The reality of the platoon advantage — that right-handed hitters do better against left-handed pitchers, that left-handed hitters do better against righties — has been known at least as long as the major leagues have existed. (There was a switch hitter — Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson — in the National League in its 1876 inaugural season.)
For most of baseball history, platooning has been played out in offensive strategy. In the past couple of decades, managers have turned it around — cramming their rosters with specialty relief pitchers.
It’s an ugly, time-consuming strategy, and Bill James, among others, argues that it’s counter productive. But it has taken root, and even the team James works for is committed to it.
Managers do it because shuffling a half-dozen relief pitchers in and out like a military march — left, right, left, right — negates traditional platoons.
It’s difficult to commit two players to a platoon at third base if you’re carrying 12 pitchers on a 25-man roster. It’s just as difficult to make it work if the opposition can repeatedly swap out its pitcher.
More to the point, switch-hitting is difficult. HITTING is difficult — doing it well from one’s weak side is nearly impossible. Figgins and Morales, for example, are markedly better hitters left-handed than from the right side. A LOOGY — a Left-handed One Out GuY — still has the edge against those guys.
Then there’s this: The National League team with the highest use of switch-hitters this year was San Francisco. The problem was, other than Pedro Sandroval, their switch-hitters were notably unproductive.
Being able to switch hit is good. It’s far better to hit, period.