Hitting Lefty

Been reading a lot of posts on the forums and given the amount of wisdom here, I wanted to get some insight on an idea I have.

My son just finished his 12u season and is now going to be making the leap to the 54/80 field as 13u. He is a solid contact hitter – has hit .340 and above the last 2 seasons and draws a lot of walks, but not much for driving the ball to gaps - in a fairly competitive travel league in the area.  He really hasn't hit a growth spurt yet, so that explains some of the lack of power.  He hits and throws right handed. He is definitely right-handed dominant, but left eye dominant, and the questions comes around hitting.

We were messing around in the cage last night, and he started to take some swings lefty off the tee and soft toss. His swing looked pretty smooth and he was hitting the ball hard with a lot of line drives – much harder than I would have expected for someone who has never really done it other than messing around with wiffle balls/bats - but with a fair amount of pop ups and grounders mixed in...

Is it worth his time – as well as mine, as I’ll be taking him to cages/lessons and such - to have him explore hitting lefty? The only reason I am entertaining the concept is because of what I saw last night and that he is also a lefty shot in hockey and does quite well in it. Hockey was the first sport he played, and shooting lefty just came natural to him. As we picked up baseball, I just let him hit however was natural. However, part of me thinks he has the ability to hit lefty given how much hockey he plays.

My son is a very hard worker, loves baseball, and I feel that if I don’t encourage him to at least explore it for a bit and help him give it a go, we'll both end up regretting it.  I am just concerned this experiment my blow up...

With season being over just last week, in my opinion, now is the time to start working on it, if he wants to do it next season at 13u.

Anyone have any thoughts/insights? Thanks!

Original Post

I'm no expert, but that does not stop me, so here are my thoughts.

My son is also right handed but left eye dominant. But in his case, he struggled with this (lefty vs. righty) when he started playing tee ball. Actually, until he was 3 or 4 we thought he'd be left-handed, but slowly, he did more things like drawing right-handed. Voila, he's a righty like his Dad (my father was LH and both my brother are). But in tee ball he struggled to hit RH and LH just seemed a little smoother. A week or two in he stuck with LH and has never looked back. His RH swing is sad to see.

Given your son's age and lack of size, so far, and given he makes good contact as a RH hitter, I'd be concerned about making the switch so late in general. But I'd recommend having him work with a really knowledgeable and experienced hitting instructor and see what he thinks. Good luck.

It's hard to tell without seeing in preteen ball if the walks are a result of a good eye or the control of the pitchers. If he's drawing walks because he can tell a pitch is an inch off the strike zone it's a reason not to change. It doesn't matter he isn't hitting for power since he hasn't grown. Is he hitting line drives? Hitting quality y line drives would be another reason not to change. 

A reason to consider hitting left is if he's fast. Given I hit left and was fast I lived the benefits. Given my wife was a track star I assumed the kids would be fast. I taught them to hit left from day one. 

Left eye dominant is the eye closest to the pitcher...

I think the walks are a bit driven by lack of control by pitchers, but it seems he has ability to tell if the pitch is off the plate by an inch.  I've seen him take a lot of walks where I couldn't believe he didn't swing and he'll tell me after the game - "dad, it was off the plate"...  He usually hit lead-off for us because he worked pitch counts so well and found ways to get on.  

His RH swing is solid, but can always be improved.  He hits a lot of line drives, but does fall into slumps where he'll lose his barrel and hit weak pop flies to 2B and 1B.  However, he understands what is causing that and can make the correction - which I think is to be applauded for a 12 u kid...  I know the power will come as he grows and get stronger.  He should be fairly tall, I am 6'2 and his mom is 5'9, so we'll see if and when that comes.

His foot speed/acceleration is lacking - he's not slow, but certainly isn't a speed merchant on the basepaths right now...  I don't think he'll utilize the benefit of being closer to 1B, unfortunately.

I think I might have him take a lesson with the guy he usually hits with in winter and get his feedback as well.  I know he'll recommend what is best for my boy...

Thanks for all of the feedback!!!

 

IlliniFan96 posted:…I think the walks are a bit driven by lack of control by pitchers, but it seems he has ability to tell if the pitch is off the plate by an inch.  I've seen him take a lot of walks where I couldn't believe he didn't swing and he'll tell me after the game - "dad, it was off the plate"...  He usually hit lead-off for us because he worked pitch counts so well and found ways to get on.  …

 What are his walks per PA and how does that compare to the other players on the team?

