A few weeks ago I wrote about the best hitters against each team. The concept is the same here, only different. Certain pitchers, for a whole host of reasons, have had better results against certain teams. Certain pitchers go further still and outright own some teams. Beyond even that, every team seems to have one pitcher (and if you're the Mets, maybe more than one!) who has dominated them over his career. This article is about that one pitcher, the one who has pitched better than anyone else, against one team.
These selections cover entire franchise histories, meaning that, for example, the Boston and Milwaukee Braves are included in the Atlanta Braves' history. As in life, we have to set limits. We're sticking with pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched against the team in question, and we're focusing mostly on ERA as a measure of domination.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Brad Penny
The Diamondbacks have been dominated by many a quality pitcher in their time. When it comes to getting their butts kicked, they have impeccable taste. Tim Hudson, Adam Wainwright, Roy Oswalt, Kevin Brown, Clayton Kershaw and Tom Glavine have all had their way with the teal and gold or mauve and maroon, or whatever their team colors are this season. At the top of the list, free and clear from the game's greats in more ways than just one, sits Brad Penny. Penny faced Arizona repeatedly over 12 seasons as a member of the Marlins, Dodgers, Cardinals, Tigers and Giants. Making it all the more dreadful, Penny's 1.97 ERA against Arizona was compiled while he posted a 4.26 ERA overall during the same time period. The irony is that Penny was drafted by the Diamondbacks and then dealt to Florida for Matt Mantei, reminding us yet again that the best deals are often those we don't make.
Notes: Second place belongs to Kevin Brown, who also dominated the D-backs for the Padres and Dodgers from 1998 to 2003. He's followed by Kershaw, whose 2.61 ERA against Arizona is 0.01 lower than his ERA against everyone else. So much for being special.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Whit Wyatt
As an older franchise, you might think the Braves would be beaten better and more often by a bigger name, but the name John Whitlow Wyatt was as big as the Braves would get. It's been almost 70 years since Wyatt tortured the Braves, and the organization has fled from Boston to Milwaukee and then Atlanta without seeing the likes of Wyatt again. Oddly, Wyatt was a mediocre pitcher from 1929 through 1937 in the American League with the Tigers, White Sox and Indians, meaning he never faced the Braves. He was so mediocre that he ended up spending the 1938 season in the minors. Having pitched well there, he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers at right about the time America's involvement in World War II was ramping up. Wyatt stayed with Brooklyn through the war, a peroid when the quality of competition dropped across the league due to many of the best players being away serving their country. Wyatt either took advantage of that or used his new-found slider to transform from a 12 percent below-average pitcher to a 24 percent above-average pitcher (by ERA). It was the lucky, lucky Braves that took a portion (219.2 innings of 1.60 ERA ball to be exact) of that on the chin.
Notes: Second on the list was Al Demaree, a pitcher for the Giants, Phillies, Cubs and Braves in the teens, but more interestingly, third belongs to Andy Messersmith. Along with pitcher Dave McNally, Messersmith's lawsuit effectively ended baseball's reserve clause, which bound players to their teams regardless of contract for their career. After beating up on them with the Dodgers, Messersmith joined the Braves in 1976 and '77, no doubt signed as a defense mechanism by the Braves front office.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Connie Marrero
Look, I was hoping as much as you were to see some interesting names here. How about Babe Ruth (fifth) or Rollie Fingers (eleventh) or Walter Johnson (sixteenth) for crying out loud? But no. We get Connie Marrero. Fine. Whatever. [cracks fingers] Let's do this.
Marrero was a Cuban pitcher for the Washington Senators (version 1.0). Really, he was "El Duque" before Orlando Hernandez was El Duque. Marrero joined the Senators (best motto ever: "First in war, first in peace, last in the American League.") in 1950 and immediately took it to the then-St. Louis Browns, posting a 1.71 ERA in 21 innings. Things only got worse from there for the not-yet-Orioles, as Marrero ended his career with a 1.50 ERA in 101.2 innings against St. Louis/Baltimore. Even when he was 43 years old in 1952 and just about finished (with a 4.75 ERA overall that season), Marrero went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 12 innings against finally-Baltimore. Marrero died this past April at the age of 102. Not so much as a card from Baltimore.
