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Monday, July 13, 2015

Original sin: unfair righty/lefty imbalance.

It predates non-uniform playing areas.  It predates the invention and/or discovery of the curve ball.  It's allowing some batters to stand closer to the bases than other batters.  Even the diamond itself is rendered non-symmetrical.  Its delusion of symmetry is further enhanced by the presence of two batter's boxes, one on each side of the plate.  But that delusion is an illusion.

When I was very young and saw some baseball on television my kiddie brain assumed that when the batter began to run the bases the batter would run towards the base closest to the box from which the ball was hit.  If the box was on the left side of the plate, the batter would towards the base to the left.  From the righty box, to the righty base.  In fact if the bases had been referred to as left, center and right (as the outfield positions are) then this entire travesty might not have occurred.

Maybe it was some early attempt at being touchy-feely and a departure from a medieval association of lefties with the devil.  Whatever it was, it was a mistake.  It messed up baseball in a fundamental way.  Later distortions only built on this faulty foundation.

There were two ways this could have been addressed:
1. Only have one batter's box.
2. Have batters run to the nearest base and not lock in direction.

Wow, that number two would be impossible.  Blah, blah, blah.  You know, the usual baseball knee jerk reaction to anything that's even a little different. And this change, especially at the beginning, would have been very different.  But what about base runners?  If you can win a million dollars by thinking of a way to handle that within ten seconds, do you think you could do it?

I would simply change the base location of the runners to reflect the next batter's intended direction of base running.  If a batter were to use the box on the left with a runner already on right base, then the runner would be directed by the umpire to occupy left base and run the bases clockwise.  Fielders could adapt accordingly so that true lefties, i.e., those who throw with their left hand, would not be restricted to playing first base and the outfield.

Lefties need not apply. Or why are there two batter's boxes? Monday, March 17, 2014

We're so stuck in our thinking that we don't even consider just how odd it is that baseball is so asymmetrical.  Aside from the utter absurdity of the non-uniform playing areas, why the heck are there two batter's boxes? ...

And if there are going to be two, why doesn't the righty batter run to "third" base? ..


Only about 42% of lefty batters throw lefty.


Most lefty batters are opportunists, taking advantage of two things:

1. 72% of pitches are thrown by righties, which is good for a lefty batter, bad for a righty batter.

2. Lefty batters are closer to all the bases, not just first base.

__________________________________

Let's try some anecdotal evidence.

Careers, From 1903 to 2015, (requiring batting_avg>=.340 and At least 5000 plate appearances), sorted by greatest Batting Average

Rk Player BA PA From To Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
1 Ty Cobb .366 13084 1905 1928 18-41 3034 11434 2244 4189 724 295 117 1933 1249 681 94 291 897 212 .433 .512 .945 *89/H73145 DET-PHA
2 Rogers Hornsby .358 9480 1915 1937 19-41 2259 8173 1579 2930 541 169 301 1584 1038 679 48 216 3 135 64 .434 .577 1.010 *465H/3978 STL-NYG-BSN-CHC-SLB
3 Shoeless Joe Jackson .356 5695 1908 1920 20-32 1332 4981 873 1772 307 168 54 785 519 234 59 131 202 81 .423 .517 .940 978/3H PHA-CLE-CHW
4 Tris Speaker .345 11992 1907 1928 19-40 2792 10195 1882 3514 792 222 117 1531 1381 394 103 309 436 157 .428 .500 .928 *8/H3971 BOS-CLE-WSH-PHA
5 Ted Williams .344 9788 1939 1960 20-41 2292 7706 1798 2654 525 71 521 1839 2021 86 709 39 5 20 197 24 17 .482 .634 1.116 *79H/1 BOS
6 Babe Ruth .342 10622 1914 1935 19-40 2504 8399 2174 2873 506 136 714 2214 2062 1330 43 113 2 123 117 .474 .690 1.164 971/H83 BOS-NYY-BSN
7 Harry Heilmann .342 8964 1914 1932 19-37 2146 7787 1291 2660 542 151 183 1540 856 550 40 277 113 64 .410 .520 .930 *93/H847 DET-CIN
8 Bill Terry .341 7108 1923 1936 24-37 1720 6428 1120 2193 373 112 154 1078 537 449 9 137 38 56 6 .393 .506 .899 *3H/97 NYG
9 Lou Gehrig .340 9663 1923 1939 20-36 2164 8001 1888 2721 534 163 493 1995 1508 790 45 106 2 102 100 .447 .632 1.080 *3/H976 NYY
10 George Sisler .340 9012 1915 1930 22-37 2054 8267 1284 2812 425 164 102 1178 472 327 48 226 375 127 .379 .468 .847 *3/H197845 SLB-WSH-BSN
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/13/2015.

Of the top ten, only Hornsby and Heilmann bat righty.

Of the lefty batters these were true lefties, i.e., they also threw lefty: Speaker, Ruth, Terry, Gehrig and Sisler.  However, the remaining lefties were opportunists who threw righty: Cobb, Jackson and Williams (three of the top five).
Ty Cobb and Joe Jackson
Here are the top opportunists (bat left, throw right):