 When you say he worked pitch counts so well, what do you mean? I’m always lookin’ for ways to get more information out of the numbers, and I think it might be interesting to see if there’s a way to tell which players work the count better than others.

 What does found ways to get on mean? As far as I know there are only 6 ways to reach base safely, so are you saying he’s found a new way, or that he excels at one of the 6 that allows him to reach base better than other players on the team.

 What percentage of called pitches on him are strikes and balls? I score for HSV and have found that the better hitters have about a 67% balls to 33% strikes.

He is right hand dominant.  When he switches to hit left handed, the immediate area of strength is going to be power because his strong right hand becomes his pull hand.  I would venture to bet that he also pulled more balls than usual.  Not at all uncommon but not a reason to switch.  As he grows in size and strength, he will develop power from the right side while maintaining all the other benefits.  RJM lists several strong reasons not to switch.  

cabbagedad posted:

He is right hand dominant.  When he switches to hit left handed, the immediate area of strength is going to be power because his strong right hand becomes his pull hand.  I would venture to bet that he also pulled more balls than usual.  Not at all uncommon but not a reason to switch.  As he grows in size and strength, he will develop power from the right side while maintaining all the other benefits.  RJM lists several strong reasons not to switch.  

Cabbage, I hate to disagree with you, but the top hand is the power hand, correct? At least that is what Ted Williams used to say -- I thought I remembered that so I just googled it and found this: www.nytimes.com/2002/07/06/spo....400-dies-at-83.html

"A natural right-hander who happened to bat left-handed out of his 6-foot-3-inch frame because that was the way he started swinging when he first picked up a bat, Williams threw and did everything else right-handed. He said batting wrong-handed cost him power because it was the top hand on the bat, the one nearest the impact with the ball (in his case, his weaker left hand), that provided a swing its power."

P.S. -- I don't disagree with your advice not to switch, BTW.

There is a utility player on our local Milb AA team that taught himself to switch-hit after he was drafted.  He plays all positions, except pitcher, and switch hits.  

Keewartson started hitting left just playing around.  We had a hit-a-way attached to the basketball pole in the back yard and if nothing else, I believed at the time that it was building up the opposite side muscles.   His 13U coach said if he was going to switch hit, that was ok, but he had to keep doing it, not going back to right hitting only.

While at a hitting lesson with his travel team, his coach saw him hit left, and encouraged him to keep doing it.

I am pretty sure that the college coach that son committed to  saw him hit a HR from the left side at the WWBA 16U event.

Keep having hit both ways.   

 

I went through this with my son as a 12U and a 13U this year.  My son is a righty and is a pitcher/3B type.  5'10" and 140 lbs as a 13 year old.  He started hitting lefty because all of the kids in our neighborhood are 2 years younger and they wanted to make it even so he taught himself to hit lefty with a wiffle ball bat.  In 12U the travel coaches let him hit lefty or righty whenever he wanted so he mixed it up and had pretty equal results.  That changed this 13U year as he hit 2X higher BA as a right handed hitter than he did a lefty though he had good power from both sides.  Ultimately the coach told him to switch to righty only as he a pretty good pitcher right now and that is where they see him.  Sounds good but we are going to keep hitting on the side lefty and in local rec league as lefty exclusively to keep the swing.

 

My biggest advice is switch hitting is 2X as much work - if everyone else is hitting 3 times a week with their regular swing, your player needs to hit 6 times.

 

I have a 14U switch hitter. Natural RH. Throws RH. I must admit I'm a little confused by the original premise. Am I reading it wrong or are you suggesting he goes full time LH hitter & not switch? Why would this make sense at this point? Seems like he is managing well RH & may have an advantage (hockey) to looking into hitting both ways. Why would you eliminate his natural side?

If you try it, here would be my suggestions having worked through it starting at 9YO.

#1: Just go for it. Everyone is going to be against it with a few exceptions. Get the coaches buy in & forget the rest of the naysayers.

#2: Start his LH at bats in low pressure situations. Pool play games that are a blow out. Rec Ball where nobody is REALLY concerned with winning.

#3: He needs to play REC ball & go full time switch just for the low pressure AB's.

#4:  Starting out, ANY contact LH is a victory. Be patient, he will struggle.

#5: Tons of live BP both ways. ANY hard hit ball LH is cause for celebration.

2019Dad posted:
cabbagedad posted:

He is right hand dominant.  When he switches to hit left handed, the immediate area of strength is going to be power because his strong right hand becomes his pull hand.  I would venture to bet that he also pulled more balls than usual.  Not at all uncommon but not a reason to switch.  As he grows in size and strength, he will develop power from the right side while maintaining all the other benefits.  RJM lists several strong reasons not to switch.  

