If you are a fan of the Oakland A's, you might dislike Mike Trout. He's very good, so there's that, and he plays for a direct competitor in your division. But the strange thing is, in Trout's brief and brilliant career, he hasn't done all that much against the A's.
Though he possesses a .942 career OPS, Trout has a mediocre-for-Mike-Trout .836 OPS against Oakland. The A's have, whether through witchcraft, luck or tainted Gatorade, kept Mike Trout from destroying them like he destroys everyone else. Contrast the future Hall of Famer Trout with Ryan Garko. Garko finished his six-year career with an OPS of .781. Despite being 33 years old right now, he hasn't played in the majors since 2010. The A's are happy about that though because Garko was an A's destroyer. Garko posted a .963 OPS against Oakland in his career, hitting five homers in just over 100 plate appearances. It's possible Garko isn't retired; he's instead being paid by the A's not to play. What I'm saying here is that when it comes to facing the A's, Mike Trout is no Ryan Garko.
Every team has its own Ryan Garko, a player who, for whatever reason, plays better against them than against anyone else. That's what this article is about: finding the best hitter against each team throughout history. I picked a cut-off of 100 at-bats because we don't need to hear about some nobody who singled in his only at-bat against the Yankees in the '40s. No, we want to hear about some nobody who singled 40 times against the Yankees in the '40s!
So, without further ado, here are the best hitters against every single team. Enjoy!
(Note: These selections cover entire franchise histories, meaning, for example, the Washington Senators are included in the Texas Rangers' history.)
Best Opposing Hitter: Manny Ramirez
The weather is nice and all, but Manny's love for Arizona is kind of ridiculous. Manny's 1.305 OPS against the Diamondbacks is the kind of thing you do in a baseball video game after playing for way too long and getting way too good to the point where the computer is not any kind of challenge anymore. In fact, I wasn't sure, but I went back through each of his at-bats against Arizona to make sure Ramirez wasn't batting from a couch while eating popcorn and drinking sodas. He wasn't, though he may as well have been.
Notes: One of these things doesn't belong here; one of these things is not the same!
The top seven against Arizona (by OPS) are Ramirez, Barry Bonds, Vladimir Guerrero, Alfonso Soriano, Miguel Cabrera and… Dante Bichette. Bichette is actually tied with Bonds for second (by OPS), though Bonds did it in far more at-bats.
Best Opposing Hitter: Shawn Green
Green had a great career. He played for 15 seasons and finished top-10 in the MVP award three times. That's nothing to sneeze at. Also he murdered the Braves. Like disemboweled them with a spoon. Green hit .348/.428/.659 with 24 homers in 311 at bats. That's a 50 homer pace had he faced only Braves pitching over the course of an entire season.
Notes: The Braves have a long and storied history. The list of all time best hitters against them includes baseball immortals Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Johnny Mize and Willie Stargell. But none of those all-time greats was the measure of one Nick Esasky. Not when it came to facing Braves pitching anyway. Esasky, a corner infielder/corner outfielder type of player with a career .775 OPS, is slotted in between Albert Pujols and Rogers Hornsby on the list. If I accomplish nothing else with this article, let Nick Esasky's grandkids know that had baseball allowed him to hit against the Braves on a permanent basis, Nick Esasky would be enshrined in Cooperstown as one of the all-time greats in baseball history.
Best Opposing Hitter: Ted Williams
Ted Williams wasn't just the best hitter ever against the Baltimore Orioles (including the St. Louis Browns before they moved), Ted Williams was the best hitter ever against everyone. In his career, Williams had a 1.116 OPS. Against the Orioles, Williams had a 1.196 OPS. So Williams was marginally better against Baltimore than he was against the general population of pitchers. This probably says more about Williams than it does about the Orioles.
Notes: Say this for the Orioles, they have been beat by the best in baseball. Repeatedly. The top five hitters against the Orioles are Williams, Miguel Cabrera, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Then comes Mike Lieberthal, so maybe the run is over, but then Hank Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio! Then… Tony Batista. So it peters out a bit. Still, six inner-circle Hall of Famers in the top eight is… well, none of this is good because the Orioles lost lots and lots of baseball games to these players, but at least in terms of having neat-o names on the back of the uniforms that are repeatedly running around the bases, scoring lots of runs and beating Baltimore many, many times, the Orioles are doing great.
