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Thursday, December 05, 2019

The Hall of Fame may have a Harold Baines problem

This weekend a veterans committee from the Hall of Fame will give 10 oft-debated Cooperstown candidates another look. Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Lou Whitaker and Tommy John are among those wondering if this is the year they finally get a call to the Hall.

This weekend we’ll also learn whether Cooperstown — as many people have feared for the past year — now has a Harold Baines problem. Because if Harold Baines is in, then Dale Murphy now makes a lot more sense, right? What about Dave Parker? Dwight Evans? Aren’t they better candidates now?

We’ll find out in a few days. The vote happens Sunday at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, from one of the Hall of Fame’s veterans committee. Nowadays, these committees are defined by era and each year offers a different era another chance at getting into baseball’s most famous fraternity.

This time it’s the Modern Baseball Era Committee, which covers 1970-1987. The whole ballot includes Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Marvin Miller, Thurman Munson, Dave Parker and Ted Simmons, in addition to Mattingly, Murphy, Whitaker and John. A 16-member panel of Hall of Famers, baseball executives and historians will decide whether each is worthy of Cooperstown. We’ll find out the results Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network.

I have to wonder how we would have written about Frankie Frisch’s cronies in the Hall of Fame if the contemporary Internet was in place….

 

QLE Posted: December 05, 2019 at 09:40 PM | 196 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, harold baines, veterans committee

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   101. SoSH U at work Posted: December 07, 2019 at 10:54 PM (#5906714)
SS and C have to be right handed.


Catchers don't have to be righthanded. They are, because they're far more plentiful and there's no inherent advantage to being a lefthanded catcher the way there is to being a lefthanded first baseman or pitcher (plus some other reasons), but there's nothing about the position that is a structural disadvantage to the lefty.
   102. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 07, 2019 at 10:57 PM (#5906715)
Well, it's a little more difficult to throw down to 2B when there is a batter on the same side of the plate as your throwing hand, and there are far more RH batters than lefties.
   103. SoSH U at work Posted: December 07, 2019 at 11:08 PM (#5906720)
Well, it's a little more difficult to throw down to 2B when there is a batter on the same side of the plate as your throwing hand, and there are far more RH batters than lefties.


A minor inconvenience, added to by other minor inconveniences and offset by some minor advantages (for instance, the lefthanded catcher has an advantage throwing to first on a squib in front of the plate).

None of these add up to a reason why a lefthander can't play the position the way he can't play short. They don't, for a number of reasons, including the tendency to put lefties at first/the mound where their handedness is an actual advantage, the idea that catchers can't be lefthanded and, I suspect, the absence of lefthanded catcher's mitts on many youth baseball teams.

The primary reason lefthanders can't play short is because most of the throws go clockwise, and time is of the essence on most plays. The reason lefthanders have an advantage at first base is because most of the throws go counterclockwise (but righties can play the position because there aren't as many throws, they aren't as bang bang and, obviously, because there aren't always enough lefty throwers to go around). The catcher is in the middle, with throws that can go either clockwise or counterclockwise. The position is basically neutral.

   104. RJ in TO Posted: December 07, 2019 at 11:10 PM (#5906723)
Well, it's a little more difficult to throw down to 2B when there is a batter on the same side of the plate as your throwing hand, and there are far more RH batters than lefties.
Out of curiosity, what's the difference in caught stealing rates for the league, when the batter is a lefty rather than a righty?
   105. SoSH U at work Posted: December 07, 2019 at 11:19 PM (#5906724)
Out of curiosity, what's the difference in caught stealing rates for the league, when the batter is a lefty rather than a righty?


That's the thing. If it were some kind of a major disadvantage, you'd see a much larger number of stolen base attempts when a lefthander was at the dish.

   106. RJ in TO Posted: December 07, 2019 at 11:22 PM (#5906725)
This guy seems to indicate there's no real difference in caught stealing rates, based on the handedness of the batter.
   107. Sunday silence Posted: December 07, 2019 at 11:48 PM (#5906729)
or heck, my 2B can play 1B.


No its not that easy. He is not likely to hit as well as a normal 1b. is this the sort of reasoning that informs the idea that 1b are more easily replaced than SS? If so that's part of where the problem lies.
   108. Sunday silence Posted: December 07, 2019 at 11:54 PM (#5906732)
Because the pool of players who can play 1B is much greater than the pool of players who could play SS or C*. Any SS could play 1B. few, if any, 1B could play SS. Why are the best hitters typically DH, 1B, and corner OF, and the worst middle infielders and catcher?


YOu can play them there but they wont hit as well as regular 1b. SUrely you dont think that hitting like a 1b is easy? So you can play them there, they field adequately but they might be 20 runs in batting worse. That's not a very useful def'n of "replaceable." is it?

BY the same token I could play Dave Kingman at SS. SUre he'd probably give up 50 runs in fielding, but maybe he gets back 30 with the bat. Its still a net negative but I dont see the difference in putting Kingman at SS or Concepcion at 1b. If I could play Kingman or Giambi at SS and give up a net 20 runs vs avg SS; then should I start insisting, as you, that SS is easily replaceable?

Im still not getting this idea or youre not explaining it well.

These are different positions and call for different body types. Its not like one type is more available on the market. I mean:

1. Why would there be more lumbering 200+ pound men playing organized ball? There's the same number of positions for both SS and 1b on the diamond, and there's limited roster space. Why should there be more 1b out there?

2. Even if there were more numbers of 1b; its still competitive they have to hit well relative to the rest of the 1b. Agreed? So its still a wash. You have x number of guys who can play 1b AND hit in the top whatever percentage of players. And you have x nuimber of guys who can play SS and hit passably well.
   109. Sunday silence Posted: December 07, 2019 at 11:56 PM (#5906733)
Well, it's a little more difficult to throw down to 2B when there is a batter on the same side of the plate as your throwing hand, and there are far more RH batters than lefties.


NO. Its the throw to third that is the reason. I dont know if that's a good reason or not but that's the reason.

You'll note that when a RH catcher throws to first he often will throw it behind the left handed batter. Its kind of awkward but its usually a quick flip to 1b to catch the runner. Its awkward but the runner isnt advancing so its not a big deal if the throw is late.

BUt contrast making that same throw to 3b, as a LH catcher with a RHB in the box. He would have to throw it behind the batter and that's really awkward to get much power on the ball. That's the reason.
   110. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 08, 2019 at 12:08 AM (#5906736)
These are different positions and call for different body types. Its not like one type is more available on the market.


You are making way too much of this. The basic concept is, the pool of good hitters who are also capable of playing skilled positions is naturally much smaller than good hitters who cannot. That doesn't imply that it's easy to find good hitters. If Javy Baez suddenly could not throw, he can move to 1B. If Anthony Rizzo suddenly could not hit, he can't move to SS, irrespective of handedness. If the Cubs lose Rizzo to injury, they can look for another first baseman, or they could move Bryant to 1B and look for a thridbaseman. Occasionally the latter will work better, but in most cases, they are better off looking for a first baseman.
   111. SoSH U at work Posted: December 08, 2019 at 12:29 AM (#5906738)
NO. Its the throw to third that is the reason. I dont know if that's a good reason or not but that's the reason.


That's probably the largest of the disadvantages, but the flip throw behind the lefthanded batter does work, and catchers have learned to get some zip on the ball, so there's no reason to believe that the same wouldn't be true for the mirror image.

Like I said, there are minor advantages and minor disadvantages and it probably amounts to little more than a push either way. I have no doubt that the structural disadvantage for a righthander at first is significantly greater than whatever disadvantage exists, if any, for a lefthanded catcher, but it doesn't stop teams from playing righties at first.

   112. bachslunch Posted: December 08, 2019 at 05:22 AM (#5906743)
No idea if there’s any truth to this, but have heard that catchers are right handed because pitchers are used to throwing to a target that is a glove on the left hand. Not sure I buy this, mind you.
   113. Sunday silence Posted: December 08, 2019 at 06:49 AM (#5906749)
If Javy Baez suddenly could not throw, he can move to 1B. If Anthony Rizzo suddenly could not hit, he can't move to SS, irrespective of handedness.


But the positional plus is not based on individuals such as Baez. Its based on the average of the league. Correct?

OK so let's say SS hits less than average MLBers. Lets say its 90 OPS+. If you plug the SS back into 1b he's still going to be at a deficit to average 1b. Lets say its 10 runs....

So as you may have guessed it works the other way. The 1b cant hit says he's at 90 OPS+ he goes to SS, he's a defensive liability. I dunno say 10 runs...

ARent these two situations a wash? I dont get the reasoning at all. It really makes no sense.

Lets push your example further. Lets say the pitcher cant hit. So he has to play 1b. He gives up what 50 runs in batting? Because you know its hard to find pitchers who can hit. Surely you're not saying its easier to find pitchers who can hit, right? OK so the pitcher cant find another position, he cannnot hit; the team has lost 50 runs to the rest of the league at that position.