Cabbage, I hate to disagree with you, but the top hand is the power hand, correct? At least that is what Ted Williams used to say -- I thought I remembered that so I just googled it and found this: www.nytimes.com/2002/07/06/spo....400-dies-at-83.html

"A natural right-hander who happened to bat left-handed out of his 6-foot-3-inch frame because that was the way he started swinging when he first picked up a bat, Williams threw and did everything else right-handed. He said batting wrong-handed cost him power because it was the top hand on the bat, the one nearest the impact with the ball (in his case, his weaker left hand), that provided a swing its power."

P.S. -- I don't disagree with your advice not to switch, BTW.

2019, love the reference!  Let me expand and better explain my comment.  First, let me start by trying to lose any credibility I may have... .  I have been through Williams' book several times.  Obviously, he is one of the greatest hitters ever and, yet, I still disagree with a few of his statements and teachings as it relates to teaching youth hitters.  I also question part of one of his quotes that you used.

"...top hand of the bat, the one nearest the impact with the ball, that provided a swing its power."

Well, IMHO, as things have evolved, I think we've learned that the power in the swing actually comes from many sources, including much of the lower half, core rotation, bat speed, overall leverage, swing efficiency, overall strength, etc., and not the least of which is to be able to put all these elements together in proper sequence.     

Back to my original comment...  In regards to top hand vs bottom hand, I believe they are working very much together to provide their part in power optimization, both having a relatively equal role.   However, prior to a player reaching the point where his swing is fairly well developed, the stronger hand/arm will tend to carry the load.  Therefore, if a player, at any level, starts swinging the bat on the opposite side of what he is accustomed, initially, until he puts all the pieces together, his strong hand/arm will tend to carry the load, thus more pull and often more pull power.

My son is in the third spot on a recruiting board for a MIF position at one particular Ivy.  The first two spots are lefty hitting MIF's...

I tried to encourage the switch hitting when my boys were 10ish... they wanted nothing to do with it.  Now my youngest (3rd spot on board) says he won't offer the switch hitting when he has a son, he'll just force him to hit lefty right away..

 

Wow, that's exciting stuff, Gov.

This thread has reminded me to give myself slap upside the head for not at least trying to get my kid to hit from the left side the first time he squared up a wiffle ball with his plastic Fisher Price bat.

 

JCG posted:

Wow, that's exciting stuff, Gov.

This thread has reminded me to give myself slap upside the head for not at least trying to get my kid to hit from the left side the first time he squared up a wiffle ball with his plastic Fisher Price bat.

 

I used to hear (almost once a season) from my 2015 (Plus runner) about the number of base hits he lost from hitting righty (all those out by half steps on infield hits).  When he was younger, I knew that throwing lefty was a bonus, but he was just so right handed dominant in everything.. Naturally my younger non-athlete son is             left-handed.

JCG posted:

Wow, that's exciting stuff, Gov.

This thread has reminded me to give myself slap upside the head for not at least trying to get my kid to hit from the left side the first time he squared up a wiffle ball with his plastic Fisher Price bat.

 

I've seen plenty of this too. Dads who more or less forced their kid to hit lefty from tee ball (or earlier) and those who wish they did. I wonder if anyone, in retrospect, regrets forcing a RH kid to bat lefty? Certainly it would explain why there are SO MANY RH baseball players who bat lefty...

In my son's case, he tried both in tee ball and lefty won out. I played soccer growing up so I had virtually no opinion on which "was better" in the longer run. Much later we found out he's left eye dominant. He plays golf lefty, shoots lefty, and even rides a skateboard like a lefty. But we never forced it.

Being a successful switch hitter seems incredibly difficult.

I think you're right, Batty. I was surprised when one college coach who recruited my son talked about converting him to a switch hitter in college so he could bunt from the left side. He's a speed guy, so it makes sense, I guess. But then again the greatest speed guy in the history of the game threw left and batted right.

Thanks everyone for the great feedback.  As CabbageDad said,  "I would venture to bet that he also pulled more balls than usual.  Not at all uncommon but not a reason to switch.  As he grows in size and strength, he will develop power from the right side while maintaining all the other benefits. "    I had the growth of size and strength in the back of my mind, and I know the power will come - we just need to keep working on developing the swing.

He did pull quite a few in the bucket of soft toss, but he hit a lot right back up the box.

