Other Revelations: Maine and Lefty Catchers

When did Maine become a state?

We knew that Maine was originally part of Massachusetts at the inception of the United States, but couldn’t remember when it became a state of its own. I wondered if it became a state as part of a compromise to maintain the balance between free and slave states in the 1800’s, but couldn’t remember my US history notes. It turns out I was on the right track, as Maine (free) and Missouri (slave) were made states as part of the Compromise of 1820.

Why aren’t there any left-handed catchers?

Beaudry asked me if there were any left-handed catchers. I assumed incorrectly that there had to be. I know they are rare, but I figured there had to be one in MLB right now. Nope. The last southpaw behind the plate was in 1989. In fact, only one lefty has caught more than 1000 games (Jack Clements) and that was pre-1900, which was a crazy time for baseball.

The obvious question is why. The “Ask Yahoo!” response argued that a left-handed catcher would have a more difficult time throwing out runners at second base, because right-handed batters (the majority of hitters) would obstruct their motion. Additionally, it’s true that a lefty would have to pivot for a throw to third. Sabernomics estimates these effects are worth about 12 runs a season for equally effective catchers. Of course, the lefty has the advantage making plays at first, either on pick-off plays or bunts/dribblers in front of the plate. I would also argue that at higher levels of baseball, the ratio of left- to right-handed batters increases, tempering the throwing advantage to second base.

My opinion is that left-handed little leaguers are discouraged from playing catcher, partly for the above reasons (whether fairly or not), but also because left-handed catcher’s mitts are not provided to the teams. Little league coaches will use the talented lefties at pitcher, first, or outfield instead. I suppose some left-handed kids could buy their own mitts, but the number is low enough that the odds of one of these to reach the majors is extremely low. However, I don’t feel like there is a systematic reason why a catcher can’t be left handed (unlike a 2B, SS, or 3B).

2 thoughts on “Other Revelations: Maine and Lefty Catchers

  1. The gutsy little California team in the little league world series has a lefty catcher and a pitcher that could throw heat on a major field in excess of 109! Did I mention I’m unemployed?

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