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Friday, March 1, 2013

Bats/Throws: Executive Summary

OK, maybe the previous summary post was a bit too detailed.

Both: switch hitters
RR: bats right, throws right
RL: bats right, throws left
LR: bats left, throws right
LL: bats left, throws left
BR: bats both, throws right
BL: bats both, throws left

1903-2012 righties:
63% PA
73% Innings

2012 righties:
60.42% PA
70.10% Innings

For 836 batters with at least 5,000 PA since 1901:
- 99.6% of righty batters throw righty
- only 42.2% of lefty batters throw lefty; this suggests that some lefty batters may be opportunists
- 54.9% bat right, throw right (RR)

There are more batters competing for playing time at 1B and OF, the only fielding positions available to lefty throwing batters, taking about 33% of all MLB PA in 2012.  At 2B, 3B, SS, C: zero.  For righty throwing kids: avoid 1B and OF.

1910-2012 Batting Average (BA) on balls in play:
BAbip: ([H]-[HR])/([AB]-[HR]-[SO])

    BAbip    1B      2B      3B
RR .285    .237    .070    .013
LR .294    .244    .071    .016
LL .295    .244    .073    .017

Natural lefties (LL) win out.

With old fashion BA: lefty batters exceed RR: LR by 6%, LL by 5.4%.

There is virtually no such thing as switch pitching.  There a few very brief examples of a righty pitching lefty:
- Greg Harris 1986 (two batters)
Ice Box Chamberlain 1888 (two innings) and Oct. 1 1891 (C. Blau)
- Larry Corcoran 1884 (four innings; right index finger injured)
- Tony Mullane: 1881-1894; supposedly he injured his right and learned to throw with his left but his actual switch pitching may have been rare; please note:

There are three known instances: July 18, 1882, July 14, 1893, and July 5, 1892.  Doesn't mean he didn't do it more often.

Cliff Blau

As a kid I heard that Yankee lefty pitcher Bud Daley had learned to pitch lefty because of a withered right arm.  wikipedia:

It is often rumoured that Daley was born naturally right-handed but developed polio as a child causing one arm to be shorter than the other. In fact Daley was born left-handed and his right arm and side are healthy. He did suffer temporary paralysis to his right arm after birth due to forceps pinching a nerve. However, massage and exercise restored the limb to health. Daley's mother, Mrs. E.G. Petzoldt, once said, No one wanted a baby more than I did. But Buddy was so crippled I didn't want him to live.. His right arm remained so crippled as an adult that he could barely raise it high enough to comb his hair.[2] Despite a slightly withered right arm, Daley served as a fifth infielder, was competitive as a batter, shot golf in the low 80s, and was a proficient fisherman.[1]

Too Good To Be Traded To Yankees, Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 17, 1960, Page 11.

I later heard that Tiger lefty pitcher Mickey Lolich had been injured as a kid in a motorcycle accident and switched from throwing righty to lefty.  Lolich won 25 games in 1971 and had three complete game victories in the 1968 World Series including game seven against Bob Gibson.  wikipedia:

He was originally right-handed all the way, but a tricycle accident in early childhood forced him to throw left-handed from older childhood on. He batted right-handed and still writes with his right hand.

It seems pretty clear that changing how one throws is extremely rare but that right handed players can learn to bat lefty, either exclusively or as switch hitters.

I will try to determine in future posts whether this is a good idea.  I will assume that the way a player throws is that player's natural handedness.  Ideally, I would look at data for natural righties (RR) and natural lefties (LL) v. righty and lefty pitching and compare that to the results of LR and BR batters against righty and lefty pitching.  The other two flavors, RL and BL, are so rare that I won't deal with them.

If anyone knows where I can find that level of detail in the aggregate for seasons 1903-2012, please let me know.  Otherwise, I will try it anecdotally, probably examining the top ten batters in each group: RR, RL, LL, BR.

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