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Have you ever attended a Major League Baseball game and noticed that there never seems to be any left-handed shortstops? You may have asked yourself, “Who are the left-handed shortstops in MLB history?”
If you are asking about left-hand THROWING shortstops, there are only 5.
- Lou Gehrig
- Nino Escalera
- Royce Stillman
- Tom Chism
- Mark Ryal
If you are asking about left-hand HITTING shortstops, there is a high number of them, but some of the most famous are:
- Ozzie Guillen
- Johnny Pesky
- Joe Sewell
- Arky Vaughan
To learn more about left-handed shortstops in Major League Baseball as well as a history of these players, keep reading!
A Closer Look at the 5 Left-Hand Throwing Shortstops in MLB History
Lou Gehrig– All New York Yankee fans will probably see the famous “Iron Man” on this list and think., “WHAT!?” Gehrig held the streak for most consecutive games played (2,130) for 56 years! Cal Ripen Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles broke Gehrig’s record in 1995. It is very surprising to all true baseball fans to see Lou’s name on this list of shortstops. Lou Gehrig was one of the greatest first basemen in baseball history and he also threw the ball left-handed. It is not surprising that the Yankee slugger got a hit in his only at-bat as a shortstop!
Nino Escalera– Escalera played for the Cincinnati Reds back in 1954 when he took the field as a left-handed throwing shortstop. Nino only played that one season of Major League Baseball and was primarily a right-fielder.
Royce Stillman– Stillman may not be a household name to most baseball fans, but he does hold the record for most games played at shortstop by a left-handed thrower. Stillman played shortstop in a total of 6 different games during the 1975 MLB season! Stillman usually played left field for the Baltimore Orioles.
Tom Chism– Tom Chism of the Baltimore Orioles also makes this peculiar list. Chism played shortstop against the Toronto Blue Jays in 1979. Chism only played in 6 MLB games and was normally a first baseman.
Mark Ryal– Ryal played for the California Angels back in 1987 when he took the field as a shortstop against the New York Yankees. Mark is the most recent player in MLB history to be used as a left-handed throwing shortstop.
A Closer Look at the 4 Best Left-Hand Hitting Shortstops of All-Time
Ozzie Guillen– Guillen has a fiery personality and enjoyed an exceptionally long and fruitful 16-year MLB career as a lefty hitting shortstop. “Oz” spent most of his career with the Chicago White Sox, but he also played for the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Guillen won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1985 while batting .273 and hitting 9 triples!
Guillen posted a respectable .264 lifetime MLB batting average. He was also known for his above average speed as he stole 169 bases in his illustrious career. Guillen was also a successful MLB Manager. He coached the White Sox to a World Series title in 2005. He also briefly managed for the Miami Marlins.
Johnny Pesky– All Boston Red Sox fans are familiar with this name because of “Pesky’s Pole” which sits down the right field line in Fenway Park. Pesky was not a power hitter. He hit only 17 home runs. However, the right field pole is named in his honor for hitting a key home run that just barely stayed in fair territory. The pole is only 302 feet away from home plate and is often referred to by baseball purists as a “short porch”. Though he did not possess much power at the plate, Pesky was still a darn good hitter.
His career batting average was .307 and he lost 3 years of his prime playing career to United States military service. Pesky had the most hits in the league during his first 3 MLB seasons with 205, 208, and 207, respectively. Pesky was also one of the top run scorers in the league from 1946 to 1951. Pesky really should be remembered as a true great and not just because there is a foul pole named after him.
Joe Sewell– Not many young baseball fans have ever heard of a lefty hitting shortstop named Joe Sewell. Sewell was a fabulous player for the Cleveland Indians throughout the roaring 20’s (1920-1929) and 1930. Joe also played for the New York Yankees for 3 seasons. His career .312 batting average and 1,054 runs batted in earned him a rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.
Sewell was great at many things but was almost impossible for opposing pitchers to strike out. Sewell had a great knack for always putting the ball in play. Joe had a small stature at 5-6 and only 155 pounds but he knew how to handle a baseball bat!
Arky Vaughan– Here is another lefty hitting shortstop who also achieved Baseball Hall of Fame status. Vaughan was elected to the Hall in 1985 and deservedly so as he achieved a career .318 batting average and a robust .406 on base percentage! Arky also scored 1,173 runs during his amazing career. He played for a total of 14 years between the Pirates and the Dodgers.
Vaughan had a super quiet and maybe even shy personality so that is possibly why he did not get much fanfare. Arky won the batting title in 1945 by batting an out-of-this-world .385! He led the league in runs scored, on base percentage, and triples 3 times each! In 1943, Vaughan led the league in stolen bases, proving that his skills had not declined at age 31. Sadly, Vaughn passed away due to drowning during a fishing trip in 1952 at only 40 years old.
Who are some of the left-hand hitting shortstops in today’s game?
Here are some left-hand hitting shortstops in baseball today:
Brandon Crawford– Crawford is the current shortstop for the San Francisco Giants. 2021 will be the 6-1 lefty’s 11th season with the Giants. Crawford has had a respectable career so far as he has hit 106 home runs and 564 runs batted in. He also led the National League in triples in 2016.
JT Riddle– Riddle enjoyed 3 seasons with the Miami Marlins before moving on to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020. He has above-average power for a shortstop but sometimes struggles to keep his batting average high enough to be an everyday player in the lineup. The 6-1 190 pounder is still only 29 years old and should have many years of baseball left in him.
Corey Seager– Seager helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series last year during the pandemic-shortened season. Seager hit .307 with 15 homers during the Dodgers championship campaign. He also led the National League in doubles for the 2019 season with 44. Seager is poised to be one of the best shortstops in the Major Leagues for many years to come.
Didi Gregorius– Didi currently plays for the Philadelphia Phillies and the 6-3 lefty has big time power at the plate. Gregorius was born in the Netherlands and has 120 career home runs and has scored 451 runs in his 9-year MLB career. He has previously played for the Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks, and New York Yankees.
J.P. Crawford– The 2nd Crawford to make our list plays for the Seattle Mariners. J.P. has only been in the Big Leagues for 4 years. Crawford is a former 1st round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2013. He plays above average defense but has often struggled at the plate.
In addition to shortstop, why are there no left-handed throwing players at catcher, second base, or third base?
Here are some reasons below why lefty throwers do not play these positions:
- Timing– It simply takes too much time for a left-handed thrower to throw out a fast runner at first base. A lefty fielder at any of the above positions (SS, 2B, 3B, C) would have to pivot their entire body 180 degrees to make an accurate throw to first base. Baseball is a game of inches and milliseconds. A right-hander can make a much quicker and more accurate throw to first base. They can also do it in one smooth motion that is less taxing on their bodies, and most importantly, less stressful their throwing arms.
- Momentum– If you watch a great number of baseball games, you can tell that on lots of ground balls the momentum of a right-handed fielder naturally goes towards the first base bag. Whereas, if a lefty fielded that same ground ball, they would have to stop, pivot completely, then make the throw to first. The way the baseball diamond is setup results in a distinct disadvantage for left-handed throwers at shortstop, second base, third base, and catcher.
- Easier to Make Tags– Whenever an opposing player is trying to steal is base, it is crucial for that infielder to get their gloves down quickly and make what is known as a “swipe tag”. This motion is made much quicker for a righty (who has their glove on their left-hand). A lefty would have to catch the ball from the catcher and then reach down to make the swipe tag. Whereas a righty can simply catch the ball from the catcher and snap it down at a fast rate.