Last year when Pat Venditte brought his unprecedented switch-pitching ability to Major League Baseball, I flat-out declared that this talent would never find its way into Sony's MLB The Show series, and Venditte, a long-time minor leaguer, would only throw left-handed in a video game.
Well, I'm flat-out wrong. In MLB The Show 16, which launches Tuesday for PlayStation 4 and PS3, Venditte throws with both arms and is able to change mid-game as he does in real life.
As the video above explains (and pardon me for broadcasting from inside a trashcan) a player using Venditte will be prompted to choose his pitching hand when the opposing batter is a switch hitter. Otherwise, Venditte will use the same handedness as the opposing batter (this gives a hitter less of a view of the ball's trajectory, making it harder to hit. Hitters generally do more poorly against pitchers coming from the same side they bat.)
Carter Capps' strange, crow-hop delivery also is in The Show this year
In real life, Venditte can use either hand, batter-to-batter; he doesn't get the privilege only when a switch hitter comes to the plate. Still, even this limited introduction of something potentially game-destroying took a lot of work.
"It was definitely not easy," said Ramone Russell of Sony's San Diego Studio, which develops the MLB The Show series. "When this happened with him last year, we all said, 'Hey, this is really cool, so lets see how hard it is to implement." One designer, worked with programmers over the course of about two months to get this feature into the game.
San Diego Studio didn't have this feature in last year's game mainly because it didn't know if Venditte would be called up. They don't get to use players who are not members of the Major League Baseball Players Association, and a player can't join the union until he makes his big league debut.
But I also felt that San Diego Studio would avoid creating a unique and potentially game-breaking feature simply for one guy, who was released by the big league club that promoted him last year and will probably begin the 2016 season in the minor leagues. "We did all this for one guy who isn't even on a major league roster come opening day," Russell said — with pride in his voice, not resentment.
Venditte was taught to use both arms to pitch since his childhood, and he regularly used both when he was a starter in college. At one point, Venditte put together a scoreless streak of 43 2/3 innings. When he was drafted, the organization for professional baseball umpires developed a rule — in consultation with the big leagues — governing how switch pitchers may use their arms during a game.
A pitcher must declare his hand before each at-bat and then remain with it through that at bat, unless for some reason he injures that arm but can still continue with the other. A switch hitter then chooses which side of the plate to bat. San Diego Studio had to inspect this rule closely to make sure MLB The Show 16 follows the same protocol.
In a video game where anyone can create players and edit ratings, introducing switch-pitching without a lot of conditions could destroy the game, so Sony's San Diego Studio placed a lot of restrictions on how this talent is used. For starters, it's available only to Venditte. You can't create a switch pitcher, whether in Road to the Show or on the game's roster, and you can't give any other pitcher a switch-pitching skill.
While Venditte's ratings can be changed, meaning a player could turn him into a starting pitcher with a super arsenal of pitches, they can't do what everyone wonders about with switch pitchers — get consecutive starts out of him. As only facing a switch-hitter triggers the choice, there's no means for starting a game and using one of his arms exclusively throughout it, then bringing him back the next day with the other arm. Venditte's stamina and recovery is the same as any other standard pitcher.
Fooling around with Venditte, I've generally picked the side that an opposing switch hitter has the toughest time with (the game will display their batting averages against left and right handers). However, if I've had a runner on first base and a switch hitter coming to the plate, I've chosen to throw left-handed because the pickoff move to first is a lot quicker and more deceptive.
It's absolutely delightful to see this exotic talent have some kind of representation in a video game that takes a lot of pride in giving its players everything they see in Major League Baseball especially if we've never seen it before.
Roster File is Polygon's news and opinion column on the intersection of sports and video games.