Boston Red Sox
Best Opposing Hitter: Babe Ruth
How appropriate is that? The greatest player ever gets sold to his team's bitterest rival and not only helps that rival to win a billion World Series titles, not only does the team that traded him not win another one in his lifetime, but he becomes the greatest hitter against the team that traded him ever and remains so to this day. That's some high quality beyond-the-grave haunting, my friends. Nobody has ever helped then hurt the Red Sox more than Babe Ruth. Nobody.
Notes: OK, you could make a case that racism and incompetence were really the two biggest culprits for the Red Sox failure to win anything in 86 seasons, and that case would be both compelling and accurate. But in terms of individual baseball players, Ruth was the elixir of elixirs, and the Red Sox turned him into the most poison of poisons. Oops.
Best Opposing Hitter: Mark McGwire
It shouldn't come as a surprise that McGwire killed the Cubs. He was dismantling pitching during his time with the Cardinals, a time that coincided with a decidedly mediocre Cubs pitching staff. The crazy thing was McGwire's slugging percentage: He slugged .832 against Chicago when the next highest by a single player against Cubs pitching is .703 (John Olerud, because of course). As Dennis Eckersley would say, that's crazy cheese. Or maybe he wouldn't say that specifically, but it would be something equally weird and nonsensical.
Notes: The fifth best hitter by OPS against the Cubs is Carl Everett, who doesn't believe in dinosaurs. Actual quote: "You can't say there were dinosaurs when you never saw them." Is this pertinent? No, but it sure is interesting! Willie Mays hit 92 homers against the Cubs. Also interesting! Willie Mays never refused to recognize the existence of dinosaurs. Less interesting!
Chicago White Sox
Best Opposing Hitter: Babe Ruth
I'm sensing a pattern here. Ruth was essentially the same destructive all-time great hitter against the White Sox as he was against the Red Sox. Maybe Ruth didn't like socks, or he had a thing against misspelling things with an X instead of a CK. Come to think of it, why isn't it the White Socks? What's wrong with proper English?
Notes: Once you get past all-timers Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Aramis Ramirez*, the fifth player on the list (by OPS) is Karim Garcia. Garcia, a .241 hitter with an on-base percentage below .300 for his career, hit .330 and slugged .708 with 12 homers against the White Sox in his career. Garcia hit 66 homers in his career, so 12 is a lot. Garcia makes Ryan Garko look like weak sauce by comparison.
*How many Hall of Fame votes do you think Ramirez will get? I say two!
Best Opposing Hitter: Barry Bonds
Bonds hit 59 homers against the Reds in his career, more per plate appearance than anyone ever (minimum 200 PAs) against Cincinnati. That's a lot 'o taters!
Notes: Bonds was the best, or maybe it was Hank Aaron, who homered 97 times against the Reds in twice as many plate appearances, but at least by OPS a close second were Sixto Lezcano and Matt Lawton. Both players posted OPSs just above 1.130 against Cincinnati. Lezcano was one of the top three ever against the Reds, so it makes sense that in his career he hit his best against Cincinnati, but Lawton posted an identical 1.132 OPS against the Nationals in his career. Which is weird because he is and continues to be Matt Lawton.
Best Opposing Hitter: Babe Ruth
Yes, Ruth, again. Boooooring! So let's ignore him and try again…
Best Opposing Hitter: Felix Mantilla
That's better! Mantilla played 30 games against the Indians in his career and hit 370/.437/.697 (not too far off what Ruth did, if we're being honest). Mantilla put up a .732 OPS for his career as well. Sadly this happened in the late '50s and early '60s, so we can't blame it on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame being horrible. Aw, heck, let's blame it on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! It's horrible!
Notes: Another player who routinely ruined the Indians was ex-Indian (and ex-Red Sox and ex-Dodger and ex-White Sox and ex-Ray and soon-to-be-ex-Cub) Manny Ramirez. Manny hit a wince-inducing-for-Cleveland-fans .352/.443/.684 against the Indians, which makes their decision to let him sign with Boston all the more painful. For all the problems he had in his career, the dude could hit.
