JABO: Pablo Sandoval and When Switch-Hitting Isn’t Worth It

Almost three weeks ago, Pablo Sandoval did something extraordinary at the plate. To be fair, Sandoval often does interesting and unique things — mostly involving swinging at and hitting impossible pitches — so this might not come as a surprise. However, this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill sort of Sandoval madness. I’ll allow a short looping film to begin to tell the story:

A few things happened here: he swung at the first pitch, it was high and inside, and he got jammed but still managed to hit a line drive. These are all things Sandoval routinely does, so you can’t be blamed if you think one of them is what we’re highlighting. The true answer? Sandoval faced a left-handed pitcher as a left-handed batter.

If that doesn’t seem like a big deal, consider this: Kung Fu Panda hadn’t batted from the left side against a left-handed pitcher before this at bat since 2011. For what it’s worth, both Sandoval and his manager John Farrell claimed he only batted as a lefty in this pinch-hit appearance because of a knee injury sustained by a hit by pitch a few days before. Still, the fact remains: Sandoval’s struggles as a switch hitter from the right side are well documented, and they’ve gotten remarkably worse this season. It says at least say something that he batted from the left side here, given his struggles.

So just how bad has it gotten when he’s in the right batter’s box? Sandoval has a .160 OPS mark as a right-handed hitter facing a left-handed pitcher this year. He owns a 2.1% walk rate and a 27.1% strikeout rate from that side. In other terms, he’s hit three singles in 46 at-bats with one walk. That’s about the equivalent offensive output of Kyle Kendrick in 2014, except that Kendrick is a pitcher, and he doesn’t bat near the middle of the order for the Red Sox.

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.

Owen Watson writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @ohwatson.

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Mr Punch
8 years ago

Panda’s an interesting case as he’s said to be virtually ambidextrous – so he might be someone who didn’t become a switch-hitter basically to cover up a serious weakness against same-handed pitchers.

8 years ago
Reply to  Mr Punch

He “taught” himself to be able to throw as a right-hander, in order to enable him to play the position of his childhood hero, Omar Vizquel, SS. So I guess “virtually ambidextrous” would be the right term.

And really, I think most kids learn to be switch-hitters because they know that most of the time, you get an advantage batting against the opposite throwing hand, not because they themselves were having a hard time against that side.