Notes: A member of the infamous Chicago Black Sox, Eddie Cicotte was second with a 1.89 ERA against the St. Louis Browns, compiled in the teens. The pitcher with the best ERA against the Orioles specifically was Tom Burgmeier, who pitched for 17 years for a bunch of teams, but mostly Kansas City, Minnesota and Boston. For someone you've never heard of, Burgmeier was a surprisingly good pitcher (career 119 ERA+), but he had by far his most success against the Orioles. As for active pitchers, you won't find anyone until David Price at number 56 on the list (career 2.82 ERA against Baltimore) and then not again until Jon Lester at number 70 (2.92 ERA), though that's likely a function of the era of big offense we're just exiting.
Boston Red Sox
Best Opposing Pitcher: Reb Russell
Often the best pitcher on these lists happened to pitch against the franchise during a down period. This makes sense as there are two sides to the batter-pitcher relationship, and nothing makes a pitcher look better than a lousy batter. Not so with Reb Russell. Russell faced the Red Sox during a stretch when they were winning three World Series in four seasons, a feat unmatched in organizational history. Didn't stop Reb, though. He held the Red Sox to a 1.51 ERA in 227 innings, the best by a fair bit.
Notes: Even so, Walter Johnson should probably be at the top of the list. I'm sorting by ERA, which is why Russell has the top spot and Johnson's ERA is 0.66 higher than Russell's. But here's the thing: Johnson did his in 340 more innings, a number which, judging from the time, was probably achieved in an afternoon.
As this is a list of players pitching their best in small sample sizes, you don't often run across a pitcher who pitched worse against the team in question than he did against the whole of the league. Mariano Rivera, the amazing relief pitcher for the Yankees, accomplished that feat (among many others) by holding the Red Sox to 40 earned runs in 126 innings (with 120 strikeouts). That's a 2.86 ERA against a strong offensive team in a high offense era, good for the 36th best pitcher against the Red Sox in history. Quite good, in other words, but at the same time Rivera posted a 2.21 ERA against the league over the same time period. The Red Sox were slightly less grist for the mill than most, something that speaks well for the team, but considering the numbers and the era, for the future Hall of Fame pitcher as well.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Randy Johnson
Randy Johnson doesn't have the lowest ERA against the Cubs, but ERA isn't everything. Johnson is hiding out at the not-so-lowly position of fourth, so he's not chopped dog meat either. The Big Unit and Rick Reuschel (who also pitched for the Cubs) are the two who could reasonably be put in the top spot based on competition, and the baseball-y-ness of baseball at the time, so let's compare. Johnson threw 103.2 innings against the Cubs, while Reuschel compiled 130.1. Advantage: Reuschel. Reuschel had a 1.66 Cubs ERA, while Johnson's was higher at 1.91. Advantage: Reuschel. But Johnson struck out 143 Cubs in those 103.2 innings, while Reuschel K'd just 75 in his greater innings total. That's enough for me. Johnson was typically a dominating presence on the mound, but he was even more so against the Northsiders. Poor Rick Reuschel. So close.
Notes: Frank Allen has the lowest ERA against the Cubs (1.02 in 106.1 innings) but he played in a different era. As evidence I will cite the teams for which he played, among which are included the Brooklyn Suberbas, the Robins (actually the same team as the Superbas), the Rebels and Braves (Boston version). To Allen's credit, it didn't matter which arcane uniform he was wearing when it came to dominating the Cubs, but it matters to us, which is why he's under the Notes section instead of the Best Pitcher section.
Also on the list, at 12th, is Andy Messersmith (2.28 Cubs ERA). This may become a theme.
Chicago White Sox
Best Opposing Pitcher: Dave Stieb
Joe Boehling has the best ERA in 100 or more innings against the White Sox, 1.72 in 115 innings. But three things: (1) He did it in the pre-Babe-Ruth-as-hitter low offensive era of the teens (i.e. it was much easier to keep runs off the board then). (2) he did it in fewer than half the innings Stieb put his 1.92 ERA together in. (3) I like Dave Stieb better. You just can't deny a bushy mustache like his when he's already this close to the finish line. Stieb also went 21-5 against the White Sox in his career, for those who place stock in pitcher wins. That's pretty good for a guy whose upper lip was weighted down to such an extent.
