Lefty-righty switch

In baseball, the left right switch is a maneuver by which a player that struggles against left- or right-handed players is replaced by a player who excels in the situation, usually only for the duration of the situation in question. For instance, a right-handed pitcher who is weak against left-handed hitting and is facing a left-handed hitter would be replaced with a pitcher, usually left-handed, who does a superior job of getting a left-handed hitter out. Similarly, a batter who has difficulty hitting against a left-handed pitcher will sometimes be pinch hit for by a batter who does well, even if the original player is superior in other respects.

Conventional baseball wisdom suggests that, when a pitcher and a hitter pitch or bat with the same hand, the pitcher typically has the advantage. This especially holds true for left-handed pitchers, as lefties are less common in a major-league lineup than righties. As a result, the most common use of the lefty-righty switch is when a right-handed pitcher is facing a left-handed batter. The manager of the defensive team will sometimes go to the bullpen, especially in close games where a reliever has already entered the game, and pull out a left-handed specialist to face the left-handed batter. The new pitcher will then attempt to get the batter out. Whether he succeeds or fails, the pitcher will often be replaced after the at-bat.

The lefty-righty switch can also be used against switch hitters who are noticeably poorer from one side of the plate than the other, or in the somewhat rarer instance of a batter who does poorly against opposite-handed pitchers. The basic principle in these cases remains the same.

It is less common, although still frequent, for a batter to be replaced to gain a handedness advantage over a pitcher. For instance, with a left-handed pitcher in and a left-handed batter due up, a right-handed bat may be called in from the bench. The righty may not be as strong an all-round player as the player he replaced (thus, his absence from the everyday lineup), but he is a superior tactical choice for the purpose of getting on base in one at bat with a favorable matchup. Such a batter can be pinch run for if he gets on, replaced with a better defensive player for the next half-inning, or simply left in for the duration of the game.

The two maneuvers sometimes occur in sequence. For instance, a manager may be faced with the situation of a right-handed reliever facing a strong left-handed bat late in a close game. In such a situation, the manager will often call for his left-handed specialist. However, if the opposing manager has an adequate right-handed bat on his bench, he may pinch hit for the left-handed batter, thus restoring his matchup advantage. The rules of baseball dictate that a pitcher must face at least one batter once he has entered a game, therefore the defensive manager will find himself in the unpleasant situation of having his left-handed specialist (who likely seldom sees right-handers in game action and may struggle badly against them) against a right-handed hitter. The defensive manager, however, may consider this an acceptable tradeoff versus facing the original left-handed batter with his right-handed pitcher.

Starting pitchers, and sometimes long relievers, will often face batters who hit from both sides of the plate as a matter of course. This is considered a part of their job, and the ability to retire batters from either side of the plate is an important asset for any starting pitcher. Most starters, especially those who rely on ball movement rather than power, are still stronger throwing against one side of the plate, however, the difference is often less pronounced than that for pitchers in the bullpen. Late in close games, when the starter is tiring and baserunners become more important, a starter may be lifted for a specialist, but a starting pitcher is very seldom replaced with a specialist without having first worked deep into a close ballgame.

Similarly, position players must accept facing both left-handed and right-handed pitching as part of their job. Managers will usually juggle batters who are exceptionally weak against one sort of pitcher so that they only face starting pitchers who offer favorable matchups, but it is impossible to shield a batter from every instance in which he will face a pitcher who has him at a disadvantage. As a result, a position player must be prepared at all times to face a lefty-righty switch in a situation where his team cannot afford to pinch hit for him.

This tactical maneuvering has led to the statistical oddity of a pitcher pitching in a game without throwing a single pitch. On June 29, 2018, the Cleveland Indians visited the Oakland Athletics. In the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs and two runners on base, the A's were leading 2-0 with left-handed hitters Dustin Fowler and Matt Joyce coming up. Indians manager Terry Francona replaced his right-handed starter Trevor Bauer with left-handed specialist Oliver Perez. The A's countered by pinch-hitting Mark Canha for Fowler, whom Perez intentionally walked by holding out four fingers to the home plate umpire (a newly implemented option for the 2018 season). But this loaded the bases for Chad Pinder, who pinch-hit for Joyce. Francona did not want Perez to face a righty and had no base to put the batter onto, so he removed Perez in favor of right-handed reliever Zach McAllister. Perez was therefore credited with zero innings pitched, one batter faced, one walk, and zero pitches thrown.

