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Something I've been wondering about....

There's a group of hitters who are always described as having a "sweet swing." Most of you probably thought of Ken Griffey, didn't you? Or maybe you remembered Will Clark. Around these parts, the words were frequently applied to John Olerud, and Colby Rasmus has the same type of stroke.

These guys are all left-handed batters, and that's the thing. Guys described as having sweet swings are always left-handed batters. Always. It's as if they're the only ones capable of having a sweet swing. Why is that? Really, it doesn't make any sense. Surely there have been right-handed batters whose swings were essentially a mirror image of that same sweet swing. Did we simply not notice? Is it something we simply can't see? Why? Why, I ask you!

It makes no sense...

Are most of us right-handed, and a smooth right-handed stroke just looks... normal? Nothing to see here? And so we see most clearly what is unusual or distinctive in a right-handed batter - the bizarre stances in the box employed by Jeff Bagwell, Tony Batista, Albert Belle... Paul Molitor waiting and waiting, and lashing out with that short, short stroke... Jose Bautista holding the bat over his head like a sledgehammer... whatever the hell Youkilis is doing....

Incidentally, Manny Ramirez had an absolutely gorgeous right-handed swing. Try to find video of him when he was young and slender, before he took to wearing the baggy uniform. There was a sweet stroke. Even so, I had to work just to be able to see it.
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92-93 - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 02:21 PM EDT (#243197) #
Here's what you do : put a mirror opposite your TV and watch the game off the reflection. Righties become lefties and you realize that there's nothing sweeter about a lefty pitcher/hitter - it's all a matter of perspective. I guess what needs to be figured out is why it looks any better from the left side - is it because we live in a right-handed world?
Magpie - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 02:34 PM EDT (#243198) #
Yeah, that's what I've come to think as well.

I did consider the great switch-hitters - Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones. Murray and Chipper right-handed really are mirror images of their left-handed self (Mantle not quite, there was something slightly different) - but unfortunately none of that threesome were classic sweet swingers from the left side. In the case of Murray and Jones, while the swing itself is pretty enough, it's the stuff that goes with it that ruins the image. Murray started his swing with his back elbow cocked up and high - it was very distinctive. Chipper comes closer, but he really opens up as he strides - it's a modified version of what they used to call stepping in the bucket. And Mantle's stride seemed strangely ahead of his swing - it's as if he steps forward, and then swings. With extreme violence....
gabrielthursday - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 02:56 PM EDT (#243199) #
I doubt it's entirely perception - I think I've heard that there's a physiological basis for different motions from the left and right sides.
Flex - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 06:50 PM EDT (#243216) #
Isn't some of it simply that the centrefield camera, through which we watch most games, is usually positioned on the left-field side of the mound? That lets us look toward the left-handed batter. We see the whole swing beginning-to-end and get to appreciate its full sweep. Most of the time the right handed batter faces slightly away from the viewer, or stands perpendicular to him.

We don't get the same beautiful view of the swing, therefore it seems to lack beauty.
Chuck - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 07:41 PM EDT (#243220) #
There's something about left-handed throwing as well. Left-handed quarterbacks often seem smoother than their right-handred brethren.
BlueJayWay - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 07:41 PM EDT (#243221) #
Yeah, but even if you're at the ballpark, a lot of lefties have prettier looking swings.  It's not just a tv illusion.

Edgar Martinez had a nice swing for a righty. 

Mike Green - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 09:21 PM EDT (#243225) #
Joe D had a nice swing. Jeter's is pretty good too.

Among the players with the top career batting averages, 31 of the top 50 batted left. Left-handed hitters do hit 3 to 6 points better than right-handed hitters every year.

I wondered if it was a bats left/throws right phenomenon with placement of hands on the bat affecting smoothness of the stroke, but both Olerud and Rasmus throw left.
greenfrog - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 09:34 PM EDT (#243226) #
For anyone who's interested, Zach Stewart has thus far thrown five completely boring, unremarkable, mind-numbing innings against the Twins tonight.

Usually I get interested in similarly dull games after 7 or 8 innings, but I just thought I would mention it, Stewart being an ex-Jay and all.
greenfrog - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 09:37 PM EDT (#243227) #
Make that six IP.
Dewey - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 09:48 PM EDT (#243228) #
Iíve wondered if it isnít partly that the lefty-swingerís left leg is planted and slopes diagonally in the same direction as his torso and arms for a moment, late in the swing: everything moves to the right and up.  Remember some of those old photos of the Splendid Splinter, with that long left leg being the take-off point for your eye?  (The ball landing in the right-field seats was where the eye took you next.  It all started out, visually, from that planted left foot.)  I remember feeling that way about Olerudís swings as well. 

