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So you want to make a double switch... - A Hunt and Peck

Double switching can be confusing, so I have written a primer on it just for you...

St Louis Cardinals Photo Day Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Ah, National League baseball: The place where the pitchers hit and substitutions are aplenty. A favorite substitution of Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny appears to be the double switch. Because Matheny seems intent on making these switches often, as Cardinals fans, let us familiarize ourselves with the term.

What is a double switch?

The best definition I have found is on Baseball Reference. According to BR:

A double switch is a substitution during which two or more players are substituted simultaneously and take places in the batting order different from those of the player they replaced.

For example, in the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Brewers, Mike Matheny double-switched by bringing in Matt Bowman to pitch, removing pitcher Ryan Sherriff, and Yairo Munoz to play third base, removing third baseman Matt Carpenter. By making these substitutions in-tandem, Matheny was able to put Bowman at third in the batting lineup, which was previously Carpenter’s spot, and Munoz batted ninth, the spot previously occupied by the pitcher.

Why would you double switch?

Again, dipping into the Baseball Reference well:

The purpose of the move is to change the pitcher’s slot in the batting order, so that the new pitcher does not immediately come up to bat in the next half inning.

On Tuesday’s game, the fourth spot in the order made the last out, so the following inning the pitcher’s spot would have come up... uh, well fifth. So it might not have come up the next inning at all, but if two men got on base, then it might have.

A benefit to double switching is that the manager may use it to replace a poor defender with a better one in later innings, though this is generally not the primary reason.

But, Scooter, why does it matter if the pitcher comes up to bat the next have inning?

Well friends, relief pitchers are terrible hitters - even worse than starting pitchers usually! If their spot comes up in the lineup they should generally be pinch hit for, but this pinch hitter comes at the price of taking the pitcher out of the game. This means the pitcher could not come out for a second inning. If the manager intends to have the reliever pitch more than one inning, a double-switch must be implemented.

Or as Baseball Reference says:

This allows his team to have a better hitter coming up second in his team’s next turn at bat, while not having to decide whether to pinch hit for his pitcher for a while.

So, back to Tuesday’s game. The double switch made it very unlikely the pitcher’s spot came back around to hit - and if it did, well, ideally the Cardinals scored a few runs then and another inning from that pitcher does not matter so much. This was important for the Cardinals as Matt Bowman...

Oh, wait, so Bowman did not come back out to pitch another inning?

So, on Tuesday, Mike Matheny brought in Bowman to pitch and used a double switch to take out one of the Cardinals best hitters move his spot in the lineup from five hitters away to eight hitters away, then did not even bring Bowman out for a second inning? Huh. Well... uh... how about that!

[whispering] Y’all, I do not think Mike Matheny knows how to double switch.

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