Arent hitters who hit well at a premium? And they play mostly 1b, RF 3b etc... SO WHY DONT WE GIVE A HITTING PREMIUM TO THOSE POSITIONS? Since most of those guys hits pretty well. Lets give a hitting bonus to anyone who plays 1b. Right? Even though there's guys who play 1b and are lousy hitters lets give them a bonus.

Is that logic any different than saying lets give a position bonus to Jeter, even though he's below average? Seriously whats the diff?

And why cant you do this analysis for pitchers? WHy cant you quantify the positional bonus for them or DHs?
   114. Sunday silence Posted: December 08, 2019 at 06:54 AM (#5906750)

Like I said, there are minor advantages and minor disadvantages and it probably amounts to little more than a push either way. I have no doubt that the structural disadvantage for a righthander at first is significantly greater than whatever disadvantage exists, if any, for a lefthanded catcher,


But the numbers dont support you. A quick google search says there's been 1700 career catchers and only 11 of them were Left hand throwers. So like 0.5% of catchers. So according to you its some institutional tradition or something that's keeping them from playing catcher. That makes no sense to me, 0.5% says there's something they cant do.

The last regular catcher to throw left was Benny Distifano PIT in 1989. Havent seen one in 30 years.
   115. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: December 08, 2019 at 07:48 AM (#5906751)
Like I said originally: why cant it simply be his total contribution in WAR vs the average player at his position? why is their such a NEED to quantify it across the spectrum of positions.

I am a bit behind, but the major reason not to do it this way, is because there are massive selection biases in the way teams distribute talent across positions.

Teams usually put their best outfielder (combined offense and defense) in CF, and their second best in RF. They often put old, immobile hitters, who can still hit ok, but not great in LF. They usually put their best middle infielder at short, and the second best one at 2B.

So imagine a situation where a team has a hotshot CF prospect, who displaces the old CF, who now has to move to right. If he gets to be evaluated solely against the players at his new position, it somehow looks as if he has become a better player, because the overall talent there is lesser. Which is obviously nonsense. Every CF can slide over to right and be ok. The old RF who now slides over to left for the old vet who is out of contract, probably gets an even bigger boost.

Right to Left actually makes this problem very easy to see. Last season, RFers in the majors had a combined OPS of .800. LFers had a combined OPS of .790. That RFers are on average better fielders should go without saying. So any RFer, moving to left, would suddenly become "better."

How do you compare the DH position? Doesnt this highlite the absurdity?

The DH does indeed highlight the absurdity. But not the way you want. It highlights the absurdity of only comparing players in position, without using external positional adjustments.

You would think DH is the strongest offensive position, because any team could literally put their best bat there if they wanted to. There is nothing to stop them from doing it. And yet, we see every year that DH is not the strongest offensive position, because teams selectively choose not to use the DH position that way. Similarly to LF, they often put old, past their prime players there, who can't play the field any more. Or they use it to give players across all positions a form of "rest day." Or they put players with nagging injuries in there.

The end result? Last season, DH ranked behind 1B, RF, LF, and 3B in OPS. So does the average fielding, 130 OPS+ 1B who moves to DH, and puts up a 130 OPS+ become a better player? If you just go from comparing him to the average of all first basemen, to comparing him to the average of all DHs, he absolutely does. But that is obviously nonsense. But it is the exact result you get, without positional adjustments.
   116. PreservedFish Posted: December 08, 2019 at 08:01 AM (#5906754)
So according to you its some institutional tradition or something that's keeping them from playing catcher. That makes no sense to me, 0.5% says there's something they cant do.


This is an awful argument, and doubly awful given that SOSH has already fluently discussed the factors that might account for the lack of lefty catchers.
   117. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: December 08, 2019 at 08:26 AM (#5906757)
I wonder if another of the minor disadvantages a LH catcher would face is that of throws tailing the wrong way. When a throw tails, it usually moves toward the side of the throwers hand. That would mean that for a RH thrower, the ball tails toward the runner on a SB attempt, which is potentially helpful. A LH’s throws would tail toward the “wrong” side of 2B, meaning that the covering infielder must catch the ball across his body and bring the ball all the way back to the other side of the bag to tag the runner. Which seems like a little thing, but it might be enough to make a big difference when fractions of seconds are important.

Jack Clements is the most noteworthy of LH catchers IIRC, and probably the last regular starting catcher in MLB. Unfortunately that was the 1880s to early 1900s so we don’t have PBP for him. Be interesting to see what the full extent of his SB prevention numbers looked like. However, BBREF shows him throwing out 33% of those who attempted steals against him versus the league’s 38% rate. Not enough context to draw conclusions.
   118. SoSH U at work Posted: December 08, 2019 at 08:39 AM (#5906758)
I wonder if another of the minor disadvantages a LH catcher would face is that of throws tailing the wrong way. When a throw tails, it usually moves toward the side of the throwers hand. That would mean that for a RH thrower, the ball tails toward the runner on a SB attempt, which is potentially helpful. A LH’s throws would tail toward the “wrong” side of 2B, meaning that the covering infielder must catch the ball across his body and bring the ball all the way back to the other side of the bag to tag the runner. Which seems like a little thing, but it might be enough to make a big difference when fractions of seconds are important.


That's the reason I've heard most frequently, and I'm really skeptical about how much of a problem it truly would be. First, throws that tail significantly almost never get the runner. Throws that are on the bag do. Second, throws that tail toward the runner are also more likely to lead to throwing errors or injured infielders, as the runner interferes with the infielder's ability to catch the ball. Finally, if it's really an issue, the lefthanded catcher could learn to aim a few feet to the right.



   119. Rally Posted: December 08, 2019 at 10:28 AM (#5906773)
You would think DH is the strongest offensive position, because any team could literally put their best bat there if they wanted to. There is nothing to stop them from doing it. And yet, we see every year that DH is not the strongest offensive position, because teams selectively choose not to use the DH position that way. Similarly to LF, they often put old, past their prime players there, who can't play the field any more. Or they use it to give players across all positions a form of "rest day." Or they put players with nagging injuries in there.


The best hitters in the game are players in their prime years like Trout and Yelich. They could be the best DHs on the planet, but don’t do that because they are capable fielders. When they decline and cant play the field anymore they might be DHs, but they likely wont hit as well when that happens.
   120. bobm Posted: December 08, 2019 at 10:30 AM (#5906775)
Re: LH catcher scarcity

If you had a young lefty who understood pitching and could throw hard, why would you not convert him to a pitcher in college or the low minors? His hitting would have to be really good to dissuade you.
   121. . Posted: December 08, 2019 at 10:53 AM (#5906779)
SS and C have to be right handed.


That's a mic-drop reason NOT to make the positional adjustment. Every player who throws left-handed starts out with an analytical disadvantage? I think not. The dubiousness of that should be readily apparent.
   122. . Posted: December 08, 2019 at 10:56 AM (#5906781)
It would look weird in pitchers' eyes to throw to a left-handed catcher, and that's reason enough why they're disfavored -- although the throw to third is obviously an issue, too.
   123. "RMc", the superbatsman Posted: December 08, 2019 at 10:56 AM (#5906782)
His name is Rupert.

Are you Jonesing?
   124. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 08, 2019 at 10:59 AM (#5906783)
That's a mic-drop reason NOT to make the positional adjustment. Every player who throws left-handed starts out with an analytical disadvantage? I think not. The dubiousness of that should be readily apparent


Yes. Just like short players can't play QB or NBA center, and small players can't be linemen. The innate physical attributes make them ill suited for those positions.
   125. . Posted: December 08, 2019 at 11:02 AM (#5906784)
Im still not getting this idea or youre not explaining it well.


They aren't explaining it well because it collapses under its own gaps and contradictions. Derek Jeter got a positional advantage for "playing" shortstop, which pretty much negates the entire enterprise on its own. From a purely numbers perspective, taking an aggregate of past performance and claiming that measurement is actual empirical reality is a fundamentally flawed concept.(*) No one does things like that for, say, the stock market; indeed, for stocks and bonds, "past performance does not equal future performance" is typically used as a disclaimer warning not to use the method.

(*) An aggregate of past hitting performance of RFs vs SSs -- the predicate for the positional advantage -- says essentially nothing about whether that performance is inherent to anything. It could simply be tautological -- people have tended to put better hitters in RF simply because they believed better hitters should play RF. Doesn't really say anything about anything.
   126. . Posted: December 08, 2019 at 11:04 AM (#5906787)
Yes. Just like short players can't play QB or NBA center, and small players can't be linemen. The innate physical attributes make them ill suited for those positions.


Short players *can* play NBA center, and the fact that people like Draymond Green now do is precisely why we shouldn't use past aggregate performance as a measure of anything inherent to anything. In fact, the prototype of virtually every NBA position has changed from what was once thought to be an inherent feature of the cosmos. 7 foot guys routinely stand far from the basket and shoot three pointers well.

