FG on Fox: Is There a Shortage of Right-Handed Power?

Right-handed power. It’s the buzzword — or perhaps the buzzphrase — of the off-season. Every day, we wake up to news of another team throwing big money at a free agent because he has some history of strong offensive performances and he bats from the right side of the plate. $88 million for Hanley Ramirez. $58 million for Nelson Cruz. $30 million for Billy Butler. $21 million for Michael Cuddyer, who played in 49 games last year. $10 million for Torii Hunter, who Detroit didn’t even want to retain.

This is the winter to be a right-handed hitter on the free agent market, because teams are flush with cash and many of them are trying to balance out line-ups that have become too left-handed. For reference, here are the 30-year trends in the distribution of plate appearances between righties, lefties, and switch-hitting position players.


The changes are fairly subtle, but note the distinct uptick in the red line, representing the share of plate appearances that has been given to left-handed batters over the years. While the number has historically been around 30%, it jumped up to 33% in 2008 and has increased up to 35% by 2014. Besides the one year blip in 2002, the last seven years are the only seasons in the entire sample where left-handed hitters have been given one-third of all the plate appearances in Major League Baseball.

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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9 years ago

The one thing that I found very interesting was how switch-hitters have historically had lower ISOs than non-switch hitters. My favorite team has a guy who is an extreme case of this. Neil Walker mashes righties and is a singles hitter(and not that good of one) against lefties.

9 years ago
Reply to  Tom

switch hitters usually have a “power side” and an “average side”. Their swings are often not the same.

9 years ago
Reply to  heyyo

When I switch-hit this was definitely true for me. I had an extreme fly ball swing right handed, big dip and loft in the swing path, and a flat (sometimes downward, even) swing plane left-handed. I wasn’t a very good switch hitter, though, and usually just hit right-handed even though I could hit for higher average as a lefty. It was empty average. But against righties with by breaking pitches, it was either bat left-handed or strike out against those guys. (The holes in my swing rivaled the grand canyon, which is probably why I’m typing a comment on FanGraphs instead of playing baseball professionally.)

But yeah, watching switch hitters, most of them you can see really big, obvious differences. Walker specifically looks awkward from the right side to me, like his swing is desperate to stay on top of the baseball.