The Double Switch in Baseball Explained

When watching a baseball team in the National League, you might notice a popular pitcher suddenly being taken off the field in the middle of the inning and substituted with a new pitcher. Perhaps you know that the incoming pitcher is a better hitter than the outgoing pitcher.

The manager comes out from the dugout, the current pitcher walks back, and the new pitcher enters the field. It is a whole lot of confusion, and the manager is clutching his player batting order lineup card, scribbling on it and crossing out names on the lineup spot occupied by the pitcher.

You might think: “Woah, is putting in a substitute player even allowed?” The answer is yes; the team’s manager has just used a double switch strategy to put in a substitute player.

The double switch in baseball is a tactic where the manager replaces their pitcher’s spot with another player.

It is a form of double substitution and replaces the current pitcher with a skilled hitter to play the same position. This may seem confusing so let us go more in-depth.


What Is A Double Switch?

The double switch strategy is a tactic used in baseball where players are substituted during a game. It is the substitution of two or more players at the same time, and it constructs a different batting order.

Both the home team and the visiting team can use the strategy to get a better hitter a spot in the lineup. 

However, the designated hitter rule in baseball states that the double switch can only be used when a designated hitter is not playing. Typically, the relief pitcher is the one who is switched out.

This is done to alter the pitcher’s position in the batting lineup. It’s as if the pitcher has recently batted, so the outgoing pitcher does not bat during the following inning.

The manager of the team will substitute the relief pitcher and a position player simultaneously. New players enter the game and substitute those who are exiting, thus affecting the lineup.

The double switch can also be used only on position players, such as the second baseman or right fielder, for example. 

When you make a double switch in professional baseball leagues, the Umpire must be informed. If managers decide to do a double switch, they must go to the home plate umpire and inform him. 

Once this is done, they can walk to the mound and have the relief pitcher replaced.

What Makes A Double Switch Different?

A double switch in baseball differs from any other substitution because it changes two players at the same time. In addition, the double shift makes changes in the batting order for the game.

Another difference between the double switch and a regular substitution is that it cannot be performed on the designated hitter. Instead, it can only be used with the pitcher or any current position player.

Why Is A Double Switch Used?

Double switches seem quite complicated, so why do managers use them?

The main goal when you make a double switch in baseball is to delay the pitcher’s batting turn. This is often used when the pitcher is a poor hitter.

Furthermore, it can delay an upcoming substitution; which could be because a certain pitcher’s turn is due.

The Strategy Behind The Switch

A double switch will let a manager change the pitcher’s spot on the batting order so that he will hit much later during the next inning. This allows a better hit to be in a more favorable spot in the lineup. 

Players who excel at pitching are often terrible hitters. Managers would hope to avoid having them in the batting position at an important moment in the game or at all. 

They also want to avoid pinch-hitting the pitchers. There are nine batters on the team, so if the pitcher is delayed from hitting for the next few innings, they might not have to hit when it really counts.

Delaying the pitcher to bat ninth, or at least near the end of the lineup, can give the team time to score a few runs before they deal with the poor hitting of the pitcher.

Thus, the double switch pitching change is used to avoid having them bat so soon into the game. Putting in a substitute player can delay their batting time by a few extra innings.

An Example Of The Double Switch

A double switch is a pretty common occurrence in baseball, so let us try to understand how and when a double switch would be used.

Assume that a team has put forward their shortstop to bat 7th in the batting lineup. Their pitcher will be up 9th in the batting order when the next inning ends. 

The shortstop is supposed to make the final out.

The manager could opt to use a pinch-hitter and have his pitcher play in a different inning. If not, he can use the double switch. 

He would most likely prefer this because he can bring an incoming pitcher from the bench in and have the current one bat later.

The manager would then replace the shortstop with the pitcher previously in 9th. The new pitcher he brings in would play in 7th while the shortstop would play in 9th.

The rules then allow for a change to be made in the spot in the batting order because of the double switch.

It would allow any given position player to move to shortstop — let us suppose a right fielder or left fielder. The new position player could then come in at a position in the field instead.

Who Invented The Double Switch?

Since it is very difficult to determine who actually first pulled the double switch, there is controversy surrounding it. In the early years, it was not a well-documented strategy. 

When Was The Double Switch First Used?

The first managers to use the double switch were Clark Griffin and Alvin Dark. These cases were documented and are most likely its first usage in a baseball game.

The strategy did not gain popularity until the 1960s – 1970s. Before this, the strategy was not used regularly. 

Alvin Dark

The Straight Dope reports that the first time the double switch was used was in 1962. It was during a World Series game.

In the 9th inning, Alvin Dark — manager of the San Francisco Giants — used the strategy to switch his pitcher and the catcher.

This may have been the first-ever double switch that has been documented.

Clark Griffith

Some sources say that the double switch was first used in 1906.

At the time, Clark Griffith was both a position player and the team’s manager. He entered the game as a pitcher in the 8th inning. 

Being the relief pitcher, he took the place of the catcher. He also used a different catcher, who was on the bench, to replace the current pitcher.

This occurrence certainly is earlier than that of Alvin Dark, but it is contested. It was the first-ever use of the Double Switch during a Major League game.

So How Useful Is The Double Switch?

compares the use of the double switch in the American League and the National League baseball games. It says that as the years pass, the American League teams pull the double switch more and are catching up to the National League teams in the number of times it is used.

However, the designated hitter rule in the American League has lessened the advantages of the double switch, so you’ll still see the move pulled more often in National League ballparks and games. You may see it more often in interleague play, especially if they’re using the rules of a NL team. 

The American League team of the Los Angeles Angels has used this strategy more than any other team in the leagues during recent years. They have used it around 60 times per season between 2014 and 2016.

The New York Times wrote about a case of the double switch. It was a match between the New York Yankees and the Florida Marlins that took place in 1997.

Jim Leyland, manager of the Florida Marlins, made two double switches. He used them on the two best hitters. 

He says that he used the method because he was short of both hitters and players in the batting order. He did it so that the bench players would not run out, leaving the pitcher to pinch hit.

The Marlins scored a 2-1 in the game and won, leaving the New York Yankees in the dust. Leyland’s substitution strategy worked.

So we can conclude that if used strategically, the double switch can be of great benefit.


Who Is The Designated Hitter?

The designated hitter (or DH for short) is a position that is officially used in Major League Baseball. It was first used in 1973 by the American League for baseball.

It allows a player to be at bat in the place of pitchers. This player is then given the title of the Designated Hitter.

It improves offense as the team’s hitting performance is boosted since pitchers, who are often notoriously poor hitters, can be skipped in the batting lineup.

Can You Use A Double Switch With A Designated Hitter?

Using a double switch with a designated hitter is not allowed. This move would be illegal because a designated hitter’s at bat is determined beforehand and locked. 

The Umpire would not allow this move to be made. Due to this rule, managers have to assign their designated hitter diligently as it can affect their performance.

However, the designated hitter himself can be switched. In this case, the batting order would be the same, just with a different designated hitter.

Is Doing A Double Switch Difficult?

The double switch is only beneficial in the short term. It gives the team an advantage immediately but does not last.

Using the method is a gamble. Managers can also replace a defensive position player for pitchers after the switch.

However, they try to use this method as late as possible. This is because it reduces the number of players available on the bench.

This is especially a problem if the team can’t pinch-hit. The cause of this would be that no benched players are available.

Another issue with the double switch is that it complicates the batting order. The manager can find it difficult to keep up with the batting order after a double switch. 

In addition, it could cause another player to bat out of turn.