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Posted at 12:41 PM ET, 06/09/2012

Danny Espinosa and the challenge of switch-hitting


(Al Behrman - AP)
It is hard to be a switch-hitter, even beyond the extra batting practice and mental maintenance it requires. When one body and one mind house two independent hitters, it can be slam-your-head-against-the-wall frustrating. Danny Espinosa knows that too well right now. He feels invincible from one side of the plate, clueless from the other. He cannot make them meet in the middle.

As a right-handed hitter, Espinosa has hit like an all-star. Espinosa only has 45 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, but after two more doubles last night he is batting .368/.467/.684 – that’s a cool 1.151 OPS. Everything makes sense to him from the right side.

“I feel like no one can get me out,” Espinosa said. “I feel pretty good. I have a good approach up there. I know what I can hit, and I know what I can’t hit. I feel good.”

As a left-handed hitter, Espinosa has been barely playable. Espinosa has 178 plate appearances, and after a groundout and a strikeout last night he hitting .191/.273/.293 – that’s a dismal .566 OPS. He cannot figure his swing out, and does not even know where to start.

“It’s been real weird for me,” Espinosa said. “My whole life, I was a better left-handed hitter. It’s kind of just a confusion thing. I don’t understand it.”

The notion of Espinosa hitting from the right side in every at-bat is a nonstarter. Espinosa has been a switch hitter since he was 5 years old, and he cannot pick up the ball from a right-handed pitcher while batting right-handed. The view is too foreign for him to even approach being a good hitter against major league pitching.

And so Espinosa is left to figure out how he can improve his left-handed swing. Somewhere along the line, he knows, he developed a small loop as he begins his swing, which threw off his timing. While trying to fix that glitch, he began thinking too much about other aspects of his approach. He is getting closer, but it was a large hole he had to dig out of.

“I definitely have a different approach, left and right,” Espinosa said. “Left-handed, I just feel like I’m not using my hands enough. I feel like I’m using my shoulders, my body, almost trying to create too much rather than using my hands. Right-handed, I try to use my hands. I try to flick the bat, and my body gets there. My strength will get there I feel, as long as my hands are on time.

“It’s just been a work in progress this whole year. It gets frustrating at times, because my whole life I’ve been a better hitter left-handed. I’m just like, ‘Why am I all of a sudden struggling left-handed?’ Right-handed, I can’t get out. I just got to keep with it.”

Espinosa is one of the hardest working hitters on the team, a trait that sometimes actually gets him in trouble because over-analysis. It is not easy trying to solve his left-handed swing, especially as his own right-handed swing is virtually taunting it. Two hitters, one body.

“I feel like they’re so different,” Espinosa said. “Right-handed, I have a whole lot more movement. Right-handed, my top hand is so dominant, I feel like I can put the batter wherever I want and get to where I need to be to hit. Sometimes left-handed, I over-think it. I try to be too fine. I try to be too perfect. That’s what’s creating the bad swings too much when I hit. I don’t’ find myself swinging right-handed at bad pitches. Left-handed, I find myself going out of the zone. Not some of the time; a lot of time this year, I’ve been going out of the zone. So maybe it’s one of those things, I need to go up there completely clear-headed and not think anything.”

By  |  12:41 PM ET, 06/09/2012

 
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