Notes: There's some irony, though perhaps it's Alanis Morissette-style irony, in the fact that Whitey Ford dominated the White Sox. Clearly Ford was supposed to have played for Chicago in the same way U.L. Washington was denied playing for the Nationals and Red Schoendienst was supposed to play for the Reds. Clearly something must have happened, a tear in the space-time continuum perhaps, and Ford was thrown to the Yankees, setting the White Sox up for 526 innings of hardly scoring any runs. Thanks, universe. Thanks a ton.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Ron Perranoski
Perranoski was a relief pitcher in the 1960s and 1970s for the Dodgers, Twins, Tigers and Angels. Despite the at-the-time handicap of relieving, Perranoski was, for the time, dominating, and especially so against the Reds, whom he faced 70 times. His timing was good as he caught them just before the Big Red Machine got rolling, but even so his 1.71 ERA in 131.1 innings would probably have played even a few years later.
Notes: Second on the list is Nate Andrews, a starter who had two particularly strong seasons for the Boston Braves during World War II, and managed to chop the Reds up in the process. Further down the list (ninth) you get Jim Brewer and Hall of Famers Dizzy Dean, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Christy Mathewson. who spent their careers dominating everyone. In fact, despite being the twelfth-best pitcher against the Reds in baseball history, Mathewson's Reds ERA (2.27) was actually higher than his career ERA (2.13). That's silly. is what that is.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Jim Scott
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Jim Scott is that he was born in Deadwood, S.D., in 1888. That's two years after the death (also in Deadwood) of Wild Bill Hickok, which is like being born on a set just after the filming of a movie. As for baseball, Scott pitched his whole career for the Chicago White Sox and was pretty good, or in numerical terms, he posted a career ERA 21 percent above average. Against the Indians he did a bit better than that, putting up a 1.11 ERA in 145 innings (despite going 8-9).
Notes: Second on the list is Hoyt Wilhelm and his 1.44 Indians ERA. Fourth on the list is Pedro Martinez and his 1.77 ERA. Martinez went 11-1 against the Indians in his career and in his one loss, suffered in 2000, he went eight innings, giving up one run while striking out nine and walking one. Pedro, man. Pedro.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Randy Johnson
As Fugazi would say, Repeater! It's Johnson again, this time against the franchise that was hardest to pitch well against, because for much of their history, infield pop-ups went for three run homers (whether there were men on base or not). Johnson's 2.47 is the only ERA below 2.50 that anyone has ever posted against Colorado in 100 innings or more. He and Tom Glavine are the only two pitchers to get below under 3.00. and Glavine just barely did it with a 2.97 ERA.
Notes: The Rockies list is pretty amazing for lots of reasons, but one notable one is simply that pitching to your career ERA against Colorado makes you one of the best ever. That's more or less what Kevin Brown, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, John Smoltz and Jason Schmidt did to make the top 10. Pitching in Colorado isn't hard. Pitching well in Colorado is damned near impossible.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Rube Foster
The only pitcher in history to pitch at least 100 innings against the Tigers with an ERA under 2.00 is Rube Foster. Of course, it helps that Foster gave up 16 unearned runs to go with his 24 earned runs. Unearned runs used to be much more common than they are today (not that they're that uncommon today), but the best pitchers either strike the batter out or keep the contact weak, thereby giving their fielders the best possible chance to make an out on a batted ball. Foster didn't quite do that, yet by ERA, he's at the top of the list. If we were to throw that out the window though (for now), who else would we pick?
