Double-switches: A two-edged sword


Look.  I’m not saying Carlos Martinez needs to be demoted to AAA.  I’m not saying Mike Matheny needs to be replaced.  I’m not saying a lot of the things that could probably be read between the lines here.  I want to try to be as clear as possible, and minimize (or fully eliminate) any confusion over the point(s) I’m trying to make.


  • Double-switching is the new bunting – Exhibit 9,204

It seems that in an attempt to keep National League-style baseball (or as I like to call it, “baseball”) alive and well, Cardinals manager, Mike Matheny is reminding us, on seemingly a daily basis, that there’s this concept known as a “double-switch”.

For those not familiar (or fans of AL and the DH), allow me to explain. A double-switch, usually performed in the later innings of a game, is a move that allows the manager to replace two players at the same time, and switch the batting position of each of the new players.

Generally, this is done at the time of a pitching change late in the game.  For example, if your pitcher (Ramierez) is batting in the number 8 position in the batting order (and why wouldn’t he be?), and your number 7 hitter (Ruiz) made the last out of the previous inning, you could “double-switch”.  All you need to do is notify the home plate umpire of your intent.  By replacing Ramierez with new pitcher, Gibson, and replacing Ruiz with new position player, Davis, you can trade the players’ spot in the batting order so that Gibson would occupy the 7 hole, and Davis would bat 8th (leading off the next inning).  Usually, the idea is to delay, as long as possible, the next at-bat taken by your pitcher (often a lousy hitter), and move a better hitter into a spot due up in the batting order sooner rather than later, giving your team a better opportunity to score.

Illustrated: Old batting order:

1) Arman (SS)

2) Brown (RF)

3) Crosby (1B)

4) Driller (3B)

5) Encarnacion (CF)

6) Fowler (C)

7) Ruiz (LF)

8) Ramierez (P)

9) Greene (2B)


…would become:   New batting order:

1) Arman (SS)

2) Brown (RF)

3) Crosby (1B)

4) Driller (3B)

5) Encarnacion (CF)

6) Fowler (C)

7) Gibson (P)

8) Davis (LF)

9) Greene (2B)


There are other possible variations of examples, but often, the above is pretty close to what you’d usually see.

You may be asking yourself whether or not it’s worth losing Ruiz for the rest of the game, just to move the pitcher’s spot in the order.  Or if Davis is capable of keeping pace with a level of defense needed late in a close game, and/or whether his at-bat will is worth the risk, if the answer is ‘no’.  Another consideration could be how Gibson might fare against this particular part of the opponent’s lineup…or maybe just the one batter in the box, or [near] the on-deck circle.  The planning for what-if scenarios and strategery never end.  In fact, the only thing you can know for sure when you double-switch is that the players you’ve taken out of the game are finished for the night, and cannot return to play.

The situations in which the Cardinals are going to the double-switch is mind-boggling.  Often the double-switch makes sense, but sometimes, when the manager isn’t thinking ahead, or isn’t planning properly, it can really come back to hurt. I was at the game on Friday night, when Madison Bumgarner took temporary ownership away from Bill DeWitt Jr’s group, and owned the Redbirds for the night.

But a curious thing happened in the 8th.  Bumgarner’s night was finished after he finished off the Cardinals in order (on 9 pitches) in the 7th inning, with a fat 9-0 lead.

When his non-double-switched replacement, David Huff, came into the game to pitch the 8th, and face the Cards’ 7-8-9 hitters (which, by this point, due to previous double-switches, were Bourjos-Ellis-Wong). After retiring the first two batter, Huff hit Wong with a pitch to start a two-out rally.  He then promptly walked Descalso and Grichuk to load the bases.  Jon Jay and Allen Craig hit back-to-back doubles, scoring 4 before J.C. Gutierrez replaced Huff, and got Tony Cruz to end the inning with a flyball to center.

“Tony Cruz”?

Yes, Tony Cruz.  He inexplicably replaced Yadi Molina after the 6th.

Look, I get that in a blowout, you might be inclined to rest your stars.  I really do understand that.  But for a team that had been playing, quite frankly, rather flat of late, I’m just not sure that pulling Yadi after 6 sends the right message to the ballclub.

And just to be clear, this isn’t second-guessing–I said it as it was happening on Friday, you can ask my buddy, Dave.

The thing that pushed me over the edge was during this 4-run, 2-out rally, when Cruz was at the plate, and none other than Jamie Garcia in the on-deck circle.

Garcia.  Not even kidding.

So, we go to the top of the 9th, Neshek got Colvin, Sanchez, and Blanco, 1-2-3…yada, yada, yada.

At this point, I’d like to pause, and just survey the totality of the situation at this point.  Let me preface it all by, once again, reiterating that I understand we’re talking about a 5-run deficit in the 9th.

We’re headed into the bottom of the 9th, and the Cardinals are trailing the Giants, 9-4. Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Jhonny Peralta, all starters, have been replaced, and are no longer available.  You’re talking about a Cardinals team with twenty-something homeruns all season, and these four guys account for 18 of those.  Matt Adams, who has 3, was unavailable due to injury (he would hit the DL the next day).  The only real power threat left in the Cards lineup was Allen Craig who, yes had 6 HRs, but wouldn’t be due up until 8th in the bottom of the 9th.  For Craig to even reach the plate would mean the Cards had battled back and even with 2 outs, would have made it a 9-7 game (with the bases loaded).  Even still, batting between Jon Jay and Tony Cruz, Craig probably wouldn’t have gotten much to hit, had the game reached that point.

There is literally no one left on the bench, as is evidenced by Jamie Garcia LEADS OFF THE BOTTOM OF THE 9TH.  From there, it went Garcia-Bourjos-Ellis, Good Morning-Good afternoon-Gooodnight.

The game ends, and the Cards die without so much as a whimper.

The final was 9-4, but I swear to you, the game was closer than that would lead you to believe.  It could’ve been closer than that, and while I’m not naive enough to say the Cardinals would’ve won that game, it SHOULD’VE been a more competitive game than it was, and replacements & double-switches are largely to blame.

Last week, I was at the Memorial Day game against the Yankees when Matt Carpenter ended up playing right field in the 12th inning, after, you guessed it, a double-switch.

Please get it together soon, Mr. Matheny.

  • Buddhasillegitimatechild38

    So, your writing style is nice and i like the idea of breaking down the double switch at the beginning but you didn’t mention the main purpose of a double switch, then you seemed to put it bluntly like you don’t realize the purpose of a double switch any more than Matheny.

    You don’t double switch to brong in superior players as those players should typically be starting and needing rest when they don’t get starts. Additionally you can substitute them without a pitching change. You are correct that you don’t want the pitcher hitting when you double switch but you can accomplish this without a double switch by pinch hitting, which brings me to the reason for a double switch. When you pinch hit for the pitcher you have to remove him, a double switch allows you to hit a position player for the pitcher the but leave the pitcher in to pitch multiple innings. Matheny has double switched just to switch pitchers the next inning several times this year ensuring that we all know he cannot habdle the concept of a double switch.

    In a different internet conversation I was in we humorously compared double switches to someone castling in chess. It’s a very useful when used properly but many people who don’t understand the purpose use it just to use it thus leaving themselves in a poor position. Matheny is clearly one of those somebodies. This is why I recently posted “Mike Matheny just castled” on Twitter immediately after a double switch in jest. Matheny does need an article dedicated to his terrible use of double switches but it should attack the issue at hand. I hope this constructive criticism has enlightened you about the use of double switches.

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