The righty-swinger, on the other hand, starts off to first base differently,  and thereís not the same sense of extension of the whole body in the direction of first.   Hmmn?
Ishai - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 09:52 PM EDT (#243229) #
It seems to me that the most violent swings are overwhelmingly righty.
Matthew E - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 09:56 PM EDT (#243230) #
It's because of the Coriolis effect. Right-handed hitters in the southern hemisphere look more elegant than lefties.
greenfrog - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 10:09 PM EDT (#243231) #
With regard to the batting average differential, it could be that LHBs start out closer to first base. In the long haul, that would give them a slight advantage over RHBs (apart from the sweet-swing conundrum, which I haven't been able to solve).
greenfrog - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 10:25 PM EDT (#243232) #
It doesn't seem to apply to racquet sports. You won't find more of a sweet-swinging tennis player than Federer (a righty). Jonathan Power (a retired righty), incidentally a Canadian, comes to mind when I think of squash players with brilliant, graceful strokes. In those sports, lefties can be confounding to their opponents, but I don't believe they are generally regarded as having prettier or sweeter swings/strokes.
dan gordon - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 10:34 PM EDT (#243233) #

There are 3 advantages lefty batters have.  The main one is that there are significantly more right handed pitchers, so lefty hitters have the platoon advantage more often.  The other advantages are that they start off closer to first as indicated earlier, and that at the end of their swing they may have some momentum going towards first base rather than towards third, depending on th eexact mechanics of their swing.  The latter two factors give them more infield hits, as they get to first base about a step faster.  Ichiro Suzuki, for instance, is dramatically leaning toward first base by the end of his swing, giving him an amazingly quick first step. 

These advantages are why you see so many natural right handed throwers bat left handed in mlb, but you almost never see a natural left handed thrower hitting right handed.  Ricky Henderson was one notable exception to the lefty thrower/right batter rule.

electric carrot - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 11:25 PM EDT (#243234) #
I liked Flex's idea that it was all about the camera position when we watch -- that was ingenious. I think there's still something to that.  But I am going to add to that the social praxis argument.  My theory goes that as a rule "lefties" are more coordinated with their off hand than righties. Because we live in a right dominated culture the "lefty" gets his right hand involved in things more often because that's the way dominant society works.  As a result the "differential" between left hand "handedness" and right hand "handedness" is more often less in lefthanders (you following this) than those of us on the right side. This results in more coordination and beauty in the baseball swing because both hands are closer in coordinatedness. This however does not affect  the tennis, squash or racquetball swing (as has been pointed out) which doesn't require the two hands to coordinate as much as they do in a baseball swing.
jamesq - Monday, September 05 2011 @ 11:39 PM EDT (#243236) #
There was nothing sweeter then watching George Brett and Rod Carew hit....
Mylegacy - Tuesday, September 06 2011 @ 01:20 AM EDT (#243238) #
Today, we saw the two most important additions of 2011, each foreshadowing their massive impact on the Jays over the next decade.

Henderson Alvarez started it - brilliantly and Brett Lawrie finished it - with fireworks. In between - the RCAF entertained a city punctuating a day to be remembered.
Magpie - Tuesday, September 06 2011 @ 01:23 AM EDT (#243239) #
the "differential" between left hand "handedness" and right hand "handedness"

Interesting, but we'd have to know if Ken Griffey, for example, is actually a left-handed person. Whatever that even means - Jimi Hendrix is probably the most famous left-handed guitar player ever, but he was right-handed in most other things, like writing his name or holding a fork. I believe this is called mixed-handedness, and I personally know many such people - people who write with their left hands, say, but bat and throw right-handed. (Come to think of it, Brooks Robinson is one of those people.)

Anyway, the fact that someone bats and throws left-handed doesn't necessarily tell us that much.
Jonny German - Tuesday, September 06 2011 @ 09:18 AM EDT (#243251) #
Brett Cecil is "cross-dominant" - he throws with his left but does most everything else right-handed. I googled this after being confused watching him sign autographs right-handed.
electric carrot - Tuesday, September 06 2011 @ 10:10 AM EDT (#243258) #
Anyway, the fact that someone bats and throws left-handed doesn't necessarily tell us that much.

I'm no expert here but I think my overall point could make sense whether or not Griffey wrote with his left or his right.  The point is that people's right handedness is going to be greater in a society righty dominant no matter whether you are a lefty or a righty.  So as a collective trend we should see less handedness differential in those who bat left than those who bat right no matter which hand they use to sign their name.

It's just a theory. I personally am unable to do a single coordinated thing with my left hand.
Evair Montenegro - Tuesday, September 06 2011 @ 10:25 AM EDT (#243260) #
I saw Travis Snider signing autographs with his right hand and Moises Sierra with his left.
greenfrog - Tuesday, September 06 2011 @ 10:47 AM EDT (#243264) #
I think Dan's point about the platoon advantage may be a significant factor. It's not unreasonable to think that a LHB whose experience is primarily against RHPs will develop a different hitting style than that of RHBs, who mostly hit against RHPs. In contrast, think of how many LHBs start to unravel when they face LHPs (think of Adam Lind facing Boone Logan the other day).
Evair Montenegro - Tuesday, September 06 2011 @ 11:49 AM EDT (#243271) #
That's ok, I don't have a problem with that.
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