clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Kendrys Morales: Switch-Hitter In Theory?

Kendrys Morales is a Seattle Mariners player now, and there are a lot of neat things about that. First and foremost, Morales hits dingers, and he hits a different sort of dinger from the dingers we've seen in recent years. Lately, when the Mariners have hit dingers, we've usually had to hold our breath and wait and see if the ball would get out. Morales hits the sort of dinger that you know is out when he hits it, and while every dinger counts the same as a dinger, there's something more satisfying about a dinger you know just got clobbered. They're less like little excuse-me dingers, or if you prefer, Pacific Northwest dingers. The Mariners have hit the sort of dinger that asks permission. Morales hits the sort of dinger that does what it wants and flips you off, not unlike early-career Avril Lavigne.

And then there's this part of the whole Kendrys Morales skillset:


Morales is a switch-hitter, and switch-hitters are awesome because they never have the platoon disadvantage. Switch-hitters aren't just awesome because they're switch-hitters -- Justin Smoak is a switch-hitter and that guy's not awesome -- but they're more awesome than they would be otherwise, because, I already said the because. With a switch-hitter, you don't have to groan when the other manager brings in a certain arm from the bullpen. Joke's on you, skipper! This guy can move to the other side of the thing!

At least, that's the idea. But here are Kendrys Morales' career splits, in case you hadn't noticed them yet:

As LHB, vs. RHP: .290/.345/.514, 127 wRC+
As RHB vs. LHP: .250/.286/.416, 84 wRC+

A guy with a wRC+ around 127 is Matt Kemp. A guy with a wRC+ around 84 is Sean Rodriguez. Or Everth Cabrera, if you don't really know anything about Sean Rodriguez. Or Jose Lopez, if you don't really know anything about Everth Cabrera. I should have started with Jose Lopez. Kendrys Morales has always been a switch-hitter, ever since he was a dozen years old, but he hasn't been a successful one, partially. Batting righty, he could be exposed, and that limits his usefulness as a Mariner going forward.

But! I just so happened to write about this at FanGraphs earlier in the day. Morales' overall numbers batting right-handed are bad, and curious, and suggest that Morales shouldn't face too many left-handed pitchers. But there are indications that Morales has made progress, and isn't the disaster that he used to be. You should read the whole post -- you should read the whole post -- You should read the whole post. -- but for your fuckin convenience, here's an excerpt:

Nothing doing in the left-handed swing. In the right-handed swing, we see a significant drop in groundball rate, as Morales has done a better job of putting the ball in the air, where it belongs (for him). Last season, Morales actually hit more grounders from the left side than from the right side. Last season, from the right side, Morales slugged .471. The sample is small, but performance is performance, and Morales wasn’t even 100% coming back from injury.

Publicly, Mike Scioscia has always been a believer in Morales as a threat from both sides, and there are suggestions that Morales got a lot better during 2009. Morales seldom played against lefties last season, which would seem to indicate pessimism on the Angels' part, but then the Angels had Mark Trumbo and Trumbo bats righty. Morales wasn't ready to play every day, as he was still coming back from injury, and it made sense to give him most of his days off when there was a lefty on the mound. Just because the Angels effectively platooned Kendrys Morales in 2012 doesn't necessarily mean they think he sucks as a righty, I think. There are details, contextual details.

I'm not going to sit here and guarantee that Kendrys Morales is a pretty good hitter from the right side now, because that isn't clear. He's definitely worse from the right side than from the left side. But there's a chance he could be fine, and not in need of being platooned. We're going to find out. And then we're going to see Morales go away, either because he gets traded midseason or because he leaves as a free agent in November. This is a fling, but I guess at least we know that going in. We're just going to use Morales for his bod, his sweet sweet bod.