And yes, it's absurd that left-handed throwers get rated against all throwers but many right-handed throwers only get rated against the universe of right-handed throwers. The universe of competitors is wider for a RF than for a SS and that should plainly be reflected.
   127. . Posted: December 08, 2019 at 11:21 AM (#5906794)
Any reason to think Mike Trout couldn't play shortstop as well or better than Derek Jeter did, beyond the fact that he was never trained for it? Hell, he could probably start training for it today and still manage to do it.
   128. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 08, 2019 at 11:32 AM (#5906798)
They aren't explaining it well because it collapses under its own gaps and contradictions. Derek Jeter got a positional advantage for "playing" shortstop, which pretty much negates the entire enterprise on its own.

That's dumb. Jeter also got penalized for his bad defense.

Jeter gets -243 runs for fielding in bWAR, which is awful. He gains backs 144 runs for position. Gary Sheffield gets -195 runs for fielding, and another -77 for position.

If we don't include the positional adjustment, you'd conclude Sheffield was a better fielder. But we know Sheffield was an awful SS at age 20, and got quickly moved off the position. If he had played SS through age 40, he would have given up hundreds and hundreds more runs than Jeter. Likewise, Jeter in RF would have likely been far better than Sheffield; he was fast, and had a good arm.

Without the positional adjustment, defensive numbers become nonsense. The better hitter will always look like the better player.

Zero out the positional adjustment, and Jason Giambi is a more valuable player than Derek Jeter. Does that make any sense?
   129. Howie Menckel Posted: December 08, 2019 at 11:57 AM (#5906802)
Claire Smith, chosen for the 2017 J.G. Taylor Spink Award by the BBWAA for her baseball writing, has this certified tweet up:

Claire Smith
@MzCSmith
·
1h
No matter what vote results this weekend, this man is a Hall of Famer in every way, shape and form. I will never believe otherwise, @SteveGarvey6
.
   130. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: December 08, 2019 at 12:23 PM (#5906813)
Short players *can* play NBA center, and the fact that people like Draymond Green now do is precisely why we shouldn't use past aggregate performance as a measure of anything inherent to anything.
Draymond Green can play center because of rule and refereeing change that made the game more favorable for small players. Mainly these are the curtailing of constant hand checking (making the game a lot more uptempo) and legalizing the zone defense (taking away much of the value of traditional back-to-the-basket low post play). And then the various strategy changes that came about as teams worked out what the new rules meant. Draymond Green could not have played the 5 in the NBA in 1992.

An MLB analogy would be some sort of change in the rules of the game or its equipment that would mean that the requirements of playing one or both of SS and RF change radically. Maybe if the ball is further juiced and the game becomes a pure contest of launch angles and strikeouts then you could stick Carlos Santana at SS, or maybe some weird rule about player positioning when the ball is pitched might make it necessary to only think about speed and agility when looking at outfielders.
   131. Rally Posted: December 08, 2019 at 12:58 PM (#5906821)
Draymond Green is only short in comparison to other NBA centers. Dude is 6-7.
   132. RJ in TO Posted: December 08, 2019 at 01:05 PM (#5906824)
Sunday Silence is essentially arguing more for measuring value against average at position, rather than across a unified set of all batters. As the WAR for an average player at any position should theoretically be equal (2.0 WAR for whatever the full-season playing time numbers are), there's really nothing wrong with what he's doing - since the average defense at SS is better than the average defense at 1B, and since the average hitting at 1B is better than the average hitting at SS, it automatically builds in the positional adjustment. A SS who is 20 runs better on defense than average for a SS will get +20 runs, and a SS who is 20 runs better on offense than average for a SS will get 20 runs. The same thing applies to 1B. You'll still be able to tell with roughly the same level of precision as WAR as to who the best players are - it's likely the guy who generates the most value above average against his position. All he's doing is just resetting where you're putting the 0.
   133. . Posted: December 08, 2019 at 01:24 PM (#5906826)
The entire premise is flawed. Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez didn't "force" the Mariners to resort to playing Alex Rodriguez at shortstop because of their deficiencies and therefore there's no reason whatever to penalize them for that lineup construction. It wasn't really even true in the heyday of the premise -- Jack Clark's deficiencies at shortstop didn't "force" the Giants to play Johnnie Lemaster there. The Giants were willing to play Boo there and the Mets were willing to play Doug Flynn at second base, etc, etc. -- but those were stupid choices. They really didn't have anything to do with Jack Clark or Hubie Brooks or Lee Mazzilli and there's no reason to involve Jack Clark or Hubie Brooks or Lee Mazzilli in them.
   134. . Posted: December 08, 2019 at 01:45 PM (#5906830)
Zero out the positional adjustment, and Jason Giambi is a more valuable player than Derek Jeter. Does that make any sense?


When have I ever said to zero it out? I'm fine with it as qualitative and context-based. Jeter was a terrible shortstop and shouldn't get a lick of credit for simply being stationed there.

I'm not one for false precision, as should be clear by now. The psychic need to have some "precise" quantitative model to fall back on, lest thought be paralyzed, is a bug not a feature. It gets in the way of intelligent thought. Look at all the misplaced ideas the precise quantitative model is generating -- in order to maintain its structure and premises and applications, it's making people actually claim things like that in 1978, no one knew how many walks players were drawing.
   135. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 08, 2019 at 02:23 PM (#5906834)
When have I ever said to zero it out? I'm fine with it as qualitative and context-based. Jeter was a terrible shortstop and shouldn't get a lick of credit for simply being stationed there.


And there you're wrong. A -15 or -20 run SS who can hit like Jeter has real value.

If I can get a +40 offensive player on the field at SS, at the cost of -20 D, that's a huge value add over say an average defensive SS with an average bat.
   136. PreservedFish Posted: December 08, 2019 at 05:58 PM (#5906860)
Any reason to think Mike Trout couldn't play shortstop as well or better than Derek Jeter did, beyond the fact that he was never trained for it? Hell, he could probably start training for it today and still manage to do it.


WAR agrees with you, as Trout has more dWAR than Jeter ever did. The premise of WAR is that all fielders are equally valuable no matter where they stand, and thus that Trout would be equally valuable at SS as he is at CF. Trout is basically a +2 fielder (rfield +rpos), Jeter was basically a -5 fielder.

Obviously it wouldn't work that way in reality, as some players are better suited to some positions than others (and catcher is truly unique). But that's the assumption.
   137. Sunday silence Posted: December 12, 2019 at 10:06 PM (#5908356)

This is an awful argument, and doubly awful given that SOSH has already fluently discussed the factors that might account for the lack of lefty catchers.


We havent had a regular LH catcher in like 120+ years, and you're still going to attribute that to institutional bias and not to some inherent problem w/ lefties at C? But SOSH was very fluent, so OK...

*****

So I decided to look up MLB salaries by position to see if this so called "positional scarcity" has any merit. Here's the one site I went to, I assume its correct:

https://www.businessinsider.com/chart-mlbs-highest-paid-positions-2014-7

OK so what do we learn from this: lets go in order of the highest paid positions:

1.. Starting pitching. OK but no one's offering up a positional bonus for pitching are they? That's the first issue I see.
2. First Base! ha ha. The one position that's get significantly crushed by the stoopid positional bonus is actually higher paid then other positions! THat's great.
3 RF. Ditto what I said for 2. If 1b/RF are highest paid positions doesnt this contradict the entire theory of positional bonus ?
4 CF. first prime defensive position to show up
5. LF of course...
6.. 2b. So far all the better hitting positions, are paid more than the premier defensive positions.
7. SS
8. 3b we supposedly live in an era of excellent 3basemen, so I dunno what to make.
9. Catcher..

Wow! Doesnt this contradict the whole theory? Dont you expect MLB GMs to know how to value positions by what they pay for them?
   138. bobm Posted: December 12, 2019 at 10:41 PM (#5908362)
So I decided to look up MLB salaries by position to see if this so called "positional scarcity" has any merit. [...]
OK so what do we learn from this:


That correlation does not equal causality? That prime defensive positions are manned by cost-controlled younger players with better defensive skill sets?

That you would need to look at free agent signings rather than salaries for all players who are under contract, subject to the reserve clause and arbitration, etc. to meaningfully answer this question?

That the MLB labor market is highly distorted by the 6-year reserve clause and free agency (esp compared to Finley's proposal to make everyone a free agent every year)?
   139. SoSH U at work Posted: December 12, 2019 at 11:01 PM (#5908368)
We havent had a regular LH catcher in like 120+ years, and you're still going to attribute that to institutional bias and not to some inherent problem w/ lefties at C? But SOSH was very fluent, so OK...


So what is the reason Sunday? The only suggestion you've offered is that the throw to third is more difficult (though many righthanded cathers have shown the ability to make quick, accurate throws to first, which is the mirror move).

