Saturday, January 17, 2015

Is the lefty pitcher advantage real?

Yes - Just ask Jamie Moyer. The crafty lefty kept major league hitters of balance, for 25 years, by locating his fastball and deceptive changeup.
Henry Knight LHP

In youth leagues, left-handed pitchers often have the advantage over hitters since they are rare and the pitches come from a different direction and slower speed. About 1 in 10 kids can throw left-handed and only some of them are pitchers. Batters don't get many chances to face lefties in games, so they seem to have trouble hitting off them.

Some people think that left-handed pitches have more movement than right-handed throws. Certainly the spin and angle of the lefty pitch could fool many right-handed batters.

Here are a few notes on what gives the LHP an advantage:

Lefty 2-seam fastball runs away from the batter

After watching a lot of college pitchers, I noticed that left handers often throw a 2-seam fastball down and away to right-handed batters. A good 2-seamer moves away from the righty hitters.

Lefty Changeup throws off a hitters timing

A changeup thrown with fastball arm motion by a lefty to the outside of the plate can really disrupt the timing of the batter. On release the pitch looks like a fastball, but comes in 8-10 mph slower. The hitter swings fast and early – thinking the pitch is a fastball. When they swing and miss, they become very frustrated – sometimes slamming their bat on the ground. A good changeup gives the lefty pitcher a big advantage since they start to get into the hitters head and throw of the hitters timing.

Throwing high fastballs inside

Left-handed batters struggle to hit the high inside fastball throw by a LHP.

It's all in their head

I think that hitters might perceive more movement facing a lefty pitcher (in LL), since they are more used to the righty pitcher. Coaches also tell players that lefty pitches have more movement, so that's what the hitter thinks.

The arm angle and release point of a left-handed thrower might also fool a hitter at the plate.

Hitters guess where a ball will be over the plate and often they have trouble guessing the location of the left-handed pitch, since they usually hit against right-handers (80 to 90% of the time).

Lower Velocity throws off timing 

Left handers generally throw fastballs 3-5 mph slower than right handers in high school. Batters have trouble making the adjustment to wait on the slower pitches that have movement - especially on the outside. Many hitters tend to swing slower against lefties or try to check their swing. Therefore, left-handed pitchers tend to miss the barrel of the bat which results in weak grounders, popups or swinging strikes.

The switch pitcher ...

Henry Knight, my son, has been switch pitching in high school for 3 years and his stats are better throwing left-handed - even though he is a natural right hander. Henry makes hitters look silly when he pitches lefty - using a 2-seam fastball and changeup - like Jamie Moyer.


Learn More:

At 49, Jamie Moyer's Pitching Career Goes Into Extra Innings - NPR

The increased movement of a left handed pitcher’s fastball is a product of their intent and focus to throw the ball down and away from right handed hitters, plain and simple!

Why Left Handed Pitching is so Valuable - Insidepitching

When it comes to pitching, left-handers get extra benefits - USA Today

Lefties who pitch inside to righties - Beyond the Box Score


How many lefty pitchers?

In the general public, about 10 percent of people are left-handed. In Major League Baseball, about 25 percent of players are lefties

Left-handed pitchers are more common at the higher levels...

Little League: about 10 - 20% of pitchers are left-handed (varies with the league). 

College recruits: about 70% are RHP, and 30% are LHP.

Pro pitchers: about 66% are right-handed and 33% are left-handed.


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