Cesar Izturis And The Unlikely Switch Hitters

May 7, 2012: Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Cesar Izturis (3) bats during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park.

Cesar Izturis went 1-for-3 with a single last night in the Brewers' 3-1 loss to the Mets, which is actually an above-average offensive day for him. Over the last twelve years Izturis is a .255/.295/.322 hitter, so last night's single base in three attempts raised his career numbers ever so slightly. He's hitting .208/.255/.271 in 51 plate appearances for the Brewers this season.

The point of this post, however, isn't to highlight the fact that Izturis is ineffective. If you've watched the Brewers this season you already know that. Instead, I'd like to discuss something else about Izturis that fascinates me: It's possible he's the least effective switch-hitter in major league history.

There are only six switch-hitters in major league history to compile at least 3000 plate appearances and post an OPS+ under 70:

Player Seasons PA OPS+
Cesar Izturis 2001-2012 4415 64
Neifi Perez 1996-2007 5510 64
Alfredo Griffin 1976-1993 7331 67
Gene Michael 1966-1975 3092 67
Roger Metzger 1970-1980 4676 68
Sandy Alomar Sr. 1964-1978 5160 69

As you might expect, all six of these players were primarily middle infielders. The first five all played a majority of their games at shortstop, while Alomar was a second baseman.

Over his career Izturis has appeared in 1026 games as a left-handed hitter, and batted right-handed in 563. Here are his career splits:

Split PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Batting left 3124 .251 .293 .315 .609
Batting right 1260 .264 .298 .336 .634

When you listen to analysts on the subject, they'll always tell you that it's very difficult to switch hit. Switch hitters have two swings to work on in spring training, two swings to work on in batting practice, and two swings splitting game at bats. I'm amazed that Izturis has spent 16 professional seasons continuing to work on two swings despite the fact that neither of them are above average in any way.

Izturis has been a plus defensive player for over a decade now. If he simply could have gotten to the point where he could hit .275/.325/.380 as either a lefty or righty, he probably could have had a significantly more successful major league career. Instead, however, he's split his practice time between the two swings and is an offensive liability on both sides of the plate.

It's hard not to wonder if the hundreds or thousands of hours Izturis has spent in his life learning to switch hit would have been better spent perfecting a single swing.

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