See also

Beanball

"Beanball" is a colloquialism used in baseball, for a ball thrown at an opposing player with the intention of striking them such as to cause harm, often connoting a throw at the player's head (or "bean" in old-fashioned slang). A pitcher who throws beanballs often is known as a "headhunter". The term may be applied to any sport in which a player on one team regularly attempts to throw a ball toward the general vicinity of a player of the opposite team, but is typically expected not to hit that player with the ball. In cricket, the equivalent term is "beamer". Some people use the term, beaner, though that usage is discouraged because of the negative connotations associated with that usage.

Hitting for the cycle

In baseball, hitting for the cycle is the accomplishment of one batter hitting a single, a double, a triple, and a home run in the same game. Collecting the hits in that order is known as a "natural cycle". Cycles are semi-rare in Major League Baseball (MLB), having occurred only 329 times, starting with Curry Foley in 1882. The most recent example was accomplished by Jonathan Villar of the Baltimore Orioles on August 5, 2019, against the New York Yankees.The Miami Marlins are the only current MLB franchise who have never had a player hit for the cycle.

Left-handed specialist

In baseball, a left-handed specialist (also known as lefty specialist) is a relief pitcher who throws left-handed and specializes in pitching to left-handed batters, weak right-handed batters, and switch-hitters who bat poorly right-handed. Because baseball practices permanent substitution, these pitchers frequently pitch to a very small number of batters in any given game (often only one), and rarely pitch to strictly right-handed batters. Most Major League Baseball (MLB) teams have several left-handed pitchers on their rosters, at least one of whom is a left-handed specialist. A left-handed specialist is sometimes called a LOOGY (or Lefty One-Out GuY), coined by John Sickels, and may be used pejoratively.The pitcher generally has an advantage when his handedness is the same as the batter's, and the batter has an advantage when they are opposite. This is because a right-handed pitcher's curveball breaks to the left, from his own point of view, which causes it to cross the plate with its lateral movement away from a right-handed batter but towards a left-handed batter (and vice versa for a left-handed pitcher), and because batters generally find it easier to hit a ball that is over the plate. Furthermore, since most pitchers are right-handed, left-handed batters generally have less experience with left-handed pitchers. A left-handed pitcher may also be brought in to face a switch-hitter who generally bats left-handed, forcing the batter to shift to his less-effective right-handed stance or to take the disadvantages of batting left-handed against a left-handed pitcher. Research from 2011-2013 has shown that a pinch hitter (usually right-handed) is often used when a left-handed reliever is inserted in the game, thereby reducing or negating the pitcher's platoon split advantage. Only a handful of left-handed relievers face a higher percentage of left-handed batters than right-handed batters over the course of a season.In the 1991 MLB season, there were 28 left-handed relievers who were not their team's closer and pitched 45 or more games. Only four averaged fewer than an inning per appearance. From 2001 to 2004, over 75 percent of left handed relievers meeting those criteria averaged less than one inning. Left-handed reliever John Candelaria was one of the early specialists in 1991, pitching 59 games and averaged .571 innings. In 1992, he allowed no earned runs—excluding inherited runners—in 43 of the 50 games. Jesse Orosco became a left-handed specialist later in his 24-season career and retired at the age of 46. From 1991 to 2003, he never averaged more than an inning pitched per appearance.During the 2013 MLB season, there were seven relief pitchers who averaged less than two outs recorded per appearance, all of whom were left-handed. Joe Thatcher, a left-handed specialist, appeared in 72 games with 39.2 innings pitched, and had the fewest outs recorded per appearance with 1.6. Starting with the 2020 season, all pitchers, whether starters or relievers, will be required to face at least three batters, or pitch to the end of the half-inning in which they enter the game. Exceptions will be allowed only for incapacitating injury or illness while pitching. According to MLB.com journalist Anthony Castrovince, "This will effectively end the so-called “LOOGY” (left-handed one-out guy) and other specialist roles in which pitchers are brought in for one very specific matchup."

Platoon system

The platoon system in baseball or football is a method directing the situational substitution of players to create tactical advantage.

Protested game

A protested game occurs in baseball when a manager believes that an umpire's decision is in violation of the official rules. In such cases, the manager can raise a protest by informing the umpires, and the game continues to be played "under protest." An umpire's judgment call (such as balls and strikes, safe or out, fair or foul) may not be protested.

Switch hitter

In baseball, a switch hitter is a player who bats both right-handed and left-handed, usually right-handed against left-handed pitchers and left-handed against right-handed pitchers.

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