Baseball can be a different game for lefties and righties, but there's a lot more to learn.
In Thursday’s Boston Globe, Alex Speier had an interesting piece about new Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland. Speier began by noting that Moreland and Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, who field and throw left-handed, won the two Gold Glove awards at first base in 2016, and that left-handed first basemen seem to have a substantial advantage in Gold Glove voting. His question: Why?
We all know several of the reasons and Speier deftly touches on them all. The throw to second base is easier for a left-handed first baseman. A left-hander wears the glove on his right hand, which might give him an infinitesimal but real advantage on ground balls in the hole between first base and second base. Some of the footwork around the bag can be more easily done in the optimal way by a lefty. There are myriad selection biases at work, too. Red Sox infield coach Brian Butterfield summed it all up by telling Speier: “The whole infield was made for right-handers, except for first base." That’s true.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Solving baseball mysteries with the aid of an unlikely source.
Most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers, and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Tom Shieber is Senior Curator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, where he has worked since 1998. Shieber founded SABR's Pictorial History Committee in 1994, serving as chair of the committee until 2000, and served on the Board of Directors of SABR from 1997 to 2000. He blogs about baseball history and research at Baseball Researcher.
A new argument in favor of reviving a long-extinct species.
On July 9, 2013, Sir James Paul McCartney performed at Boston's Fenway Park on one leg of his Out There Tour, which has seen him rocking in an amphitheatre from 30 A.D. and coming under attack by thousands of grasshoppers. While he was at the oldest big league park, footage of him holding a baseball bat was taken, as you can see at the 0:44 mark of this video. Two things immediately appear to the attentive baseball fan: 1) the former Beatle features a Ty Cobb-like split hand grip and 2) he swings from the right side despite being a southpaw.
McCartney is not alone in the latter trait, Rickey Henderson and the elder George Bush being notable precedents. However, throwing from the portside while swinging from starboard is not advantageous, as you forfeit the frequent platoon advantage at the plate, plus the possibility of playing three infield positions.
Does separating starters of the same type in the same rotation make sense?
It's the time of year when managers start thinking about games that will actually count. Positional battles are heating up, because decisions need to be made. Opening Day starters are being named. Variations in lineups are being considered, for facing righties, lefties, and Pat Venditte. Your favorite team has spent the spring trying to decide between two players, both of whom are relative unknowns. Due to the 50/50/90 rule (when you have a 50/50 chance of getting something right by chance, you will get it wrong 90 percent of the time), they will pick the wrong utility infielder and the other guy will become a decent starter for some other team.
Don't become so fixated on the throwing arm during that time you forget about what's going on with the glove side.
A pitcher's throwing arm is the hardest-working limb on the playing field, so it figures to get all the attention, but the oft-ignored glove-side arm has the potential to either aid the delivery or throw a wrench into the system. The non-throwing arm plays a non-trivial role in mechanical assessment—I have occasionally dropped a reference to a pitcher with a “sloppy glove” or one who “keeps the glove out in front of the body,” but I have yet to go into detail on the topic.
We have covered the basic tenets of Pitchology this season, from balance to momentum and hip-shoulder separation, but today will be an advanced lesson in the theory behind one of the finer elements of pitching mechanics. So if the class will indulge me for a lecture, I'll don the tweed jacket while the rest grab a mitt and meet me on the diamond for a virtual field trip.