Baseball

Ozzie Albies Should Stop Switch-Hitting

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In five seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Ozzie Albies has been one of the best hitting second basemen in baseball. He is a two-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger. After helping the Braves to the 2021 World Series, he was named to the All-MLB Second Team. He has received MVP votes, slapped at least 69 extra-base hits in all three of his full seasons, and has a career 107 OPS+.

However, one slight adjustment to his playstyle could turn him into the best second baseman in baseball. If Albies focused solely on batting from the right side, he could be an elite hitter.

Switch-Hitting

This is not to say that all switch-hitters should focus on their dominant side, but for Albies, it might be for the best. Many switch-hitters are better from one side of the plate, but Albies is an extreme outlier.

Since Albies entered the Majors, 195 left-handed batters have had 500 plate appearances against right-handed pitching. Albies ranks t-114th in OPS with a .748.

On the other hand, 106 right-handed batters have had at least 500 plate appearances against left-handed pitching since 2017. Albies ranks 16th ahead of players such as Mike Trout (18th), Josh Donaldson (19th), and Jose Ramirez (24th). His .948 OPS in this matchup is exactly 200 points higher than the opposite matchup.

Projecting Albies’ production as a righty versus other righties is not as simple as extrapolating his right-hand production against lefties, but it would almost certainly yield better results for Albies and the Braves. Even with this clear weakness, Albies has career OPS over .800

Context

Albies has to split any practice time between batting from both sides of the plate. As a loose approximation, he might spend 75% of his work on the left side and 25% of his work on the right side, corresponding with his career splits (1,814 plate appearances as a lefty, 626 plate appearances as a righty).

If Albies were to stop switch-hitting, he could focus on honing his right-handed swing, particularly against right-handed pitching. While he has 1,800 plate appearances against righties, he would likely need some time to adjust to how pitches move differently compared to when he hits as a lefty against righties.

However, this change could accumulate dozens of extra hits over the course of a season. Assuming Albies would not perfectly match his production in the same-handed matchups, even a subtle improvement could turn Albies from a 107 OPS+ hitter to a 120 OPS+ hitter (if not higher).

In his career, Albies slashes .250/.309/.439 against righties as a left-handed batter. If these stats improved to even .275/.340/.480, Albies would be that much better and more valuable to the Braves.

Small Sample Size

Albies has taken 10 righty-versus-righty plate appearances in his career. He drew a walk and laced three hits including a pair of home runs. His .333/.400/1.000 slash line is entirely impractical to maintain for a season, but it shows the Albies and the Braves have occasionally opted to go against baseball norms.

In 2021, Albies had six plate appearances in this situation. He went two-for-five with a pair of home runs. One of the home runs came against a position player, so that can be excluded. His other was a go-ahead home run against the Washington NationalsRyne Harper.

Albies had exactly one plate appearance in the righty-versus-righty matchup in each month (excluding October). The first four came in blowout wins against position players. The final two came against Harper in the late innings of close games with the Nationals.

Albies also had a pair of postseason plate appearances as a righty facing Zack Greinke (a righty). He went zero-for-two with a strikeout.

Will He Change?

Outside of random plate appearances throughout the season, it seems unlikely that Albies would make the change. Unlike 2021 revelation Cedric Mullins, Albies’ switch would sacrifice the platoon advantage on 75% of plate appearances.

Mullins, who dropped his right-handed swing before the 2021 season, benefits from a platoon advantage because he bats lefty. Albies would instead bat righty and work against the pitcher’s advantage 75% of the time.

In a righty-heavy lineup, Albies’ ability to switch-hit is still helpful. Even if he brings less value with his left-handed swing than his right-handed swing, he still is better than the alternatives. When the 10 main Braves bats are healthy, there are three lefties, six righties, and Albies.

For some games, it might be advantageous for the Braves to load up their six right-handed bats, Albies, Matt Olson, and either Eddie Rosario or Alex Dickerson. For others, it might behoove the Braves to start both Rosario and Dickerson and go with just five right-handed bats. Albies helps the lineup arithmetic by being a decent hitter from one side and the second coming of Jesus from the other side.

Odds are, Albies will make his way into the left-handed batter’s box 500 times a season for the foreseeable future.

main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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Ryan Potts is an avid football and baseball fan. He covers the NFL and Major League Baseball, focusing on the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Braves.