ARLINGTON, Texas – Have you ever watched switch hitter Ozzie Albies absolutely punish baseballs hitting right-handed but struggling on the left side, and wondered (or the person at the next bar stool) why the brave player Braves’ second baseman doesn’t bat just right-handed all the time?
Well, you are not alone.
“I think there have been conversations since he’s been in the minor leagues,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of the idea of Albies giving up switch shots. “Because you’ve seen (his disparity in right-left stats) in the minor leagues too.”
This topic has come up again now because Albies, who has a superb career average of .336 and .945 right-handed batting OPS against left-handed pitchers before Monday, compared to an average of .245 and .732 left-handed batting OPS against right-handers, has an even more pronounced disparity in their spreads this season. A gigantic difference.
With just over a quarter of the season done, Albies leads all major league playoffs with his .439 GAA, .842 hitting percentage and 1.290 OPS in 57 at bats while batting right-handed, including two doubles. from the early days of the Rangers. left-hander Cody Bradford during the series-opening 12-0 rout of the Braves on Monday at Globe Life Field.
However, at left-handed batting, Albies is averaging .171 and .571 OPS in 105 at-bats, third-lowest among MLB qualifiers in each of those categories.
So, were there any serious discussions between Braves officials about Albies’ right-handed hitter the whole time?
“Not really,” said Snitker, whose Braves tied an MLB record with five two-run homers from Kevin Pillar, Ronald Acuña Jr., Orlando Arcia, Austin Riley and Marcell Ozuna and went 6 2/3 innings. with 10 strikeouts from Charlie Morton. in the win, ending a four-game losing streak and remaining the only team in MLB that hasn’t had as many five-game slippages since the start of the 2018 season.
“You look at a guy who has 30 (homer season) and 100 (RBI season) under his belt, and All-Star appearances and things like that,” Snitker said of the 26-year-old two-time All-Star Albies. -Star and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner in his three full seasons before that, not counting the injury-shortened 2020 and 2022 seasons or 2017 when he didn’t make his MLB debut until August.
Snitker added, “You know what, if at any point he feels he needs to do this, I’m sure he’ll come to us.”
Albies does not plan to do so.
“I love switch shots,” he said after Monday’s game. “Some days it’s amazing on the left side, some days it feels worse on the right side. Some days it’s the opposite. I guess because I’m naturally right-handed, it clicks better.
He added that “it was a conversation in the past” that he had with the Braves coaches.
Batting coach Kevin Seitzer said he discussed the possibility with Albies as recently as last year and followed up this spring.
Although a general consensus around baseball is that spending many years hitting exclusively on one side is a change that probably needs to be made in the offseason, to have full spring training to get through the transition, Seitzer thinks that Albies might just be talented enough to challenge that school of thought.
That’s if Albies wanted to, of course.
“I mean, if somebody could do it, they could do it in the season,” Seitzer said ahead of Monday’s game. “I told him something last year about it. He said if I did, I would want to train in the spring to get used to it and all that. So we got to spring training and I was like, ‘What do you think?’ And he was like, ‘I just want to stay like this (change typing).’ And I was like, ‘I don’t blame you.’ I mean, the dude won two Silver Slugger awards.
Plus, for all the hand wringing that seems to ensue on social media every time Albies hits a left-handed bat in a big situation, or goes through a particularly ugly slump on this side of the plate, he ultimately produces more offense than just about any current second baseman in baseball, as long as he’s healthy.
When he hit his 10th homer Sunday in Toronto, he became the first infielder in the majors with double-digit home runs this season. It was the second time he got his 10th home run in the team’s first 40 games, something no other MLB second baseman has done once since 2017, and no other player of central field of the Braves has never accomplished.
This season, Albies leads all MLB second basemen in home runs (10), added base hits (20) and total bases (84), leads qualified second basemen in slugging percentage (. 515) and is second among second basemen in RBI (34).
Still, it’s understandable that some continue to wonder what Albies, who has the highest career batting average (.336) against left-handed pitchers among active players, might do if he hit the same side against all the launchers.
But Albies never faced 93mph sliders and 95mph sinkers from a right-handed pitcher while hitting right-handed, because he hit against an entirely different pitching caliber when he was a teenager. in Curacao. Making the switch, especially during a season, wouldn’t be as easy as some seem to think.
Seeing nasty throws coming at him from angles he’s never seen them before – right-handed – could be intimidating, at least at first. But when asked if he could only hit from the right side, Albies laughed and said he would do what he did as a switch hitter: “It’s the same thing,” he said. “Kill the bullet.”
“Yeah, I kind of agree with him, that he needs spring training to feel it and get used to it,” Seitzer said. “But, I mean, we could do machine work (from throwing) and things like that in the cage (during the season), but it’s not the same thing. He turned right-handed when we faced certain types of (right-handed) pitchers — guys who have, like, eephus slow curveballs, he will turn. Or some type of cutter, like this guy (Ryne) Harper with the Nationals who had some kind of cutter and a big, really slow curve was his favorite. And Ozzie took it deep with his right hand. curve ball.
Albies hit a game-breaking two-run homer batting right-hander against right-hander Harper in a September 2021 game. He has made just 11 plate appearances batting right-hander against right-handed pitchers, including some position players throwing at 50-60 mph in the last rounds of blowouts. He’s 4-for-10 with three homers and an absurd 1,300 OPS in those APs, for those curious. But again, these weren’t up against typical right-handers.
And as long as he continues to put up such robust offensive numbers, the Braves aren’t going to ask that he hit right-hand side-only. It’s up to Albies to decide.
“Ozzie goes through some really tough times that are like, ‘Oh, my God,'” Seitzer said. “And the majority of the time they (beat) are left-handed, and he makes up for it right-handed. And then it gets hot for a left-handed moment. And then you come to the end of the year and you say, ‘Freakin’ Oz had a pretty good year.’ You know? Except last year, and he was hurt; he had serious physical problems last year for the first time.
Albies missed nearly 100 games last season with a broken foot and a broken pinkie in the second game back on the injured list, then underwent playoff surgery for a sore shoulder that’s been bothering him for a few years. Now he is healthy and raking. Even if he strikes much more regularly on the right than on the left.
“Yeah, it doesn’t matter how we get there,” Albies said, agreeing with Seitzer that the end stats are more important than the gaps. “If I can do something to help the team win every night and do well, I’m happy about it.”
(Photo: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)