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Righties, Lefties and an Election

Well, everybody seems to be using the election as an excuse to get people to vote on things … so I might as well do the same for something I’ve been thinking about. For a good while now, I’ve been wondering: Which team would be better, a team with the best right-handed hitters in baseball history or a team with the best left-handed hitters in baseball history?

And, really, what better time to do an election between right and left than right now?

At first blush, it seemed obvious to me that the lefties would win easily. A team with the best left-handed hitters would have Ruth, Gehrig, Williams and Bonds — that team does not seem beatable.

But then, if you look a little more closely, you see that a right-handed team would not only have Mays, Aaron and Rickey in the outfield (not bad) it would have a pretty sizable advantage at shortstop, where probably the four or five best in baseball history — in no particular order — Honus Wagner, Cal Ripken Jr., Ernie Banks, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter — all batted right-handed, as did Robin Yount, Barry Larkin, Luke Appling, Pee Wee Reese and so on.

So, let’s put the two teams together and see what we come up with. I should note that for this one I left out pitchers entirely. I originally had pitchers hitting, but it got away from the point a little bit. So we’re only voting on the every-day players — the assumption for this election is that the pitchers for each team are identical. If it helps, say that both teams are using the 2012 San Francisco Giants pitching staff, which has lefty-killers and righty-killers, left-handed starters and right-handed starters.

You can vote in the poll in the right-hand column (though, this is not some kind of Palm Beach trick to get you to vote righty):

* * *

Here, I think, is the best right-handed lineup I could put together, taking into account defense, power, speed and so on:

1. Rickey Henderson, LF
2. Rogers Hornsby, 2B
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Willie Mays, CF
5. Hank Aaron, RF
6. Frank Robinson, DH
7. Honus Wagner, SS
8. Mike Schmidt, 3B
9. Johnny Bench, C

That’s pretty strong across the board. You could replace Frank Robinson with Jimmie Foxx at DH, but I like Robinson there since he was a DH for my childhood Cleveland Indians. There’s also a great right-handed hitter who shall remain nameless and is not on the team — and don’t think the lefties will miss that negative-ad opportunity.

What this team promises: A proven record of a strong defense. In today’s scary world, we need a strong defense. … A better team up the middle with Bench, Wagner, Hornsby and Mays — this is not an extreme team like the left, this is a team that speaks to the center of our nation … Great speed, which is so important in this time of constantly shifting technologies and fast-moving economies.

What hurts the team’s platform: There isn’t a weak link on this team, but as good as this lineup is, the lefties lineup crescendos significantly higher.

What the attack ad would say: The righties want you to believe that they are about beloved players like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. But is that true? What do the facts say? The facts say that Alex Rodriguez should be on this team. Why are the righties trying to hide him? Is it that they already have a team with an unlikable guy at second base in Rogers Hornsby? Is it because they know that nobody would vote for a team with A-Rod on it? What are the righties trying to pull? And are you willing to take that chance? (I’m Joe Girardi and I approved this message).

* * *

Now, the left-handed hitting team, again with power, speed, defense and everything else taken into consideration:

1. Ty Cobb, CF
2. Lou Gehrig, 1B
3. Ted Williams, DH
4. Babe Ruth, RF
5. Barry Bonds,  LF
6. George Brett, 3B
7. Arky Vaughan, SS
8.  Yogi Berra, C
9. Joe Morgan, 2B

Whew. That’s pretty good. The numbers I’ve run show that this team would score a half run more per game than the righty team. Third base was a particularly competitive position — Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs and George Brett were all awesome. But there is that hole at shortstop … it’s pretty slim pickings at short, to be honest. Vaughan was a great player, yes, but he wasn’t really viewed that way in his own time. But where else can you go? The best shortstop options are Vaughan and Joe Sewell … after that it’s relatively pedestrian.

What this team promises: Is there anyone more all-American than Babe Ruth? … A much more powerful middle of the lineup with Williams, Ruth, and Bonds — those might be the three best hitters in baseball history, PERIOD. … Winners. You will note that there isn’t a single Yankee on the righty team. Joe DiMaggio and Derek Jeter could have made the team, but they didn’t. This team has Ruth, Gehrig and Berra.

What hurts the lefty team’s platform: The shortstop gap is very wide. … The lefties can TALK about how they care about defense, but the record clearly shows that it wasn’t their focus.

What the attack ad would say: It’s 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. But something is happening in the world. There’s a ball being hit in the ballpark and someone has to catch it. Who will you rely on to catch that ball? Willie Mays or Ty Cobb? Honus Wagner or Arky Vaughan? The lefties want you to believe that the world is safe for slow moving offenses, but ask yourself this: Are you willing to take that chance?

