Lance Berkman and Chipper Jones comparison

Inside Edge analyzes two of the game's best switch hitters -- Lance Berkman and Chipper Jones.

Pitch type breakdown
Both Jones and Berkman hit well against all types of pitches from the left side, but Jones is especially better against off-speed pitches:
Batting left-handed (2004-2008)
Hitter Fastball Curve/Slider Changeup/Other
Berkman, Lance .332 .275 .291
Jones, Chipper .333 .303 .347
Batting right-handed, Berkman is much better versus off-speed pitches than Chipper:
Batting right-handed (2004-2008)
Hitter Fastball Curve/Slider Changeup/Other
Berkman, Lance .308 .320 .267
Jones, Chipper .347 .214 .219
Plate coverage
Chipper covers the whole plate when batting left, while Berkman can be jammed inside:
Batting left-handed (2004-2008)
Hitter In Mid Away
Berkman, Lance .240 .372 .320
Jones, Chipper .307 .407 .301
Berkman has better plate coverage when batting from the right side:
Batting right-handed (2004-2008)
Hitter In Mid Away
Berkman, Lance .302 .352 .270
Jones, Chipper .261 .350 .283
How they are better than most switch-hitters
Although several switch-hitters’ multi-year averages are above .285, most do not hit that well from both sides. Jones and Berkman (along with Carlos Guillen, who’s having a down year) are the only active hitters who have batted over .285 from both sides of the plate since 2004:
2004-2008 Batting Averages
Hitter Hitter Side BAVG
Chipper Jones Left .347
  Right .299
Jones total   .332

Lance Berkman Left .303
  Right .287
Berkman total   .299
Switch-hitters always enjoy a platoon advantage -- the tendency to hit better against opposite-handed pitchers. They avoid the especially unfavorable lefty-lefty matchups.
2008 MLB platoon splits
LHB .246 .269
RHB .282 .257
For both Jones and Berkman, hitting fastballs from opposite-side pitchers has been key. Chipper is hitting a whopping .500 (27-for-54) against lefty fastballs and .365 against righty heaters. Berkman has been around .400 against fastballs from lefties and righties both (.406 against LHP fastballs and .392 against RHP fastballs). Both hitters have also been able to pick up changeups very easily from both sides of the plate.
2008 BA vs. Changeups
Hitter Batting Left Batting Right
Jones .474 .313
Berkman .400 .500
Why they've been so great this year
Both have hit better all around this season, but have really improved from the right side:
2008 BA hitting right-handed
Hitter 2004-07 2008
Jones  .271 .444
Berkman .287 .413
Jones is controlling the entire strike zone this season. Over the years, Chipper has been pitched primarily down-and-away, middle-away and down-and-in. Although he has always hit above .300 on mistakes over the middle of the plate, Jones was an average hitter in the parts of the zone that pitchers pounded. So far in 2008, he’s missing on fewer swings and putting more balls in play from the spots that used to give him trouble, making the whole strike zone dangerous for pitchers:
Chipper Jones In Play Percentage of swings by pitch location
Location 2004-07 2008
Down/In 28% 39%
Down/Away 51% 62%
Middle/Away 49% 62%
BA these locations .271 .465
In Berkman's case, he simply hasn't missed his pitch this season. The Astros' slugger is vulnerable on pitches above his hands when batting left, and he is not the best low-ball hitter either, but he's crushed everything between the thighs and waist from both sides of the plate:
Berkman's BA by pitch location (2008)
LocUMD BAVG H AB Miss Pct. of swings
Up .282 11 39 21.6%
Middle .511 45 88 9.5%
Down .283 29 100 26.2%

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Updated Tuesday, Jun 10, 2008