Danny Espinosa's splits as a switch-hitter are no secret at this point, through five years of his MLB career. Espinosa himself is aware he hits better from the right side of the plate. The team's front office knows, even manager Matt Williams has acknowledged it.
So, why doesn't Espinosa hit exclusively right-handed? It's not so simple, according to Espinosa and Williams.
"If it was that easy I think I’d try it, but I’ve never done it," Espinosa said. "I don’t know how easy that would be. It’d be nice to say, ‘Hey, just take it to the other side.’ But I’ve never done it."
"Generally it's a situation where it's somebody who has experience somewhere in the past doing that," Williams added. "The only issue with Danny is that he doesn't have that. So for him to hit right-handed exclusively, he'd have to go get some experience doing it. It's very difficult to do here."
The numbers are clear: Espinosa has been a much better hitter in his career when batting right-handed. In 217 career at-bats hitting right against a lefty, Espinosa holds a .271 average and .810 OPS. In 1,278 at-bats hitting lefty against a right-hander, Espinosa has hit just .214 with a .649 OPS.
The stats are even more extreme this season, as Espinosa is batting .310 right-handed and just .184 left-handed. The difference in OPS is .907 to .537.
Espinosa only has 13 career at-bats batting right against a right-handed pitcher, and he hasn't done it since 2012. He has three hits, a double and an RBI, but that's a small sample size. Williams would like to see much more than that before sending him out to bat only right-handed.
"I don't see any reason why I would say: 'Danny, you need to go up there against [Jacob] deGrom and hit right-handed.' That would be foolish. The fact that he's thinking about it is a positive thing for him, but you just can't jump into the fire like that. Reaction to fastballs in and up and in, you just don't see it until you have some experience in doing it."
At this point it looks like a change the Nationals may someday consider making, but not in 2014. For now, Espinosa will have to find a way to improve hitting left-handed.
On Wednesday, he explained why he believes there has been such a difference:
"Consistency. I go up there and I do the same thing. I go up there with the same stance. I know what I want to do and what I can do. Left-handed I’ve been searching as far as comfort in my stance and comfort. So right-handed I’ve done the same swing, been the same guy since I’ve been in pro ball as far as my setup. I just feel comfortable right now right-handed."
Mark Zuckerman contributed to this story