Look at it this way. Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez had cannons behind the plate. Ted Simmons and Mike Piazza had much weaker arms, but all were able to competently handle the position despite this wild disparity in arm strength. Do you think a lefthander with a slightly to much stronger arm than Simmons and Piazza, who handled all of the handedness-indifferent tasks* equally well, wouldn't have been able to play catcher?

Or, if Rick Ankiel had suffered his yips as a sophomore in HS instead of a sophomore in St. Louis, that he wouldn't have had the arm for a switch to catcher?

I firmly believe these are the reasons lefties don't catch:

1) Lefties don't catch because a lot of people believe there's a structural disadvantage based on those years of history**, and they are in a spot to discourage lefties from playing the position. I believe they are wrong***. Any advantage/disadvantage is minimal, and surely not nearly as large as the advantage lefthanders have over righties at first base.

2) Lefties don't catch because they are a small percentage of the total baseball pool, and they are placed at those positions where being lefthanded is truly an advantage (pitcher and first). Those who can run are put in the outfield, where virtually everyone recognizes that neither hand has an advantage.

3) Lefties don't catch because lefthanded catcher's mitts are scarce in youth baseball equipment bags.****

There may be some other reasons as well. Being a lefthander is an actual disadvantage to playing the position is not one of them.


* The only area where I can think of where handedness might matter as it related to the ability to handle pitches is in the area of blocking breaking pitches in the dirt. My guess, and it's merely a theory, would be the lefthander could handle the slider low and away better from a righthander due to his glove and blocking shoulder being on the outside, and the righty would handle that pitch better from a southpaw. If true, it would be a slight edge to the lefty catcher, due to greater number of righthanded pitchers. Again, like everything else on the subject, because the catcher is in the middle of the diamond and things happen to both sides of him, the pros are always offset, to an extent, by a con.

** Of course, teams continued to sacrifice bunt and issue intentional walks even when the numbers said they were bad plays. Historical inertia is pretty strong in the sport.

*** I can say with an abundance of confidence that I've given the subject a hell of a lot more thought than the average (or virtually every) youth baseball coach.

**** Personal anecdote here. On my son's first baseball team, back when he was 6, we had a lefthanded kid who volunteered to catch, so the coaches put him back there. We didn't have a lefthanded mitt. So he just used the righthanded one and made the throws back to the pitcher with his off hand.
   140. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: December 13, 2019 at 12:32 AM (#5908375)
For throwing to every base, the left-handed catcher is at a disadvantage.

1B: The sidearm throw is across his body and at risk of the arm hitting the more commonly seen righty batter. I don't know if any-handed catcher has the time to stand and throw to 1B since this is never a full steal.

2B: Tailing throws. A right-handed catcher’s tailing throws can still catch a base stealer. We see plenty of times a runner is successfully tagged up the legs, on the chest, or even the runner's arm. A left-handed catcher’s tailing throws can never achieve this.

3B: Maybe a strong-armed left-handed catcher could nab would-be stealers with sidearm throws, but otherwise the catcher needs to significantly turn his body so the legs and throwing arm are in position to throw.

Put differently, the right-handed catcher has throwing advantages to every base over the left-handed catcher. Cumulatively, it’s understandable that would matter to teams and thus affect player development approaches.
   141. SoSH U at work Posted: December 13, 2019 at 01:04 AM (#5908380)
1B: The sidearm throw is across his body and at risk of the arm hitting the more commonly seen righty batter. I don't know if any-handed catcher has the time to stand and throw to 1B since this is never a full steal.

2B: Tailing throws. A right-handed catcher’s tailing throws can still catch a base stealer. We see plenty of times a runner is successfully tagged up the legs, on the chest, or even the runner's arm. A left-handed catcher’s tailing throws can never achieve this.

3B: Maybe a strong-armed left-handed catcher could nab would-be stealers with sidearm throws, but otherwise the catcher needs to significantly turn his body so the legs and throwing arm are in position to throw.


I addressed second base earlier. And in your arguments to the other bases, you're taking opposite positions. The righthander can snap throw to first, apparently because time is of the essence (the lefty doesn't have "time to stand and throw"). But the lefthander can't do it to third, because I guess time isn't of the essence?

If the righthander has an advantage with a good snap throw to first, the lefty has the same at third. If standing and throwing gets the ball to the third base bag quicker, then standing and throwing gets the ball to the first bag bag quicker for the southpaw. The goal in both situations is the same - getting the ball there as quickly as possible. What one gives away via to one base by virtue of his handedness (through whatever method) has to be gained going the opposite direction. It doesn't work any other way.
   142. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: December 13, 2019 at 01:36 AM (#5908383)
Yes, you addressed second base earlier, but I didn't see it as a fair characterization. You said, "First, throws that tail significantly almost never get the runner." I pointed out that we see plenty of runners to second tagged high up on their bodies. You will never see that with a tailing throw from a lefty.

And I do think there is a difference with the snap throw to first vs. a snap throw to third—the runner heading back to first is not at full speed like someone attempting a steal of third, thus a weaker sidearm throw (compared to a player's full-motion throw) may make a difference. So, yes, the motion of righty catcher throwing sidearm to 1B should be just like the sidearm motion of a lefty catcher to 3B, but the runners' speeds are different in getting to those bases, and the runner is often as much a factor as the catcher.
   143. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: December 13, 2019 at 01:41 AM (#5908384)
This was an immediately found caught-stealing highlight from July:

https://www.mlb.com/video/myers-caught-stealing

We see this kind of play often enough that we're not surprised by it. But a lefty catcher's throw tailing in a similar way simply can't ever be a caught stealing.
   144. SoSH U at work Posted: December 13, 2019 at 02:35 AM (#5908386)
And I do think there is a difference with the snap throw to first vs. a snap throw to third—the runner heading back to first is not at full speed like someone attempting a steal of third, thus a weaker sidearm throw (compared to a player's full-motion throw) may make a difference.


On every single throw from the catcher, all that matters is the amount of time it takes for the ball to get there, from reception of the ball until it reaches the first/third baseman. The runner's actions make no difference. If standing and throwing is an advantage to third, then it's an advantage to first. If the quicker release you get from the snap throw on a 90-foot toss offsets the greater velocity you can get on the slower release, then it also works to the opposite base from the opposite hand. It simply can't work any other way.


We see this kind of play often enough that we're not surprised by it. But a lefty catcher's throw tailing in a similar way simply can't ever be a caught stealing.


I don't think we see that particular play very often (and we've never seen anyone like Javy Baez), but it doesn't matter. If the tailed throw is truly a disadvantage to the lefthanded catcher, the very real solution is to aim right. The distance from home to second is the same for the lefthanded catcher or the righthander. If the lefty catcher aims two feet right and throws it straight as an arrow, the throw is on the proper side of the bag for the out to be recorded (just as the righty's two-foot tail is). If it tails two feet to the left, it's right on the bag. This is not an insurmountable issue.

The idea that the catcher can't be lefthanded is a myth, like so many other myths that time (and Bill James) helped expose. We simply can't get rid of this myth because we don't get any test subjects.

* Make it whatever distance you want, the idea is the same.


   145. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: December 13, 2019 at 03:04 AM (#5908387)
On every single throw from the catcher, all that matters is the amount of time it takes for the ball to get there, from reception of the ball until it reaches the first/third baseman. The runner's actions make no difference. If standing and throwing is an advantage to third, then it's an advantage to first.


I'm not certain about the bolded portion. Catchers throw behind runners at first because runners get just a little too far off the base, whether it's a Molina or a Billy Hamilton, and either type of runner is apt to be in an awkward position (aka, leaning toward second and in need of going toward first). Catchers rarely get a chance to nab a slow runner attempting a steal of third (maybe the possible exception is when the runner thinks he's figured something out about the pitcher, like when the pitcher is forgetting to look back at the runner at 2B). Now, maybe the shorter throw to third even with fast base stealers would make the sidearm-throwing lefty feasible, but I think any of us would just be guessing.

I don't think we see that particular play very often (and we've never seen anyone like Javy Baez), but it doesn't matter.


I see plenty of times a guy stealing 2B is tagged far from his feet.

If the lefty catcher aims two feet right and throws it straight as an arrow, the throw is on the proper side of the bag for the out to be recorded (just as the righty's two-foot tail is). If it tails two feet to the left, it's right on the bag. This is not an insurmountable issue.


I don't think it's quite this simple. If it were, I imagine righty catchers would never miss their mark at 2B, pitchers would always throw strikes when they wanted, outfielders would never miss a cut-off man, etc.
   146. SoSH U at work Posted: December 13, 2019 at 08:16 AM (#5908394)
Catchers throw behind runners at first because runners get just a little too far off the base, whether it's a Molina or a Billy Hamilton, and either type of runner is apt to be in an awkward position (aka, leaning toward second and in need of going toward first). Catchers rarely get a chance to nab a slow runner attempting a steal of third (maybe the possible exception is when the runner thinks he's figured something out about the pitcher, like when the pitcher is forgetting to look back at the runner at 2B). Now, maybe the shorter throw to third even with fast base stealers would make the sidearm-throwing lefty feasible, but I think any of us would just be guessing.


