Marchi: Is it time to lift the ban on left-handed catchers?

From Max Marchi at Baseball Prospectus on August 8, 2013:

On July 9, 2013, Sir James Paul McCartney performed at Boston’s Fenway Park on one leg of his Out There Tour, which has seen him rocking in an amphitheatre from 30 A.D. and coming under attack by thousands of grasshoppers. While he was at the oldest big league park, footage of him holding a baseball bat was taken, as you can see at the 0:44 mark of this video. Two things immediately appear to the attentive baseball fan: 1) the former Beatle features a Ty Cobb-like split hand grip and 2) he swings from the right side despite being a southpaw.

McCartney is not alone in the latter trait, Rickey Henderson and the elder George Bush being notable precedents. However, throwing from the portside while swinging from starboard is not advantageous, as you forfeit the frequent platoon advantage at the plate, plus the possibility of playing three infield positions.

And catcher.

The longtime ban on lefty backstops is tied to a clear limitation in throwing to the bases. It’s not because right-handed batters block the throwing path; righty catchers manage to gun down base stealers with lefties at the plate. (In my modeling, I don’t see any difference in caught stealing percentage by batter handedness.) Rather, it’s because of the natural tailing action on thrown baseballs that, for left-handed catchers, would make the assist veer away from the oncoming baserunner.

But is that disadvantage enough to punt altogether on a portion of the talent pool? There are a few reasons why I don’t end the article right here with a resounding yes.

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Originally published: August 8, 2013. Last Updated: August 8, 2013.