The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Greatest Pitchers vs. the Greatest Hitters

What happens when you put a pair of superstars on opposite teams on the same field?  One superstar happens to be a pitcher, and the other one is a batter.  How well do some superstars perform against others?

I decided to take a look at some of the best pitchers of all-time, and see how well they performed against high level competition.  Specifically, I have listed the stats of a fine hitter a pitcher performed well against, and a HOF-caliber batter who hit them hard.  Although there may be individual batters who hit certain pitchers even better than the ones I’ve listed, generally speaking, those hitters weren’t normally considered superstar level performers.

Here are the results:  (Minimum of 50 at bats.)

1)  Sandy Koufax vs. Hank Aaron:

116 at bats, 42 hits, 6 doubles, 3 triples, 7 homers, 16 RBI, 14 walks, 12 strikeouts.  .362/.431/.647  OPS:  1.077

2)  Sandy Koufax vs. Lou Brock:

65 at bats, 12 hits, 4 doubles, 0 triples, 0 homers, 1 RBI, 3 walks, 28 strikeouts.  .185/.232/.246  OPS:  .478

3)  Bob Gibson vs. Eddie Mathews:

95 at bats, 31 hits, 5 doubles, 1 triple, 4 homers, 13 RBI, 21 walks, 14 strikeouts.  .326/.448/.526  OPS:  .975

4)  Bob Gibson vs. Roberto Clemente:

125 at bats, 26 hits, 1 double, 2 triples, 4 homers, 16 RBI, 2 walks, 32 strikeouts.  .208/.219/.344  OPS:  .563

5)  Tom Seaver vs. Joe Morgan:

109 at bats, 32 hits, 8 doubles, 0 triples, 5 homers, 11 RBI, 23 walks, 17 strikeouts.  .294/.415/.505  OPS:  .919

6)  Tom Seaver vs. Johnny Bench:

84 at bats, 15 hits, 7 doubles, 0 triples, 2 homers, 8 RBI, 11 walks, 27 strikeouts.  .179/.271/.333  OPS:  .604

7)  Warren Spahn vs. Stan Musial:

291 at bats, 95 hits, 21 doubles, 6 triples, 14 homers, 45 RBI, 43 walks, 28 strikeouts.  .326/.417/.584  OPS:  1.001

8)  Warren Spahn vs. Duke Snider:

80 at bats, 19 hits, 3 doubles, 0 triples, 4 homers, 12 RBI, 8 walks, 18 strikeouts.  .238/.315/.425  OPS:  .740

9)  Robin Roberts vs. Ernie Banks:

121 at bats, 41 hits, 4 doubles, 3 triples, 15 homers, 31 RBI, 7 walks, 22 strikeouts.  .339/.377/.793  OPS:  1.170

10)  Robin Roberts vs. Orlando Cepeda:

63 at bats, 16 hits, 3 doubles, 0 triples, 2 homers, 11 RBI, 1 walk, 12 strikeouts.  .254/.262/.397  OPS:  .658

11)  Steve Carlton vs. Gary Carter:

116 at bats, 36 hits, 9 doubles, 0 triples, 11 homers, 24 RBI, 18 walks, 7 strikeouts.  .310/.400/.672  OPS:  1.072

12)  Steve Carlton vs. Tony Perez:

108 at bats, 21 hits, 5 doubles, 0 triples, 3 homers, 10 RBI, 16 walks, 26 strikeouts.  .194/.294/.324  OPS:  .618

13)  Nolan Ryan vs. Carl Yastrzemski:

50 at bats, 17 hits, 1 double, 0 triples, 4 homers, 14 RBI, 12 walks, 7 strikeouts.  .340/.469/.600  OPS:  1.069

14)  Nolan Ryan vs. Robin Yount:

69 at bats, 16 hits, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 2 homers, 10 RBI, 8 walks, 16 strikeouts.  .232/.329/.406  OPS:  .735

15)  Greg Maddux vs. Tony Gwynn:

94 at bats, 39 hits, 8 doubles, 1 triple, 0 homers, 9 RBI, 11 walks, 0 strikeouts.  .415/.476..521  OPS:  .997

16)  Greg Maddux vs. Mike Piazza:

80 at bats, 19 hits, 1 double, 0 triples, 4 homers, 10 RBI, 1 walk, 12 strikeouts.  .238/.247/.400  OPS:  .647



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13 thoughts on “Greatest Pitchers vs. the Greatest Hitters

  1. Joe Smalcuga on said:

    I’d like to see how the great hitters performed against Sandy Koufax from 1962 thru 1966, when he was without question, the greatest pitcher of all time.