Best Opposing Pitcher (2.0): Roy Halladay
There are a couple good options (Jim Bibby, a pitcher for the Rangers and Indians in the '70s is right there), but Halladay managed an ERA of 2.19, just under a third of a run above Foster's Tigers ERA with more strikeouts, fewer walks, and one supposes, weaker contact, because, come on, this is Roy Halladay. Fun fact: Halladay was better against the Pirates, Blue Jays, Astros, Rockies and Dodgers than he was against Detroit, but if you're looking at 100+ innings (and we are) Halladay was at his best against the Tigers.
Notes: Ninth on the list of best pitchers against the Tigers is Babe Ruth who, it turns out, was pretty good on the mound before he was inexplicably moved to the outfield.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Joe Gibbon
These are my favorite kinds of pitchers to lead these lists. Gibbon was a league-average pitcher who moved to relief as his career went on. In other words, even with the help of pitching out of the bullpen (a move which generally improves pitchers ERAs) he was still only league average. Gibbon was fine and had a fine career, but he shouldn't be the best at anything, except he is the best pitcher against the Houston Astros. His 1.24 ERA and 7-1 record made him look the ace rather than the mediocre innings-eater he was.
Notes: Adam Wainwright is second on this list with a 1.57 ERA, subject to change of course as he's still active, and fourth on the list is Sandy Koufax. Koufax put up a 1.90 ERA against the Astros while putting up a 1.95 ERA against the league during the same time period. So he was pretty good, and further down the list at number 18 we fine Andy Messersmith. I thought you'd want to know.
Kansas City Royals
Best Opposing Pitcher: Roger Clemens
The Rocket struck out 276 Royals in 301.1 career innings against them. He was 25-7 in his career versus Kansas City. Clemens dominated a lot of teams, but it makes sense that he dominated the Royals more than anyone, because he was very good during his career, and the Royals were very, very not.
Notes: You could also make a case for Teddy Higuera, who had a better ERA by 0.23, but in 200 fewer innings. The most innings ever thrown against the Royals were thrown by Bert Blyleven who pitched 503, 150 more than second-place Mark Buehrle. Despite having to pitch a lot and thus not getting the benefit of the gods of small sample size, Blyleven has the fifth-best ERA against the Royals ever, which, sure, is kinda like finishing fifth in the Peoria hot dog eating contest, but we take our victories where they come in life.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Best Opposing Pitcher: Hoyt Wilhelm
You just don't find a whole lot of kids named Hoyt anymore. Listen up, expecting parents! It's time to bring this one back. Hoyt is a perfectly wonderful name, and what's more, you can say your little bundle of [makes unnecessary finger quotes] "joy" got his (or her!) moniker from the best pitcher against the Angels ever in the history of the Angels. Wilhelm held the Angels to 16 earned runs, and actually that brings up an interesting point: The answer to this question might not be Wilhelm. So, let's try this again.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Pedro Martinez
Martinez doesn't have the best ERA against the Angels (that's Wilhelm), but he pitched against them during one of the highest runs-scoring periods the game has ever seen. It doesn't hurt that he struck out 114 in those 100.1 innings while walking just 24.
Notes: You could make a case for Blyleven, who threw 389.2 innings against the Angels with a 2.45 ERA, based on quantity with a slight degradation in quality over Pedro. If you were to make that case though, you'd be better off making it for Jim Kaat, who threw the most innings of anyone against the Angels, 424.1, about two seasons worth. That's a lot of time sitting in Southern California traffic, though he made them count with a 2.45 ERA.
Also good against the Angels were Bob Locker and Wes Stock. Sadly Phil Barrel never made it to the majors because he's not a real person, thus denying me an easy joke which, as you can see, I've made anyway.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Best Opposing Pitcher: Hod Eller
Hod Eller was not just the best pitcher against the Dodgers ever, he was the originator of wearing your baseball cap at a jaunty angle (as seen here). Nothing wrong with a little pizzazz from time to time, right? But more to the point, Eller's 1.28 ERA in 155 innings against the Dodgers was so much lower than second-place Jon Matlack's 1.81, I had to go with the really old guy, even though they may have been playing with rolled up socks instead of baseballs at that point, I'm really not sure. Eller struck out 53 while walking 33 and giving up 12 unearned runs as well, so again with this unearned run business. Even so, I'm going with Eller here, partly because of the cap thing and partly because his first name is Hod, which is totally sound reasoning what?