I still don't see what the runner's speed* has to do with anything, other than how far away from the base he is when an out can be recorded (which is ultimately resolved by the percentages and understood instinctively by the catcher). But the object in both types of plays is the same: get the ball there as quickly as possible, from reception to tag. And if one type throw has an edge over the other, it applies to both bases.


I see plenty of times a guy stealing 2B is tagged far from his feet.


It's common within two feet. Seeing a throw that fades that far get the runner is quite rare.



I don't think it's quite this simple. If it were, I imagine righty catchers would never miss their mark at 2B, pitchers would always throw strikes when they wanted, outfielders would never miss a cut-off man, etc.


Or righthanded catchers throw the ball into the outfield...

If the unpredictability is an issue, then unless you think inaccurate throws affects lefthanders more than righthanders, it would affect both of them equally. But if you don't think that, it can be managed. If the throw has a tendency to tail, the catcher can aim a few feet to the right. It won't be on the mark every time, but that is just as true with righthanded catchers.


* There is one way the righthander could have a slight edge with the snap throw, and that's the view is blocked by the lefthanded batter, keeping the runner from recognizing the throw is being made as quickly. That would be a minor edge. But as I've noted there are minor edges in both directions. Case in point - in a bases-loaded, one out or less situation, the lefthanded catcher has an advantage on the throw in both a third to home to first double play or the pitcher to home to first double play attempts. It's small, but all of these are. Is it possible that when you add them all together, there's a slight edge one way or the other? Of course. But it would be slight, and absolutely not a reason to keep one hand from playing the position any more than the clear and meaningful structural disadvantage keeps a righthander from playing first.

   147. flournoy Posted: December 13, 2019 at 09:53 AM (#5908408)
2) Lefties don't catch because they are a small percentage of the total baseball pool, and they are placed at those positions where being lefthanded is truly an advantage (pitcher and first). Those who can run are put in the outfield, where virtually everyone recognizes that neither hand has an advantage.

3) Lefties don't catch because lefthanded catcher's mitts are scarce in youth baseball equipment bags.****


I think #2 is the most important factor, followed by #3.

A quick Google search reveals that you can get left handers' catchers mitts for under $50. So I would think that in most cases, parents and/or teams would be able to spring for that if they had a sufficiently motivated kid. (A quick email out to all the parents: "Billy wants to catch, but we don't have a mitt for him. Can everyone pitch in $5 so we can get him one?" No way that doesn't work.) But the motivation is part of the problem - any left hander with a decent arm is going to be pushed into pitching.
   148. Rally Posted: December 13, 2019 at 10:12 AM (#5908414)
Lefties have a slight advantage defensively at first, but it's not a big deal. Nobody gives a crap about you being right handed if you can hit enough to play first. The big thing about first base is you need to really hit to be able to advance there.

I do wonder what happens to amateurs who would be good fits for catcher, but throw lefty. Catchers who make it to the pros throw well, but probably not quite well enough to be pitchers. They can hit some, but the vast majority don't hit enough to play first base. They likely don't run well enough to play outfield. At the amateur level, high school and college, a player with that skill set probably does hit well enough to play first or OF, and throws well enough to pitch. The coach probably moves the lefty player to one of these spots. If they don't have the speed, bat, or arm to go pro, then most likely they wind up getting regular jobs after school. It is very likely that some of these guys could have developed as catchers had they been allowed to stay at the position.

Anyone know if there are/have been any lefty throwing catchers in college baseball? With thousands of HS programs there must be at least some.

   149. Greg Pope Posted: December 13, 2019 at 10:28 AM (#5908418)
I know the Baez clip is just one anecdote, but if a lefty catcher threw the ball in the same place, and it tailed, then it would have been much closer to the base and the runner would have been tagged out on his head or chest. Plus, Baez.

Wouldn't a left-handed catcher have an advantage on bunts? Just like a lefty infielder would have to twist his body to throw to first, a right-handed catcher has to twist his body to throw to first on a bunt. A lefty would be better positioned.

I agree with SOSH that there's a lot of small reasons for both sides. But some of those reasons cancel each other out, and most pale in comparison to actually catching the ball and what kind of arm the catcher has.
   150. SoSH U at work Posted: December 13, 2019 at 10:32 AM (#5908420)
Lefties have a slight advantage defensively at first, but it's not a big deal. Nobody gives a crap about you being right handed if you can hit enough to play first. The big thing about first base is you need to really hit to be able to advance there.


It's not as big as shortstop, and probably not as big as it once was given changes in the way the game is played, but all of the advantages tilt that way. It's an advantage on the throw to second on the double play ball/pickoff throw, because a) it doesn't require the longer pivot, and b) it gives the first baseman a better throwing angle to the bag, being further removed from the line of the baserunner. It's also a significant advantage on plays where the first baseman charges and wants to throw to third. Keith Hernandez could not have made his most famous play were he a righthanded first baseman. It's possibly a slight advantage on getting a tag down on a pickoff play because the glove is merely slapped down rather than brought across the body, though I can't say for sure.



   151. SoSH U at work Posted: December 13, 2019 at 10:36 AM (#5908425)
Wouldn't a left-handed catcher have an advantage on bunts? Just like a lefty infielder would have to twist his body to throw to first, a right-handed catcher has to twist his body to throw to first on a bunt. A lefty would be better positioned.


It just depends on the base he's throwing to. A lefty has a decided advantage on a bunt or squib just in front of home or down the third base line if he's going to first. A righthander has the advantage on a bunt in those locations if he's throwing to third.

The catcher probably makes more of these throws to first (and, as with the situation with the first baseman above, he has a better throwing angle to first on those plays on the first base line, though the rules mitigate that for the righthanded catcher), so it likely comes out to a net slight positive for the lefthander.

   152. Rally Posted: December 13, 2019 at 10:41 AM (#5908428)
Keith Hernandez could not have made his most famous play were he a righthanded first baseman.


True, but Keith would not have been a first baseman if he were right handed. He'd probably have been Buddy Bell.

I agree with all of the advantages of a LH 1B, plus another one. It's just a lot easier to run to the bad and get your left foot on it and stretch your right (glove) hand out to receive a throw. I have both a left and right 1B glove, and prefer to play the position as a lefty in softball. If I play anywhere else in the infield, I'm a righty.

But in MLB, all of those advantages won't mean a thing to your playing time if you can't OPS .850.
   153. SoSH U at work Posted: December 13, 2019 at 10:50 AM (#5908434)
True, but Keith would not have been a first baseman if he were right handed. He'd probably have been Buddy Bell.


No question. Even without the edge, lefthanders should be the best defenders down there because the righthanders used there are often the weakest defensively of their species, whereas the best lefthanded defenders are often placed there.

I agree with all of the advantages of a LH 1B, plus another one. It's just a lot easier to run to the bad and get your left foot on it and stretch your right (glove) hand out to receive a throw. I have both a left and right 1B glove, and prefer to play the position as a lefty in softball. If I play anywhere else in the infield, I'm a righty.


Wow, good call. I had never considered that one, but you're right.

But in MLB, all of those advantages won't mean a thing to your playing time if you can't OPS .850.


Of course. And I would say the exact same thing about catcher. There's no way whatever minor advantage exists (and I really don't know which way it would ultimately favor. I just know know the edge is tiny compared to the one at first) isn't a deterrent to employing a lefthander behind the plate.

   154. Rally Posted: December 13, 2019 at 11:26 AM (#5908455)
I agree with you. The obstacle to seeing a left handed catcher is getting coaches, mostly at the amateur level, to let more lefties play the position.
   155. Rennie's Tenet Posted: December 13, 2019 at 01:31 PM (#5908517)
How many guys convert to catcher at a high level? Ed Ott came through the Pirate system as an outfielder, got a cup of coffee, but finally converted in his third Triple A season. I thought Keith Osik converted at a high level, but it looks like he caught a little every season until becoming mostly a catcher in Double A. A lefty catcher would almost have to be a convert like Distefano, because a lefty amateur catcher who could hit would be moved. Sometimes catchers get drafted based mostly on defensive potential, but I doubt a lefty would get that sort of break.
   156. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 13, 2019 at 01:54 PM (#5908521)
A lefty catcher would almost have to be a convert
Maybe one of the next generation of Molinas will turn out to be lefthanded.
   157. JAHV Posted: December 13, 2019 at 02:00 PM (#5908522)
I obviously haven't thought about this as much as SOSH (though I will say, as Little League coach, I've had a couple of left-handed catchers and have no problem playing a lefty there - I'd love to see a lefty catcher in the majors). However, one thing I thought of while reading the debate over whether there is an advantage to either hand in throwing to 1B and 3B. SOSH's point is that it's a zero sum game since it's all about getting the ball there as quickly as possible and if there's an advantage for one going one way, the other should have the same advantage the other way.

