Even if you know little about baseball, you know the important things. You know that you have to move the runner over, stay with the hot bat, pitch your closer in the ninth. And you know that whatever you do, you should not pitch a lefty down and in.
Because, you know, it’s their power wheelhouse.
But why exactly are lefties predestined for greatness on such pitches – nobody really tells you. Is it a special gene? A sacred secret passed on only among the sinister batsmen? Or is it all what an ox would be had there been no intention to make him a tenor?
The most interesting explanation I’ve heard was that lefties see pitches there so often as kids, because that’s where right-handers’ curve balls land. And seeing the pitch so often makes them great when hitting it. Kinda like what it did for Bobby Crosby, I guess.
Anyway, let’s look at it. If everyone knows about the great danger of the down-and-in venture into lefthander’s strength, nobody will pitch there, right?
Yeah, we are on to something! Well, they are pitched up and in even less often, and generally they are mostly just being preferably pitched outside, but yes, this supports the dogma.
Great, so – pitchers avoid going there. But, for sure, the batters jump on any and every opportunity in that area, right?
Umm, eh, no?
When the pitchers throw the ball in the zone, they are least likely to swing if it’s down and in? Wow, mighty gallant of them.
But, for sure once they swing, they don’t miss it.
Ouch. Second highest swing and miss percentage of all the locations in the strike zone? Hm, perhaps that’s only when it doesn’t matter, they are surely just being aggressive early in the count, but when it matters, they don’t miss it. They will certainly not strike out on the pitch in their wheelhouse, will they?
So what is it then? Why are they so gosh darn dangerous there? Duh, I know now! Because when they do make contact, it’s a home run. Ping! Bang! Outta here!
Nah, that is pretty average, too. But, now I know – it’s not only home runs, it’s the slugging, baby! Yeah, they pull the triples, gap the doubles and generally just go ballistic.
Ouch, they have the lower slugging there than in any but the two strike zone areas? What am I now, 0 for 5 in my assumptions so far?
But hey, here is the thought! It’s not that the left-handers are especially successful on down and in pitches – it’s that they are relatively more successful than their right-handed counterparts. So, in comparison they look good because they handle such pitches with much more authority. Yeah, for sure that’s it – I’m back, baby!
OK, let’s sum this up. Apart from being rather lousy on the pitch down and in, the lefthanders swing less, miss more pitches, slug less, strikeout more and hit fewer home runs than the right-handers?
And yet, their fame is immeasurable. I guess that for once – they are getting preferred treatment over the ruling majority.