Throughout the history of softball, and most sports for that matter, left-handed players are rare but valuable. While there are locations that they’re better or worse, the best position to have a left-handed player is at first base. To find out why or the reasoning behind a few other positions, let’s get started.
Who’s on First?
Left-handed players have an inherent advantage as first basemen because of their location. By operating with the glove on their right hand, there are a number of times where they’re able to make a play on the ball faster than a righty would be able to.
For example, when the batter bunts a right-handed player would have to turn around to throw the ball to the second or third base. A southpaw can pick up the ball, step into a throw, and get it to one of those bases in one fluid motion.
Other instances are when another player throws the ball wrong or there’s a flyball, because a lefty has that split-second advantage. There’s also the fact that a left-handed player is in a better position to field a ball by wearing their glove inside.
Are They Better Anywhere Else?
The majority of players in softball, and the world in general, are right-handed, which makes lefties kind of an anomaly. It also means that most hitters are used to reading right-handed pitches and most right-handed pitchers are used to striking out other righties.
While hitting isn’t a position, it’s good to know how useful a lefty at bat can be. If all an opposing pitcher is used to throwing against is someone crowding the other side of the plate, it might throw them off or you might send the ball in a different direction.
As far as another position goes, though, the one where southpaws are proven is at pitcher. Because most practices and games are played with right-handed pitchers, batters are primarily trained to look for the signals or tells of a right-handed throw.
It’s not as much of an advantage as having one at first base, but a left-handed pitcher can be a curveball in the game when batters aren’t able to know where to look. Again, it’s slight but that second of confusion might be the difference between a hit and a strike.
Where to Never Put a Lefty
If you’re trying to figure out where to put the left-handed player on your team, you might also want to know where to avoid placing them. In this case, there are a few that would be better off going to a righty and others that are equal-opportunity.
Anything on the Inside
The infield positions are notoriously built for right-handed players because they have an advantage for the same reason a lefty does at first base. The extra second or two of having to get the ball and turn around to make the throw can be crucial.
That means that the other two baseman positions and shortstop rarely go to a left-handed player, if ever. It’s not unheard of, because a lefty can still make the play, but given the option most professional coaches will give the second and third base to someone right-handed.
Catching the Drift
Left-handed catchers are one of the least-common sights you’ll see for the same reason that a lefty pitcher might be sought after, albeit with less rationalization. The fact is that being left-handed has no effect on a person’s ability to catch a ball.
However, since most players are right-handed they’ll stand to the left of the box when they’re up to bat. That would make the catcher have to throw around or over them to reach second or third basemen.
While the opposite situation would arise for a right-handed catcher and a left-handed batter, it’s incredibly rare since southpaws are essentially unicorns in the game.
How About the Outfield?
This is one area where it doesn’t help or hurt to be left-handed, because neither one is better off. Yes, left-handed players will have an advantage if the ball goes down the foul line on the left side but the same happens with righties on the right line.
Because of the equal-opportunity argument, the only positional change between the two is that lefties probably end up on the left side and vice versa.
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Whichever reason you go with, having a left-handed player at first base gives them a distinct leg up on anyone else. Whether it’s throwing, catching, stretching, or making a play on the ball, they’re able to make a move quicker at that position in a game where every second counts.
A left-handed pitcher can be useful to throw off anyone up to bat, but the infield will rarely see a southpaw due to the same disadvantage that benefits them at first base. The only positions up to discussion are in the outfield and at catcher, where there’s no good reason to avoid a lefty.