“If the left half of the brain controls the right half of the body, then only left-handed people are in the right mind.” -- W.C. Fields
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It is not as if left-handers need a support group, but some stereotypes are known to exist.
Lefties are quirky, they can be creative, many excel academically, or they are prone to health issues. None of these have ever been proved. Then there is this: Too many left-handers in a Major League Baseball rotation spells trouble.
Welcome to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ world, where the team could be starting as many as four left-handers in a five-man rotation, once Hyun-Jin Ryu gets up to speed as he returns from shoulder surgery. Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson and Scott Kazmir throw from the left side, too. Alex Wood is yet another option, but it seems highly unlikely the Dodgers will pitch five lefties in succession.
While four right-handers in a five-man rotation is commonplace, the hesitation toward being so left-handed dominant likely stems from the vast number of right-handed hitters around baseball.
“It’s just new to everyone,” Kazmir said. “When is the last time you’ve seen it? That’s why it’s such a big deal. Maybe I’m biased, but I’m all for it. I’ve said this before: If you have guys that pitch like Kershaw, they can get right-handers out just as much as left-handers.”
Actually, one doesn’t have to go very far to locate the last time four lefties were in a rotation. The Chicago White Sox, who share the Camelback Ranch spring training complex with the Dodgers, used four left-handers in their rotation for a large part of 2015: Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, John Danks and Carlos Rodon.
And what did the White Sox learn from the process?
“There is no big deal as far as them being left-handed or right-handed,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Ideally you’d like a mix, but if your best four are left-handed, that’s your best four. It depends on who those guys are. I don’t think I was ever sad when you have Sale or Quintana going. It just depends on the quality of guys you have going out there.”
When Sale glances across Camelback Ranch property, he doesn’t see the Dodgers having an issue.
“Those guys, and what they bring to the table, I think they’ll be all right,” Sale said.
The key is giving different looks each day. The White Sox, like the Dodgers, have left-handers who use completely different skill sets.
“I would say, speaking for us, we all throw from different slots, we all have different pitches: cutters, curveballs, fastballs, changeups,” Sale said. “We’re giving different looks, heights and we bring different styles to the table. If you have four cookie-cutters going out there, I think that might be a little bit more of an issue.”
Another key that links both the White Sox and Dodgers is the presence of an unquestioned ace. Sale and Kershaw are so good they defy a simple “lefty” tag.
“I don’t think you look at those guys like that, unless you’re facing a team that has a lot of left-handed hitters. Then you look at it as an ultra advantage,” Ventura said. “But you want those two throwing no matter what, no matter who you’re facing. You would always like those guys to pitch.”
Anderson, who is entering his second season with the Dodgers, echoed Ventura’s sentiment.
“[Kershaw’s] splits are going to be good against the '27 Yankees or whoever, he’s that good,” Anderson said. “If you can just fall into place and do your job and have a competition against ourselves and want to do better than the next guy, the team should be pretty good in the end.”
Added Sale: “[Kershaw] is just in a league of his own, so you don’t even count him as one of the four because it’s like you have three lefties and Kershaw. But I don’t see an issue with it, really, only just more right-handed heavy lineups. But if you can pitch in, it kind of takes that away.”
Sale said there was a sense of pride in being part of a left-handed-heavy rotation, but once the season got underway he basically forgot about it unless he was asked. There also seems to be a sense of pride among the Dodgers’ lefties, which will soon become the norm once the season starts.
“If you’re good, you’re good, so that takes care of itself,” Anderson said. “But we’re not the same guy, we’re not a bunch of robots out there. Each guy brings something different. Clayton is obviously the best in baseball, Kazmir is big-time changeup and power fastball, me getting round balls. We all bring something different to the table. It’s fun to be a part of.”