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You have probably heard the term southpaw being thrown around or even watched the movie Southpaw which premiered in 2015. If you are unfamiliar with the term, you will not understand that lefties are called southpaws. Why they are so-called and the science behind why lefthanded pitchers have an advantage will be discussed later in this article.
There have been postulations that the reason why left-handed athletes, or in this case, baseball pitchers, do so well on the field is that their righthanded counterparts are not so used to their methods of play. Hence, they are not exactly more gifted than the righties as is often believed. This is called the nurture advantage.
The science behind why lefthanded pitchers have an advantage
While this may be so, some scientists have gone ahead to research the science behind the advantage in success of lefthanded pitchers. What the scientists at Amherst College found was that the lesser the number of lefties in the game in a season, the higher the batting average. The importance of this and more about the advantage of southpaws are discussed further. Enjoy your reading.
Why are lefties called southpaws?
The term southpaw is generally used in sports for lefties, although, initially it was a form of stigmatization for lefthanded people. In baseball, the field is set up in such a way that the pitcher has to face the west. When a lefty casts a pitch, he throws southward. This is a good reason why the term has become a complement rather than ridicule.
In contrast, a righthanded person is called a northpaw.
The science behind lefthanded pitchers in baseball
As mentioned above, the opinion that lefthanded pitchers can hoodwink, so to say, their righthanded counterparts on the field is the nature perception. The nature perception is that which the scientists at Amherst College found. Let us discuss more on the advantages of both in the following paragraphs.
Nurture advantage of lefthanded pitchers
Since only about 10 percent of the world’s population are lefthanded, it goes to show that equally few numbers of those lefties would be players on a baseball field and very few would be pitchers. Simply, righthanded hitters do not have enough lefthanded pitchers to practice against and are thus at a disadvantage.
This can be explained by the fact that if a lefthanded pitcher throws the ball, he’s throwing it in a direction the hitter is not exactly familiar with. The hitter or batter may need to be fast in recovering so that he can hit the ball. Otherwise, he loses the game without a home run.
The nature advantage of southpaws in baseball
This advantage is much more scientific in nature. The left hemisphere of the brain has been associated with the control of the right-side motor and visual skills while the right hemisphere controls the left motor and visual skills.
What this entails roughly is that the right side of the brain, which is responsible for spatial awareness in humans, is more in use by lefties. In other words, by nature, lefthanded people are more aware of their surroundings and almost accurately speculate the movement of things and people in relation to their positions.
Thus, it is no wonder that lefthanded pitchers can more accurately discern the body language of their opponent and move or pitch to counter that.
On the other hand, though, when the number of lefties increases in an MLB season, the batting average reduces. This is because batters get to have more lefthanded players as opponents and can thus build experience, sort of.
Some other cons that left-handed pitchers have over right-handed pitchers
Here are some reasons why left-handed pitchers have a seeming advantage on the court.
- They throw in a natural curve. Thus, their fastballs are usually unique and natural with no stress at all. Good pitchers know to throw the ball down and away from the batter. Lefties usually develop this technique at an early age and it becomes almost second nature.
- The MLB has a preference for lefthanded pitchers. They get picked most of the time during drafting. What that connotes is that more leftie pitchers are pitched against right-handed hitters.
- It is widely known that left-handed pitchers throw slower balls than their right-handed counterparts. As a matter of fact, research has shown that the quality of throw for lefthanded pitchers is remarkably lower than that of the righthanded pitchers. Hence, the lefties should not have an advantage. However, since the majority of young right-handed hitters would most likely not have an advantage of playing against a lefty pitcher, they are disadvantaged on the MLB court trying to adjust or recover to the direction of the ball thrown by a lefty. Therein lies the major advantage of the southpaws.
Of course, the southpaws are over-represented in the game we all know and love, baseball. And the fact that, given the opportunity to compete on an equal field with their righthanded counterpart, and they may not perform well, the advantage they have is a bit surprising to most. If you have read through this article, you must now know the reason.
- Who is the best left-handed pitcher in history?
Sandy Koufax, though had a 12-year baseball career due to injury, is probably the best pitcher in the history of the MLB league. Sandy, who played between 1955 and 1966, had the greatest peak of any baseball pitcher so far.
- Do lefthanded pitchers get paid more than righthanded pitchers?
While the southpaws are generally not remarkably better than righthanded pitchers, the prejudice to their preference during team selection has favored them for increased pay. It has been reported that a righthanded pitcher can make about $200,000 lower than the lefty in the MLB league.
- Is the MLB really prejudiced against righthanded pitchers?
Taking a look at the MLB’s reason for teams making bigger bids for lefties, it is obvious why they are in such high demand. The major reason is that hitters play better when they are faced with pitchers using the same hand as them. Thus, teams tend to stock up on an equal number of lefties and righties so that they can have options depending on which hand the opponent team’s player is putting forward.