Notes: If you're looking for a leader who played more baseball-y baseball (rather than rock hit with a wet newspaper baseball), you might look to J.R. Richard. Richard put up a 1.86 ERA in 208.1 innings for the Houston Astros. During those innings he struck out [uses calculator], well, basically everyone. Also quite good against the Dodgers was Hippo Vaughn, who was probably a great pitcher, but I can't get past his first name to actually check. Hippo. Turns out his real name was Hipponelius. Okay, it was really James, but that's much less funny.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Denny Neagle
Nobody has ever dominated the Marlins like Denny Neagle. Though John Smoltz came close. And Greg Maddux came close too. OK. Oh, and Tim Hudson. Also Pedro Martinez while we're at it. Fine. The Marlins have been dominated by lots and lots of pitchers, but by a slim margin, Denny Neagle was the best. The pitcher who will forever be known by the free agent contract he signed with the Rockies was actually a good pitcher before… you know, the Rockies thing. During that time he took it to the Marlins with a 2.66 ERA in 122 innings. Pretty good for facing them in Colorado occasionally.
Notes: Other than Neagle, the top of the Marlins list reads like a who's-who of the best pitchers in the National League over the last 20 seasons. Which it should, I suppose, though there aren't any Hod Ellers which is a bit disappointing. The closest we can come is probably Russ Ortiz at number eight (3.54 ERA) or Kyle Kendrick at 11 (3.75 ERA). There are only four pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs (again, with at least 100 innings pitched) and only 15 with sub-4.00 ERAs, one of whom is Steve Trachsel, who is as close as we'll get to Andy Messersmith, I'm afraid.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Roger Clemens
Another repeater. That's two for Clemens, who adds the Brewers to his stable of teams he crushed in his long career. An ERA of 2.17 and 291 strikeouts over 228 innings, is worthy of being the best against someone, and it was frankly kind of the Brewers to volunteer for the job.
Notes: Adam Wainwright's Brewers ERA is 0.07 lower than Clemens' but it came in a smidge more than half the innings. Still, Wainwright's performance is inning-for-inning as good as Clemens' which, whenever a pitcher is as good as Roger Clemens in any pitching category or subset of a pitching category, or subset of a subset of a pitching category, speaks very highly of them. Unsurprisingly, the pitcher to throw the most innings against the Brewers was Bert Blyleven, who threw the most innings against everyone ever, so we'll just assume that going forward and dispense with any more mention of it.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Jim Scott
Now we come to the portion of our article when we're turning the TV on again and seeing that same damn episode of Saved By The Bell that we saw like six months ago and we hate that show. But there it/he is again, Jim Scott, standing tall against the Twins who weren't the Twins at the time and, as has been previously noted, were pitching dirt clods to players who were hitting them with different larger dirt clods. So it wasn't the same game, but Scott was still good so there he is. I can't say no to old people, OK?
Notes: Also on the list are Babe Ruth, just 0.06 points of ERA behind Scott, and Spud Chandler, who was named Spud. Felix Hernandez is the highest ranking active pitcher and you could make a case for him for the top spot, as his 2.08 ERA is about as good ,and he's struck out 101 actual baseball players rather than 45 part time shoe repairman or dirt clod swingers or whatever they were back then.
New York Mets
Best Opposing Pitcher: Sandy Koufax
Finally. One of the games all-time greats dominated one of the game's all-time teams like only an all-time great (or Jim Scott) can. We'll ignore that Koufax faced the Mets from 1962-66 when they were the Casey Stengal-Marvelous Marv Throneberry trip-over-your-own-feet-and-fart-loudly Mets, as opposed to, say, a semi-competent major league team. But at least for Koufax, domination was domination, so we'll credit his domination which was dominating domination, as has been noted in this sentence. Koufax struck out 173 Mets in 162 innings, though we must admit there's a fair chance that at least half of them mistakenly showed up at the plate without a bat. Not that it would've helped much anyway.
