Lopsided batter/pitcher match-ups of the 1990s and 2000s

Despite being a team game, at its core baseball consists of match-ups between two individuals: the batter and the pitcher. Sadly, as years pass, the results of these individual match-ups fade to splits and are ultimately lost to the ether of season totals. But what about those instances where one player thoroughly dominated another over the course of their careers? Thanks to the wealth of data available from Retrosheet and their brethren, we can now re-discover those lopsided match-ups.

This is the last of a four-part series highlighting match-ups in which pitchers most dominated batters. Today: the five most lopsided match-ups of the 1990s and 2000s. For each, I have listed the overall ranking of lopsidedness to give you an idea of where it stands all-time. Match-ups are placed in a decade according to the median year of their career match-ups. So if they first faced off in 1973 and last faced off in 1984, the median year is [(1973+1984) / 2] = 1978.5 and their match-up is placed in the ’70s. To give an idea of the bias towards older match-ups, eight of the top nine come from the 1960s and every one from 1-27 is from the ’60s or ’70s.

If you’d like to understand my methodology in more detail, take a gander at the original article.

#28. Rafael Palmeiro vs. David Wells (10.5 RC, 79 PAs, 1989-2005)   View match-up

Actual:    3.5 RC | 13-76 | .171/.203/.289 | 0.492 OPS | 8 K,  2 BB, 1 HBP
Expected: 14.0 RC | 20-68 | .295/.382/.536 | 0.917 OPS | 9 K, 10 BB, 1 HBP

After 16 seasons spent making Rafael Palmeiro’s life difficult on the field whenever given the opportunity (including only one hit in their last 27 match-ups), David Wells did his best to do the same off the field. When Palmeiro tested positive for steroids on Aug. 1, 2005, Wells was one of the most outspoken players in criticizing him, going so far as to call for MLB to require Palmeiro to take a lie detector test to determine how long the steroid use had lasted.

“If he’s been doing it a while,” Wells said, “then go ahead and erase [his accomplishments]. It’s a shame to do it, but you know you have to do it.” Palmeiro himself would probably be in favor of striking his performance against Wells off the record books.


Rafael Palmeiro also struggled against NONE.
David Wells also dominated Omar Vizquel (7.5 RC).

#34. Ken Griffey Jr. vs. Chuck Finley (10.2 RC, 78 PAs, 1990-2002)   View match-up

Actual:    4.2 RC | 12-73 | .164/.218/.301 | 0.519 OPS | 18 K, 5 BB, 0 HBP
Expected: 14.3 RC | 20-67 | .298/.384/.565 | 0.949 OPS | 11 K 9 BB, 1 HBP

After an extremely slow start to this match-up, Ken Griffey Jr. went on a tear to nearly bring his actual RC in line with his expected in 1993. Ultimately, Finley got the better of Griffey, who closed out this match-up with a less-than-stellar 1-for-29.


Ken Griffey Jr. also struggled against Kevin Appier (6.9 RC) and Mike Mussina (6.6 RC).
Chuck Finley also dominated NONE.

#36. Cecil Fielder vs. Roger Clemens (10.1 RC, 50 PAs, 1990-1997)   View match-up

Actual:  -2.3 RC |  2-46| .043/.120/.043 | 0.163 OPS | 21 K, 4 BB, 0 HBP
Expected: 7.8 RC | 11-43 | .262/.354/.502 | 0.856 OPS | 11 K, 6 BB, 0 HBP

Of the two career hits (both singles) that Fielder managed against Clemens, one of them came on May 21, 1997, the day Clemens recorded his 200th career win. Is this relevant in any way to their match-up as whole? Nope, not really. Cecil was bad. Very bad. We can leave it at that.


Cecil Fielder also struggled against NONE.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Roger Clemens also dominated Roberto Alomar (9.6 RC), Julio Franco (8.3 RC), Mark McGwire (8.0 RC), Rickey Henderson (7.9 RC), Devon White (7.4 RC), J.T. Snow (7.3 RC), Albert Belle (7.3 RC), Vizquel (7.0 RC), Greg Vaughn (6.8 RC) and Nomar Garciaparra (6.4 RC).

#40. Jeff Blauser vs. Andy Benes (10.0 RC, 62 PAs, 1989-1997)   View match-up

Actual:  -1.1 RC |  5-57| .088/.145/.105 | 0.250 OPS | 10 K, 4 BB, 0 HBP
Expected: 8.9 RC | 15-53 | .276/.365/.427 | 0.792 OPS | 10 K, 7 BB, 1 HBP

A 42-plate appearance hitless streak would be enough to swing any batter/pitcher match-up toward the pitcher. Jeff Blauser/Andy Benes was no exception.


Jeff Blauser also struggled against NONE.
Andy Benes also dominated NONE.

#53. Sammy Sosa vs. Darryl Kile (9.8 RC, 64 PAs, 1994-2001)   View match-up

Actual:    2.2 RC |  8-60 | .133/.172/.283 | 0.455 OPS | 23 K, 3 BB, 0 HBP
Expected: 12.0 RC | 17-56 | .295/.368/.598 | 0.966 OPS | 15 K, 7 BB, 0 HBP

The “red line of expectation,” as exactly no one will call the expected RC line in these graphs, is typically almost linear. The PAs in a single season will always create a straight line but season to season the line will reflect the variability of batter performance and (usually) the gradual decline of Father Time. Sosa’s line is ever so exponential, reflecting his late-career performance boom. If you’re looking for a cause, don’t ask fellow listee Rafael Palmeiro.

Whatever the reason, Sosa’s performance against Kile would have failed to meet even the most modest expectations.


Sammy Sosa also struggled against Ismael Valdez (7.9 RC) and Roy Oswalt (6.6 RC).

Darryl Kile also dominated NONE.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down Memory Lopsidedness Lane. Thanks for reading.

References & Resources
The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at “www.retrosheet.org”.

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Paul G.
10 years ago

I did enjoy it.  The charts are quite cool.

Is there a going to be a sister study of batters who dominated particular pitchers coming anytime soon?

Also, if this interests you, it would be interesting to see lopsided match-ups between a single pitcher and an entire team.  There have been pitchers who have been noted over their careers to dominate a particular team regardless of the personnel put out on the field.  It would be interesting to learn if some of these [your team here] Killers were as dominating as their reputation and, if they were, whether it was more of good luck in the W-L record or actual real dominance.

Steve I
10 years ago

Ditto Paul G.

Wasn’t Coveleski know as the Giant-Killer?  But that was only for one season, wasn’t it?  Or was it a career characteristic?

Bill James showed that Whitey Ford under Casey Stengel pitched more against the good teams than the weak ones, which makes his winning percentage look even better.

10 years ago

It’s surprising that more people didn’t struggle like Griffey did against Chuck Finley.  He was perhaps one of the most underrated pitchers at the time.


10 years ago

It was Harry Coveleski that was the Giant Killer.  As was Jack Pfiester I believe.  And yes, that does sound like an interesting idea – check out those “killer” nicknames, see if they hold up.