Baseball's 25 Best Switch-Hitters of All Time

Dan Tylicki@DanTylickiAnalyst IMarch 2, 2012

Baseball's 25 Best Switch-Hitters of All Time

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    In baseball, switch-hitters are a rare breed. Being able to bat from both sides of the plate makes it a lot easier for managers to put a player in a lineup, and they don't have to worry about facing left-handed or right-handed pitchers on a given day.

    This select group of players makes up some of the best in the game's history, people who are known as all-time greats first and great switch-hitters second. The top handful of players may be obvious, but those in the sixth through 25th spots are also players with nice careers.

    The following are 25 of baseball's best switch-hitters. All stats and career splits noted are from Baseball-Reference.com.

Honorable Mention: Howard Johnson

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    I was bouncing back and forth between leaving either Ruben Sierra or Bobby Bonilla off this list, as both had nice career numbers. In the end, I kept both in the top 25, with Howard Johnson narrowly missing the cut.

    Johnson had a great five-year peak, when he put up big numbers in home runs, RBI and stolen bases.

    His low batting average and okay-at-best stats outside of 1987-1991 keep him from getting into the top 25, though we can't underestimate how good he was during those five seasons.

25. Ruben Sierra

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    Starting off the list is a guy who could be either an unsung hero or incredibly overrated depending on your allegiance. At least at the start of his career, Ruben Sierra was certainly a great switch-hitter.

    The four-time All-Star didn't hit for average all that well, but he led the league in both triples and RBI one year and had over 300 home runs and 2,100 hits in his career.

    He hit .289 as a righty, but his power came from the left-handed side primarily, so he definitely has a discrepancy there.

24. Bobby Bonilla

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    It's almost a shame that Bobby Bonilla is primarily remembered for a terrible free-agent contract, since he had a great peak in Pittsburgh and was productive enough as a switch-hitter to make this list.

    The .279 career hitter had 2,010 career hits and two top-three MVP finishes. Neither side of the plate gave him more of an edge, unlike some on this list, as he could hit his 287 career home runs from either side without a problem.

23. Roy White

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    Roy White had a very nice career, but outside of Yankees fans, he has largely been forgotten. Perhaps being one of the top 25 switch-hitters will help that.

    The two-time All-Star had a great career .OBP even though he only hit .271, and he was a rather well-rounded hitter. He hit a lot better left-handed; in about 60 percent of his career at-bats from that side, he hit 75 percent of his home runs and drew far more walks as well.

22. Willie Wilson

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    Willie Wilson was perhaps best known as the speed demon of the Kansas City Royals in the 1980s, finishing his career with 668 stolen bases. That is enough to merit inclusion right there.

    He was a great defender as well, but he did not produce a lot of runs, never even hitting a 50-RBI mark despite some of the teams he played for.

    Nonetheless, he was a great switch-hitter in his own way.

21. Ripper Collins

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    Ripper Collins easily had the shortest career of anyone on this list, only playing nine seasons including a 1941 comeback with the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, Collins' career was as productive as it was brief.

    The Gashouse Gang member put up big numbers for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1930s, leading the league in home runs once and hitting .296 in his career once en route to being the only first baseman remotely worthy of inclusion.

20. Chili Davis

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    Chili Davis put up nice numbers primarily for the Giants and Angels, hitting 250 home runs in his career. He was another guy who had good power over the course of his career, which helped keep him around

    While he was mainly known for his power hitting in the 1980s and '90s, he did have 142 stolen bases in his career and was able to be productive equally from both sides of the plate.

19. Willie McGee

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    Willie McGee had an amazing 1985 season for the St. Louis Cardinals, winning the MVP that season. Had he been able to sustain that level of play, he would have been far higher on this list. Regardless, he's certainly deserving of inclusion.

    A career .295 hitter with over 2,200 hits, McGee was a great baserunner and could use his speed to do great things. He actually had more home runs batting right-handed, but he primarily batted left-handed to get those extra hits with his feet when he could.