Notes: Second on the list is your friend and my friend Bob Friend, who put up a 1.61 ERA in 145 Mets-oriented innings. Further down at 11 you get future Met Pedro Martinez, who in a very Metsian way dominated the team he later joined at the tail end of his career so he could make money. Thanks, Mets!
New York Yankees
Best Opposing Pitcher: Hoyt Wilhelm
There are lower ERAs than Wilhelm's against the Yankees (Harry Coveleski and Rube Foster are first and second on the list) but again with the throwing of the dirt clods, so we're going with Wilhelm here. Plus, Wilhelm faced the Yankees in the late 1950s and 1960s when they were mostly quite good, though the team declined as the 1960s progressed. So quality of competition maybe wasn't quite as high as it would've been at other times, but still 209 innings of 1.98 ERA ball isn't anything to sneeze at, even if it comes against the Hillsboro Hops. That it came against the New York Yankees makes it more legitimate though.
Notes: In my previous piece about the best hitters against every team, it was noted prominently that the best hitter against the Boston Red Sox was Babe Ruth. That created a bit of a stir. The former Red Sox pitcher -- widely held to be the greatest player in baseball history, whom the Red Sox essentially handed to the Yankees for nothing, ushering in almost a century of New York greatness and a corresponding almost-century of Boston futility -- was also the single greatest thorn in the Red Sox side. Now we come to the other side, and we see that not only did the Red Sox create their biggest problem when they sold Ruth, but they also gave up their best solution to the Yankees. Ruth seriously was the gift that kept on giving.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Carl Mays
Pitcher wins are archaic, but so is Carl Mays, so I'll note that Mays went 35-3 against the then-Philadelphia A's between 1915 and 1923. Can you imagine such dominance? It's silly. Mays put up a 1.88 ERA in those 344 innings as well, which also is silly to imagine. It was a different time, a different era, and different things were the norm. It should probably be mentioned that, great as he was, Mays will forever be remembered as the only person to kill another player during a game. He hit Ray Chapman in the head with a fastball (fastclod?) in the time before batting helmets. Chapman would be taken to the hospital for surgery after the pitch fractured his skull. He didn't survive.
Notes: Bert Gallia put up the actual lowest ERA against the A's of 1.68, but it was in about half the innings that Mays threw. Since the A's moved to Oakland in 1968, the best pitcher against them has been Ervin Santana. Santana has put up a 2.12 ERA in 178 innings. Also on the list, Eddie Cicotte (ninth), Jim Scott (19th) and Babe Ruth (25th). It's almost like if you're good you're good.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Whit Wyatt
You remember Wyatt from his supremacy of the Braves, but it turns out he was even (marginally) better against the Phillies. His 1.54 ERA is the lowest of anyone with 100 or more innings against the Phillies, and he's one of only nine pitchers to put up a sub-2.00 ERA against the Phils.
Notes: Coming in after that are probably-shouldn't-be-Hall-of-Famer Bruce Sutter, should-be-and-is-Hall-of-Famer Steve Carlton, and John Tudor who was kind of tall. Carlton, you'll recall, pitched most of his career with the Phillies, but he came up with the Cardinals and was dealt to Philadelphia at the age of 26 in the biggest reverse lock deal of all time. It was a deal that proved the Cardinals don't always make the right moves and the Phillies don't always make huge painful mistakes. It just seems like it.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Hippo Vaughn or maybe Tommy John
Vaughn threw 333.2 innings of 1.67 ERA ball against the Pirates, thieving (if you will) a record of 26-10 from them. It's the lowest ERA of any pitcher (100 inning requirement met) but if you're looking for a more modern pitcher, Tommy John might be the answer. John pitched against the Pirates between 1972 and 1978 while with the Dodgers. His 1.80 ERA makes him one of five with a sub-2.00 ERA against Pittsburgh and the fact that it came in exactly 100 innings means I have to tell you it came in exactly 100 innings because neat-o!
Notes: Johnny Cueto's name isn't spelled with a Q, though I keep trying. Whether or not it's spelled with eight Xs and two Zs or not, Cueto (or QXXXXXXXXZZeto as I call him) is one of the best against the Pirates. He's got the lowest ERA of any active pitcher against the Pirates at 2.18, along with 139 strikeouts in 157 innings so maybe I should be spelling his name KKKKKKKto.
