Best baseball clip ever: Pat Venditte, switch pitcher for the single A Staten Island Yankees, decides which hand to use against a switch hitter, who is simultaneously deciding which side of the plate to hit from.
That’s right, I said “switch pitcher.” More on Venditte from the Sporting News. [Editor’s note, 2023: THANK YOU SO MUCH, ARCHIVE.ORG!] This is seriously the best thing ever. I hope Venditte gets to the majors. Seeing him in action would be more than worth the price of admission.
There are so many more points of decision in this scenario than the standard one with a switch-hitter and a non-ambidextrous pitcher. Normally, it’s easy: The conventional wisdom is to bat lefty against a right-hander, and bat righty against a left-hander.
But if you don’t know which hand he’s going to pitch with before you approach the plate, when do you decide which batter’s box to go stand in? And if you’re the pitcher, when do you decide which hand to throw with?
Obviously the answer in this case for both guys was “at the last possible second,” leading to five minutes of hilarity. Neither one wanted to give the (perceived) edge to the other team.
(Of course, the conventional wisdom is generally pretty accurate; it’s hard to find a player who doesn’t do better against “same-handed” opposition. Chad Qualls is one, but I had to look pretty hard to find him. I’m sure that someone more versed in baseball history than I am would be able to name at least a couple guys like that off the top of their head.)
It appears it’s against the rules for the batter to switch sides after the pitcher reaches the set position (i.e. standing with his “back foot,” the foot farther from the batter, on the pitching rubber). And for the pitcher to reach the set position, he necessarily has to have picked which hand he’s pitching with, since he’d be facing the wrong way for the other hand.
Still, being in the set position doesn’t mean the pitcher has to throw a pitch. He could step back off the rubber or throw to a base if a runner is on. Say the pitcher sets up right-handed, for example. The batter gets in the box batting left-handed. Then the pitcher could just back off the rubber, quickly turn around, and get back in the set position from the other side. (If I were an ambidextrous pitcher, which I really wish were the case, that’s what I’d try to do.)
The thing about baseball that makes this so interesting (and apparently paralyzing) is that it’s not timed. You would never have this problem in basketball or football because you have to start or finish a given play within a certain amount of time. And those sports are a little bit less dependent on handedness than baseball is (I think most right-handed basketball players try to make sure they can shoot a left-handed layup, for example, and football players generally switch hands when they’re carrying the ball based on where the defenders are).