Saturday Frivolities

Left-hander’s Day is August 13th. Who knew? When’s Right-hander’s Day? Every day is right-hander’s Day!

Random information is always a good thing, and today is definitely one those things that you can post under “trivial”.

Have you ever wondered what percentage of players were right-handed or left-handed? Switch hitters? I wonder about these things, and of course, Baseball-Reference has the answers for me. A few things to keep in mind before I go into it. One, only 7-10% of the general population is left-handed, but it is slightly more common in males (why? I have no idea). Two, high rates of exposure to testosterone can make it more likely to be left-handed (Again, no idea, but considering the recent stories …). Three, just for fun, the word “left” came from the Latin word for “sinister” because it used to be thought that being left-handed meant that one was possessed or evil. Being left-handed was an illness, but now for baseball parents, it’s a blessing. Interesting. Anyway, on to random factoids.

Hitting
1900-2009 –> 64.7% (Right), 23.7% (Left), 6.7% (Both), 1.3% (Unknown)
1900-1909 –> 54.9% (R), 24.7% (L), 6.3% (B), 12.1% (U)
1910-1919 –> 64.3% (R), 27.2% (L) 6.4% (B), 2.1% (U)
1920-1929 –> 64.7% (R), 29.8% (L),5.2% (B), 0.2% (U)
1930-1939 –> 68.1% (R), 27.0% (L), 4.9% (B)
1940-1949 –> 66.8% (R), 29.0% (L), 4.2% (B)
1950-1959 –> 66.3% (R), 30.0% (L), 3.6% (B)
1960-1969 –> 66.3% (R), 27.5% (L), 6.2% (B)
1970-1979 –> 65.1% (R), 26.4% (L), 8.5% (B)
1980-1989 –> 62.8% (R), 27.4% (L), 9.8% (B)
1990-1999 –> 66.3% (R), 25.3% (L), 8.5% (B)
2000-2009 –> 63.1% (R), 28.9% (L), 8.0% (B)

Not too much variance in the numbers, which could be interesting but maybe not. The only real jump is from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. It jumped a whole 5 percentage points. Considering Mickey Mantle started in 1951, could he have influenced people to go back to switch-hitting? I doubt it. Could one person have such an influence or are we just seeing statistical variance? The other notable thing is just how many more people hit left-handed than should. Only 10% should, but the average is usually three times that. I’ve heard people think it’s not unnatural for righties to hit from the left side, and considering the vast right-handedness of pitchers, forcing oneself to hit left-handed may not be a bad idea. Any thoughts?

Throwing
1900-2009 –> 79.5% (Right), 19.9% (Left), 0.5% (Unknown)
1900-1909 –> 78.9% (R), 17.0% (L), 4.1% (U)
1910-1919 –> 82.6% (R), 16.5% (L), 1.0% (U)
1920-1929 –> 81.4% (R), 18.4% (L), 0.2% (U)
1930-1939 –> 82.2% (R), 17.8% (L)
1940-1949 –> 81.3% (R), 18.7% (L)
1950-1959 –> 80.4% (R), 19.6% (L)
1960-1969 –> 79.2% (R), 20.8% (L)
1970-1979 –> 78.9% (R), 21.1% (L)
1980-1989 –> 78.0% (R), 22.0% (L)
1990-1999 –> 78.0% (R), 22.0% (L)
2000-2009 –> 78.4% (R), 21.6% (L)

Handedness stays pretty level for throwing, which isn’t surprising because no new positions have popped up for lefties. I wish I could figure out the handedness of pitchers because it seems as though there is more of a focus on getting lefties now, but maybe not. It’s also pretty cool that the percentages from the 1980’s and 1990’s are identical.

Again, I don’t really think these things really get us anywhere, but I thought it would be an interesting thing to know.

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3 Responses to “Saturday Frivolities”

  1. Utpal Says:

    Nice! I’ve wondered about this too! Regarding the issue of it being “natural” for right-handed people to bat from the nominally “leftie” side, this makes sense if we look at other sports too. For instance, the Canadian standard for gripping a hockey stick is precisely the reverse of what we have in the U.S.: the dominant hand is higher on the stick. Similarly, there is currently a major debate raging in cricket (whose fundamental offensive motion–batting–is very similar to baseball’s) about how a right-handed person should bat: as is traditionally considered “rightie”, or as is traditionally considered “leftie”. So it would make sense that some kids would, in the absence of fretful tutelage, pick up a baseball bat and just start swinging it from the “wrong” side. What do you think?

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    Not sure. I think that there’s a basic way to hold a bat from both sides but which side you decide to use is completely up to you. I’m not sure that either side is more or less “natural” than the other, but considering that most righties hit from the “right” side, I would say it is more “natural”. Now, do those kids pick up the bat and swing it that way because that is what they have observed? I’m not sure, but it might be an interesting experiment.

  3. Utpal Says:

    Good point. Hard to know. For me personally, I know I started picking up a bat way before I was coordinated enough to feel what was “correct” so I just did what the older kids told me right-handed people were supposed to do. I would presume that the differing degrees of dexterity in the two hands would lead to an advantage one way or the other, but it’s not clear which positioning gives the optimal result. I wonder if there’s been any kind of kinesiological study of this topic…

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