what does hand orientation mean in baseball

What is Hand Orientation in Baseball?

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Ever turned on a baseball game and wondered why some players put the glove on their left hand and some put it on their right? Ever wonder how the hitter chooses which batter’s box to stand in? There are reasons behind both of these, and they all come back to hand orientation.

In baseball, hand orientation refers to the hand with which a player throws the ball. For example, a player who throws with his right hand would be considered a right-handed thrower, and a player who throws with his left-hand would be considered a left-handed thrower.

This is a rather simple concept, but there are some complexities when it comes to being left and right handed that must be analyzed.

Left and Right Handed Gloves

One of the most confusing aspects of hand orientation for beginners to understand is the fact that right-handed players wear their glove on their left hand while left-handed players wear their glove on their right hand. The reason for this is because the player wants his throwing hand to be free at all times. He can catch the ball with his non-throwing hand and quickly transfer the ball to his throwing hand to make the throw.

This can become confusing when purchasing a glove for a beginner. Gloves are labeled for the hand with which the player throws, not the hand with which he catches the ball. Gloves labeled as right-handed mitts (see Amazon) actually go on the left hand where gloves labeled as left-handed mitts are worn on the right.

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How to tell the difference between a right-handed and left-handed mitt is second nature to many veterans of the game, but it can be difficult for beginners. When looking at the palm of the glove, if the thumb is on the left side of the pocket, it is a right-handed mitt. If the thumb is on the right side of the pocket, it is a left-handed mitt.

Just remember, baseball gloves are labeled as left and right-handed based on the hand with which the player throws, not the hand with which he catches. Remembering this tip is important when purchasing a glove for the first time.

Advantages and Disadvantages for Each Hand Orientation

Being a right-handed thrower creates an advantage for defensive players because it allows them to play anywhere on the field. This allows young players the opportunity to learn multiple positions making them more versatile before they eventually settle into a position.

Being a left-handed thrower has some disadvantages when it comes to defense. Since the infield is set up to give righties an advantage, lefties are limited in which defensive positions they can play even at a young age. When a shortstop fields a ground ball, most of the time, he is either throwing the ball to first base to get the batter out or to second base for a double play. Since he is right-handed, his body is already in position to make a throw in that direction. The same is true for second and third basemen.

A left-handed infielder would have to completely turn his body the opposite way in order to make the throw, and that split second can make a huge difference. This is not a concern at first base or in the outfield, so lefties are normally limited to those positions.

Left-Handed and Right-Handed Pitchers

While righties have the clear advantage on defense, many believe lefties have the advantage when it comes to pitching. According to gamesensesports.com, 28% of pitchers are left-handed, meaning that only one in every four pitchers a batter faces is left-handed. Because of this, hitters are often, but not always, more inept at hitting against righties.

The difference in facing a right-handed pitcher (RHP) and a left-handed pitcher (LHP) is significant in the way the ball moves. A righty’s fastball typically moves into a right-handed hitter while a lefty’s fastball tends to run away from him, and vice versa for left-handed hitters. A righty’s breaking ball moves away from a right-handed hitter and into a left-handed hitter (again, vice versa for left-handed pitchers).

Left-handed pitchers are often at their best against left-handed hitters. Since most pitchers are right-handed, left-handed hitters are used to having a clear line of sight tp the righty’s release point. When facing a left-handed pitcher, the release point is much different and more difficult to see for a left-handed hitter. On top of that, fastballs and offspeed pitches move in a different way than that of which they are familiar.

One may think that this is likely true for right-handed hitters vs. right-handed pitchers as well, and the answer is yes to an extent. Because they face righties more often, right-handed hitters are often more familiar with the release point and movement from a right-handed pitcher than lefties are with their left-handed counterparts.

This is why college and professional teams are willing to pay a premium for quality left-handed pitchers. A lefty typically doesn’t have to throw as hard and may not need as tight of a breaking ball as a righty to get recruited. Just the difference in release point and movement can be a huge advantage in getting recruited to a college or signed to a professional team.

Left-Handed and Right-Handed Hitters

Hitters are classified as either right or left-handed as well. Right-handed hitters (RHH) stand in the batter’s box on the right side of home plate when looking from the pitcher’s mound. Left-handed hitters (LHH) stand in the batter’s box on the left.

Right-handed hitters stand with their left shoulder facing the pitcher and their right hand on top of their left hand on the bat. Left-handed hitters stand with their right shoulder facing the pitcher and their left hand on top of their right hand.

Left-handed hitters are considered to have advantages over right-handed hitters for a few reasons:

  1. 1)  Most pitchers are right-handed, and the advantages of a LHH facing a RHP are well-documented.
  2. 2)  LHH hit from the batter’s box that is about a step or two closer to first base allowing lefties to get down the line a little bit faster than righties.
  3. 3)  Something about a left-handed swing just looks better than a right-handed one. (I don’t really know the science behind this, but many baseball people would agree that lefties’ swings look smoother).

Like left-handed pitchers, many coaches like having a lefty or two in their lineups to give opposing pitchers a different look at the plate. A lineup full of righties is likely to allow a RHP to get in a better rhythm than a lineup with a few lefties mixed into it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to have different hand orientations for hitting and throwing?

Yes, it is possible to hit right-handed and throw left-handed and vice versa. Actually, many players desire to throw right-handed and hit left-handed because they get the advantages of playing all positions in the field as well as the advantages that come with hitting left-handed.

What is switch hitting, and what are the advantages of it?

A switch hitter is able to hit from both sides of the plate depending on the opposing pitcher. When facing a right-handed pitcher, the switch hitter will hit left-handed. When facing a left-handed pitcher, the hitter will hit right-handed. The advantages of this are that the hitter never has to find themselves in a right on right or left on left matchup.

Is it possible to be a switch thrower?

Being a switch thrower is possible but very rare. There are really no advantages to doing this as a fielder, but there are advantages as a pitcher. Switch pitchers can alternate between throwing left and right-handed depending on the hitter; however, he must decide the hand with which he will pitch before each at-bat starts.

See Also:
Why Are There No Left-Handed Catchers in Baseball?
Baseball Pitching Machines – Our Top 6
Sinker vs. Splitter: What’s the Difference?
Softball Gloves Vs Baseball Gloves: Here’s the Difference

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