Baseball Hitter Types

baseball batter

There are several different types of roles batters can fulfill, depending on the situation of the game and the skill set of the player. Let's discuss these different categories of batters. In this tutorial, we will go deeper into the different roles batters can fulfill, depending on the situation of the game and skill set of the player.

Left-Handed Hitters

A player's dominant hand determines how he grips the bat and on which side of home plate he stands. Players grip the bat with their dominant hand on top, and stand with their non-dominant shoulder closer to the pitcher. Batters tend to hit better off pitchers who have the opposite dominant hand as them, because the pitch enters their vision sooner.

Left-handed hitters/lefties are players whose dominant hand is their left hand. They stand on the right side of home plate and usually hit better off right-handed pitchers.

Right-Handed Hitters

Right-handed hitters/righties are players whose dominant hand is their right hand. They stand on the left side of home plate and usually hit better off left-handed pitchers.

Pinch Hitter

Pinch hitters are substitute batters, who replace batters who are already on the lineup. Once a pinch hitter is used, the player they replace must be taken out of the game. When a team is on defense after a pinch hitter is put in the game, the pinch hitter must either play defense for the player they replaced, or another defensive player may replace the pinch hitter.

Sometimes, the pinch hitter may play a defensive position that is different than the player he replaced, so other substitutions have to be made. Using pinch hitters is a strategic move that managers use only when necessary, since it requires a player being taken out of the game completely. Pinch hitters are usually used toward the end of the game, typically to replace pitchers or because a special skill (like bunting) is required for a certain circumstance in the game.

Switch Hitter

Switch hitters are players who can bat on either side of the plate. They usually are not ambidextrous themselves, they have just been trained to hit both left-handed and right-handed. Being a switch hitter is useful because they can hit against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers; there is no disadvantage to hitting against a pitcher with the same dominant hand because they can simply bat from the other side of the plate.

Lead-Off Hitter

The lead-off hitter is the first batter in the lineup, but it can also refer to the first batter of a half-inning. Strategically, the lead-off hitter (in the lineup sense) is usually one of the best hitters, but more importantly is the best and fastest base runner. His goal is to get on base, and when the more powerful hitters behind him get hits, he can use his base running skills to advance as far as he can.

Cleanup Hitter

The cleanup hitter occupies the fourth spot in the lineup and is usually the team's most powerful hitter. The idea behind this is that the batters before him will reach base, then he will get a strong hit and advance those base runners to home plate, in effect cleaning up the bases.

Power Hitter

Power hitters are strong, powerful hitters who often hit balls far into the outfield, hitting a relatively high amount of home runs, triples, and doubles. The best power hitters also hit with consistency, but many are primarily known for their ability to hit with power, even if they often strike out or don't get on base.

Contact Hitter

Contact hitters are hitters who consistently make contact with the ball and get on base. Contact hitters are known for getting on base with relative frequency, using their base running skills to reach base if they do not hit the ball very hard. They are also known for not striking out often.

On a very generalized level, the National League of the MLB is known for having more contact hitters while the American League is known for having more power hitters. There are many, many exceptions to this principle, however. A team should have a good balance of both contact hitters and power hitters, as well as hitters who exhibit traits of both, in order to be offensively successful.

Dead-Pull Hitter

A dead pull hitter in baseball is a player who tends to hit the ball to the side of the field which they stand when batting, i.e. right hander (standing on the left side of home plate) hitting towards third base or left field.

Designated Hitter

A designated hitter (DH) is a player who only bats and does not play a defensive position. In leagues where a DH is used, the pitcher does not bat, and the DH serves to take his place in the lineup. In Major League Baseball, the American League uses designated hitters, but the National League does not (instead, pitchers in the National League must bat).

Choke Up Hitter

A choke up hitter is a batter who chokes up on the bat, or holds it higher up on the handle, closer to the barrel of the bat. This allows for a faster swing of the bat. Some batters choke up for their entire at-bat while some only choke up in certain situations, such as when they have two strikes.

Batters traditionally wrap their hands around the base of the bat, just above the rounded knob at the very bottom. Choke hitters, however, move their hands significantly farther up the bat, approximately halfway between the knob and the start of the barrel (thick, center portion of the bat that tends to result in the furthest hit balls).

While some players are simply more comfortable choking up on the bat and practice this strategy regularly, most players employ the technique only when they are faced with two strikes and need to successfully put the ball in play in order to avoid obtaining a third strike and being called out.

The decision to choke up on the bat has everything to do with increasing bat speed. Gripping the bat higher up changes the way in which the weight of the bat is distributed, making the bat feel lighter and allowing hitters to push it through the strike zone (area in which the ball must cross the plate in order to be deemed a strike) rather easily. This is known as a 'defensive' swing, helping hitters to at least make contact with the ball and give themselves a chance of safely reaching first base.