Baseball Left Fielder
Covering the outfield is a major part of defensive strategy in baseball. Left fielders play in left field, backing up the third baseman and catching fly balls. Keep reading to learn more about the role of left fielders in baseball.
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 than from center field. In the numbering system often used in baseball to call and describe defensive plays, the left fielder is number 7.
Roles and Responsibilities
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, in case there is an error from an infielder or they cannot get to the ball in time in order to keep baserunners 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, or other positions 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. The left fielder can then move more to the left to be in line with first base (in case the throw goes to third base) or towards the left field line, if the throw from right field 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 it is 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.
Left Fielder Equipment
Here is a list of needed equipment for left fielders:
- Uniform (Jersey and Pants)
- Ball Cap
- Baseball Belt
- Batting Gloves
- Baseball Mitt
- Baseball Cleats
- Baseball Bat
- Baseball Socks
Left Fielder History
Left fielders saw the most offensive success in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of baseball's biggest names from that era, including 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 backup 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.
Left Fielder Statistics
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.
Left Fielder Strategy
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. For example, if the runner starts at first, throw to third. It is also key to keep outfield throws low. This will allow the cutoff player to make a play more easily and throw the ball to another base if needed. In an inning where there are less than two 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.
Regardless of the number of outs in an inning or where the runners are positioned, the outfielder’s main job is to get the ball to the infield in order to keep runners from advancing or scoring.
Left fielders can also be an integral part of shifts, most commonly in the form of being placed farther towards the foul line against right-handed batters or more towards center field against left-handed hitters. This places left fielders in the best position to make a play on a fly ball based on what side of the field a hitter most commonly bats the ball.
Left Fielder Skills and Techniques
The biggest responsibility of a baseball left fielder is to track down and catch fly balls in the outfield 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.
Hall of Fame Left Fielders
Here are 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|
Top MLB Left Fielders
Here are some of the top left fielders currently playing in Major League Baseball.
|Michael Brantley||Houston Astros|
|Bryan Reynolds||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Mark Canha||New York Mets|
|Austin Meadows||Detroit Tigers|
|Joc Pederson||San Francisco Giants|
|Kyle Schwarber||Philadelphia Phillies|
|Giancarlo Stanton||New York Yankees|
What is a left fielder in baseball?
In baseball, the left fielder is a defensive position that is responsible for covering the left third of the outfield. Left field is located down the third baseline when viewing the field from home plate. Left field has been the position of some of baseball’s greatest players, including Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski, and Frank Robinson, and was one of the primary positions on a baseball team in the 1950s and 60s before seeing a modern decline.
What does a left fielder do in baseball?
The main responsibility of a left fielder is to field the ball when it comes into the left portion of the outfield and back up the infielders, mainly third base and shortstop. However, left fielders can also cover other positions on the field, such as in the event of shifts in which left fielders play closer to the foul line against right-handed hitters or closer to center field against left-handed hitters. This mobility allows the left field to cover gaps made in the field by various shifts that may occur during play.
Where is left field in baseball?
Left field in baseball is located in the outfield, to the left side of the field looking out onto the field from home plate. This is why this portion of the field is known as “left field.'' From left to right, the outfield goes “left field,” “center field,” “right field.”