Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing. It's chess. It's war, but it's also a game, so it's meant to be played. This Pitchers vs Batters: Left-Handed & Right-Handed Hitting Approaches guide will hopefully shed some light on the importance of having the right approach at the plate.
There are various advantages that hitters need to be aware of when facing pitchers throwing from various sides of the mound.
For example, a right-handed hitter will have a bigger advantage facing a lefty pitcher since the pitch will come from the outer-half of the plate.
It's a release point that's easier to recognize with even average pitch recognition skills.
This is one of the benefits of being a switch-hitter. All the pitches you see are on the opposite side of the mound. It allows your pitch recognition skills to work for you rather than against you.
With that in mind, hitters need to be aware of what are the advantages and disadvantages as well various approaches pitchers will have when facing hitters throughout the line-up.
Both right-handed and left-handed hitters need to be aware of:
- The Left-Handed Batter: Advantage
- The Right-Handed Batter: Advantage
- Typical RHP Approach
- Typical LHP Approach
- Batting Right-Handed Approach
- Batting Left-Handed Approach
The Left-Handed Batter: Advantage
The main advantage of left-handed hitters is that the majority of the pitchers they face will be right-handed pitchers. Statistically, there are more right-handed pitchers than there are left-handed.
Roughly 70% of big-league pitchers are right-handed, according to late 2012 early 2013 stats.
In other words, more than half of a left-handed hitters plate-appearance will consist of seeing pitches from the opposite side of the mound.
This means, majority of breaking balls, will break towards the left-handed hitter. A huge advantage for hitters who are having trouble staying back on deceptive pitches.
For ages, it’s been a well-known fact that lefties do better in baseball. Left-handed hitters are more valuable than their right-handed counterparts at the plate. Lefty pitchers also tend to be more sought after.
In this guide to left-handers in baseball, you’ll learn all about southpaw hitters, pitchers, and fielders, and why they have an advantage over right-handers.
Where Does a Left-Handed Batter Stand?
A left-handed batter stands on the right side of home plate when you’re facing the diamond. A lefty hitter is on the left side of the plate from the pitcher’s vantage point.
Left-handers stand on the opposite side of the plate as right-handers, and they swing the opposite direction too. Right-handed batters lead their swing with their left arm, the arm that’s facing the pitcher.
Left-handers lead their swing with their right arm. It might sound a bit confusing but it’s much easier to understand if you visualize it.
Do Left-Handed Batters Hit Better Against Right-Handed Pitchers?
Conventional wisdom in baseball is that yes, a left-handed batter does better against a right-handed pitcher.
The same can be said for a right-handed batter against a left-handed pitcher. But what exactly about the opposite-handed matchup makes it relevant in baseball?
Most of a right-handed pitcher’s breaking pitches will move away from a right-handed batter, making them harder to hit.
A right-handed batter has to lunge after an outside pitch and has a weaker swing as a result. But those same breaking pitches will curve toward a lefty, thus making them easier to hit. The same principle applies to left-handed pitchers against right-handed batters.
To make the most of the lefty-righty battle coaches will strategically place left-handed batters in the lineup and left-handed pitchers in the pitching rotation.
If a manager knows that a lefty is coming up to bat, he might swap out his pitcher for a left-hander, to have a more competitive matchup.
What Percentage of Batters Are Left-Handed?
About 25 percent of major-league baseball players are left-handed. Lefty representation in the sport is much higher than in the general population, which is only 10 percent.
About 21 percent of the pitchers in the baseball Hall of Fame is left-handed, and about half of hall-of-fame position players are lefties too.
Because being left-handed has been seen as an advantage in baseball for many years, players who could bat, throw, or pitch left-handed got more looks from coaches and recruiters than right-handers.
It’s not uncommon for a naturally right-handed player to bat left-handed and throw right-handed, or learn to switch hit, so he can have an advantage.
Why Does a Left-Handed Pitcher Have an Advantage?
Both left-handed pitchers and batters do better in baseball. Since the majority of hitters are right-handed, lefty pitchers are considered valuable.
A curveball from a left-hander breaks inside on a righty – a harder pitch to hit. Since common wisdom dictates that a same-handed hitter-pitcher matchup favors the pitcher, lefty pitchers also have a slight advantage against left-handed batters as well.
Although left-handed pitchers are an asset, southpaws have advantages in fielding and batting as well:
- Left-handed batters are one step closer to first base, giving them a head start over right-handers.
- Left-handers turn towards first when they swing so their momentum is heading in the right direction. Right-handers have to reset after their swing so they can run to first.
- First base and right field are better positions for lefties because, with their position, they can throw the ball more quickly to second, third, and home.
- Many ballparks make right field a greater distance from home than left field, since right-handers are more prevalent.
It was long believed that natural left-handers, who throw and bat left, had the greatest chances for success in baseball. In a study released in 2017, however, researchers saw that the best combination for ballplayers was right-handed throwing and left-handed batting. In other words, players who are naturally right-handed but learn to bat left have greater odds for a promising baseball career. While some experts cast doubt on the findings, the study did open up debate about how to go about training young baseball players, and whether right-handers should learn to bat left early on.
Why Is It Harder for Lefties to Hit Lefties?
