Baseball Analysis: Why Lefties Rule

Josh LevittSenior Analyst IJuly 2, 2009

Washington University professor David Peters takes a look why lefties rule in Major League baseball. His reply is both simple and fascinating and makes me wish that I could have fulfilled my goal in life as a left handed specialist, who pitched 17 years in the Majors with 13 teams.

"Q:When are diamonds a left-hander's best friend? A: When they're baseball diamonds, says Washington University in St. Louis engineering professor David Peters.

"Just look at the numbers. While only 10 percent of the population is left-handed, 25 percent of major leaguers are. Of the 61 pitchers enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 13 are left-handed, or 21 percent, more than twice that in the general population. It's even more striking for position players:

"Of 128 in the Hall, 71 are righties, 59 are lefties and eight are switch-hitters—or close to 50-50! Among left-handers are some of the game's greatest: Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, George Brett, Barry Bonds.

"Why such a tilt? Most important is that left-handed batters get a better look at the pitch from a right-hander, since that hand is hurling from an angle more straight-on to their eyesight. A right-handed batter, on the other hand, sees the ball coming from over his shoulder, the reason batters switch-hit.

"Then there's running to first base: When a right-hander swings, his momentum carries him the wrong way toward third base; a lefty already stands some five feet closer to first, with his swing and spin carrying him in the correct direction. So a lefty gets to first base about 1/6th of a second faster, translating into more hits and a higher batting average. For lefty pitchers on the mound, they stand automatically facing a runner on first, making a pickoff far easier."

So in theory, should a right handed pitchers and right handed hitters be judged differently within baseball circles because they are born with the "disadvantage" of being right handed?

There's some food for thought.


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