Best Opposing Hitter: Mark McGwire, but if you squint really hard…
McGwire had a better on-base percentage and better slugging percentage than the next guy on the list, buuuuuut if you squint really hard…
Best Hitter If You Squint Really Hard: Look, Matt Stairs!
Matt Stairs looked like he'd never run up a set of stairs in his life. His body type was more at home behind the counter of a convenience store than a dugout fence. Yet, the portly Stairs hit .380 (!) against Colorado in his career. His .770 slugging percentage wasn't bad, either.
Notes: The Rockies seem to get beat by all the regulars. McGwire, Bonds, Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr. … but if you get down the list a bit you happen upon someone named Sean Berry. Berry played in parts of 11 seasons with the Royals, Expos, Astros and Brewers, and even had four plate appearances with the 2000 Red Sox. He was even quite good in some of those seasons. I've been a baseball fan all my life but I can honestly say I've never heard of Sean Berry. Sometimes I wonder if Baseball Reference just makes players up. "Sean Berry? Sure, sounds believable! [clicks magic buttons] There! That ought to fool 'em!"
Best Opposing Hitter: Bobby Bonilla
Bonilla was a very good player and had the corresponding very good career. Some All-Star teams, a few MVP votes, but when it came to the Tigers, Bonilla was Babe Ruth and the Tigers were the Toledo Mud Hens. Bonilla hit .448/.500/.800 in his career versus Detroit. Tigers fans may be upset at him, but if you look at it objectively, Bonilla was just doing his part to help us all move from an industrial to a service-based economy. Thanks, Bobby!
Notes: One of the points of this article, I suppose, is to list all the mediocre players who, for no real discernable reason, feasted on one team's pitching staff. One such player is Steve Brye, who played mostly for the Twins in the mid-'70s. Brye finished his career with an OPS .674, making him 10 percent worse than the league average hitter for the time. But when it came to facing the Tigers, Brye's OPS was 1.065. An obscure Twins outfielder in a pitcher's era put up better than a 1.000 OPS against the Tigers. That's weird. That's neat. That's baseball.
Best Opposing Hitter: Josh Hamilton
If you are like me and still reflexively think the Astros are in the National League, you might be perplexed at Hamilton's place atop the list of best all-time hitters against the Astros. After washing out of the Rays organization, Hamilton cleaned himself up and reentered baseball with the Reds in 2007. The Reds play in the NL Central division, and, at the time, so did the Astros. Then Hamilton was dealt to the Texas Rangers. Five years later Hamilton became a free agent and signed with the Angels, who were in the AL West. The Astros moved onto that division that same season. It's a bit like a '90s alternative comedy. They can call it Doubles. Ethan Hawke can play Josh Hamilton and Bridget Fonda can play the Astros.
Notes: Nomar Garciaparra is next on the list. He hit really well against the Astros, which is strange considering: When did Nomar play the Astros? His time with the Cubs was short and… I totally forgot he played with the Dodgers. So that explains it. Pay no attention to me, I'm just the author.
Kansas City Royals
Best Opposing Hitter: Randall Simon
Over a two-year stretch, Simon hit Royals pitching better than anyone ever had. Simon and his bad Tigers teams of 2001 and 2002 battled the Royals for not-last place in the AL Central. Sometimes the Tigers won (2001, and by "won" I mean "lost 96 games"), and sometimes the Royals won (2002, and by "won" I mean "lost 100 games"). But during the 730 times the sun rose and set in 2001 and 2002, Simon hit Royals pitching. Simon posted a slash line of .410/.431/.730. It was Simon's high-water mark. Two years later, he'd be out of the majors. (He made a brief appearance for the 2006 Phillies, but after that, he was finished.)
Notes: Just behind Simon (because nobody hits the Royals like Randall Simon. NOBODY!) are Dick Allen, Scott Rolen and Luis Gonzalez. Good-to-great players all. Then we get Herbert Perry. I wonder if it is just a coincidence that Herbert Perry rhymes with Sean Berry. Supposedly Perry played for the Indians, Rays, White Sox and Rangers in the mid-to-late '90s and early aughts*. In a career that finished four percent worse than a league average hitter, Perry hit .348/.405/.678 with nine of his 55 career homers against Kansas City. This assumes, of course, that Perry exists. Color me skeptical, which I believe is a light mauve.
