How Baseball Is Rigged For Lefties

In the general public, about 10 percent of people are left-handed. In Major League Baseball, about 25 percent of players are lefties. Any serious fan knows some of the reasons why certain positions favor lefties, but David Peters has come up with a laundry list of reasons to explain this anomaly.

Peters is an aircraft engineer and professor at Washington University in St. Louis, and a devoted Cardinal's fan. This week, he shared his reasons why the game is rigged to favor southpaws.

The ballparks: Right field in most parks is shorter than left field because of the preponderance of right-handed hitters.

Seeing the ball: "A right-handed batter facing a right-handed pitcher actually has to pick up the ball visually as it comes from behind his (the batter's) left shoulder. The left-handed batter facing the right-handed pitcher has the ball coming to him, so he has a much clearer view of pitches."

Getting going: After a right-hander connects with a ball, his momentum spins him toward the third-base side. He must regroup to take even his first step toward first base. A left-hander's momentum carries him directly toward first. "The left-handed batter has a 5-foot advantage over the right-handed batter," Peters calculates. "And that means the lefty travels the 90 feet to first roughly one-sixth of a second faster than the righty. That translates to more base hits for the left-hander, whether singles or extra base hits because lefties are getting to the bases more quickly."

Pitching: The left-handed pitcher generally is much more difficult to steal off. From his stretch, he peers directly at the runner; the right-hander must look over his shoulder and wheel to first base, giving the runner more of a warning of the pitcher's intent.

Fielding: First base and right field favor lefies. The favorable angles lefties allow them to throw the ball more quickly across the diamond to second, third and home.

Just being different: "Because only 10 percent of the population is left-handed, kids grow up and mature in baseball seeing a left-hander just 10 percent of the time they bat," he points out. "So, it can be hard for both lefties and righties to face a southpaw. It's why some left-handed batters look dreadful matched against a lefty." Some batters don't like facing southpaws because their ball is purported to have a natural movement away from a right-hander and into a lefty. "There's no scientific evidence to support this, but I wonder if lefties get that movement from learning to write in a right-hander's world," Peters says.

Not catching on: One position a lefty rarely plays is catcher; it is difficult for a southpaw catcher to throw over so many right-hand batters.

Live Science Staff
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