Pittsburgh Pirates’ Neil Walker Should Stop Switch-Hitting

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Pittsburgh Pirates‘ second baseman Neil Walker has been a switch-hitter his entire career. He needs to stop being a switch-hitter. Walker would be much better off focusing on being a left-handed hitter only.

As a left-handed hitter over his career, Walker has a .286/.348/.449 batting line, as opposed to his .266/.321/.358 line against left-handed pitching as a right-handed batter. As a left-handed hitter, Walker has power, with 34 of his 38 career home runs coming from the left side. That leaves four home runs, obviously, coming from his right side.

If Walker would eventually choose to simply become a pure left-handed batter, it would give him the opportunity to focus completely on getting better from that side, instead of having to practice hitting from the left and right side.

If and when Walker decides to stop trying to do more than he’s capable of (switch-hitting), he will be able to put up all-star type numbers. I think he’s already an all-star caliber second baseman. He puts up very good offensive numbers, and he is a good, but not great, second baseman. He has always been an RBI-machine, despite not hitting a ton of home runs.

In 2012, Walker’s left/right splits were the most alarming. As a left-handed batter, Walker hit for a .291/.352/.472 batting line, compared to a .246/.314/.288 line as a right-handed batter. A .288 slugging percentage is beyond awful. Juan Pierre, a man who has just 17 home runs in his 14 year career, has a career slugging percentage of .363. Walker’s 2012 slugging percentage as a right-handed batter isn’t even close to that high.

As Walker’s career progresses and his statistics as a right-handed batter continue decline like they have been the past few years, Clint Hurdle will eventually have to tell Walker to convert himself into a pure left-handed hitter. Forget the “versatility” it provides, a .288 slugging percentage isn’t versatility, it’s mediocrity.

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