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MARCH 31, 20044
Bats Both + Big Fly = Nice Card
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com

In the New York Yankees second game of the 2004 season, switch-hitting catcher Jorge Posada hit a homerun from both sides of the plate.  In the 5th inning of the game, Posada, batting right-handed, hit a pitch from Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Damian Moss into the left-field stands of the Tokyo Dome for a homerun.  In the 7th inning, Posada, now batting left-handed, launched a pitch from Tampa Bay’s Jorge Sosa into the right-field stands for a round tripper. 

Both big flies were three-run long balls for Posada.  It was the 5th time in his career that Posada has hit homeruns from both sides of the plate in one game.  (The last time he accomplished this feat was on June 28, 2002 in a game against the Mets at Yankee Stadium.)

Posada also became just the 15th player in major league baseball history to hit a homerun from both sides of the plate in one game five or more times. (To date, only nine players have hit a homerun from both sides of the plate in one game six or more times.)

The all-time leader of “Games with Switch-hit Homeruns” (GSHR) is Eddie Murray with eleven.  See the GSHR Leaders List below:

Player

GSHR

Eddie Murray

11

Ken Caminiti

10

Chili Davis

10

Mickey Mantle

10

Tony Clark

7

Bernie Williams

7

Bobby Bonilla

6

Ruben Sierra

6

Reggie Smith

6

Roberto Alomar

5

Carl Everett

5

Todd Hundley

5

Chipper Jones

5

Jorge Posada

5

Roy White

5

As a quick side note, it is obvious that the New York Yankees have a passion for switch-hitters with power.  Of the 15 players above, seven have worn a Yankee uniform at one time in their career – and it was almost eight.  Carl Everett, while never a Yankee at the major league level, was once a Yankee farmhand.

GSHR are much more common today than they were in the past.  Before 1975, it happened only 33 times in a game.  Since 1975, it has happened 149 times in a game.  Part of this increase is due to the fact that more games are played today than in the past.  But, another reason for the increase is the rising rate of homeruns in baseball since 1994.  There have been 84 instances of a player hitting a homerun from both sides of the plate in one game since 1994 (including Posada in 2004).  The trend in GSHR per season since 1994 is:

Year

#GSHR

1994

  9

1995

  7

1996

15

1997

  7

1998

  9

1999

11

2000

10

2001

  5

2002

  3

2003

  7

TOTAL

83

No season in the history of baseball comes close to 1996 when there were 15 GSHR.  That season, Bernie Williams, Chili Davis, J.T. Snow, Ruben Sierra, and Raul Casanova each hit a homerun from both sides of the plate in one game.  Roberto Alomar, Todd Hundley, and Melvin Nieves each hit a homerun from both sides of the plate in two games.  Ken Caminiti hit a homerun from both sides of the plate in four games that season – three of those times coming in a four-day span (from September 16th through September 19th).  These feats helped Ken Caminiti eventually win the National League MVP Award in 1996.  However, the feats were most likely aided by the fact that Caminiti was using steroids as a performance enhancer (not yet banned by baseball) at the time.  (It was in a 2002 Sports Illustrated interview where Caminiti subsequently disclosed that he began using steroids halfway through the 1996 season.  And, to think, some thought he got his power from just eating Snickers bars!)  

From 1998 through 2000, on average, there were 10 GSHR per season.  From 2001 through 2003, on average, there were 5 GSHR per season.  Clearly, the trend in GSHR is downward since 1996.

This should bring cause for more appreciation of Posada’s 2004 Game 2 accomplishment.  If you had the pleasure of watching the feat, take note now that it was something that you may only have the chance to witness around five more times this season in all of baseball (based on the 2001 to 2003 GSHR rates).  Posada’s switch blasts also bring cause for the quick question of whether or not he can become the all-time leader in GSHR.

If you examine the GSHR Leader List below, and factor in the number of seasons it took each player to accumulate their total, and then consider Posada’s age (he will be 33 this August), you will come to the conclusion that it is highly unlikely that Posada can pass Eddie Murray.

Player

GSHR

Yrs

Yr/GSHR

Eddie Murray

11

21

1.9

Ken Caminiti

10

15

1.5

Chili Davis

10

19

1.9

Mickey Mantle

10

18

1.8

Tony Clark

7

10

1.4

Bernie Williams

7

14

2.0

Bobby Bonilla

6

16

2.7

Ruben Sierra

6

18

3.0

Reggie Smith

6

17

2.8

Roberto Alomar

5

17

3.4

Carl Everett

5

12

2.4

Todd Hundley

5

14

2.8

Chipper Jones

5

11

2.2

Jorge Posada

5

10

2.0

Roy White

5

15

3.0

 

AVG Yr/GSHR

2.2

[Note: Years for Clark, Williams, Sierra, Alomar, Everett, Jones and Posada above include 2004.  It does not include 2004 for Hundley.]

However, while Posada’s challenge to pass Murray is all uphill, what the GSHR Leader List with “Years Played” (“Yrs” in the above) does tell us is that “If you can switch hit with some power, the odds are good that you will have a playing career of 10 years or more.”

Further proof of this:  In the history of the game, there have been 39 switch-hitters (minimum 502 PA in their career) who have had a Slugging Percentage 25 points above the league average.  Of those 39, there are 29 players (74%) who have played more than 900 games in the big leagues.  Of the ten with less than 900 games, five are active players and four of those five are not far from playing in 900 games.  Pretty soon, it looks like we will have 33 out of 39.

To paraphrase a Willie Nelson classic, “Mommas, you should let your babies grow up to be switch-hitters with power.”  According to the scrawling on this scorecard, it is an excellent probability booster towards building a robust back of a baseball bubblegum card.


Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com.  Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season.  Steve can be contacted at sots@netshrine.com

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