My first attempt to look at the compensation of lefties in the big leagues focused solely on hitters. I found, contrary to findings in “the real world,” that lefty hitters earned about a quarter of a million dollars less than equally skilled right-handed batters. However, there are few problems with the analysis; the biggest one being that I only used hitting stats and lefties don’t play a few positions of high defensive importance. I can think of some ways to control for this, but all of them are a royal pain. Instead, let’s look at pitchers.
Just like in the analysis of hitters, I include only pure left and right-handed players—no switch hitters or players who throw and bat with opposite hands. I estimate the impact of pitching performance (estimated through strikeouts, walks, home runs, and innings pitched), age, and handedness on yearly salary for free agent eligible pitchers. I used two samples: more than 100 innings pitched and less than 100 but with a minimum of 30 innings pitched. This should roughly capture starters and relievers. I care less about that starter/reliever designation than I do about getting an adequate sample size.
The results are interesting. For the starters sample, lefties earn about $233,000 more than equally skilled right-handed pitchers. This fits with the findings from the general work force. Again, the relationship is not statistically significant, but it’s close, with a t-statistic of 1.55 (p-value of 0.12). This is about 7.5%, which is about half as large as the effect found in the general labor force. I find it interesting that you often hear left starters described as “crafty.” Maybe there is something to it. These guys are deceptive and smart, and have higher opportunity costs outside of baseball. I’d be curious to see the handedness of pitchers turned TV commentators, scouts, instructors, etc.
For relievers, the findings are nearly the mirror image, and the estimate is statistically significant. Southpaw relievers earn about $209,000 less than equally skilled right-handed pitchers, which is similar to what I found for position players. Hmm, maybe this has to do with LOOGY duties of lefty relievers. Because many left-handed relievers are used only against other lefties there are a lot of marginal pitchers who hang around. This may reduce the bargaining strength of each other because teams can just say, “look, if you don’t sign this contract I’m just going to bring up some random kid from triple-A or sign Mike Remlinger.” And because there are very few ROOGYs, marginal righties are more likely to find a real job if they are on the margin. OK folks, this is what is called a stretch, but it seems somewhat plausible.
I post the results below. Feel free to add comments.
Starters Var. Coef. T-stat K9 $408,358 7.29 BB9 -$294,948 -3.78 HR9 -$865,822 -3.65 Age $371,375 1.59 Age2 -$4,417 -1.27 IP $8,410 5.37 Lefty $230,654 1.57 R2 0.47 Relievers Var. Coef. T-stat K9 $219,657 6.92 BB9 -$186,071 -3.74 HR9 $269,649 1.81 Age $645,741 2.52 Age2 -$9,295 -2.43 IP $8,468 2.41 Lefty -$209,337 -1.98 R2 0.25 (Constant and year effects not reported)