The Decline of Pure Lefties

Doooweeeey!

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Interesting article by Mike Petriello on MLB.com
Another reason to dislike the shift, IMO.

As a member of this declining class, I'm filing my lighthearted discrimination grievance with the league office.

My solution (offered with mild amusement): Alternate the direction of base running. Counterclockwise in innings 1, 3, 5, 7, 9. Clockwise 2, 4, 6, 8.
Imagine the challenge of fielding a competent infield to turn the 4-6-5/6-4-5/5-4-5(1) twin killings in one inning and the 6-4-3/4-6-3/3-6-3(1) the next?

And before you say I'm not "in my right mind," just be glad I didn't ask for the "odd" innings, okay?
Pure Lefties untie!!
 

Marciano490

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We have boxing. The unspecials can have baseball for however long that sport survives.
 

BuellMiller

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I understand why lefties never play 4,5,6 (especially 4), but I never understood why you never see LH catchers. Is it just that if you're a lefty with a good enough arm to play C, you just end up pitching instead?
 

lexrageorge

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I understand why lefties never play 4,5,6 (especially 4), but I never understood why you never see LH catchers. Is it just that if you're a lefty with a good enough arm to play C, you just end up pitching instead?
I believe it's because most batters are right-handed, and so a catcher that throws lefty would have to move a bit to throw out the runner.
 

tims4wins

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I always thought it was because the throw down to second is easier without a batter in the closer batter's box. And with most batters being RH, having a LH catcher would result in more "near misses"
I believe it's because most batters are right-handed, and so a catcher that throws lefty would have to move a bit to throw out the runner.
Are there any stats that show it is easier to steal 2nd with a lefty up than a righty? This is interesting.
 

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A left handed catcher has a better throwing motion to first base on a pick off, regardless of who's in the box...a greater advantage there (at least a more common one) than the risk to the right-hander throwing down to third.
 

lexrageorge

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The link below discusses the lack of lefty catchers in better detail than most. Turns out my initial assumption is not correct, but it appears instead to be part of "conventional wisdom". However, no less of an authority than Bill Lee makes an argument against lefty catchers:


However, consumate left-hander Bill Lee argues against the left-handed catcher. "Lefties can't play catcher because your head hangs over home plate when you make tag. You've got the ball in your right hand; you're blocking the plate with your left foot. When you go to make the tag, you're exposed. A lefty catcher would get killed."
 

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Are there any stats that show it is easier to steal 2nd with a lefty up than a righty? This is interesting.
A lefty catcher's throw naturally tails toward the first base side of second, which might be an advantage in picking off the baserunner.
Is there data showing that right-handed catchers struggle with the throw more when a left hander is in the batter's box?

Dammit, Spaceman, you got me there...!
Edit: But wait, don't the rules now prohibit catchers blocking the plate this way anyway?
 
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Just a bit outside

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Pros for a lefty catcher:
Pickoff at first
Bunt plays to first

Cons for a lefty catcher:
Throw to second will tail to shortstop side
Harder throw to third on a steal
Harder to sweep tag at home

I think the cons outweigh the pros and would lead to more stolen bases. Third base would be much easier to steal. Anecdotally lefties also throw from a slightly lower arm angle which leads to more movement.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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The irony of the bias against LH catchers is that many of the arguments against them can similarly be applied to a right-hand throwing first baseman, yet there's no shortage of the latter. RH 1B holding runners on face the same tag dilemma on pick-off attempts that LH catchers do on tag plays at the plate, and pick-off attempts happen way more frequently than tag plays at the plate. RHH first baseman throwing to 2nd to start a double play generally involves turning 180 degrees to orient for a proper throw...as tough as a LH catcher throwing to 3rd on a steal.

It really is about the conventional wisdom, ultimately. Good catchers tend to be catchers from a young age. If a kid isn't put behind the plate in little league or high school, he's far less likely to end up playing there as a professional, as opposed to the CW that any slugger can be stuck at 1B at any stage of his career and handle it. So if a young lefty doesn't have a coach willing to try him at catcher, he's pretty much locked out of the position. Probably doesn't help that LH catcher's mitts are quite hard to find, which only further discourages lefties from even trying the position out.
 

jon abbey

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How often are there pickoff attempts by a C at 1B these days? I guess it depends on the catcher but I feel like they are pretty rare in recent years.
 

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Our guy Vazquez throws down to first a lot...
I like it. It holds down the running game with a lower risk play. If it gets by the first baseman, you have a guy at second, not a run scored...
 

Humphrey

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How many catchers start catching when they reach pro ball? I would think not that many.

Any coach below that level that has a prodigy is not going to waste that young man's potential by putting him behind the plate.
 

Doooweeeey!

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So if a young lefty doesn't have a coach willing to try him at catcher, he's pretty much locked out of the position.
Good post that enjoins the spirit of my opener. Thanks.

So what do you do with a pure lefty who rakes, has a cannon, shows understanding of the game behind the plate and happens to sport a “catcher’s body?” Tell him to play first, because he throws from the wrong side? Go shag flies, kid...?

If I’m him, I bust my ass to show you I can catch. (Lefties are known to be adaptable, because they kinda have to be...)
I also search high and low for a glove (they do exist.)

The CW could be pointing to a market inefficiency, however small, in the counterclockwise game.
 

EddieYost

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Rec baseball equipment bags don’t come equipped with a lefty catchers mitt. Not that this is an absolute blocker, but it does discourage many from trying, or being offered the chance.
 

Max Power

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How weird would it be for a pitcher to throw to a lefty catcher? They've spent their whole lives looking at and throwing to a target on one side. I wonder how much it would throw off their control.
 

Ford Frick's Asterisk

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In A Game of Inches which is a great source for the origin of topics like this, Peter Morris basically came to all the same conclusions that have been discussed already. The lefty catcher died out by the 20th century because they were considered handicapped on the throws to 2nd and 3rd on stolen bases and bunts, especially in an era where it was common for opponents to push the boundaries of interference. The last lefty catcher with a long career was Jack Clements, and he retired in 1900. While those biases largely died after the deadball era, it was too late. Finding a left-handed catcher's mitt for a youth was difficult and a strong-armed lefty would be directed to the pitcher's mound.

However, in the 1870s & '80s -- after the curveball became popular -- teams would often pair up a left-handed catcher with a left-handed pitcher. The style of catching at that time, combined with poor gloves that necessitated also using the barehand, led to some sore-handed righty catchers with a lefty on the mound.
 

Doooweeeey!

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The target is the target; the glove doesn’t really look much different, except where the thumb is. As mentioned elsewhere, RHP would probably enjoy the lefty catcher’s framing to the outside on RHB. He can catch it there without reaching across his body.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Rec baseball equipment bags don’t come equipped with a lefty catchers mitt. Not that this is an absolute blocker, but it does discourage many from trying, or being offered the chance.
Sadly, even when you do have a lefty mitt, finding a coach willing to play the lefty catcher is the toughest hurdle. At least it was for me. My dad scoured around and found me a lefty catcher's mitt when I was in junior high. Then it was 5-6 years of trying, and failing, to convince my coaches to give me a shot. Didn't help that we had a catcher who ended up being all district, and another solid kid a couple years younger, so it's not like we were hurting at the position. I still warmed up pitchers in the pen or when the catcher had been at bat or on base when the inning ended as often as I could, but when I wasn't pitching, I played 1B or RF. Only got to catch two innings once in a summer league blow-out when I was 18. I did throw a runner out at second. Never had a chance to throw to third.