I haven't fully thought this through, and I'm playing a little bit of devil's advocate, but I'm not sure it's completely true that raw time is the only thing that matters on those throws. On a stolen base, I think that's the case. You want as little time as possible to elapse between the ball hitting the catcher's glove and the ball hitting the fielder's glove at whatever base the runner is approaching. I have no evidence for this, but I would expect the right-hander to have an advantage here in pure throwing speed due to the ability to catch the ball in a manner that leads into his windup and then being able to get full body momentum going toward the base as one would in a standard throwing situation. I don't know if the difference is material, but I expect it's true.

The argument then is that a lefty would have that same advantage in trying to pick off a runner at first. That's the part I'm not sure about. My thought is that while getting the ball to 1B as quickly as possible is the most important factor, it's not the ONLY factor. I think surprise is a factor as well. Pickoffs from the catcher to 1B only happen when the runner has taken too big of a secondary lead and is lazy or inattentive about getting back. My thought is that quick release, while leading to a slower throw, is important in making that play since it catches the baserunner by surprise and forces him to get momentum going back to the base quickly. In a wind-up throw, the baserunner would see with more notice the catcher preparing to throw and would curtail his lead sooner.

I don't know. Like I said, I didn't do any rigorous analysis on this, it's just what came to mind when considering the issue. I'm not prepared to defend the position at all, just curious what others thought. I will say that it seems likely to me a left-handed catcher would have a slight advantage throwing to first on bunts or dribblers in front of the plate.
   158. PreservedFish Posted: December 13, 2019 at 02:17 PM (#5908529)
It's a shame to think that there must have been natural lefties that were very well-suited to the position - short, slow guys that couldn't hack it in the outfield and looked funny at 1B. Could John Kruk have been a catcher?
   159. John DiFool2 Posted: December 13, 2019 at 02:28 PM (#5908534)
...any left hander with a decent arm is going to be pushed into pitching.


Checking the best outfield throwing arms of all time, 1st article I get on Google, seeing how many were lefties. Yeah, YMMV and all that:

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1153952-mlb-the-40-best-outfield-arms-in-baseball-history

Bobby Abreu R
Rick Ankiel L, but a converted pitcher of course
Jay Buhner R
Andy Van Slyke R
Cory Snyder R
Glenn Wilson R
Jose Guillen R
Mark Whiten R
Kirby Puckett R
Jeff Francoeur R
Johnny Callison R
Gary Sheffield R
Carl Yastrzemski R
Dave Parker R
Jim Edmonds L
Glen Gorbous R
Cesar Geronimo L
Duke Snider R
Reggie Smith R
Andre Dawson R
Dave Winfield R
Larry Walker R
Ty Cobb R
Bo Jackson R
Raul Mondesi R
Dwight Evans R
Babe Ruth L, also converted pitcher
Mickey Mantle R
Rocky Colavito R
Ken Griffey Jr. L
Tris Speaker L
Joe Jackson R
Willie Mays R
Ellis Valentine R
Al Kaline R
Vladimir Guerrero R
Ichiro Suzuki R
Bob Meusel R
Jesse Barfield R
Carl Furillo R
Roberto Clemente R

Only 6/40, 2 converted pitchers, 3 from more than a century ago. If the guy can fly like the wind and hit like crazy, he'll likely stay in the outfield, but this is indeed evidence that most hard lefty throwers will be channeled into pitching, no matter what their original position was. Note quite a few of these guys hit lefty, or switched; the BR/TL types tended to have noodle arms [Rickey for ex.].

   160. RJ in TO Posted: December 13, 2019 at 02:33 PM (#5908537)
Maybe one of the next generation of Molinas will turn out to be lefthanded.

Lefthanded Molinas are beaten and disowned.
   161. SoSH U at work Posted: December 13, 2019 at 02:33 PM (#5908538)
The argument then is that a lefty would have that same advantage in trying to pick off a runner at first. That's the part I'm not sure about. My thought is that while getting the ball to 1B as quickly as possible is the most important factor, it's not the ONLY factor. I think surprise is a factor as well. Pickoffs from the catcher to 1B only happen when the runner has taken too big of a secondary lead and is lazy or inattentive about getting back. My thought is that quick release, while leading to a slower throw, is important in making that play since it catches the baserunner by surprise and forces him to get momentum going back to the base quickly. In a wind-up throw, the baserunner would see with more notice the catcher preparing to throw and would curtail his lead sooner.


I think there is a potential issue if the baserunner's line of sight to the catcher is partially blocked by a lefthander at the plate. But I don't see how the rest of it holds. But if you have no sight issues, then it's all about the moment the catcher starts to make the throw (whether the snap or the stand and chuck) to the point the tag is applied, as far as I can tell.
   162. flournoy Posted: December 13, 2019 at 03:10 PM (#5908552)
Interesting list in #159. Ignoring Ankiel, Ruth, and Speaker, since they're all either way too old to be relevant, were originally pitchers, or both... that leaves Edmonds, Geronimo, and Griffey. According to Wikipedia, the Yankees tried to convert Geronimo into a pitcher while he was in the minor leagues, but it didn't take. So you can see the drive to turn strong left handed throwers pitchers still at work. Edmonds and Griffey were renowned as flashy, top-shelf defensive center fielders as well as being elite hitters, so I imagine that was enough to override any inclination to have them pitch.
   163. manchestermets Posted: December 13, 2019 at 03:23 PM (#5908557)
Only 6/40


A quick google search throws up a consensus that roughly 10% of people are left handed, so that's not far from what you'd expect.
   164. PreservedFish Posted: December 13, 2019 at 03:36 PM (#5908564)
A quick google search throws up a consensus that roughly 10% of people are left handed, so that's not far from what you'd expect.


The sample is small anyway, but there are several complicating factors here. A higher % of baseball players are natural lefties because of the nature of hitting and pitching - and also I think a higher % of top athletes might be lefties regardless - and the other positions demand highly irregular proportions of righties to lefties.
   165. Jay Z Posted: December 13, 2019 at 05:18 PM (#5908588)
I have not seen anyone mention tag plays at home. The glove is on the wrong side for a lefty. Every tag play is going to be a sweep, reach across, or maybe he pivots to his right and makes a blind spin. It's much more awkward for a lefty to tag a runner out at home.
   166. PreservedFish Posted: December 13, 2019 at 08:43 PM (#5908616)
I think the rarity of these plays we're discussing - tag at the plate, pickoff throw to first - only support SOSH U's general point. These are minor inconveniences that might put a lefty catcher at a minuscule disadvantage, not fundamental and intractable problems.

Just imagine if I told you that baseball teams sometimes field baseball players that can't run fast. Just consider the magnitude of that disadvantage. They are worse at hitting singles. They are worse at hitting doubles. They don't steal bases and provide no distraction at all on the bases. They can't score from first on a double. On defense, ugh, forget about it, their slow speed hugely impacts their range and almost everything they do. Slow footspeed is a monstrous disadvantage. And yet every team has in some measure decided to accept the slowness of certain players, because they can provide value in other ways.

A lefty catcher might give up 2-3 runs of value due to his suboptimal handedness in a year. A slow player could give up 10, 20, 30 runs of value. And yet in the former case we say, "see, this proves that a lefty catcher is an impossibility." In the latter case we just say, "he's slow, it's just who he is, we know it hurts, but he makes up for it."
   167. Sunday silence Posted: December 13, 2019 at 11:28 PM (#5908630)
He's wrong about the tailing action of the throw to second base; saying that the left handed throw wont make a difference. Its not a question of getting the ball from point a to point b, as you would in say golf. A draw or hook wont matter if it gets the ball to the hole.

BUt at second base you have another actor, the fielder is trying to swipe the tag. Here the left handed catcher throw will be tailing away from the runner. So the fielder has to reach for it across his body and then bring it back in the other direction to get the runner.

SOSH is saying the C can just aim to the right, well OK but the movement on the ball is going to give the fielder trouble it is away from the movement of the runner. Even if the ball is coming right at the bag, the fielder will be moving his glove from left to right, away from the sliding runner. Im sure that makes a difference.

On throws to first, this is the NOT same as stealing. There's no gain to the runner if the C's throw is late, he's not trying to advance. WHen the lefty throws to third obviously if the throw is late the runner moves up a base.

COmparing the pickoff throw to first to throw to third base is not the same thing. Much less risk to just wing it to first.

They let Mexican kids play a position other than C. They let white guys play CF. They even let Frank Robinson manage a ball club. I dont see how there can be some institutional bias against LH catchers without something real issue being there.

