of runs despite having below-average defense at either corner outfield spot.
The reason why so many teams have switch hitters is because it gives you an opportunity to get some hits from both sides of the plate. Some players are better against left-handers while others crush right-handers. By giving each player a side of the field they can hit well, teams can generate more offense out of their lineup positions which is important because there are only a certain number of spots on the field.