* I wrote "aughts" so you are now legally allowed to hate me.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Best Opposing Hitter: Mike Napoli
It's a bit odd that the best hitter against the Angels is Napoli, who was drafted by and spent quite a bit of his career with the Angels. Maybe he's still bitter about the whole "sitting the bench behind Jeff Mathis" thing. Maybe nothing gets Napoli's bat going like the "It's A Small World" ride at Disneyland. Whatever it is, Napoli has crushed the Angels, hitting .350/.457/.723 against them.
Notes: Napoli is at the top of the list, but the real answer might be Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod's OPS is lower against the Angels than Napoli's, but he's faced them 650 more times than Napoli has. Rodriguez owns a 1.050 OPS and a .320 batting average against the Angels, and he has hit 70 homers against them, the most ever hit against the Angels by 21 (Rafael Palmeiro is second with 49).
Los Angeles Dodgers
Best Opposing Hitter: Gary Sheffield
Some of these aren't so hard to guess. Who didn't see Babe Ruth versus the Red Sox coming? Ted Williams against the Orioles makes sense. But in the hundred-plus seasons the Dodgers have been around, you'd think someone would have hit them better than Gary Sheffield. Nope. Sheffield put up a 1.093 OPS, the highest against the Dodgers ever. This isn't to say Sheffield wasn't a fantastic player. He's a borderline Hall of Famer, so by definition he was a fantastic player, but what about Willie Mays and Stan Musial and, heck, Rogers Hornsby? Well, all those guys are on the list and all of them hit the Dodgers very well, as you'd expect, but none quite as well as Sheffield ever did.
Notes: … though Jim Eisenreich was sure close! Eisenreich took apart Dodgers pitching in the mid-'90s to the point where he ranks ahead of third-place Johnny Mize, fourth-place Musial and the other highlights of the list, including David Wright, McGwire, Carlos Gonzalez, Albert Pujols and the Hall of Famers listed above. A slash line of .405/.468/.620 will put you ahead of some heady company.
Best Opposing Hitter: Barry Bonds
Bonds gets his second team, putting him in second place behind Ruth for most teams crushed. The truth is Bonds crushed just about everyone. Bonds put up an OPS better than 1.000 against 20 different teams. The only teams he failed to register at least an .800 OPS against were the Mariners and the Rays, and he came to bat against the Rays only 19 times. The Rays were the only team Bonds failed to homer against. So yeah, Barry Bonds. Crazy super good.
Notes: Just behind Bonds (though not quite as good) on the list is the well-behind-Bonds-and-in-no-way-near-as-good Jeff Cirillo. Cirillo was pretty much a league-average hitter during his career, but against the Marlins he was Barry Bonds. Cirillo hit .396 with exactly one quarter of his career 112 home runs against Florida/Miami. Not surprisingly, the Marlins walked Cirillo intentionally more than any other club ever did (though that was only five times). Still, Bonds-esque!
Best Opposing Hitter: Oh, guess who.
Bonds put up a 1.346 OPS against the Brewers in his career. Ho hum. About 200 points of OPS better than second place Troy Tulowitzki…yawn. He got on base literally better than half the time. (Zzz.) A word of warning: Bonds beat that number against five other teams, so you may see his name again.
Notes: Reggie Jackson hit 62 homers in 938 plate appearances against the Brewers in his career, the most the Brewers have given up to one player. Jackson doesn't make the list because his stats, as great as they are, were smoothed out because he faced the Brewers so often. Generally speaking, the greater the sample size, the less fluky the results are. So Jackson's numbers don't carry the fluke-factor or the awesome-factor of, say, Jason Kubel's 113 at-bats, which produced a better-than-Jackson 1.060 OPS against Milwaukee. The odd part is, as great as Kubel was against the Brewers, he was much better against the Astros, putting up a 1.287 OPS against Houston. So why isn't he listed ahead of Josh Hamilton and his 1.135 OPS in the Astros section? Kubel came to bat against Houston only 38 times (he hit five homers though).
