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Updated: October 20th, 2013 10:52pm
Aaron Hicks might be able to learn something from Shane Victorino

Aaron Hicks might be able to learn something from Shane Victorino

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

Shane Victorino's seventh-inning grand slam in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series effectively buried the Detroit Tigers while sending the Boston Red Sox to their third World Series in 10 years.

Those who paid close attention to the at-bat may have noticed something interesting...

Victorino, a long-time switch hitter, was batting right-handed against right-handed reliever Jose Veras. And it worked, obviously.

Aside from a brief change of heart (and subsequent 0-for-3) against Anibal Sanchez in Game 5, Victorino ditched his left-handed swing nearly two months ago (due to injury), and it has worked extremely well. After hitting .274/.317/.389 as a left-handed batter against right-handed pitching this season, Victorino improved to .300/.386/.510 as a right-handed batter against righties.

For his career, Victorino bats .303/.373/.506 as a right-handed hitter (against lefties) and just .268/.329/.401 as a left-handed hitter (against righties) - good for an astronomical .150 difference in OPS.

Looks like he ditched his left-handed swing just in time if Saturday night was any indication.

Now, obviously, hitting exclusively from the right side of the plate presents challenges - namely facing right-handed pitchers who will throw pitches that break away, which is something switch hitters never see. But Victorino appears more comfortable batting right-handed, and the numbers agree so far.

Twins' outfielder Aaron Hicks might want to take some notes.

Hicks is a much better right-handed hitter than left-handed. Combining his major league and minor league numbers, Hicks bats .253/.362/.380 (.742 OPS) as a left-handed hitter and .285/.371/.494 (.865 OPS) as a right-handed hitter. For context, that's the difference between Buster Posey (.864) and Lew Ford (.744). 

The power difference is clear too. Hicks averages 19 home runs per 600 plate appearances as a right-handed batter and just seven home runs per 600 trips from the left side.

Victorino is 32, so the sample size was plenty, and it's possible he'll go back to hitting left-handed next season when fully healthy. Hicks is only 24, so it's possible his left-handed swing is still developing - and it did get better in 2012 at Double-A. But a .123-point difference in OPS from the left side to the right seems to negate the advantage of being a switch hitter (the average OPS gap for major league RHB was a .037-point drop when facing LHP vs. RHP last season).

If Hicks is clearly a better right-handed hitter than left-handed - as the numbers seem to indicate - maybe the Twins should just have him focus on one side of the plate.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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