I know SoSH is smart, but its hard to believe he's smarter than every GM that ever existed in the history of MLB. Now Walt Davis maybe...
   168. Sunday silence Posted: December 13, 2019 at 11:32 PM (#5908632)
I think the rarity of these plays we're discussing - tag at the plate, pickoff throw to first - only support SOSH U's general point. These are minor inconveniences that might put a lefty catcher at a minuscule disadvantage, not fundamental and intractable problems.


BUt this is an issue that cuts both ways.

As discussed above, the C should have an advantage on bunts when he throws to first. Just as a RH C would have an easier time throwing to third rather than 1b. BUt whatever advantage the LH C has is obviously being outweighed by some other factors that must be larger. There's no way GMs have been overlooking 25% of the baseball population that might play Catcher.
   169. Sunday silence Posted: December 13, 2019 at 11:38 PM (#5908633)

That correlation does not equal causality? That prime defensive positions are manned by cost-controlled younger players with better defensive skill sets?


For fukc's sake: Why on earth would GMs be paying 1b and RF more than SS and C, if the talent pool was larger for RF and 1b? RIght. You're saying that SS and C are being manned by cost controlled players. Well how many 6 year MLB players are playing RF and 1b? Like 30 maybe? IF these positions have extra unused talent, then that talent is laboring in the minors or on the bench.

Like where do you think replacement talent is coming from? Its coming from the high minors, correct? If this theory of defensive bonus is correct then the replacement pool of Rf and 1b has to be coming from there right?

Let me ask you this question:

Do you think that the hitting skills of a 1b and RF are more important to providing value to those positions then fielding skills? If so do you believe that hitting skills are more easily replaced than fielding?
   170. Sunday silence Posted: December 13, 2019 at 11:43 PM (#5908634)

A lefty catcher might give up 2-3 runs of value due to his suboptimal handedness in a year. A slow player could give up 10, 20, 30 runs of value. And yet in the former case we say, "see, this proves that a lefty catcher is an impossibility." In the latter case we just say, "he's slow, it's just who he is, we know it hurts, but he makes up for it."


No this is just you're crazy take on the whole thing. If LH C were only costing teams 4 or 5 runs, someone would have put them behind the plate.

THere's 30 teams competing for fame and millions of dollars. THey pay analytics people hundreds of thousands of dollars to figure this stuff out. And yet you think you know more than they do?

   171. Sunday silence Posted: December 13, 2019 at 11:55 PM (#5908635)
HEre's another interesting question I thought of, for SOSH and Preserved Fish and that side:

You believe that GMs and owners are missing the boat on a large pool of potentially LH Catcher talent. Cause you've figured this out and they havent.

OK, what OTHER baseballs issues have primates here discovered that baseball bean counters have not?


Bunting doesnt work? Well no they figured that out like 30 years ago.

THat OBP is being overlooked? No they figured that out 20 years ago.

Shifts? Decreasing Pitcher workloads?? I dunno give me one.

Cause yeah sure in THEORY maybe you guys are right. There are institutions that make institutionalized mistakes. Its hard to believe but even competitive institutions might miss out on something. Sure that's possible.

So cite for me one thing that BTF primates have discovered that GMs and bean counters are missing out on. Like that you can prove with objective evidence that MLB doesnt know its own product.


   172. SoSH U at work Posted: December 13, 2019 at 11:56 PM (#5908636)
SOSH is saying the C can just aim to the right, well OK but the movement on the ball is going to give the fielder trouble it is away from the movement of the runner. Even if the ball is coming right at the bag, the fielder will be moving his glove from left to right, away from the sliding runner. Im sure that makes a difference.


I'm not sure why you would. I would think tailing into the path of the runner would be far more difficult to handle than a ball tailing in the same direction the runner is heading, but we're both just guessing there.

As discussed above, the C should have an advantage on bunts when he throws to first. Just as a RH C would have an easier time throwing to third rather than 1b. BUt whatever advantage the LH C has is obviously being outweighed by some other factors that must be larger. There's no way GMs have been overlooking 25% of the baseball population that might play Catcher.


Except we've seen teams employ sub-optimal strategies for decades (overuse of the sac bunt and intentional walks, the hit and run), even though in those cases we had actual empirical evidence (or the opportunity to discover it had they looked) that they were flawed. Here we don't have that. And the overwhelming number of catchers are already catchers before they get to the majors, so there is limited opportunity for the major league team to fix that even if they discovered it. And to what end? It isn't an advantage to have a lefthander behind there, so there's just not much incentive to try to teach some southpaw the position at the professional level.

By the way, where do you get 25 percent? Lefthanded throwers don't represent anywhere near that percentage of the population, baseball or otherwise. They don't even represent 25 percent of the throwers at first (7 of the 30 starters last year were southpaws), the position where it's unquestionably advantageous to be a lefthander. There aren't that many opportunities, or reasons, to try to train a lefthander to learn to catch once they've advanced to professional ball.
   173. SoSH U at work Posted: December 13, 2019 at 11:59 PM (#5908637)
You believe that GMs and owners are missing the boat on a large pool of potentially LH Catcher talent. Cause you've figured this out and they havent.


I don't think they are missing the boat on a lot of potential LH catching talent. But I think lefthanders, were they given the same opportunities to play the position from the get go, which they absolutely are not, would be represented at the professional level at about the same percentage they are represented in the overall population. They are not given that opportunity at the outset, something that's almost entirely out of MLB's control.

But I'll ask you this. How many righthanders do you know of that have been converted from another position (in the field or from the mound) to become regular (not emergency) catchers?
   174. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:02 AM (#5908639)
I'm not sure why you would. I would think tailing into the path of the runner would be far more difficult to handle than a ball tailing in the same direction the runner is heading, but we're both just guessing there.


I havent played that position so yeah its a hunch, but think about how you swipe that tag. You take the ball down and into the path of the runner. YOu cant do that if the throw is tailing the other way.

You dont swipe away from the runner do you? YOu have to swipe into him.
   175. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:04 AM (#5908640)
And to what end? It isn't an advantage to have a lefthander behind there, so there's just not much incentive to try to teach some southpaw the position at the professional level


Obviously if you're starting out by writing off 25% of your pool of players theres incentive right there. That's like saying there's no incentive to using black players on your team after all they're only 12% of the population what could they possibly add?
   176. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:07 AM (#5908641)
They are not given that opportunity at the outset, something that's almost entirely out of MLB's control.


RIght, that's a point for sure.

I have another question which is related to this. Everyone keeps assuming that they are converting LH to pitchers. But why? I mean at the lowest levels why would you do that?

At the lowest levels of baseball it should be like 85% Right hand batters. And left handed PH dont really exist in pony league or whatever. So why would you convert a LH into a pitcher? What advantage is that?

I mean that's one of the underlying assumptions here. THat they are converting LH to pitchers. At the MLB level it makes sense cause there's lots more LH batters and they have quality LH PH coming off the bench that's not true at the lower levels.
   177. SoSH U at work Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:10 AM (#5908642)
I havent played that position so yeah its a hunch, but think about how you swipe that tag. You take the ball down and into the path of the runner. YOu cant do that if the throw is tailing the other way.


I have played the position, and I don't think it's nearly as complicated as you're making it sound. It's tailing, but it's not like it's taking the glove with it when you catch the ball.

Obviously if you're starting out by writing off 25% of your pool of players theres incentive right there. That's like saying there's no incentive to using black players on your team after all they're only 12% of the population what could they possibly add?


Where are you getting this 25 percent figure?

   178. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:13 AM (#5908644)

By the way, where do you get 25 percent? Lefthanded throwers don't represent anywhere near that percentage of the population, baseball or otherwise.


Honestly I took a guess but an obvious one. I've looked at this before and in the early days of baseball LH batters were about the same as the general population, 15% I think. BUt obviously LH batters have an advantage so by the 1920s LH batters started to make inroads: there's Heilmann, Ty Cobb, Ruth so many...And every decade they added more and more.

SO 25% was just a guess. But if you google: "how many left handed baseball players in MLB" Here is what you get:



In the general public, about 10 percent of people are left-handed. In Major League Baseball, about 25 percent of players are lefties. Any serious fan knows some of the reasons why certain positions favor lefties, but David Peters has come up with a laundry list of reasons to explain this anomaly.
   179. SoSH U at work Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:14 AM (#5908645)
I have another question which is related to this. Everyone keeps assuming that they are converting LH to pitchers. But why? I mean at the lowest levels why would you do that?


It's not about converting. It's just where you put them. A lefthander who can throw gets tried on the mound. A lefthander who can field ground balls gets put at first. A lefthander who can run gets put in the outfield. And coaches do that because that's where lefthanders go in the big leagues.

For what it's worth, and it's worth almost nothing, lefthanders are still effective at the lower levels because a lot of kids haven't ever seen a pitch coming from that side. The platoon advantage isn't really part of the equation.