Best Opposing Hitter: Jose Bautista
Bautista is a superstar, but it's surprising to see him atop a list like this because he took so long to develop into one. Bautista was a mediocre player who bounced around a bit for the first six seasons of his career. You'd think that some of that mediocrity would impact his numbers against the Twins, but apparently not. Even in 2009, his first year in Toronto when he was still a middling player (he finished that season with an OPS one percent below the league average), Bautista crushed the Twins. It wasn't much, but in 23 plate appearances that year, Bautista hit .400/.455/.900 against Minnesota. That allowed him to keep his numbers up and post a silly .833 slugging percentage against Minnesota in his career, with 20 homers and nine doubles in 138 plate appearances.
Notes: It's lucky he did, or the Twins would be left with an all-too-familiar name at the top of this list: David Ortiz. Ortiz signed with the Mariners as an international free agent, but he came up with the Twins, spending six seasons in their organization before getting non-tendered. The odd thing is that Ortiz was very good with Minnesota. He put up an OPS eight percent above league average in his career and was coming off a season 20 percent above the league average when Minnesota cut him. Every team makes bad decisions now and then, but this one was a whopper. Ortiz has gone on to put together a borderline Hall of Fame career with Boston and has made sure to rub it in Minnesota's face (an 1.129 OPS with 19 homers and 18 doubles) whenever presented with the opportunity. There were injury and defensive issues with Minnesota, but ultimately the Twins chose to focus on what Ortiz couldn't do. In Ortiz's words, they wanted him to "hit like a little bitch." In the future, maybe don't do that.
New York Mets
Best Opposing Hitter: Everyone
Best Opposing Hitter, Non-Joke Division: Frank Howard
Howard is know primarily for his time with the Washington Senators, but he spent the first part of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers before being dealt in a relatively complex transaction for, among other players, John Kennedy. It was John E. Kennedy, though -- so, you know, one letter off.
Notes: It's not often that a modern player shows up on one of these lists, but with the way the Mets' pitching has been recently (Matt Harvey excepted), maybe it should have been expected. Expected or not though, there is Wilson Ramos, right behind Howard on the list. Ramos has hit .374/.400/.673 in his career against the Mets, and as much as I'd like to end this sentence with "so that makes him like everyone else ever," I won't.
New York Yankees
Best Opposing Hitter: Miguel Cabrera
This is an appropriate title-holder. Cabrera is one of the best hitters in baseball and has the back-to-back MVP awards to prove it. Against the Yankees, Cabrera has hit .373 and slugged .775 while hitting 18 homers.
Notes: The rest of the list is arguably more interesting. It's littered with ex- and future Yankees -- and, of course, Boston Red Sox. Just in the top 25, here are the…
Dan Pasqua (1.050 OPS)
Alfonso Soriano (.990)
Curtis Granderson (.970)
Babe Ruth (1.100)
Alex Rodriguez (1.037)
Tino Martinez (.968)
Ted Williams (1.103)
Dick Stuart (1.038)
Manny Ramirez (1.030)
Jimmie Foxx (.977)
David Ortiz (.976)
Jim Rice (.968)
Mike Napoli (1.097)
It should not be surprising that the most resourceful (as in, "full of resources") team in baseball history should have such a list.
Best Opposing Hitter: Barry Bonds
There he is again. Utter silliness. Bonds's OPS of 1.258 bested, in order, Williams, Ruth, Foxx and Cabrera for this honor, which will undoubtedly go on his mantle if there is any room after the MVPs, Silver Slugger awards, All-Stars and really any other award any organization or person, sober or drunk, has ever handed to him, mailed or left on his porch.
Notes: Babe Ruth hit 108 home runs against the A's! It is the second-most he hit against any one team, behind the 123 he hit against the Tigers. This just in: Ruth very good!
Best Opposing Hitter: Vladimir Guerrero
I didn't see this coming. You could've given me a hundred guesses, and maybe somewhere between guess 90 and guess 100 I'd have gotten it, but probably not. Maybe I underestimate Guerrero. Guerrero was very good, but against the Phillies, he was amazing. He hit .318/.379/.553 in his career; those numbers were dragged down a bit by his last three seasons, which were fine, good and average. But against Phillies pitching, which to Guerrero must have tasted like a cheesesteak covered in chocolate and deep-fried (or not), Guerrero hit .371/.465/.739. That's good, arguably better than any kind of steak covered in anything.