* * *

And finally, our third-party candidate, the switch-hitting team:

1. Pete Rose, LF
2. Lance Berkman, DH
3. Eddie Murray, 1B
4. Mickey Mantle, CF
5. Chipper Jones, 3B
6. Carlos Beltran, RF
7. Roberto Alomar, 2B
8. Ted Simmons, C
9. Ozzie Smith, SS

That’s a very good team.  The only really tough call was left field, where Pete Rose was probably the better player, but Tim Raines in his prime was awfully good.

What the team promises: A well-rounded team that speaks to the needs of all Americans … An adaptability that has never been more important … A Wizard, the Mick, Chipper, Charlie Hustle, this is easily the best nickname team.

What hurts the team’s platform: It’s not as good a team as either of the others, even with Mantle in the middle.

What the attack ad would say: Neither side would bother spending money on an attack ad against the switch-hitters.

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46 Responses to Righties, Lefties and an Election

  1. How do the pitchers work? Assuming you can only use pitchers who throw from their team’s side, isn’t having Mariano Rivera (vicious against LH) a big advantage for the RH team?

  2. Easy to say these teams would play a great series, but we all know some underwhelming starter would throw a shutout and Ryan Theriot or Jose Vizcaino would end up getting the series-winning hit.

  3. Adam says:

    Over the course of a season, the LH team would have the advantage that more pitchers are right-handed.

    Also, while they may not have quite the speed of the RH team, does a Rickey Henderson SB really help in a world where every hitter has light-tower power? The three true outcomes play up in this world. All those walks from Gehrig, Williams, Ruth, and Bonds are more likely to come around and score.

    • A Rickey SB probably doesn’t help as much because you score on a HR no matter what base you’re on. However, his career .401 OBP means those homers behind him will usually not be solo homers.

    • I would not call the lefties a slow moving offense. You have Ty Cobb leading off and Joe Morgan batting 9th. That is a hell of a lot of stolen bases and great base running in general.

      And if we are talking about players in their prime, Barry Bonds was very fast and a good base runner as well. He stole 52, 43 and 40 bases in a season and had 6 other years with 30+ SBs.

      The righties may have a bit more speed throughout the lineup, but the lefties certainly can also play the speed game.

  4. rcharbon says:

    The pitching assumption throws the whole thing way off. The righty team needs to choose from the righty pitchers, and vise-versa. Then EVERYONE gets the platoon advantage!

  5. Frank says:

    For the Lefties – Not sure I would have Gehrig hitting second. Seems like the spot for Morgan.

    And talk about your unlikeables – Cobb and Bonds on the same team? El-stinko.

    • Agrees. I’d order the Lefties thusly:

      1. Cobb
      2. Morgan
      3. Williams
      4. Ruth
      5. Bonds
      6. Gehrig
      7. Brett
      8. Berra
      9. Vaughan

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • KHAZAD says:

      That’s a little crazy. I’ll stick with the guy who gets on base 45% of the time up there. Gehrig struck out less than Morgan as well. It’s not like you are going to give up an out bunting or stealing in front of Williams, Ruth, and Bonds. (Unless you are Ned Yost) There is absolutely no way that Morgan needs to see the top of that lineup ever.

      I might put him at #7, though, in front of Vaughn and Berra, (Who should be ninth, without question) as I like having a speedster in front of my weakest hitters, (relatively speaking that is- the bottom of this order is still very good) who might benefit more from the distraction and seeing more fastballs, and might be more likely than the middle guys to need a guy to be in scoring position to get him in, even on this team.

    • Frank says:

      @Khazad – I’ll take Morgan hitting in the two hole all the time. (1) Gehrig knocks himself in a great deal of the time. (2) Morgan’s career stats are hampered by (a) being a bit of a late bloomer and (b) playing in the Astrodome the early part of his career. He led the NL in OBP 4 times and was in the top ten 7 other times.