Lefty batters have an advantage on right-handed pitchers, but in a lefty-lefty matchup, it’s the pitcher that usually has the edge. Why? A lefty’s curveball can be a nasty pitch against right-handers, but it can also throw lefties off too.
The curve can head straight for the batter then break at the last second, causing the hitter to instinctively back off. Left-handed hitters can have a particularly hard time with lefty pitchers throwing sidearm.
The batter has a trickier time tracking the ball out of the pitcher’s hand when he throws sidearm, delaying the time the batter has to respond to the pitch.
Why Do Lefties Throw Slower with More Movement?
Lefties tend to throw slower pitches and have more movement on their ball. Why is that? Many coaches would say that batters are so accustomed to right-handed pitchers that their perception of spin is thrown off with a lefty.
But there’s more going on with left-handers.
In an article on Baseball Think Tank, Lantz Wheeler cites external forces at the reason for lefty movement. He says that left-handed pitchers train to throw down and away on right-handed batters, because most hitters struggle with this pitch. And since they’re throwing the ball to their arm side, they have a better chance for movement.
This phenomenon hasn’t been fully explained, but there are other theories on left-handers throwing more slowly and with more movement:
- Right-handed pitchers are more common, so they have to focus on throwing hard to get ahead, whereas lefties don’t.
- Left-handers’ throws – pitching or not – have a natural tail that right-handed throws don’t.
- Our bodies aren’t symmetrical from left to right, a feature called postural imbalance. Turning the body clockwise (right-handed windup) is supposedly easier than counterclockwise (left-handed windup). Right-handed pitchers, therefore, struggle less to generate more velocity.
We might not know why lefties have less speed and more movement on the ball, but it’s clear that it occurs in baseball, especially at younger levels.
Final Thoughts on Left-Handed Batters
Lefties have an advantage in baseball, primarily on the mound and at the plate. The game isn’t “rigged” in favor of southpaws like some say, but left-handers have better chances of advancing to higher levels in baseball.
The Right-Handed Batter: Advantage
Since right-handed hitters grow up hitting right-handed pitching, facing pitchers from this side of the mound isn't as much of a challenge as it is for left-handed hitters facing left-handed pitching.
The lefty on lefty match-up is real.
The righty on righty match-up...not so much.
For the most part, a right-handed approach is fairly simple.
Look for something up in the zone, and do a good job of staying back.
Most lefty pitchers will avoid throwing inside unless they're trying to set up the pitch away, the breaking ball in the dirt or if they have some decent velocity on their fastball, pitches on the inner-half of the plate.
Typical RHP Approach
A good right-handed pitcher will usually pitch off of their fastball. Once the "fastball for a strike" is established, the pitcher will work to keep hitters off balance by mixing speeds and zones.
This means starting hitters off with an off-speed or breaking ball pitch to start of an at-bat or when a hitter has count leverage.
If a RHP can throw their secondary pitch for a strike, a hitter's only real option is to cut the plate in half and try to drive pitches to the opposite field.
Good pitching usually beats good hitting. This is why the approach to hitting is so important.
If you're facing a RHP who is consistently throwing off-speed or breaking ball pitches in fastball counts, you need to make the right adjustment, quickly.
Typical LHP Approach
Most left-handed pitchers will work away. The main reason is left-handed pitchers typically have lower velocity. This is one reason why left-handed pitching is a premium, let alone LHP with good velo.
A typical left-handed pitching sequence usually involves the pitcher establishing the fastball in at some point to make the fastball or off-speed pitch away, more effective.
Batting Right-Handed Approach
As a right-handed batter, one of the main reasons it's important for you to be able to drive the ball to the opposite field is to hit behind the runner.
Hit and Run situations & extra bases hit to the opposite field that gets a runner on first to third or to home is what increases a hitter's production at the plate.
Good hitters use the whole field
There are very few dead-pull right-handed hitters.
If you can't hit the ball oppo, and the pitcher knows it, get ready to see a steady dose of breaking ball pitches until you can prove that you can stay back and drive the ball where it's pitched.
Batting Left-Handed Approach
Left-handed batters have the luxury of being dead-pull for two reasons.
- They can pull the ball and still hit behind the runner.
- The majority of the pitchers they face (RHP) throw breaking balls that break towards them.
In other words, a left-handed batter can afford to hit the ball out in front a bit more than most hitters.
Pitchers vs Batters: Left-Handed & Right-Handed Hitting Approaches Checklist
The Pitcher VS Batter match-ups are real and dictate game situations.
For hitters, the approach is so important it's mind-blowing.
The point is simple. The hitter must do a good job of:
- Keeping the finger on their Swing Trigger™
- Have good instincts and hitter's I.Q.™
- Demonstrate superior pitch recognition skills
- Use the entire field
- Have a plan to Win The At-Bat
As hitters, the one thing that never changes is making sure to get a good pitch to hit.
It's very hard to be consistent at the plate if we're not swinging at strikes.
Get great at driving the ball to the opposite field gap. When hitters reach the Varsity and College level, pitchers will pitch away on a regular basis.
Especially when it’s a weakness.
At the end of the day, regardless of what the pitcher vs batter match-up is, hitters need to be able to drive the ball hard oppo, middle and pull-side.