Ask Hal: Switch-hitters still exist in MLB


Question: If the catching position is a power position and the Reds have a catcher not hitting at the Mendoza Line, let alone his weight, why do the Reds permit Ryan Hanigan to go anywhere near the field? — JONATHAN, SAN FRANCISCO.

Answer: You are right in that Hanigan, who weighs 210, is not hitting his weight (210) or above the Mendoza Line (.199) because he is at .195. I’ve never heard the catching position referred to as a power position. Manager Dusty Baker insists a catcher’s responsibility is mostly defensive and any offense is a bonus. Have you seen Hanigan throw out baserunners and handle pitchers? As Baker says, “If you have a hitting catcher you have Johnny Bench or Buster Posey and there aren’t many of those around.”

Hall-of-fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about America’s pastime. If you’d like to tap into that knowledge, send a question to

Q: Can you explain why baseball will be the last to use female officials? — DAVE, MIAMISBURG/CENTERVILLE/BEAVERCREEK.

A: Wrong again, my friend. Baseball actually was the first. Pam Postema made it all the way to Class AAA, six years of it, in the early 1980s. In 1988 Commissioner Bart Giamatti had her work spring training games and had her work the Hall of Fame game in Cooperstown that summer. She was on her way to the majors, but Giamatti died and Postema never got the chance.

Q: Are there fewer switch-hitters than in days gone by because I can’t remember when I last heard a hitter described as a switch-hitter? — MARTHA, ENGLEWOOD.

A: You aren’t paying close enough attention. There are 61 switch-hitters on major-league rosters this year and all you have to do is watch when Cincinnati’s Derrick Robinson bats. They even rank them and the top five is: Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay; Angel Pagan, San Francisco; Matt Wieters, Baltimore; Victor Martinez, Detroit; Mark Teixeira, New York. And there isn’t a Pete Rose in the bunch.

Q: Is there a limit to the length and weight of baseball bats in the majors? — MARK, DAYTON.

A: Hillerich & Bradsby (Louisville Slugger) representative Chuck Shoup laughed when asked and said, “Yes, the length is 42 inches, which is crazy.” Asked if anybody ever ordered a 42-inch bat, he said, “Hell, no. In my 30 years in the business the longest bat I can recall was 36 inches. Right now Josh Hamilton has a 35-inch bat, but he only uses it for batting practice. The biggest and heaviest I can recall is Paul O’Neill — 34 inches, 34 ounces, which is very heavy. Most are between 30 ounces and 32 ounces.”

Q: When a minor-league player is brought up to the majors is his pay on the major-league team bases on the number of days he is in the majors? — DENNIS, CENTERVILLE.

A: Yes, it is, but don’t worry about him making his car payment or buying groceries. The major-league minimum is $480,000. A season is considered 172 days. If a rookie is called up for one day he is paid $2,800, even if he doesn’t play that day. And if the team is on the road you can add $106 in meal money, which buys more Big Macs than even Jonathan Broxton can eat.

Q: Does manager Dusty Baker bring the team in for practice on days they don’t play? — MARK, ROSEMOUNT, OH.

A: The season is 172 days long, give or take, and they play 162 games. That’s 10 days off over six months. Teams practice hard for about two hours before each game, too. Everybody needs a day away from the office to recharge batteries and to forget their troubles. Actually, Baker encourages and insists that players stay home on days off.

Q: Why don’t more hitters swing at 3-and-0 pitches since 95 percent of the time the next pitch is a fastball right down the middle? — JOE, BEAVERCREEK.

A: Methinks you exaggerate on the 95 percent. The manager decides whether a guy swings at 3-and-0 or takes it and the situation dictates it. If it is Joey Votto, he usually gets the swing sign, if it is a strike. If you are Joey Bagadonuts, hitting .198, the manager might make you take two pitches.

Q: Is their any proof that Johnny Cueto’s unique pitching motion contributes to his injuries? — SCOTT, TROY.

A: It isn’t unique. Cueto stole it from Luis Tiant. And Cueto wondered the same question, but doctors and trainers assured him that turning his back to the hitters during his windup in no-way contributes to pain and misery — other than to opposing hitters.

Q: If all other aspects of his game, such as high strikeouts and low batting average continue, but Adam Dunn hits more than 500 home runs, will he make the Hall of Fame? — MIKE, DAYTON.

A: I’m told donkeys are not allowed in the Hall of Fame, not even Charlie Finley’s donkey. It wouldn’t matter how much The Big Donkey (Adam Dunn’s nickname) strikes out, but his batting average does matter. It used to be that 500 home runs was automatic entry into the Hall of Fame. But the way home runs fly into the stratosphere these days, it is no longer the magic number. So, no.

Q: Does anybody besides me think that Reds batting coach Brook Jacoby may be the problem? — BILL, HUNTINGTON, W.VA.

A: Funny thing that I never had this question last year when the Reds had one of the best offensive teams in baseball. Jacoby can only tutor and instruct. He can’t hit for them. And he is one of the hardest working coaches I’ve ever seen. If he isn’t watching video of his hitters he is giving them personal instruction and he watches every swing in batting practice, offering critiques. If you blame him for Ryan Hanigan’s .195, then you have to credit him for Joey Votto’s .324.

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