Challenging Assumptions - The 'Mystique' of the Left-Handed Pitcher

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Challenged the ‘mystique’ behind left-handed pitching in Major League Baseball through statistical analysis and economic principles

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Challenging Assumptions - The 'Mystique' of the Left-Handed Pitcher

  1. 1. • Southpaws have historically performedslightly better– Easier to pick off base runners standing on firstbase– Pitcher is granted more time to hide the ball in hismitt, obstruct the batter’s vision
  2. 2. • Left-handed people are viewed as unique outliers– Majority of modern inventions provide left-handed people withdisadvantages (cars, telephones, scissors, refrigerator doors)• 15% of the world is left-handed• Left-handed people are more likely to be geniuses– Left-handed people are better at handling large amounts ofstimuli– More left-handed people with IQs above 140 than right-handedpeople• This could explain why there are more left-handed people in creativeprofessions such as music, art, politics and writing
  3. 3. • Left half of the brain: associated with logic andreason• Right half of the brain: associated with art andinventiveness– Each of the brain’s hemispheres control the oppositeside of the body– Some of world’s greatest prodigies were lefties• Leonardo da Vinci• Benjamin Franklin• Jimi Hendrix• Barack Obama
  4. 4. • “out in left field”• “do it the right way”• “a left-handed compliment”Could it be that right-handed people have a skewedperspective on left-handed people due to the negativeconnotation associated with the left side?Could it be that subconscious prejudice against lefties stillexists due to the historical intolerance built up against lefthanded people?
  5. 5. AMERICAN LEAGUE NATIONAL LEAGUEName Throws Team Div. Contract Name Throws Team Div. ContractCCSabathiaLeft New YorkYankeesEast 8 yrs$182MCliffLeeLeft PhiladelphiaPhilliesEast 5 yrs$120MJonLesterLeft BostonRed SoxEast 5 yrs$30MColeHamelsLeft PhiladelphiaPhilliesEast 1 yr$15MC.J.WilsonLeft TexasRangers*West 5 yrs$77.5MClaytonKershawLeft Los AngelesDodgersWest 2 yrs$19MJoshBeckettRight BostonRed SoxEast 4 yrs$68MRoyHalladayRight PhiladelphiaPhilliesEast 3 yrs$60MJustinVerlanderRight DetroitTigersCent. 5 yrs$79.5MZackGreinkeRight MilwaukeeBrewersCent. 4 yrs$38MFelixHernandezRight SeattleMarinersWest 5 yrs$78MTimLincecumRight San FranciscoGiantsWest 2 yrs$40.5M
  6. 6. AMERICAN LEAGUEName Throws W L ERA G IP H ER BB K WHIP vs. RHB vs. LHBCCSabathiaLeft 19 8 3.00 33 237.1 230 79 61 230 1.226 0.273 0.207JonLesterLeft 15 9 3.47 31 191.2 182 74 75 182 1.257 0.244 0.207C.J.WilsonLeft 16 7 2.94 34 223.1 191 73 74 206 1.187 0.227 0.251JoshBeckettRight 13 7 2.89 30 193.0 146 62 52 175 1.026 0.245 0.186JustinVerlanderRight 24 5 2.40 34 251.0 174 67 57 250 0.920 0.215 0.174FelixHernandezRight 14 14 3.47 33 233.2 218 90 67 222 1.220 0.243 0.252Average 17 8 3.03 33 221.4 190 74 64 211 1.139 0.241 0.213
  7. 7. NATIONAL LEAGUEName Throws W L ERA G IP H ER BB K WHIP vs. RHB vs. LHBCliffLeeLeft 17 8 2.40 32 232.2 197 62 42 238 1.027 0.239 0.196ColeHamelsLeft 14 9 2.79 32 216.0 169 67 44 194 0.986 0.204 0.249ClaytonKershawLeft 21 5 2.28 33 233.1 174 59 54 248 0.977 0.213 0.178RoyHalladayRight 19 6 2.35 32 233.2 208 61 35 220 1.040 0.206 0.273ZackGreinkeRight 16 6 3.83 28 171.2 161 73 45 201 1.200 0.245 0.245TimLincecumRight 13 14 2.74 33 217.0 176 66 86 220 1.207 0.226 0.217Average 17 8 2.73 32 217.1 181 65 51 220 1.073 0.222 0.226
