I'm not sure if you've heard of me before, but I'm the GM for one of the MLB's new expansion team. I have an incredibly generous owner that provides me with all of the money I need, and I have access to incriminating photos of every other team's General Manager. Basically, I have free reign to acquire any player I want.
However, let's just say that the team owner imposes an interesting philosophy on roster construction. He loves having the platoon advantage at the plate, and is fed up watching hitters wail away at sliders three feet out of the zone. "Never again shall a breaking ball break away from one of my hitters muahahaha!" he declared one day. So here I am, trying to build my owner a team exclusively out of switch-hitters.
Steamer projections for 2016 are in parentheses. The lineup was determined leaning on the projections, but with some discretion from yours truly (for instance, I'm more confident in Dexter Fowler than Billy Hamilton despite a lower projection, which is why the former is starting). I also tried to only include players with significant experience at a given position (Melky Cabrera's experience in left field lifted him to the starting role).
There's also the discussion to be had around a transcendent offensive talent like Bryce Harper - is his performance against right-handed pitching so valuable that he's a good option regardless of how much he'd struggle if forced to switch-hit? While an interesting idea, that line of inquiry is a bit beyond the bounds of this article.
Dexter Fowler -- CF (585 PA, 106 wRC+, 1.7 WAR)
Neil Walker -- 2B (571 PA, 112 wRC+, 2.3 WAR)
Ben Zobrist -- RF (549 PA, 115 wRC+, 3.0 WAR)
Carlos Santana -- DH (618 PA, 117 wRC+, 1.7 WAR)
Mark Teixeira -- 1B (480 PA, 111 wRC+, 1.6 WAR)
Yasmani Grandal -- C (412 PA, 114 wRC+, 2.6 WAR)
Melky Cabrera -- LF (609 PA, 105 wRC+, 0.9 WAR)
Chase Headley -- 3B (547 PA, 102 wRC+, 2.5 WAR)
Francisco Lindor -- SS (645 PA, 95 wRC+, 3.5 WAR)
Matt Wieters (92 wRC+)
Jose Reyes (92 wRC+)
Billy Hamilton (76 wRC+)
Billy Burns (86 wRC+)
If I were to make generalizations about switch-hitters, it seems that very few hit for power. Similarly, very few play corner positions. Most switch-hitters are up-the-middle players, and almost all of them are fast. This makes intuitive sense; it is likely more difficult to hit for power from the non-dominant side of the plate against Major League pitching. The goal is to avoid pitches breaking hard away, and there's a larger emphasis on making contact.
Contact-reliant players have to be fast to reach base before defenders, so good baserunning and up-the-middle defense are often found among this group. Late cuts include Blake Swihart, Asdrubal Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Jed Lowrie, Erick Aybar,Jimmy Rollins, Justin Smoak, Danny Espinosa, Yangervis Solarte, Aaron Hicks, Coco Crisp, Carlos Beltran, and Angel Pagan.
On the other end of the spectrum, there aren't many pitchers that switch-hit because, well, they often have trouble hitting MLB pitching from even one side of the plate.
Vincent Velasquez (103 IP*, 3.56 ERA)
Kris Medlen (140 IP, 3.97 ERA)
Derek Holland (175 IP, 4.01 ERA)
Wandy Rodriguez (1.0 IP, 4.41 ERA)
Dylan Bundy (43 IP*, 3.92 ERA)
*Steamer projects significant portion of innings as a reliever
Kenley Jansen (2.43 ERA)
Chris Hatcher (3.19 ERA)
Drew Storen (3.36 ERA)
Adam Ottavino (3.40 ERA)
Pat Neshek (3.70 ERA)
Bryan Shaw (3.83 ERA)
Pat Venditte (4.02 ERA)
Yes, Pat Venditte is also an ambidextrous hitter, and that's the reason that he qualifies for this team. In pure talent, there were potentially more deserving candidates, including Dale Thayer, Justin De Fratus, and possibly Lisalverto Bonilla.
However, Venditte gets bonus points from the owner for getting the platoon advantage both at the plate and on the hill. Additionally, there were no cuts for the rotation. Those are the only five switch-hitters that can even be considered starting pitchers.
The aggregate projected wRC+ of the starting lineup is 108 in 5016 PAs, while the bench unit's equally weighted wRC+ is 87. Steamer tries to account for injuries, but we still need to consider the contributions, or lack thereof, for any replacements that would fill in for the lost PAs. The median team had 6117 plate appearances in 2015, so we will give 5016 PAs for the projected starters, about 600 PAs for the bench, and the remaining 501 PAs to replacement-level players and pitchers. Substituting 75 wRC+ for replacement level, we come to a team wRC+ of about 103. This figure would actually tie the all-switch-hitting team for fifth in the Majors last season, behind only the Blue Jays, Dodgers, Giants, and Astros.
The starting lineup projects for a combined 19.8 WAR. Projecting bench production is much more difficult, however, as many of the "bench" players are projected as starters on their teams. Playing time projections aside, this doesn't accommodate for certain strengths being amplified in a bench role (pinch-running, defense, etc.), and weaknesses masked (being able to hit more frequently with the platoon advantage).
We can't linearly extrapolate the projected WAR totals of the bench, so a roughly average 2.0 WAR estimate will represent total bench production. The cumulative position player WAR comes in at roughly 22 WAR. This would have placed our team 11th in the MLB last season, between the Indians and the Pirates.
Projecting the starting rotation is also difficult. The fifth-best option, Wandy Rodriguez, is projected to throw the minimum one inning in 2016. Steamer is probably right about the playing time, though. It's easily possible that Rodriguez, not to mention Medlen and Bundy, never make an MLB start in 2016. I like Velasquez a lot, and Holland could still be useful, but this might be the worst rotation in baseball.
The saving grace for this team is the elite bullpen, with all members besides Venditte looking like above-average options. Unfortunately, Steamer doesn't include a league- and park-adjusted component in its projections for pitchers, and it does a weird thing where it projects almost all of the relievers in baseball to throw exactly 65 innings, so it'd be extremely difficult to project an ERA for the bullpen, too. However, it doesn't take a weighted average to see that the relief corps contains both quality and depth, and there is a chance that this is among the best bullpens in baseball.
Alas, starting rotations throw more innings than the bullpens, so a bottom-ranked rotation and a top-ranked bullpen does not make a league-average pitching staff. The first five in the rotation are a mess, and as mentioned earlier, there really are no replacements when injuries hit. Therefore, the pitching staff as a whole is probably a bottom-third unit in the Majors.
Using these rough estimates, a team comprised solely of switch-hitters features a slightly above-average offense and defense with a bottom-third pitching staff. It's likely this is a mediocre team, and would likely have a projected win total in the mid-70s. To make things worse, there would be little available help at the trade deadline, unless a current player that hits exclusively from one side of the plate decides that he wants to add an earhole flap to the other side of his helmet. But hey, at least my owner is happy now.
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Austin Yamada is a contributing writer for Beyond the Box Score.