San Diego Padres
Best Opposing Pitcher: Gaylord Perry
There are many funny things about Gaylord Perry. He was the Pen and Teller of pitching, for one. He could use an electric sander to the mound to scuff up the baseball and then when the umpires went to check him it would be gone, extension cord and all. It was probably much like the scene out of The Naked Gun when Frank Drebin is pretending to be an umpire and goes to the mound to check out the pitcher (Dave Spewak, and I didn't even have to look that up). Drebin is rooting through this carpenter's toolbox of stuff without really noticing any of it. That's Gaylord Perry. Thing is, Perry knew what to do with that stuff. He could make a scuffed ball dance like a ballerina from the Russian Ballet company and nobody wants to hit a Russian ballerina with a baseball bat so it worked. As for baseball numbers, Perry put up a 1.73 ERA in 156.1 innings against San Diego, though had he not been able to make use of the deck stripper and the body butter who knows how things would've gone.
Notes: To paraphrase Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick from the Big Show back in the day, Andy Messersmith finished fifth.
San Francisco Giants
Best Opposing Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw
Normally I'd give you some old dead guy who threw pebbles past blind men and then went home to find out that to his shock the Titanic had sunk. Then I'd search down the list to try to find someone you've heard of, and maybe I'd find someone like Russ Ortiz who you kinda sorta know but in actuality probably wouldn't notice if he came up to you and said, "Hello, I'm Russ Ortiz." This time, though, we're lucky. This time though we get Clayton Kershaw. It's fitting that Kershaw, one of the greatest pitchers of our time if not the greatest, has feasted upon the carcass of his team's bitterest rival, the San Francisco Giants. Remember that we've just spent the last decade in one of the better eras for hitting in baseball history when I tell you that Kershaw has posted a 1.48 ERA against the Giants in 164 innings with 164 strikeouts because we all like symmetry. Thanks, Clayton Kershaw!
Notes: Kent Tekulve comes in second with an ERA 0.02 behind Kershaw, but he's Kent Tekulve and he's 106 Ks behind Kershaw and so it's not happening. Sorry Kent Tekulve.
Andy Messersmith finished 26th.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Pedro Martinez
Who is the only player with a sub-2.00 ERA against the Mariners? Don't peek! Oh, you peeked. It's Pedro Martinez. His ERA is more than half a run better than second place Matt Harrison (Matt Harrison?), and in a similar number of innings Pedro struck out twice as many batters. So Pedro is better than Matt Harrison, is the point I appear to be making, but Pedro was also better against the Mariners, which is a thing we're talking about now. Pedro was 13-1 against the team with no discernable nickname in his career, and that brings back memories of the Indians above. It's almost as if Pedro loses to each team once just so they won't feel so bad.
Notes: Rounding out the top three is Tommy John... the pitcher, not the amazing ligament replacement surgery.
St. Louis Cardinals
Best Opposing Pitcher: Lefty Tyler
Tyler threw 192 innings against the Cardinals in his career, which ran from 1910-1921. But a full fifth of the runs he gave up were unearned, presumably because, at the time, baseball was played on fields of rocks by players who ran and fielded like they belonged in fields of rocks. So we'll move on to…
Best Opposing Pitcher (2.0): Dennis Martinez
Martinez had quite the kempt mustache, so he deserves recognition on that alone. But in terms of actual pitching, Martinez was quite good when it came to the Cardinals. He spent most of his career in Baltimore, but a fair bit came in Montreal as well, and he dispensed with the Cardinals from that geographic locale. His 2.18 ERA against the Cardinals ranks third all time, a quarter of a run behind Tyler, but a stat composed in an era when real baseballs were used against real baseball hitters. It was glorious. Except for the Cardinals, who probably hated it.
Notes: Gary Gentry started for the Mets, so you'd think that right there would disqualify him from one of these lists, but apparently not. Statistics have a way of ignoring things like garish orange letters on blue hats. Silly I know, but we'll go with it. Gentry's 2.04 ERA in 101.1 innings puts him second on the list or third if you bump Martinez to first like I did so, yes, third.
