Left field is a defensive position in the baseball outfield. The left fielder covers the left third of the outfield when looking out at the field from home plate. Left fielders normally don't need to have as much speed nor as strong of a throwing arm as a center fielder because the distance of throws from left field to second base, third base, and home plate are shorter from left field. In the numbering system often used in baseball to call and describe defensive plays, the left fielder is number 7.
The role of the left fielder is to field any baseballs that are hit into the left area of the outfield. Another large role of the left fielder is to back up the bases, mostly third base and shortstop for the left fielder, in case there is an error from an infielder or they cannot get to the ball in time in order to keep base runners from advancing.
In baseball, there are defensive shifts where the team on defense moves from their standard positioning. Depending on what the shift is, the left fielder could potentially have different responsibilities. They may have to cover third base, center field, etc. depending on where the other infielders and outfielders are shifted to.
For example, if there are runners on base and the ball is hit to right field, then the role of the left fielder is to back up third base in anticipation of a throw from right field, moving more to the left to be in line with first base if the throw is going to third base and moving to the left field line if the throw from right field that goes home in case the catcher throws to third base to serve as back up.
On other occasions, the left fielder might have to cover second base if left open due to the shift, unless the ball is hit to left-center field or left field. Regardless of the shift, any outfielder is responsible for fielding any ball hit into the outfield and, when needed, getting the ball to the infield in order to keep runners from advancing or scoring.
Here is a list of needed equipment for left fielders:
Left fielders saw the most offensive success in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of baseball's biggest names from that era, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski, and Frank Robinson, played left field. Since then, the position overall has seen a decrease in offensive production compared to other positions in baseball.
The existence of a sole left fielder is also changing. Over the past decade, the number of plate appearances by starting left fielders has declined; in 2016, 56.2% of plate appearances were taken by starting left fielders compared to 69.3% in 2006. Now, there are more back up left fielders making plate appearances, as well as baseball players who might start at a different position but will be moved into left field from time to time as baseball shifts to emphasize players who can fill in at multiple positions.
One statistic that is used to measure a baseball player's defensive ability is Total Zone. There is also Total Zone Total Fielding Runs, which is the number of runs either above or below average that the player was worth based on the number of plays made, which allows historical and current defensive comparisons to be made.
Other defensive stats are Fielding percentage/Errors (FLD%/E), Defensive Efficiency Rating (DER), Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), Plus/Minus, and Range factor.
When playing any of the outfield positions, it is important to know where to throw the ball and when. A good practice is to throw two bases ahead of where the runner starts (ie, if the runner starts at first, throw to third). It is also key to keep outfield throws low. This will allow the cut off man to make a play more easily and throw the ball to another base if needed. In an inning where there are less than 2 outs, an outfielder fielding a ball should always keep a double play in order, usually ensuring that at least one runner is out and keeping runners from advancing into scoring position.
The biggest responsibility of a baseball left fielder is to track down and catch fly balls in the outfield in order to prevent them from becoming hits. Because there is a large distance to cover in the outfield, an outfielder needs to have speed and be able to beat the ball in order to catch it. In order to be able to track down the ball, a left fielder will have to know how to read the ball and get a good jump, or initial first step, on it. Part of this is the crossover step, allowing the left fielder to move in a straight line towards where they think the ball will land.
In any outfield position, it is important to have the ability to read how the ball is going to come off the bat when hit. It is also important to know how to field a ground ball. When rolling in the outfield, the ball will move from left to right while rolling depending on how the outfield grass is cut.
Although left field might not be the most demanding defensive position, the position still requires speed, agility, and the ability to read a ball whether in the air or on the ground.
The following lists some of the most famous left fielders of all time that have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
|Lou Brock||St. Louis Cardinals|
|Rickey Henderson||Oakland Athletics|
|Stan Musial||St. Louis Cardinals|
|Tim Raines||Montreal Expos|
|Jim Rice||Boston Red Sox|
|Willie Stargell||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Billy Williams||Chicago Cubs|
|Ted Williams||Boston Red Sox|
|Carl Yastrzemski||Boston Red Sox|
|Ralph Kiner||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Joe Kelley||Baltimore Orioles NL|
|Monte Irvin||Newark Eagles|
|Goose Goslin||Washington Senators|
Here are some of the top left fielders currently playing in Major League Baseball.
|Juan Soto||Washington Nationals|
|Michael Brantley||Houston Astros|
|Bryan Reynolds||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Tommy Pham||San Diego Padres|
|Mark Canha||Oakland Athletics|
|Austin Meadows||Tampa Bay Rays|
|Joc Pederson||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Kyle Schwarber||Chicago Cubs|
|David Peralta||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|Giancarlo Stanton||New York Yankees|
|Ryan Braun||Milwaukee Brewers|
Some of the most popular players currently playing in left field are Juan Soto, Tommy Pham, Giancarlo Stanton, Joc Pederson, Kyle Schwarber, David Peralta, and Ryan Braun.