18. Maury Wills

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    One of the best of the speedster batch of switch-hitters, Maury Wills lit up the basepaths in the 1960s with the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning an MVP as well as putting up 586 stolen bases.

    Interestingly, he seemed to hit for power far better right-handed, hitting 15 of his 20 HR there as well as nearly half of his doubles, despite mostly batting left-handed in his career.

    He was paid to run though, and that's what he did best.

17. Jorge Posada

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    Jorge Posada is known for being a Yankee during the great teams of the 1990s and 2000s as well as a great offensive catcher. He's also the No. 2 catcher overall on the switch-hitter list.

    Posada could hit 20 HR without difficulty and could get near the 100-RBI mark often. He hit for average better right-handed, but his OPS from both sides was pretty even.

    Wherever the Yankees needed him, he could hit the ball.

16. Ken Singleton

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    Unlike many others on this list, Ken Singleton really hit his stride later in his career, and his time with the Baltimore Orioles alongside Eddie Murray (who will, of course, be on this list as well) gets him on here.

    Singleton often hit triple-digits in walks and RBI, and he was able to amass 2,000 hits even though he did not hit that well right-handed. All of his stats were better left-handed, so I'm actually intrigued as to why he remained a switch-hitter.

15. Carlos Beltran

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    Given the injuries Carlos Beltran has suffered during his time with the Mets, it may be easy to forget that for most of his career, he's been extremely productive.

    And he should build on that, with a couple more good years in the tank.

    Beltran has nearly 2,000 hits and over 300 home runs while regularly hitting 100 RBI each year. His WAR of 60.8 puts him in the top 150 of all time, and his switch-hitting may keep him around for quite a few more years.

14. Red Schoendienst

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    Red Schoendienst was a talented all-around player during his time with the St. Louis Cardinals, and while his numbers don't appear to be as great as others, the 10-time All-Star knew how to be an effective switch-hitter.

    Schoendienst had nearly 2,500 career hits and a .289 average. He hit far more home runs and triples batting left-handed, though he was a .300 hitter from the right-handed side, which is an inversion of the general trend we've seen.

13. Max Carey

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    There are quite a few speedy switch-hitters on the list, but most of them couldn't hold a candle to Max Carey. The longtime Pittsburgh Pirate was one of the stars of the 1910s and '20s.

    Carey had on-and-off years with batting average, hitting .320 some years and .260 others, but he was consistently a top basestealer. He also hit .343 in 1925, when the Pirates won the World Series, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1961.

12. Ted Simmons

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    The question of whether Ted Simmons is Hall of Fame worthy can be debated, as is the case with the next three on the list. One thing is certain, though: Simmons is the best switch-hitting catcher of all time.

    Simmons has a .285 average, nearly 2,500 hits and passed the 100-RBI mark several times in his career.

    He could hit fairly equally well from either side of the plate, making him that much more dangerous to opposing pitchers.

11. Reggie Smith

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    Reggie Smith might be one of the most underrated players of all time, and the fact that his Hall of Fame candidacy was completely dismissed is shocking. While he doesn't quite make the top 10 switch-hitters, he comes very close.

    Smith played primarily with the Red Sox and Dodgers, hitting over 300 home runs and 2,000 hits, hitting .287 in his career. He could hit for power a bit better left-handed, but his batting average from both sides was almost identical.

10. Bernie Williams

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    I wasn't sure whether to put Bernie Williams in the top 10 or not, since I don't quite see him as a Hall of Famer, even though there were others further down.

    In the end though, it's tough to argue against him being one of the best switch-hitters ever.

    Williams had 2,336 hits in his career and was nearly a career .300 hitter, having a great peak with the Yankees, when he regularly hit 100 RBI.

    He seemed to hit a bit better right-handed, but I'm sure the Yankees did not mind having a great switch-hitting duo (Williams and Posada) for a long time.

