Game favors left-handed hitters

Originally Published: June 8, 2006
By Gary Gillette | ESPN Insider
Switch-hitters have long had a special place in baseball. Long before teams kept any sort of situational batting stats, they kept switch-hitting stats by recording how well a player hit from the left side of the plate as well as the right. Baseball also keeps "records" for switch-hitters in the same way that it keeps track of things like most wins by left-handed pitchers -- as if how a player accomplished a feat mattered much.

Why does the fate of switch-hitters intrigue fans more than ordinary right-handed or left-handed hitters? Who knows? Most of the greatest hitters in baseball history batted left-handed; many of those were natural right-handers who chose to bat from the left side to gain an advantage in a game that favors left-handed hitters.

A quick scan of the batting stats with the highest profiles show a distinct absence of switch-hitters on the top of the all-time lists. In the top 20 hitters in career batting average, there are no switch-hitters. Nor are any in the top 20 in slugging percentage. Two switch-hitters reside on the lists of most career base hits: the indestructible Pete Rose at No. 1 and Eddie Murray at No. 11. In career home runs, Mickey Mantle is the top switch-hitter at No. 13; Murray is No. 20. Mantle is the only switch-hitter in the top 20 in career home run percentage (through 2005). Only Murray at No. 7 represents switchers in the top 20 RBI leaders in history. That's a pretty small list.

Gary Gillette | email

ESPN.com MLB insider contributor
Gary Gillette, a contributor to MLB Insider on ESPN.com, is the editor of the 2006 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, which was published in March by Sterling. Gary can be reached via e-mail at GGillette@247Baseball.com.