The switch-hitter is a dying breed in professional baseball, and two St. Louis Cardinals could hasten its extinction, as the team has brought up the possibility of Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman giving up the practice, according to former Cardinals play-by-play broadcaster Dan McLaughlin, who is now a host on the St. Louis sports radio station 101 ESPN.
Carlson and Edman are both much more adept batting right-handed, but they receive far fewer chances to do it given that right-handed pitchers outnumber southpaws. Against right-handed pitchers, Carlson has hit only .221 in his career, while against left-handers, he has hit .306. Edman's splits are less drastic, as he has hit .261 against right-handers and .277 against lefties.
Edman has not always batted on the opposite side of the pitcher, and in 2023, he drastically increased the number of times he decided to hit right-handed against a right-handed pitcher. Although he only hit .230 in those 65 plate appearances, more exposure to right-on-right matchups will likely make him more comfortable facing them.
Carlson has never batted on the same side of a pitcher's handedness in the major leagues, but the young outfielder needs to find a way to become more productive against right-handers. He is likely to serve as the fourth outfielder for the Cardinals in 2024, but if he takes to same-side hitting, he could claw his way back into competing for regular playing time.
There is a precedent, albeit rare, for players improving after giving up on switch-hitting. The most recent example is Cedric Mullins of the Baltimore Orioles, who decided to only bat left-handed for the 2021 season and exploded en route to a .291 average and a Silver Slugger Award. However, Mullins has not been able to replicate that season. J.T. Snow stopped switch-hitting in 1999, his seventh full season, and went on to hit .274 from 1999 to 2008.
The list of players who failed to improve after abandoning the practice is far longer than that of those who excelled after deciding to focus on only one side of the plate, but given the relative youth of Carlson and Edman, they could have a chance to buck the trend.
If the Cardinals are serious about having Edman and Carlson bat right-handed only, the team should give them plenty of plate appearances against right-handers during Spring Training to work on their craft. With the Cardinals coming off their worst season since 1995, something needs to change for them to be competitive again in 2024. Perhaps instituting this change could help these two players reach a new level.