  8. 8. LEFT-HANDED PITCHERSName Hitters BAA OBP SLG OPS K/BBCCSabathiavs. LHB 0.207 0.253 0.301 0.554 8.00vs. RHB 0.273 0.324 0.384 0.709 2.84Differential 0.066 0.071 0.083 0.155 5.16JonLestervs. LHB 0.207 0.281 0.299 0.580 2.89vs. RHB 0.244 0.328 0.400 0.728 2.28Differential 0.037 0.047 0.101 0.148 0.61C.J.Wilsonvs. LHB 0.251 0.323 0.335 0.658 3.00vs. RHB 0.227 0.296 0.354 0.650 2.72Differential (0.024) (0.027) 0.019 (0.008) 0.28CliffLeevs. LHB 0.196 0.219 0.299 0.518 12.25vs. RHB 0.239 0.283 0.351 0.634 4.97Differential 0.043 0.064 0.052 0.116 7.28ColeHamelsvs. LHB 0.249 0.286 0.376 0.662 4.30vs. RHB 0.204 0.251 0.326 0.577 4.44Differential (0.045) (0.035) (0.050) (0.085) (0.14)ClaytonKershawvs. LHB 0.178 0.245 0.267 0.512 4.42vs. RHB 0.213 0.259 0.305 0.563 4.64Differential 0.035 0.014 0.038 0.051 (0.22)
  9. 9. RIGHT-HANDED PITCHERSName Hitters BAA OBP SLG OPS K/BBJoshBeckettvs. RHB 0.245 0.292 0.379 0.671 4.87vs. LHB 0.186 0.260 0.303 0.562 2.76Differential (0.059) (0.032) (0.076) (0.109) 2.11JustinVerlandervs. RHB 0.215 0.253 0.364 0.617 5.53vs. LHB 0.174 0.233 0.271 0.504 3.82Differential (0.041) (0.020) (0.093) (0.113) 1.71FelixHernandezvs. RHB 0.243 0.292 0.364 0.656 4.76vs. LHB 0.252 0.314 0.349 0.662 2.45Differential 0.009 0.022 (0.015) 0.006 2.31RoyHalladayvs. RHB 0.206 0.236 0.275 0.511 8.00vs. LHB 0.273 0.305 0.354 0.659 4.47Differential 0.067 0.069 0.079 0.148 3.53ZackGreinkevs. RHB 0.245 0.305 0.375 0.679 4.07vs. LHB 0.245 0.288 0.450 0.738 5.06Differential 0.000 (0.017) 0.075 0.059 (0.99)TimLincecumvs. RHB 0.226 0.302 0.362 0.663 3.16vs. LHB 0.217 0.303 0.326 0.628 2.10Differential (0.009) 0.001 (0.036) (0.035) 1.06
  10. 10. The reason why left-handed pitchers commandmore interest, money and investment incomparison to right-handed pitchers has a lot todo with scarcity and the human behavior thatreacts to this economic force.
  11. 11. “Left-handers are a limited commodity inbaseball’s player market, and teams devote greatamounts of time, energy and stress into makingsure they don’t miss their share of them.”–Mel Antonen, USA Today“That means a player whose normal abilitywarrants a second-round pick might go in the firstround because a team is so desperate.–Allan Simpson, Baseball America
  12. 12. There are less lefty pitchers thanrighties, causing managers to overvalue andoverpay for lefties – because they are moreexclusive, and not because they are moresuccessful.Source monitoring – the idea that humanswhen told enough times that something istruth, will eventually believe it in spite of itsvalidity
  13. 13. Sequential ordering – people are heavilyinfluenced by the decisions that are madebefore them, like in an auction market. Publicdecision-making encourages conformity.Managerial activity and team decision-making inbaseball is very much predicated on the historyof what has happened in and around the league.
  14. 14. • Part of what you pay in a contract is anentertainment value– Philosophy relies on the excitement a ball clubgenerates from its “ace”• Last four MLB offseasons dominated by a singlecontract, the top FA pitcher.– 2009: CC Sabathia – 7 years, $161 M (now 8/182)– 2010: John Lackey – 5 years, $82.5M– 2011: Cliff Lee – 5 years, $120M– 2012: C.J. Wilson – 5 years, $77.5M
  15. 15. Sequential ordering – baseball teams strive formore variety when it comes to building apitching staff, giving up too much money andattention for left-handed pitching.The same irrational behaviors are systematicand predictable.
  16. 16. In the end, we believe irrationality even has itsplace in the business that is baseball.Unless business makers and managers in theMLB could revise their thinking, teams willcontinue to overpay and over-invest in “thelefty” over “the righty” without any rationality.

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