    • Dinky says:

      Well, which Bonds is on the team? The whippet who won the first three MVPs, or the true Greek God of Walks and Homers who won the last four? If you go on average, my lineup would have Bonds second, Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, then Morgan as the second leadoff man for Brett, Berra, and Vaughan. Because even if you take pre-steroids Bonds, he had eight straight non-steroid years with substantially better OPS+ than Morgan’s career average while still stealing a lot at high percentages, even though he was further down the lineup where steals were less frequent. From 90-97 Bonds led the NL in OPS five times; Morgan only did it twice in his career. And those years Bonds stole 300 bases, not quite as good as Morgan but given that the average Bonds at bat clearly had more oomph than than the average Morgan at bat, I’d want Bonds to have more at bats. If you add in the steroid years, then it goes from not even close to “what, are you insane?” Morgan’s last seven years, his best OBP was .400; Bond’s last seven, his worst OBP was .404, and he had four straight years over .500. So either you get a guy with comparable speed and more power than Morgan, or you have an older guy (who still was a good percentage base stealer, just not much volume) who got on base at about the best pace of all time. Either way, I want Bonds to have more at bats.

    • KHAZAD says:

      Frank- Even with their stats normalized for park and era Gehrig is at .324/.439/.602 OPS+179,(4th in history – right behind the 3-4-5 hitters on this team) while Morgan is at .285/.408/.447. OPS+ 132. Gehrig led the league in OBP 5 times and was in the top ten 7 other times,(Every full season but his first and last)so once more than Morgan in 5 less opportunities. Depending upon what formula you use, he created between 428 and 480 more runs in 1666 less plate appearances, While making 1500 less outs, (and that number is assuming that Lou would’ve grounded into 150 double plays, which weren’t kept track of in his era)

      Joe Morgan was a great player, and on any normal team, he would certainly hit #1 or #2. This is not a normal team, this is a team with 5 of the 6 highest OBP’s in history and the top 4 in OPS+, and the #7 spot is where he belongs.

  6. Panicstreak says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Panicstreak says:

    Id drop Berkman on the switch hitting team and plug Raines in at DH.

  8. BoatDoc says:

    Joe, since you didn’t stipulate that the team would be facing similarly sorted staffs of slingers I’m going to vote on the presumption that all 3 teams would be facing existing (or historical) pitching staffs – which means at least 70% of the time they’d be hitting against righties.

    It can’t be coincidental that although 70-90% of the human race is right-handed, the MLB Hall of Fame and Record Books are dotted with huge numbers of lefties: the lefties-hit-righties better mantra is proven for almost hitters.

    The lefty team would dominate. The righty team – mighty though they are – might have trouble vs the switch-hitters.

  9. Bryan says:

    Can we at least talk about Manny B. Manny as the DH for the righty team?

  10. Pickle says:

    Shortstop gap on the lefty team is troubling. I’d move Brett to SS (apparently he started his career there, and he threw righthanded, so I think he could cut it) and then slot Musial in at Third Base. Any fielding drop-off would be more than made up for by having a lineup with Musial instead of Vaughan.

    • Mike H. says:

      Vaughan was a heck of a shortstop – he wasn’t Honus, but he played very good defense and got on base over 40% of the time.

      Granted, finding a way to add Musial to the lineup would improve it.

  11. Scott says:

    What are the home fields for each team?

    • a_labeck says:

      The Lefties would have to be at one of the Yankee Stadiums. The Short Porch would be their best friend. In recent years, the best for the Righties would probably be U.S. Cellular Field, but there may be an older stadium which would be even more beneficial.

    • Luis says:

      Fenway Park! The righties would be the first team in history to hit 1000 doubles on a regular season.

  12. Justin says:

    Are you not allowing Gibson over Bench? That seems like it would be a significant upgrade to the righty line-up.

    • Unknown says:

      Not nearly as much as adding Cool Papa Bell would be for the switch-hitters! Obviously he wouldn’t beat out Mantle for CF, but you could either move one to LF and Rose to 1B, or just have one DH. Bell was better than Murray or Berkman, I’m thinking.

      Interesting that there is no one on the switch-hitters team from before Mantle. I didn’t realize there were so few great switch-hitters from that era, but apart from Bell–and Frankie Frisch, who rightly doesn’t beat out Robby Alomar–I guess there weren’t.

  13. Ken Raining says:

    Once you pointed out that there were no Yankees on the righty team, it was an easy choice. Righties all the way!

  14. Ted Williams the DH, not Babe Ruth? Rickey Henderson in the outfield over Joe Dimaggio? Ted Simmons over Jorge Posada? NO WAY.

    • you know what–I’ll amend that. At a closer look, Simmons is fair. Posada’s career offensive numbers look better, but Simmons was probably better at his absolute best, and his numbers are somewhat watered down by sticking around for quite awhile as a shell of his former self. Posada gracefully bowed out before that happened to such a degree.

    • Ian R. says:

      I don’t really see why Ted as the DH is a problem, given that Ruth is playing RF on the same team. The Babe was probably a more valuable defensive player, so it makes sense.