  2. That was fantastic… I loved reading it. Gwynn vs. Maddux, Koufax vs Aaron, Gibson vs Matthews… Great matchups with players in their prime; guess good pitching doesn’t always stop good hitting.

  3. elfego on said:

    It’s probably just coincidence that Clemente is the most successful hitter in total vs. hall of fame pitching(.309 avg in just under 1300 ab) that his worst record was indeed vs. Gibson!! Of course, he did break Gibby’s leg with a line drive once according to Many Mota …it was a ‘called shot’.

  4. I already had this info. on hand, so I may as well contribute it to the discussion. Edgar Martinez hit .625, 10-16, off Mariano Rivera, with three doubles, two homers, six RBI and three walks. He hit .372, 16-43, off Andy Pettitte, .444, 8-18, off Roy Halladay, and .480, 12-25, off Dave Stewart.

    It would be interesting to find out which types of hitters do best against the best pitchers: contact hitters like Gwynn and Ichiro, or power hitters like McCovey and Sosa.

    • Edgar was such a fabulous, pure hitter. He could fall out of bed, grab a bat, and hit a double into the gap.
      I’m not sure there’s a certain type of hitter who hits best against the greatest pitchers, (though it’s possible.) Probably, it’s just the nature of each individual pitcher-batter match-up. I wonder what the psychological edge is, if any, as to who wins these battles, or if it’s all just pure talent and adrenaline?
      Thanks for adding that info.

    • Hi Arne, Did a bit more research on Edgar Martinez. Turns out there are two great pitchers who he couldn’t hit: He was just 1-19 against Nolan Ryan, with one walk and ten strikeouts. The other pitcher who dominated him (as so many others) was Pedro Martinez. Edgar was just 3-25 against him with no extra-base hits.
      Other pitchers Edgar hit well against (aside from those you named): David Wells, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, David Cone, Bartolo Colon, and “Black Jack” McDowell. He was an amazing 8-10 against poor Greg Cadaret, but could never figure out Eric DuBose (0-10.)
      Happy 4th of July!

      • Thanks. I noticed that Edgar’s hits off Mussina included two triples, which I can’t explain (a fluke I guess), and three homers. He did well against a lot of the Yankee pitchers. That’d be better known if the M’s had beaten the Yankees in the playoffs one or two more times.

        One of the great complaints by M’s fans is him not becoming a full-timer two or three years sooner, and therefore not getting the real impressive counting stats that would really strengthen his HOF case.

      • He did seem to get a late start. Don’t know why the kept him in the minors as long as they did. Yeah, he did feast off of Yankee pitching. As for The Hall, I used to argue against his enshrinement because of those relatively low counting stats. Now, I wouldn’t have a problem with him getting in, though I doubt he will anytime soon.
        Thanks again,

  5. A couple things about the Brock-Koufax matchup: first of all, if I’m a lefty, I’m thinking my hammy is acting up when Sandy’s turn comes up. Second, it reminded me of something I hadn’t thought about since Lou was still playing–Brock struck out a lot, consistently more than 100 times a season when not a whole lot guys did that. That doesn’t make him a bad player or a bad person, understand, but he doesn’t seem like a guy who’d strike out that much.

    • I only saw Brock play near the end of his career, but his swing always looked a bit long to me. He never walked a great deal. I think his attitude was that he wanted 190-200 hits per season, with his fair share of homers, and he was willing to swing the bat more often than perhaps he should have to do so.
      I can’t imagine very many people were happy to face Mr. Koufax, sort of like how players today must feel about Mr. Kershaw.
      Thanks, as always,

  6. Proving once again that Aaron, Musial, and Gwynn could hit anybody.
    Nice research, Bill.

    • That’s right. I also noticed, when looking at other top pitchers, that Musial and Aaron also had little trouble with any of the top pitchers of their eras. Same for Gwynn.

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