My initial thought was to get him to switch to lefty and only lefty, but given that he is 12 and has a solid swing righty, I think that might be foolish.  As MuskyShane said, "My biggest advice is switch hitting is 2X as much work - if everyone else is hitting 3 times a week with their regular swing, your player needs to hit 6 times."  My kid will work - that I have no doubt.  It is time that is our issue.  With schoolwork as priority one and then hockey being the in-season sport starting September 1, our time to hit is limited.  If we are going to put in quality work, it's got to be on hitting right-handed.  

I am still going to have him put some tee work and soft toss in hitting LH, but not really push the issue.  Now if he really wants to pursue this, that is a different issue we need to tackle...

My youngest has been a successful switch hitter since little league, until we ran into a few travel coaches who discouraged switch hitting, even after proving he could successfully hit from both sides in a few games - we'll see what the fall brings with a new travel coach.  He can also hit golf balls from both sides.  Vision is normal without glasses, hand eye coordination rated as exceptional from a hitting coach.  Strong hands and wrists.

Extra hitting work will only be successfully if his swing is trained properly and mechanically sound.  Bad swings x2 can take tens of thousands of good swings to correct.  Train the swing!

ILLINIFAN96,

Maybe my story will help or give some perspective a bit.  I played pro baseball and DI at Princeton, as a switch hitter, and I started it in high school!  Most would consider that late. You and your son may be on to something.....  I'll share more of my story.

 

I played around with switch hitting when I was around your son's age.  When I got to high school, specifically between my sophomore and junior year, my coaches were very encouraging of me to switch hit.  Here's what they saw and told me that contributed to their recommendation:

I was fast.  Speed was one of my above average tools so they believed switch hitting could be an asset to my career, especially considering that I wanted to play college ball and pro ball.

I was a very good contact hitter and a good athlete so they thought the transition wouldn't be all that bad.

One of my assistant coaches played pro ball and was a switch hitter in his career so I was in a very supportive environment

Here's what happened:

I dove in full steam.  I trained my lefty swing 2x as much as I did righty.  I did dry hacks in my room/living room, took extra bp, whatever I needed to because initially, it felt awkward at times.  People said my swing looked pretty good but I could feel that it was different.  It did not feel as natural.

Over time, my swing got better, but not necessarily before I went through moments of struggle.  In fact, I was even concerned that switch hitting junior/senior years was a bad time because if I struggled that would impact college coaches impression of me.

Well, I continued with it.  It didn't matter if I struck out 3x in a game, if a righty was on the mound, I was hitting lefty.  Eventually, switch hitting became one of the greatest assets of my career.  

As you're considering whether to have your son switch hit, now is a great time.  I think much of it is perspective.  You and your son can work on something and potentially discover an asset to his game.  But that's the thing... I believe at some point, it should be clear that his lefty swing does, in fact, add value to his game.  

Things like above average speed, more pop from the left side, better plate discipline because of his eye-dominance, etc.  

I played with guys in college who came in as freshman switch hitters and graduated as righty hitters only.  From my vantage point, switch hitting just made them different but not necessarily better or brought more value.  When they realized that hitting lefty was taking time away from making their righty swings better, their value increased.  But again, if you and your son discover there to be some value to hitting lefty, go for it and go for it ALL IN.  

Again, I just wanted to share with you my story and how things turned out from a former player's perspective who went through that transition within my game...  best decision of my career!

And feel free to message me with any specific questions regarding the switch hitting process/journey.  

Hope that helps some.

 

 

S.Young, that's great feedback.  But Illinifan already said this about son...

"His foot speed/acceleration is lacking - he's not slow, but certainly isn't a speed merchant on the basepaths right now...  I don't think he'll utilize the benefit of being closer to 1B, unfortunately."

That's why many of us did not recommend to continue.  Yes, there is still the lefty/righty matchup advantage, but without above average speed, that goes a long way in negating the advantages, wouldn't you say?  And, of course, most P's are RHP so the natural righty hitter would have to spend most of his AB's hitting from the side he is unaccustomed to, which would likely be a lengthy painful learning curve.  I'm not saying definitely don't do it but without speed, the advantages are lessened considerably.  

CABBAGEDAD,

Thanks for the note and I missed that detail about the speed...

Nonetheless, if hitting lefty shows promise in the way of hard solid contact and driving balls, may still be something to consider as the skill of switch hitting is shared by players who don't necessarily have great speed on the bases.  

IIRC, lefthanded batters are about one tenth of a second quicker to first base, which means that a lefthanded HS batter with average footspeed gets there about 2.5 feet sooner than a RHB.

(The average HS player runs  about 25 feet per second at max effort)

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