   180. SoSH U at work Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:15 AM (#5908646)
In the general public, about 10 percent of people are left-handed. In Major League Baseball, about 25 percent of players are lefties. Any serious fan knows some of the reasons why certain positions favor lefties, but David Peters has come up with a laundry list of reasons to explain this anomaly.


Twenty-five percent bat lefthanded. Nowhere near that many throw lefthanded.

   181. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:15 AM (#5908647)

I have played the position, and I don't think it's nearly as complicated as you're making it sound. It's tailing, but it's not like it's taking the glove with it when you catch the ball.


Well maybe not. what do others think?
   182. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:16 AM (#5908648)
Lefthanded throwers don't represent anywhere near that percentage of the population, baseball or otherwise.


Im thinking in terms of what population of baseball position player are LH. Like 25% or more?
   183. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:18 AM (#5908650)

Twenty-five percent bat lefthanded. Nowhere near that many throw lefthanded.



Right but we're talking about the pool of potential catchers. does it come out of the pool of batters? or total MLB players? Im thnking you take your catchers from the pool of batters but..?
   184. SoSH U at work Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:20 AM (#5908652)
Im thinking in terms of what population of baseball position player are LH. Like 25% or more?


Not even close. There are no lefthanded throwers at second, short, third, or catcher, and they're not all that common in the outfield. Even at first, where they actually have an advantage over their righthanded counterparts, they didn't make up 25 percent of the MLB population in 2019? They wouldn't represent 10 percent of the MLB population excluding pitchers, and they might not even hit 10 percent when you include pitchers.

   185. SoSH U at work Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:22 AM (#5908653)
Right but we're talking about the pool of potential catchers. does it come out of the pool of batters? or total MLB players? Im thnking you take your catchers from the pool of batters but..?


You do take it from the pool of batters (position players), but if they bat lefthanded and throw righthanded, they wouldn't be lefthanded catchers. They would be righthanded catchers.

A lot of guys bat lefthanded and throw righthanded, because the sport favors both of those traits, and handedness corresponds more closely with throwing than it does with batting, so there are a lot more of them.
   186. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:42 AM (#5908655)
Jay Z Posted: December 13, 2019 at 05:18 PM (#5908588)
I have not seen anyone mention tag plays at home. The glove is on the wrong side for a lefty. Every tag play is going to be a sweep, reach across, or maybe he pivots to his right and makes a blind spin. It's much more awkward for a lefty to tag a runner out at home.


I think this point is significant, and it's largely been passed over and sort of hand-waved away. I'd think someone would need some compelling evidence to convince an MLB team this isn't a big factor since every throw home for a play at the plate puts the catcher at a disadvantage (whether reaching for the tag, risk of misplay since on-target throws likely mean being backhanded, etc.). PF followed up by saying tags at the plate are rare, and I think that's overstating it—we see highlights of plays at the plate daily.
   187. bbmck Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:43 AM (#5908656)
Position players in 2019: 562 RH Throw vs 68 LH Throw or 10.8%
Pitchers in 2019: 476 RH Throw vs 175 LH Throw or 26.9%
At least 10 Games at 1B in 2019: 83 RH Throw vs 15 LH Throw or 15.3%
   188. SoSH U at work Posted: December 14, 2019 at 01:26 AM (#5908658)
I think this point is significant, and it's largely been passed over and sort of hand-waved away. I'd think someone would need some compelling evidence to convince an MLB team this isn't a big factor since every throw home for a play at the plate puts the catcher at a disadvantage (whether reaching for the tag, risk of misplay since on-target throws likely mean being backhanded, etc.). PF followed up by saying tags at the plate are rare, and I think that's overstating it—we see highlights of plays at the plate daily.


It is a good point. It's absolutely a minor edge for the righthanded catcher. I don't think there's a greater risk of misplay any more than there is greater risk of misplay by the righthanded first baseman on pickoff throws (the equivalent type of tagging situation), but it would definitely be a split second slower for the lefty catcher compared with the righthanded one. Score one for Team RH.

And on the team level, tag plays at the plate are still relatively rare, and bang-bang ones (the kinds that the tagging situation would make a difference here) are rarer still.

At least 10 Games at 1B in 2019: 83 RH Throw vs 15 LH Throw or 15.3%


There are more lefty throwers in the outfield than I guessed. Thanks bbmck.

The question that I have for Sunday would be who he thinks would be the lefthander getting moved to catcher. The only ones I can see that would fit the bill would be first basemen who have good gloves but aren't much with the stick, or outfielders who have good bats but are hopeless with the glove.

The problem with the former is that if you do manage to teach them how to handle the most difficult position on the field (in however long that takes), you're still left with a weak-hitting catcher. And as for the former, it's probably wishful thinking to assume a weak glove in the outfield will become adequate behind the dish. The learning curve is pretty long, and the payoff in most circumstances is minimal.

Most guys get moved off catcher. Not many get moved on.


   189. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:56 PM (#5908694)


You do take it from the pool of batters (position players), but if they bat lefthanded and throw righthanded, they wouldn't be lefthanded catchers. They would be righthanded catchers.


Yes. I didnt grasp this point at first, so yeah I guess the pool is onkly 10% or so.

YOu asked me who converted to C... Im going from memory but I know Sanguillen got a late start in baseball like he didnt even play the game until he was like 17 or 18. They soon made him a C and he was in organized baseball quite soon. The way the story goes is like he just walked onto the field. Dunno if thats how it happened but I guess they thought to put him at C. Of course he's RH.
   190. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2019 at 12:59 PM (#5908695)

The question that I have for Sunday would be who he thinks would be the lefthander getting moved to catcher.


OH a LHer? Didnt Ruth start out as a C when he was at the orphage or wherever? I guess thats a long way from MLB of course. I really dont know. It takes a real special skill set, he needs to be real good with hit hands and very alert to the pitch by pitch game. I dunno.
   191. Rennie's Tenet Posted: December 14, 2019 at 01:33 PM (#5908699)
Didnt Ruth start out as a C when he was at the orphage or wherever?


There's a photo of him where he's wearing a catcher's mitt on the wrong hand, but I think he attracted attention as a pitcher first.
   192. Rennie's Tenet Posted: December 14, 2019 at 01:55 PM (#5908705)
Re converts: I just assume that any amateur players are going to play where they're told to play. When you get to the high minors, though, lots of guys are told that they can't cover center and can't hit enough for a corner in the majors. I would think that all of those guys would at least try catching, although it doesn't seem like it happens. By the same reasoning, it surprises me that every failing pitcher doesn't give the knuckleball a month, and every team doesn't have a couple knuckleballers chewing up innings.

I'd be interested to know if a left-handed catcher was a curiosity in the minors a hundred years ago. You had a couple hundred teams, all making independent decisions. If lefties could catch, you'd think someone would have employed them.
   193. SoSH U at work Posted: December 14, 2019 at 02:14 PM (#5908711)
When you get to the high minors, though, lots of guys are told that they can't cover center and can't hit enough for a corner in the majors. I would think that all of those guys would at least try catching, although it doesn't seem like it happens.


They may be willing. The teams may not be willing to give them the chance to see if the conversion will work. It's not as if the teams themselves don't have a ready supply of people who have pitched and caught at their disposal.

   194. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 14, 2019 at 02:21 PM (#5908713)
Willson Contreras converter to catcher in the minors. His first 3 professional years he played everywhere but C and SS.
   195. Howie Menckel Posted: December 14, 2019 at 02:34 PM (#5908716)

fun with left-handed catchers
"The first left-handed throwing catcher was Fergy Malone (1871-1877) who caught 27 games in 1871. The last left-handed throwing catcher to play the position was Benny Distefano who caught 3 games in 1989 for Pittsburgh.

White Sox first baseman Mike Squires even caught 2 games in the majors. Randy Johnson (Diamondbacks ace pitcher) caught for a little while."

another one
The case against using a left-hander at third is that he might be handcuffed by slowly hit balls down the line, particularly bunts, which often place him in awkward positions from which to throw. The supposed problem for a southpaw behind the plate is that anytime a right-handed hitter is up, he must compensate for the batter's obstruction whenever it becomes necessary to throw to second base.

''Nonsense,'' says Squires, pointing out that a right-handed catcher has the same problem, if not quite as frequently, anytime a left-handed batter is up there.

''Actually catching is easier in some ways than third base because everything is right in front of you,'' Mike said. ''The tough part is finding a mitt that feels comfortable on my right hand because there just aren't that many to choose from.''

"Twice [in 1984, his manager] has even started Squires at third - and both times White Sox pitchers have turned in shutout victories."

   196. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2019 at 02:42 PM (#5908717)
you guys are actually starting to convince me that its institutional bias, but the fact that we havent had a starter there in a million years is puzzling.

It's like when Einstein was faced with the expanding universe proposition: "The math makes sense but the physics doesnt.."
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