9. Lance Berkman

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    Lance Berkman, the longtime Houston Astro and current St. Louis Cardinal, has put up great enough numbers that he has to be considered a top-10 switch hitter already, and he still has a bit left in the tank.

    Nearly a career .300 hitter, Berkman has been an MVP candidate many seasons while putting up huge home run and RBI totals. His career OPS is far higher from the left-handed side, and his average is .307 there compared to .261 right-handed.

    Perhaps he should keep himself to the left-handed spot to end his career to boost his numbers a bit more.

8. George Davis

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    I could very well be underrating George Davis, as many consider him a top-five switch-hitter. Bill James, in particular, is a big fan of Davis.

    However, he was mostly a 19th-century player, and I have to take that into account.

    The veteran of the New York Giants hit .295 in his career, and his 77.4 offensive WAR (90.7 total) actually beats out a few guys in the top five.

    His career average was .295, but in his time with the Giants, he hit .332 and has 619 stolen bases in his career as well.

7. Frankie Frisch

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    The longtime second baseman for the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, Frankie Frisch was not a guy who put up power numbers, despite playing during Babe Ruth's time.

    But he could do everything else.

    A .316 career hitter and MVP winner, Frisch led the league in stolen bases, hits and runs at least once, and he had many seasons with 10-plus triples and 100-plus RBIs. As strange as this may sound, the Hall of Famer Frisch may actually be underrated here, given where he tends to rank on these lists.

6. Tim Raines

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    Looking through Tim Raines' playing career makes it hard for me to believe he's not in the Hall of Fame, as he is the best switch-hitter not yet enshrined.

    The stolen-base machine (808 in his career) had many All-Star appearances and over 2,600 hits in his career. He could hit home runs from either side at about the same rate, but as a lefty, his stolen-base and walk totals shot up dramatically.

5. Roberto Alomar

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    Picking the top five was relatively easy, but determining the order was tough. Depending on who you ask, Roberto Alomar could easily slide to fourth on the list.

    Either way, he's definitely deserving of this elite spot.

    The frequent All-Star and Gold Glove winner was a career .300 hitter primarily for the Toronto Blue Jays, but he excelled for multiple teams. He was actually much more successful batting left-handed, hitting .314 for his career and finishing his career with more walks than strikeouts from that side.

4. Eddie Murray

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    No. 4 and No. 5 are practically interchangeable depending on what stats you like. Murray gets the narrow nod over Alomar thanks in part to the 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, something few ballplayers have on their resumes.

    He had little trouble hitting 30 home runs and 90 RBI in an era back when those were big numbers, and he was a perennial MVP during his time with the Baltimore Orioles.

3. Chipper Jones

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    In nearly two decades in Atlanta, Chipper Jones has established himself as not only one of the top third basemen of all time, but he's easily become one of the top three switch-hitters of all time (and the argument could be made that he should be second).

    Jones has won an MVP and has accumulated over 2,600 hits and nearly 500 home runs. His career batting average is .304 from the left side and .304 from the right, a testament to just how consistently great he has been for the Braves.

2. Pete Rose

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    You could make the case for either Chipper Jones or Pete Rose at the No. 2 spot, depending on your team allegiance. As for me, I've got to go with the all-time hits leader, Charlie Hustle.

    Rose spent 25 years in the game as a switch-hitter and had over 3,000 hits batting from the left side to go along with over 1,000 batting right-handed.

    He was consistently great and knew how to play the game wherever he was needed.

1. Mickey Mantle

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    On some lists, it's difficult to figure out who to put in the top spot. This is not one of those lists.

    Mickey Mantle as the greatest switch-hitter of all time is a no-brainer.

    One of the greatest baseball players of all time, Mantle had 536 home runs, was a perennial MVP candidate and three-time winner, and is rightfully a first-ballot Hall of Famer.