Careers, From 1903 to 2015, Bats LH, Throws RH, (requiring batting_avg>=.320 and At least 5000 plate appearances), sorted by greatest Batting Average
Rk Player BA PA From To Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
1 Ty Cobb .366 13084 1905 1928 18-41 3034 11434 2244 4189 724 295 117 1933 1249 681 94 291 897 212 .433 .512 .945 *89/H73145 DET-PHA
2 Shoeless Joe Jackson .356 5695 1908 1920 20-32 1332 4981 873 1772 307 168 54 785 519 234 59 131 202 81 .423 .517 .940 978/3H PHA-CLE-CHW
3 Ted Williams .344 9788 1939 1960 20-41 2292 7706 1798 2654 525 71 521 1839 2021 86 709 39 5 20 197 24 17 .482 .634 1.116 *79H/1 BOS
4 Eddie Collins .333 12044 1906 1930 19-43 2825 9949 1821 3315 438 187 47 1300 1499 468 77 512 741 195 .424 .429 .853 *4/H69875 PHA-CHW
5 Wade Boggs .328 10740 1982 1999 24-41 2440 9180 1513 3010 578 61 118 1014 1412 180 745 23 29 96 236 24 35 .415 .443 .858 *5DH/317 BOS-NYY-TBD
6 Rod Carew .328 10550 1967 1985 21-39 2469 9315 1424 3053 445 112 92 1015 1018 144 1028 25 128 64 216 353 187 .393 .429 .822 34H/D657 MIN-CAL
7 Earle Combs .325 6513 1924 1935 25-36 1456 5746 1186 1866 309 154 58 633 670 278 17 74 98 71 .397 .462 .859 *87/H9 NYY
8 Sam Rice .322 10251 1915 1934 25-44 2405 9269 1514 2987 498 184 34 1077 708 275 56 213 351 143 .374 .427 .801 *98H/71 WSH-CLE
9 Ross Youngs .322 5336 1917 1926 20-29 1211 4627 812 1491 236 93 42 592 550 390 37 119 153 83 .399 .441 .839 *9/4H87 NYG
10 Chuck Klein .320 7170 1928 1944 23-39 1753 6486 1168 2076 398 74 300 1201 601 521 12 69 55 79 .379 .543 .922 *97H/83 CHC-PIT-PHI
11 Charlie Gehringer .320 10244 1924 1942 21-39 2323 8860 1775 2839 574 146 184 1427 1186 372 50 141 27 181 90 .404 .480 .884 *4H/35 DET
12 Mickey Cochrane .320 6207 1925 1937 22-34 1482 5169 1041 1652 333 64 119 830 857 217 29 151 64 45 .419 .478 .897 *2/H7 PHA-DET
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/13/2015.

I think they're all in the Hall of Fame.

How about true lefties (both bat and throw lefty)?

Careers, From 1903 to 2015, Bats LH, Throws LH, (requiring batting_avg>=.320 and At least 5000 plate appearances), sorted by greatest Batting Average

Rk Player BA PA From To Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
1 Tris Speaker .345 11992 1907 1928 19-40 2792 10195 1882 3514 792 222 117 1531 1381 394 103 309 436 157 .428 .500 .928 *8/H3971 BOS-CLE-WSH-PHA
2 Babe Ruth .342 10622 1914 1935 19-40 2504 8399 2174 2873 506 136 714 2214 2062 1330 43 113 2 123 117 .474 .690 1.164 971/H83 BOS-NYY-BSN
3 Bill Terry .341 7108 1923 1936 24-37 1720 6428 1120 2193 373 112 154 1078 537 449 9 137 38 56 6 .393 .506 .899 *3H/97 NYG
4 Lou Gehrig .340 9663 1923 1939 20-36 2164 8001 1888 2721 534 163 493 1995 1508 790 45 106 2 102 100 .447 .632 1.080 *3/H976 NYY
5 George Sisler .340 9012 1915 1930 22-37 2054 8267 1284 2812 425 164 102 1178 472 327 48 226 375 127 .379 .468 .847 *3/H197845 SLB-WSH-BSN
6 Tony Gwynn .338 10232 1982 2001 22-41 2440 9288 1383 3141 543 85 135 1138 790 203 434 24 45 85 259 319 125 .388 .459 .847 *98H/7D SDP
7 Paul Waner .333 10766 1926 1945 23-42 2550 9459 1627 3152 605 191 113 1309 1091 376 38 174 127 104 0 .404 .473 .878 *9H/378 PIT-BSN-BRO-NYY
8 Stan Musial .331 12717 1941 1963 20-42 3026 10972 1949 3630 725 177 475 1951 1599 127 696 53 35 53 243 78 31 .417 .559 .976 3798H/1 STL
9 Heinie Manush .330 8419 1923 1939 21-37 2009 7654 1288 2524 491 160 110 1183 506 345 70 186 11 113 59 .377 .479 .856 *78H9/3 DET-SLB-WSH-BOS-BRO-PIT
10 Babe Herman .324 6228 1926 1945 23-42 1553 5603 882 1818 399 110 181 997 520 553 11 92 43 94 0 .383 .532 .915 *937H BRO-CIN-CHC-PIT-DET
11 Edd Roush .323 8148 1913 1931 20-38 1967 7363 1099 2376 339 182 68 981 484 260 53 256 268 92 .369 .446 .815 *8H/7394 CHW-IND-NEW-NYG-CIN
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/13/2015.

Finally, how about those who bat right but throw left?  In other words, natural lefties who chose to bat from the disadvantaged righty batter's box.

Careers, From 1903 to 2015, Bats RH, Throws LH, (requiring batting_avg>=.220 and At least 5000 plate appearances), sorted by greatest Batting Average

Rk Player BA PA From To Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
1 Hal Chase .291 7938 1905 1919 22-36 1919 7417 980 2158 322 124 57 941 276 660 30 216 363 37 .319 .391 .710 *3/487H6915 NYY-CHW-BUF-CIN-NYG
2 Rickey Henderson .279 13346 1979 2003 20-44 3081 10961 2295 3055 510 66 297 1115 2190 61 1694 98 30 67 172 1406 335 .401 .419 .820 *78HD/9 OAK-NYY-TOR-ANA-SDP-NYM-SEA-BOS-LAD
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/13/2015.

Need I say more?

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