Left-Handed Shortstops

Who Are Left-Handed Shortstops in MLB History?

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Being left-handed can often be advantageous in professional sports, including, but not limited to, baseball, cricket, tennis, table tennis, and boxing. Indeed, only 10-12% of people in the United States are left-handed, yet lefties account for almost 30% of Major League Baseball players. However, left-handers are not equally represented across all baseball positions. 

There are currently no left-handed throwing shortstops in MLB, and no lefty-throwers have played more than 10 games at shortstop since the nineteenth century. The most prominent left-handed throwing shortstops in MLB history include Jimmy Macullar, Bill McClellan, and Jimmy Hallinan.

The last lefty-thrower to play shortstop in the majors was Nino Escalera, an outfielder/first baseman, who played one-third of an inning at shortstop in 1954. However, he entered the game as a fourth outfielder and was only listed as a shortstop as a technicality. Meanwhile, the last left-handed thrower to genuinely play shortstop and field a ball at the position was Hal Chase, who played a couple of games at short in 1905.

According to the Stathead search tool, only three left-handed throwers played more than 100 games at shortstop in their careers, and all three played before the turn of the twentieth century: Jimmy Macullar, Bill McClellan and Jimmy Hallinan. Macullar holds the all-time record for appearances at shortstop by a left-handed thrower.

Has There Ever Been a Left-Handed Infielder in MLB?

Yes, there have been many left-handed infielders in MLB history. In fact, there are many left-handed hitters at every position across the diamond, and there have been and continue to be many left-handed throwing first basemen in baseball. Recent examples include Anthony Rizzo, Cody Bellinger and Ryan Howard.

However, there are not currently any active left-handed throwing catchers, second basemen, third basemen, or shortstops, nor have there been any in a very long time. However, there were some left-handed throwing catchers, second basemen, third basemen, and shortstops in the early days of baseball. Some such players include Jack Clements, Bill McLellan, Sam Trott, Hick Carpenter, Jimmy Macullar, and Bill Greenwood.

In addition, a small number of left-handed throwers have occasionally played those positions in more recent years. Most notably, Mike Squires of the 1984 Chicago White Sox played 13 games at third base that season. The year prior, he played his first career inning at the hot corner, becoming the first lefty-throwing third baseman in more than 50 years.

What Famous MLB Shortstops Have Been Left-Handed?

While many famous shortstops have hit left-handed, including Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan and present-day superstar Corey Seager, none have thrown with their left hand.

That being said, several famous left-handed throwing players have briefly appeared at shortstop. A couple of Hall of Fame players from the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, Jesse Burkett and Willie Keeler, each played a few innings at short. So did Jack Clements, who is famous for being the most successful lefty-throwing catcher in MLB history. He caught over 1,000 games in his professional career, while no other left-handed thrower caught more than 300.

Finally, first baseman Lou Gehrig, widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, was once listed on the Yankees’ lineup card as a shortstop, even though he never actually took the field at the position. Other lefties who technically appeared as a shortstop in this capacity include Mark Ryal, Tom Chism, and Royle Stillman.

Why Aren’t There Any Left-Handed Throwing Shortstops in MLB?

Currently, there are no left-handed throwing shortstops in Major League Baseball. In fact, there aren’t any left-handed throwing second basemen, third basemen, or catchers either. This might seem surprising, considering that 25-30% of players pitch and hit left-handed.

However, the truth of the matter is that left-handed throwing simply is not conducive to success at these positions. The most frequent direction in which second basemen, third basemen, and shortstops throw is to their left side – in other words, toward first base. It is easier and quicker for infielders to throw to their left sides with their right arms, because one’s arm needs to move across one’s body – and not away from one’s body – when making a strong and accurate throw.

The answer is more complicated with catchers, who most often have to throw to second base, which is located directly in front of them. However, throwing right-handed allows catchers to make quicker throws down the line to third base, which is located on the left side of the infield. It is also easier for catchers to have their glove on their left hand, so as to make quicker tags on plays at the plate. Finally, because more batters are right-handed, catchers are more likely to have a clear path when throwing to second base if they throw right-handed.

Exploring the Rare 5 Left-Handed Throwing Shortstops in Baseball History

Five left-handed throwers played shortstop in 50% or more of their games (min. 30 career games): Jimmy Macullar, Jimmy Hallinan, Billy Hulen, Billy Redmond, and Russ Hall. All five played in the earliest era of Major League Baseball, between 1871 and the turn of the twentieth century.

