The beginning of the baseball season is only a few days away. This is good news to all baseball fans who have made it through another off-season, and another winter. This season, like all others, is full of possibility excitement and questions. Will this be the year the Yankees finally fall apart? How can Mike Trout top his extraordinary rookie season? Are the Nationals going to be as good as they look? Somewhere in the ephemera is Miguel Cabrera still waiting for that slider? All, or most, of these questions, and many others will be answered over the next seven months or so.
The finding suggests that left-handed and right-handed throwers are, to some extent, playing different games at the big league level, and therefore has implications for player development starting at a very young age. One of the first baseball skills that young children master is fielding. This may be because it is easier than hitting or more likely because it is easier for coaches and parents to practice and teach. Nonetheless, among seven or eight year olds, the better players first begin to stand out because they are good at fielding ground balls. The hitting generally comes a little later, so within a few years the fielders who can hit begin to stand out from those who cannot. However, there are still plenty of ways a good fielder can contribute to a team and be valuable as (s)he gets older. For left-handed throwers, these options disappear usually by high school when traditional views about what position lefties can play become more powerful.
It is tempting to attribute this dramatic increase in offense all to steroid use, or worse yet to demonize a few players such as Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez or Mark McGuire and hold them responsible. However, the spike in power numbers is part of a bigger story, or evolution, of baseball, one that is reflects somewhat more positively on the state of the game. The increase in home runs was not monocausal. To suggest that it was is to ignore a number of other obvious causes. The most prominent of these is that during the 1990s a number of teams built new stadiums, many of which were far better hitter’s parks. So, the Astros moving from the Astrodome to Enron/Tropicana field or the Giants moving from Candlestick to PacBell/AT&T/SBC Park, also contributed to increased homerun, and other hitting numbers by the Giants, Astros and their visitors. Other causes of increased offensive production which cannot be ignored include the increased use of protective equipment by hitters and the stricter rules against brushing hitters back.