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#EdgarHOF - Day 48

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The loneliness of the right-handed hitter

Edgar Martinez
location, location, location

Of the top ten all-time batting averages listed on Baseball Reference, only two, Rogers Hornsby and Ed Delahanty, batted right-handed. Of the top 25, 10. Of the top fifty, 20. Of the top 100, 41. This rate (40%) is remarkably consistent across all sample sizes, enough that we can say right-handed hitters represent a statistically smaller portion of the Hall. Edgar might be only the 91st best career hitter by batting average, but if you limit it to right-handed hitters, he is the 35th best right-handed hitter of all time. Shifting to OBP, the number of RHH drops off sharply, with only four of the top 25 being righties: Rogers Hornsby, Jimmie Foxx, Frank Thomas, and Edgar. Edgar is the only one not in the Hall of Fame. Behind him: HOFers Hank Greenberg, Ed Delahanty, Jackie Robinson. Also trailing Edgar: ballotmates Manny Ramirez and Jeff Bagwell. (Mike Trout comes in just a little behind that.)

Right-handed hitting is often considered to be more challenging because most pitchers are right-handed, meaning lefties get an automatic platoon advantage. Also, ballpark construction favors left-handed hitters with shorter porches in right field: AT&T, Fenway, and Yankee Stadium are the clearest examples of this, while only one field, the always-weird Tropicana Field, offers a significantly shorter left field porch (and that is by only 7’, so perhaps not even that significant). Target Field, Camden Yards, and Petco all offer about a ten-foot-difference in the shortness of their right field fences vs. their left-handed ones.

It may not be a surprise then that right-handed power hitting experienced a decline in the early 2010s as velocity crept up and the strike zone expanded. Furthermore, armed with the knowledge that lefty hitters experienced a clear advantage at the plate, coaches began pushing the ability to bat left-handed or switch-hit at earlier developmental stages. Players like Cabrera, Trout, and Cruz are swinging the pendulum back towards the middle (oh no the pendulum just took down a building, swing less hard guys) as far as power, but the OBP has lagged behind. Between 2010 - 2015, only 12 times did right-handed hitters post an OBP above .400 (and most of those are Joey Votto just doing it over and over again). In his career, Edgar did it 11 times. Those who consider Edgar a fringe HOFer should realize that he was the Ginger Rogers to a left-handed hitter’s Fred Astaire: he did all the same things, but backwards and in heels.