Notes: A player I didn't expect on this list is 10th: Miguel Tejada. Tejada played most of his career in Oakland and Baltimore, but thanks to inter-league play (truly the gift that keeps on giving, like herpes) Tejada got to face the Phillies often enough to qualify for this article. I'm sure he's relieved. Tejada hit .408/.423/.638 in 138 plate appearances against Philadelphia, a feat which still feels odd. But then, that's the magic of this article. It feels odd.
Best Opposing Hitter: Jermaine Dye
This is wonderful. Nobody has hit Pirate pitching better in the history of baseball than Jermaine Dye. Jermaine Dye? Jermaine Dye! Let's see you find that bit of information elsewhere! No, wait, not yet!
Notes: Dye's 1.232 OPS barely nips he-who-has-already-been-spoken-of-far-too-much-in-this-article (OK, fine, it's Barry Bonds) by 0.105 points of OPS. More Bonds craziness: In 411 plate appearances, the Pirates walked Bonds 99 times. Come back for No. 100, big guy!
San Diego Padres
Best Opposing Hitter: Mark McGwire
It's shocking that anyone could put up a 1.461 OPS against any team, let alone the Padres. But then, it should be noted that McGwire faced the Padres in the time before Petco Park. All of McGwire's stats came at Jack Murphy Stadium, that fabulous toilet bowl-shaped stadium that let you know you were in San Diego because you could see palm trees on your game program. The Murph was a pitchers' park throughout most of its history, but not so much of one as Petco, where you could bring the fences in halfway and probably still not have a park that favors batters.
Notes: Second on the list is -- well, duh. But after Bonds comes Brian Giles, who wound up playing the majority of his career with the Padres. Maybe the Padres saw his 1.126 OPS against them and said, "We gotta get that guy for Jason Bay and Oliver Perez" -- which, oddly enough, is exactly what happened. Those Padres, so prescient!
San Francisco Giants
Best Opposing Hitter: Mark McGwire
When I started this, I had no idea there would be so many repeats. In fact, if you had asked me before I did any of this research, I would have guessed there would be no repeats -- yet this is the fourth team for McGwire. He earned it by hitting .283/.482/.717 against the Giants, so hooray, I guess.
Notes: Second on this list is someone named Hank Leiber. Leiber was a center fielder for the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs in the 1930s and early '40s. He was actually a very good hitter, finishing his career with an OPS 22 percent above average. The worst hitter on the top of this list is probably Michael Tucker. Tucker was a below-average hitter during his career with Kansas City and six other teams, but somehow he managed to hit .360/.443/.649 against the Giants. Of course he hit .157/.225/.304 against the Braves, but that's what made Tucker's performance against San Francisco all the more wondrous. McGwire hit every team well, but there was something -- somewhere, somehow -- that made Tucker an MVP when he faced the Giants but a Double-A scrub when he faced the Braves.
Best Opposing Hitter: Carlos Delgado
Carlos Delgado against the Mariners is so weird! I'd never have guessed that, which I suppose is the point here. But anyway, Delgado just crushed the Mariners. Crushed them like that guy on The Kids in the Hall crushed people's heads. Delgado hit 29 homers and 30 doubles in his career against Seattle, the majority of which came in the Kingdome, but he hit a ridiculous .389/.476/.792 at Safeco Field as well.
Notes: Second on the list is Ken Singleton -- a great name for a hitter, though not as great as Ken Doubleton. (Am I getting punch-drunk 4,000 words into this thing? Maybe!) Regardless, Singleton enjoyed Mariners pitching in the late 70s and early 80s, when everyone was enjoying Mariners pitching except the Mariners. Another guy who made a habit of beating up on Mariners pitching was Cliff Johnson. I remember Johnson as a plodding DH with the Blue Jays in the 80s, but he was…well, actually, that's kinda what he always was. Johnson stole nine bases in his 15-year career (he got caught 12 times). Also, anyone whose Baseball Reference page lists his positions as, in order, designated hitter, pinch runner and first baseman probably wasn't much more than a DH. Johnson had 55 hits in 156 at bats against Seattle, though only 14 of them were extra-base hits. That's not to say Johnson didn't hit the ball into the gap or to the wall -- just that getting to second base was a logistical impossibility.