      Presumably Joe took Rickey over DiMaggio because the team needs a leadoff hitter, and because he’d rather play a natural LF than a CF out of position.

    • Mike H. says:

      Rickey over DiMaggio isn’t THAT much of a reach.

  15. Rob Smith says:

    I don’t really care one way or the other, but my initial thought was that the left hand team would have issues with positions that require right handed fielders… 2B, 3B, SS and Catcher. It’s kind of amazing that there were some great players who fielded righty but hit lefty.

  16. Aaron Reese says:

    As my co-writer pointed out. The Left-handed team is going to have some serious makeup issues.

  17. I think the lefties would have more trouble with injuries. Vaughan, Brett and Williams rarely went a full season without losing quite a bit of time to the DL or injury of some sort. Without checking, my impression is most of the righties were iron men by comparison.

  18. Gary says:

    Everyone takes for granted that the centerfielder for the righthanded team should be Willie Mays, but what about Joe DiMaggio? If you just go by cumulative totals, Mays of course, having played nine more seasons, has much higher numbers. But DiMaggio had a higher batting average (.325 to .302), on base percentage (.398 to .384) and slugging percentage (.579 to .557).

    Mays struck out more than he walked; DiMaggio walked more than twice as often as he struck out. DiMaggio missed his age 28-30 years to the war, and then suffered through several years of injuries. If you talk about fielding, DiMaggio was considered one of the best in the history of the game and, opposed to Mays’ flash and dazzle, he played with such grace that he made the hardest plays look easy. In baserunning, Mays may have beaten DiMaggio in a straight-out footrace, but DiMaggio was considered a fast and smart baserunner. He played in an era and for a team that just didn’t steal bases but his basestealing percentage was slightly better than Mays’ (76.9 to 76.6).

    Had DiMaggio not played in a mammoth home stadium and had he had the advantage of playing in some of the small stadiums in the National League, his home run numbers would also have been much higher. I’m not saying Mays is a bad choice; I’m just not sure he’s a better choice than DiMaggio.

    • Dinky says:

      That’s short-sighted thinking, Gary. The outfielder to replace is Aaron. Mays has a slightly better OPS+ and OPS while having much better speed and defense. So if DiMaggio > Mays (which I’ll give you only because Mag lost his age 28, 29, and 30 years to the war; those should have been three of his best) then Mag is clearly better than Aaron. I think Aaron is arguably better than Rickey, but you want a leadoff hitter on this team, and Rickey’s the only one who is close to Cobb.

    • Gary says:

      I agree that it would be better to replace Aaron, but I had assumed from the way he drew up the lineups that Joe chose a LF from leftfielders, a CF from centerfielders and a RF from rightfielders. But if you can move outfielders around anywhere, then yes, it would clearly be a better team with Henderson, DiMaggio and Mays.

    • Scott says:

      The whole Mays or Aaron or DiMaggio thing really boils down to this: are we talking the better team of stat compilers or the team of players who were better in their prime? A very interesting discussion that presents, I think, some different lineup choices. But if you go for best in their prime, I mean, really, have you looked at the best seasons of some of the Lefties? I already think they have a better team, but looking at prime years only it turns into a bit of a wipe out.

    • Rob Smith says:

      If you’re moving players around (not requiring they play their typical position), there is no way Rickey Henderson is ahead of Aaron, Mays or Dimaggio. Look, I know Rickey put up some good OBP numbers, had some power and stole bases, but he wasn’t a great fielder and didn’t have a good arm. All of the others are classic five tool players. Rickey was a three tool player.

  19. Scott says:

    Biomechanically a left handed guy should never even get a tryout at SS. The way they have to catch and then turn their body so much further to throw to 2B or 1B makes it a bad deal. But outside of that is there any question the Lefties would wipe the Righties?

    • Drew says:

      Joe must be referring to LH and RH hitters. As Henderson batted right, but threw with his left. I don’t know if Vaughn fielded lefty or righty, but clearly he was LH hitter…

    • gogigantos says:

      I want to thank Rany at the Royals for his post today. Like all those who came before, formerly foreign and different, and have become Americans in the truest sense, there is an important place for you and yours Rany. The outrage, pain, and confusion is shared by many.

  20. Cory says:

    I would take the switch hitting team just for the speed and defense within it.

  21. The pitching assumption throws the whole thing way off. The righty team needs to choose from the righty pitchers, and vise-versa. Then EVERYONE gets the platoon advantage!


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