Visualization: Handedness through history

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References & Resources
Some notes:

  • The width of every bar is the same, which corresponds to 100 percent of all plate appearances in the league for every given year. The only thing that changes is the position of each bar. For example, in 1950, 65.8 percent of the plate appearances in the league came from right-handed batters. Therefore, the blue bar corresponding to righties lines up with 65.8 percent on the middle axis. The green 1950 bar for lefties makes up the difference.
  • Managers have purposefully put left-handed batters in to bat against right-handed pitchers for years. I expected the batter and pitcher charts to roughly mirror each other, where managers would note the rising tide of left-handed batters and hire more lefty pitchers to match. That doesn’t seem to be the case, interestingly enough.
  • What happened in the late ’90s and the early ’00s? Why was there a swell of right-handed pitchers that entered the league? Barry Bonds was a left-handed freak, but there’s no way he was singlehandedly that good, was he? We’re talking about an 11 percentage point swing from 1990 to 2000.
  • All data from Baseball-Reference’s wonderful new League Splits tool in the Play Index.
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Comments

  1. studes said...

    Hey Dan, this is a great chart.  Thanks. Late idea: it might have been nice to put pitchers on one side and batters on the other, because the two sides right now are redundant (one either bats/pitches right or left handed).  That way, it would be easier to spot whether or not pitchers and batters mirror each other.

  2. Tiger_fan said...

    ” I expected the batter and pitcher charts to roughly mirror each other, where managers would note the rising tide of left-handed batters and hire more lefty pitchers to match. “

    You are not taking into account that a player who is born right handed can learn to bat left handed. They still throw right handed. Prince Fielder is a perfect example. His father taught him to bat LH because of the predominance of RH pitching. Prince still throws RH.

    Pitchers can’t learn to throw effectively enough with the other hand to remain pitchers. It’s hard enough to learn how to pitch in the first place.

    To see if there is a trend in scouting natural lefties or righties you would have to remove the people that hit and throw with different hands, and switch hitters.

  3. David said...

    Possibly the decrease in LH pitchers has been offset by the rise in LOOGY’s, at least in the high-leverage situations.  Would a break-out of the 4 combinations of RH pitcher vs RH batter, etc, shed any light?

  4. w michael bacon said...

    How about a graph on switch-hitters? I believe the number exploded after Mickey Mantle made it to the show in 1951.

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