St. Louis Cardinals
Best Opposing Hitter: Jim Thome
Jim Thome hit the Cardinals harder than I think anyone has ever hit any team ever. I'll give it to you without any hyperbole: Thome batted .430, he got on base 56 percent of the time, and he slugged 1.010. That's a 1.575 OPS. In 100 at-bats, Thome homered 18 times. That's how you do that. Just wow.
Notes: Second on the list is… Ellis Burks? I think of Burks as an American League hitter from his time with the Red Sox and, later in his career, Indians, but he spent seven seasons in the National League with the Rockies and Giants. He did a lot of damage to St. Louis over those seven seasons, batting .378/.469/.794 for an OPS of 1.264 that would be at the top of many of these lists. Barely behind Burks (you know I was dying to write that) is Matt Holliday, currently a Cardinals outfielder, who beat up on the Cardinals (a .394/.475/.750 slash line) in his time with the Rockies.
Tampa Bay Rays
Best Opposing Hitter: Chris Richard
Best. Result. So. Far.
Richard played with four teams over parts of five seasons. One of those teams was Tampa. So this entire line is almost entirely generated from Richard's time with the Orioles. In that time, from 2000 to 2002, he hit .343/.440/.619 against Tampa pitching. It makes sense that Richard (or someone of his ilk) would be at the top of this list, though, when you consider that he wasn't around to have his numbers lowered by the previous or current crop of standout Rays pitching. Instead, Richards got to face Tanyon Sturtze, Ryan Rupe and Joe Kennedy. Which was probably easier.
Notes: In second place, we have Shawn Green. If you want to read about him, scroll up to the Braves. Or you can read about the time he hit four homers in one game. It was amazing!
Best Opposing Hitter: Mickey Mantle
I would have bet lots of money (if I had lots of money, which, Internet writer that I am, I clearly do) that Mantle's name would have shown up in this article somewhere, but I sure wasn't expecting it here. Mantle hit .382/.504/.783 from 1961 through his retirement in 1968, a period that represented the end of his career and predated the beginning of the Texas Rangers by three seasons. If we're going to limit this to a player who faced the Rangers specifically instead of the Washington Senators, we get…
Best Opposing Hitter, Take 2: Vladimir Guerrero.
Guerrero hit an impressive -- if not Mantle-esque -- .395/.461/.661 against the Rangers. Which is wonderful for Guerrero, but not nearly as interesting as the next player on the list…
Best Opposing Hitter, Take 3: Geronimo Berroa
That's more like it! Berroa hit .386/.460/.639 against the Rangers between 1994 and 1998, which is odd because Berroa, while a fine hitter in his career (really!), was nothing like Mantle or Guerrero. Heck, he wasn't even Troy Glaus, Adam Dunn, Mo Vaughn or Nomar Garciaparra, the next four guys on the list. But when facing the Rangers, Berroa was those guys, and even a little bit better.
Toronto Blue Jays
Best Opposing Hitter: Chris Davis
Davis had been around for a while before breaking out with the Orioles last season, so you'd think Davis must have performed unholy acts upon the Jays pitching staff last season. But he didn't. He hit well -- very well, even -- but Davis hit six teams better than he hit Toronto last season. But whatever, them's the numbers. Davis is a career .313/.392/.674 hitter against the Blue Jays, and that's good enough for first place in this race.
Notes: Mike Easler and Matt Stairs are the next two on the list. Easler is strange because he played in the AL toward the end of his career, but clearly that didn't matter here. Matt Stairs is Canadian and had to put on a show aboot baseball for the good Canadian fans.
Best Opposing Hitter: Jim Edmonds
The Nationals haven't been around as a franchise for long, so that frees us from the constraints of Barry Bonds and his group of happiness thieves. Except it doesn't, because this list actually combines the Expos and the Nationals -- because they are the same franchise -- so Bonds is on the list. But he's ninth (ha!) behind Vernon Wells and…well, a bunch of very good players. Anyway, Edmonds beat up on the Expos and the Nationals, so he's a good choice if you believe in all that fairness crap. He managed .342/.455/.743 against both clubs which, I think you'll agree, is quite good.
Notes: Second on the list -- with a fair chance to move to first when I write this article again in a year -- is Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen is mere percentage points behind Edmonds, though McCutchen will have to improve on a 1.185 OPS against a very good Nationals pitching staff. That'll be tough. I know you can't wait to find out what happens!