The 2021 MLB Season
The Best Lefthanded Batters and Lefthanded Pitchers in Baseball
In the early days of baseball, there were occasionally lefthanders playing catcher, second-base, shortstop, and third-base. Early in the 20th century the game evolved to the point where lefthanders were no longer allowed to play these positions. There are no written rules against them, just the commonly accepted belief that a lefthander could not play these positions as well as a righthander. That belief has grown into an "unwritten rule" and lefthanders are never given again the opportunity to try.
There are advantages for righthanded throwers playing second-base, shortstop, and third-base, and valid reasons why lefthanders might not play them as well as righthanders. The layout of the diamond gives righthanders an easier throw to first base after fielding a ground ball, since lefthanders would have to turn their bodies before making their throw. While lefthanders might be able to make all of the routine plays, they might not be able to make difficult plays requiring quick throws across the diamond.
Conventional wisdom says that a lefthanded catcher has a disadvantage in throwing out runners trying to steal second-base, because they would have to step out of the way of righthanded batters to make their throw to second. However, in recent years there almost as many lefthanded batters as righthanded batters. And there are no statistics showing that base-runners are more successful stealing second with lefthanded batters at the plate, so this theory has no scientific proof behind it.
Lefthanded catchers might have a more difficult time making a throw to third-base, since they would have to pivot and turn before throwing. This being true, lefthanded catchers might have an easier time making a throw to first-base to hold a runner close, thus keeping them from taking a bigger lead toward stealing second. One advantage may balance out one disadvantage…if only lefthanders would ever get a chance to prove themselves.
There have been a few lefthanders who have played these forbidden positions for a game or two as an emergency replacement, but no lefthander has even played one of these positions as their primary position or competed for playing time in professional baseball. These few lefthanders who have played catcher and third-base (Mike Squires, Don Mattingly, Dale Long and Benny Distefano) are considered to be folk heroes by some lefthanded baseball fans.
The theories that lefthanders cannot play these positions as well as righthanders are true, but lefthanders deserve the opportunity to try to overcome the difficulties and play these positions. Even if they are true on a major league level, lefthanders should still be given a chance in little league, in junior high and high school, and other levels of amateur ball. With limited opportunities at an early age, many lefthanded children lose interest in the game before they have a chance to develop their skills. Since many baseball players change positions on their way to the majors, allowing lefthanders to play all positions on the diamond will keep more of them in the game and give them a chance to grow up to be major leaguers.
There are no lefthanded second-basemen, shortstops, third-basemen, or catchers in major league baseball. Even in lower levels of the game, players who throw lefthanded are only allowed & encouraged to play pitcher, first-base, or outfield.