Do left handed hitters really have an advantage over right handed hitters? The answer is yes, for 3 reasons.
Statistically, left handed batters have a batting average that is 7 points higher than right handed batters – .270 for lefties, .263 for righties (J. Walsh, The Advantage of Batting Left Handed).
From the hitter’s perspective, batting left-handed is advantageous several reasons.
1. With a runner on 1st base the 3-4 hole is much easier for a lefty to find. This is a great spot to be a left handed hitter. With the 1st baseman holding on the runner and the second baseman playing double play depth, a huge hole is open up on the right side of the infield.
One of the easiest things to do as the batter is to roll over a baseball and hit a ground ball to your pull side. Right handers will hit ground balls to shortstop and third base all day and get out quite often. The third baseman and shortstop can pinch and take away the holes.
But when you have a runner at first base lefties have a great opportunity to use that hole and hit a ground ball through the infield. This could be the single biggest advantage for a left handed hitter.
It is not as easy for a right hander to hit a ground ball through that hole. Most hitters usually will hit more ground balls to their pull side and more fly balls to the opposite field.
2. Left handed hitters are one step closer to 1st base than right handed hitters. It’s commonly believed that being one step closer to 1st base gives you a better chance of beating out a ground ball in the infield.
Every year there are a handful of plays that you are thrown out by a half a step. Being one step closer to first base when hitting may get you that extra half step to beat out a few extra balls a year. As an infielder I feel that fast lefties put more pressure on the infielders than righties.
Walsh (mentioned earlier) didn’t find this factor to be statistically relevant. He believes it’s because lefties pull more balls to the 1st and 2nd basemen, and the shorter throw neutralizes this advantage. I’d love to hear if what you think about this issue in the comments section below.
3. Left handed hitters get more off handed match-ups making it favorable to the hitter. Another advantage for left handed hitters is that they get to see a lot of right handed pitching. Having an off handed at bat (lefty facing righty) usually makes for a more comfortable at bat. Here’s a few reasons why:
- Better view of the ball. You get to see the baseball a little better when the pitch is coming into you. Many lefties are uncomfortable when facing a left handed pitcher.
- Disarming the Slider. One of the most difficult pitches to hit is a slider that is thrown from a same sided matchup (righty vs righty). The reason for this is that if your front side opens up even a little bit it opens up the outside part of the plate making it very difficult to reach the pitch. With an off handed matchup you don’t have to worry about that pitch. Everything is coming into you.
- Head position. It is easier to see the ball with both eyes with an off handed matchup. Surprisingly many hitters will only really be looking for the ball with one eye when he is facing the same sided pitcher because he doesn’t have his head turned far enough. Have you ever tried to catch a ball with one eye? It is difficult.
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