Tampa Bay Rays
Best Opposing Pitcher: Mariano Rivera
You knew the Great Rivera was going to be atop one of these lists. And here he is. During his time with the Yankees, Rivera faced the Rays an astonishing 103 times. He gave up 20 earned runs in those 106 innings while striking out 113 for an ERA of 1.69. The Rays are happiest of anyone he finally retired.
Notes: However, a case could be made and submitted to the judge that it should be Pedro Martinez in that top spot. Martinez put up a 1.99 ERA against the Rays, a third of a run higher than Rivera, but in 30 more innings and with 60 (!) more strikeouts. That's right, Pedro Martinez, a starter, struck out 172 Rays in 135.2 innings in his career. That's just… Wow. Pedro. So I leave it to you the reader whom to mentally put at the top spot against the Rays when you memorize this list, which I know you're totally doing.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Dick Hall
The neat thing about the Rangers is they didn't come into existence until 1972 (they spent their first decade as the Senators) so there is no Whit Wyatt or Lefty Tyler here. Instead, we get the 1960's version of Wyatt in Dick Hall, a pitcher for the Orioles, Pirates, Phillies and A's. The neat thing about Hall is that he wasn't just a pitcher. Early in his career, he played some outfield as well. Judging from his hitting numbers he must have played some incredible defense. Hall ended his career with an ERA 11 percent above average, as you'd expect from being placed in such an exalted position as here on this list. But Hall was even better against the "Rangers," against whom he put up a disgusting 1.21 ERA from 1961 through 1971. It's to the point where you're not even allowed to shout the name Dick in the stands of Globe Life Park (formerly The Ballpark in Arlington). Seriously, if they hear you yell "Dick!" they'll throw you out!
Notes: The second-best pitcher ever against the Rangers was Moe Drabowsky. Drabowsky is probably better known for the pranks he pulled than the pitches he threw. I wrote about Drabowsky in this space a few months back. Here's part of what I wrote then:
Perhaps the most famous example came when he was playing against the Kansas City A's in Kansas City. Having played for the A's, Drabowsky knew the intricacies of the stadium's bullpen phone system. He also knew the number for the home team's bullpen. So one day, while A's starter Jim Nash was pitching a dominant shutout, Drabowsky, seated in the opposing bullpen, summoned his gruffest manager voice, grabbed the bullpen phone and called the A's pen. "Get Krausse up!" he bellowed, and slammed the phone down. "You should've seen them scramble, trying to get Lew Krausse warmed up in a hurry," Drabowsky said later.
Toronto Blue Jays
Best Opposing Pitcher: Alex Fernandez
There was a time when Alex Fernandez was an amazing young pitcher. Then he was just a pitcher. Then he wasn't even that anymore. Still, the White Sox starter never looked less than amazing against the Blue Jays. Fernandez posted a 1.80 ERA against the Jays in 18 starts against them. Interestingly enough, he only went 5-5 during those starts which probably says more in the way of not nice things about his White Sox teammates than anything else.
Notes: Literally just behind him was Mariano Rivera, whose 1.81 ERA came in 94 games but 26 fewer innings. Dennis Martinez (2.35) and David Price (2.45) round out the top four.
Best Opposing Pitcher: Jose Rijo
Like Hall and the Rangers, the best pitcher against the Nationals never faced the Nationals. That's just one of those fun little things that baseball gives us. Jose Rijo ran the Nationals ragged before they were the Nationals, back when they were the Montreal Expos. It probably didn't matter much to Rijo though, who shut whoever those guys were down with a 1.60 ERA in 106.2 innings pitched.
Notes: Just behind Rijo is a pitcher who faced the Nationals as recently as last season, in Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez has a 1.98 ERA against the Nationals, a team he faced more frequently when he was with the Marlins in the National League East. Perhaps the Tigers should have considered that by signing him to a free agent contract as they did, they were denying him his biggest mark. Or perhaps this is all a random grouping of happy accidents, chopped up for fun. Either way, really.