Seattle Mariners v Minnesota Twins

Sometimes you end up in an entirely different place than you started.

To wit. I was reading about the strike zone, and how it’s shifted for lefty hitters. Jon Roegele over at Beyond the Boxscore did some heavy thinking about how the lefty strike zone works when it comes to balls and strikes, and it’s worth a read.

But the decision to swing or not was not what got me thinking. Instead, I was thinking how unfair it is. How unfair it is that a left-handed hitter is asked to go cover further out past the outside edge of the plate than his right-handed coworkers. They should form a union and complain! Equal zones for equal people. Down with the right-handed-normative machine! These posters practically write themselves.

In any case, this is the zone the players have now, and this is the zone they battle with day to day. And so, it occurred to me, it’s more important for a left-hander to be able to cover the outside part of the plate than a right-hander! They are asked to do more out there. It’s a natural addendum to the problem.

Answering this question took me to the very edge of my ability to query databases and manipulate numbers. That’s sort of sad, considering the question is fairly easy perhaps, but it is what it is. After culling the list of all players with less than 60 balls to the outfield (that got rid of all pitchers), reducing their pull and push numbers to percentages, sorting, averaging and presto: RESULTS!

Group K%
Top 15% Oppo LHB 17.80%
Bottom 15% Oppo LHB 22.40%
Top 15% Oppo RHB 19.05%
Bottom 15% Oppo RHB 20.82%

When it comes to striking out, it is indeed, more important for a left-handed hitter to be able to go to the opposite field than it is for a right-hander. We’ve already seen how important oppo power can be for your batting average, but this is an added wrinkle: it’s more important for lefties. They have more plate to cover, those poor young men.

So, if you’re looking for batting average, here’s an interesting group to look at. These are your lefty swingers with the top opposite-field percentages in baseball last year:

Name Oppo% K%
David Cooper 39.0% 15.20%
Skip Schumaker 37.9% 16.40%
Joey Votto 37.1% 17.90%
Endy Chavez 37.0% 14.20%
Ryan Sweeney 35.6% 19.60%
Don Kelly 34.1% 17.30%
Dee Gordon 33.9% 18.80%
Jon Jay 33.5% 14.10%
Tony Campana 33.3% 22.40%
Josh Thole 33.3% 14.10%
Munenori Kawasaki 33.0% 15.70%
John Baker 32.0% 19.20%
Gregor Blanco 31.8% 23.00%
Bobby Abreu 31.7% 21.80%
Todd Helton 31.7% 15.50%
Chris Getz 31.3% 8.10%
Mike Fontenot 31.1% 21.90%
Bryce Harper 31.0% 20.10%
Brennan Boesch 31.0% 20.70%
Joe Mauer 30.8% 13.70%
Ichiro Suzuki 30.8% 9.20%

This is interesting to the discussion of the future value of Dee Gordon, for one. It shines some light on Gregor Blanco’s success. And of course it gives us more reason to love Joey Votto and Joe Mauer.

It doesn’t necessarily *seem* like they’ve overcome a lot, but they’re lefties, and they do have more obstacles then righties. Just ask them about the strike zone, desks at school, dinner table seating arrangements, stick shifts, jars, and scissors, and they’ll have something to tell you.

And that’s how we got from the strike zone to scissors. Sometimes you pull a string and end up without a sweater, I guess.