For most people, the focus in baseball is around pitching and hitting, and that is understandable. But fielding is just as important and exciting as both of these! A good defense is very important in any game, or it could result in home runs or strikeouts. If a team is unable to handle the ball well, the opposing team will get more runs and eventually win the game.
For casual fans, understanding the different parts of defense can be a little confusing, so let’s go into the difference between left field vs center field vs right field in baseball.
What is Fielding?
Fielding in baseball means to try and catch the ball, so that it can be thrown to other defensive players and get base runners out. Fielders will usually wear a glove in their non-dominant hand, and their dominant hand will be the one they throw with.
Center fielders are defensive players who are in charge of fielding the baseballs that get hit into the – you guessed it – center field. Center fielders will cover everything out until the outfield fence, from the shallow center field, and then all the way until the left-center to right-center field.
Center fielders have a lot of ground to cover because the outfield fence is so far away from the home plate. That’s why center fielders need to be very fast runners and should have a strong throw so they can manage to throw the ball back into the infield from wherever they’re standing.
Because the center field is deep, the fielders also have to stand accordingly to adjust for the position. Unlike other outfielders, who will usually stand in a horizontal line, center fielders are in a different position.
Center fielders also tend to have ‘captainship’ over left and right fielders, so they can tell other outfielders to call off if more than one of them calls for it. Center fielders are also supposed to back up the other outfielders. Having so much ground and so many responsibilities means that center fielders have a lot to do during a game.
Left Field& Right Field
Just like center fielders, left and right fielders have to catch the batted balls. As is obvious, the left fielders are in the left field while the right fielders are in the right field.
The two positions seem very similar to those who are not as versed in baseball, especially casual fans. But there are differences and nuances that make playing as a left or right fielder different.
For left fielders, they obviously have to defend the left side of the field. This is the side that is to the left if you were facing the pitcher’s mound from the home plate. The right field is the other side.
Of course, being outfielders, both sides have to do the work of running and catching flying balls while doing so, so they need to have speed and quick reflexes. But right and left fielders still have some differences.
For one thing, left fielders will usually see more action than right fielders. This is because a large majority of hitters are right-handed, and therefore, even though most of them don’t mean to, they will tend to hit the ball into the left field. This is also particularly true for amateur players who have yet to master the ability to send the ball into the opposite field at will.
Left fielders also have to back up the third base when the catcher or pitcher attempts pick-offs. If the runner is stealing third base, the left field is also the one responsible for backing up the catcher’s throw.
Similarly, right fielders have to back up the first base for throws, and then also back up the second base as the ball is thrown from the left field.
Which Is Harder?
So, which of these two – left or right field – is harder?
While left field usually gets more action, most experts would agree that right field is harder to play. Because the ball comes to the left side due to the dominant hand of the batter, it comes with less spin and is usually more predictable. Unless the batter is left-handed, the likelihood of a ball entering the left field with a spin is very low.
On the other hand, most the right field will usually get balls with spin, since most batters are right- handed and balls they send into the right field will be sliced pitches.
This makes right field significantly harder. On top of that, right fielders also need to have a stronger arm since they will have to make more throws, and being right fielders means that you are at the furthest point from third base. As such, right fielders will often find themselves in the situation to make decisive plays, which can be tough.
For left fielders, though, because they will see most of the action when it comes to flying balls, they have to run around more often, and will have to do so fast. This doesn’t necessarily make left field harder, but it does involve more work.
On average though, most people would agree that right field is a lot tougher to play than left field.
Good Left & Right Fielders
To be a good left fielder, you’d need to be fast, and have good catching skills. You’d also need to have a good spatial understanding so you can beat the ball and read where it can be caught.
For a right fielder, a strong arm is important. Because right fielders have to throw the ball to third base, they need strength and a good technique to hold the ball, throw it, and have good legwork. Right fielders don’t need as much speed as center or left field, because they don’t have a lot of ground to cover.
While left, right, and center field all have their responsibilities, all are equally important in providing good defense in a baseball game.