None were particularly successful players, with only Macullar playing more than 200 career games. Meanwhile, only Hallinan had above-average offensive numbers. His .672 OPS might not sound impressive by today’s standards, but it was 22% higher than the league average in the 1870s.

Exploring the Top 4 Left-Handed Batting Shortstops in Baseball History

There have been many more successful left-handed batting shortstops than left-handed throwing shortstops in MLB history. Most of these players were either naturally right-handed and learned to bat from the left side for an offensive advantage or naturally left-handed and learned to throw with their right arms so they could play shortstop.

Without a doubt, the top lefty-batting shortstop in MLB history was Arky Vaughn, who played 1,485 games at shortstop with a .318/.406/.453/.859 career batting line. A nine-time All-Star and the 1935 NL batting champion, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.

After Vaughn, the most successful left-handed hitting shortstops include John Ward, Joe Sewell, and Herman Long. Ward was an extremely talented pitcher, and after an injury ended his pitching career, he prolonged his playing career by transitioning to shortstop (and later second base). He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964.

Sewell played in Cleveland and New York, earning MVP votes in seven of his 14 seasons. He began his career as a shortstop, before sliding over to third base in his thirties. A two-time World Series champion, he entered the Hall of Fame in 1977. Finally, Long spent most of his 16-year career in Boston, appearing in 1795 games at shortstop. He racked up more than 2,000 career hits and 1,000 career RBI, in addition to an MLB-worst 1,070 career errors. Still, he is often considered one of the better defensive shortstops of his time.

Among active players, the top left-handed hitting shortstop is two-time World Series MVP Corey Seager. With four All-Star appearances and three Silver Slugger Awards before his 30th birthday, Seager is well on his way to becoming one of the best lefty-batting shortstops of all time.

Related Questions

Has There Ever Been a Lefty Catcher in MLB?

There have been many famous left-handed hitting catchers in MLB history, including Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, and Mickey Cochrane, as well as more recent stars like Joe Mauer and Brian McCann.

There have also been several left-handed throwing catchers, although not for many years. The last lefty-thrower to play more than 100 career games behind the plate was Jack Clements, who retired in 1900. Clements is the most prolific left-handed throwing catcher in MLB history, having caught over 800 more games than any other left-handed thrower.

Meanwhile, the last left-handed throwing catcher to appear in an MLB game was Benny Distefano. Primarily an outfielder and first baseman, Distefano caught six innings across three games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1989.

How Many MLB Players Are Left-Handed?

In the twentieth century, just under 26% of MLB pitchers have been left-handed, while 27% of innings have been thrown by left-handed pitchers. There has been no discernible difference in performance between left-handed and right-handed pitchers.

Left-handers account for a slightly higher number of starting pitchers than relievers. Approximately 27% of starters in the twentieth century have been left-handed, and they have thrown more than 28% of all starters’ innings. Meanwhile, lefties account for just under 26% of all MLB relievers and just under 25% of all relievers’ innings.

In the same period of time, a slightly higher number of batters have been left-handed – just over 29%. On a similar note, just over 32% of plate appearances have been taken by left-handed batters. Lefties have performed, on average, slightly better than their right-handeed counterparts in most offensive categories.

Has There Ever Been an Ambidextrous MLB Player?

Many players throw with one arm and bat with the other, but it is much less common for a player to do the same activity (either hitting or pitching) with two dominant arms.

Still, some baseball players have learned to hit from both sides of the plate. These batters, known as “switch hitters,” typically bat right-handed against left-handed pitchers and left-handed against right-handed pitchers. This creates what is called a “platoon advantage.”

In 2023 alone, 64 switch hitters played in Major League Baseball. In MLB history, there have been more than 1,200 recorded switch hitters.

Switch pitchers are much less common than switch hitters. Simply put, it is far more difficult for players to learn to pitch with their non-dominant arm. Even for those small few pitchers who are naturally ambidextrous, it is usually easier to choose either the right or left and focus on training that one arm.

However, there have been a couple of known switch pitchers in major league history. The first was Larry Kimbrough, who played for the Philadelphia Stars and the Homestead Grays between 1942 and 1948. The second was Pat Venditte, who appeared for the Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and Miami Marlins between 2015 and 2020.

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