Lopsided batter/pitcher match-ups of the 1980s

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 third of a four-part series highlighting match-ups in which pitchers most dominated batters. Today: the five most lopsided match-ups of the 1980s. 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 their median year. 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 single matchup 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.

No. 31. Robin Yount vs. Bert Blyleven (10.2 RC, 114 PAs, 1974-1992)   View match-up

Actual:    6.0 RC | 20-110 | .182/.211/.300 | 0.511 OPS |  4 K,  4 BB, 0 HBP
Expected: 16.2 RC | 29-102 | .288/.350/.430 | 0.780 OPS | 12 K, 10 BB, 1 HBP

As a rookie, Robin Yount said, “If I have to face guys like Bert Blyleven, I don’t think I’m going to make it at this level.” His words proved prophetic, as seen in his stat line. Luckily for Yount, he was allowed to face other pitchers as well; Hall of Fame voters would probably have voted differently if his career stats mirrored the .182 batting average against Blyleven.

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Yount also struggled against NONE.
Blyleven also dominated Alvin Davis (8.6 RC), Sal Bando (8.4 RC), Bill Melton (8.2 RC), Reggie Jackson (8.0 RC), Pat Kelly (8.0 RC), Don Slaught (7.1 RC), Al Bumbry (6.8 RC) and George Brett (6.7 RC).

No. 41. Don Baylor vs. Rick Langford (10.0 RC, 53 PAs, 1977-1986)   View match-up

Actual:  -2.5 RC |  3-51 | .059/.094/.078 | 0.173 OPS | 10 K, 2 BB, 0 HBP
Expected: 7.5 RC | 12-46 | .266/.343/.446 | 0.789 OPS |  5 K, 5 BB, 1 HBP

Don Baylor is No. 4 on the all-time list in career HBP. Perhaps that Rick Langford never plunked him prevented him from feeling comfortable in their match-up. Regardless of the reason, the results were not pretty for Baylor. In the 53 career PAs between these players, Baylor had two hitless streaks of at least 16 PAs.

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Baylor also struggled against Frank Tanana (7.4 RC).
Langford also dominated John Mayberry (7.3 RC).

No. 45. Gary Carter vs. Joaquin Andujar (9.9 RC, 88 PAs, 1977-1985)   View match-up

Actual:    3.9 RC | 12-81 | .148/.207/.259 | 0.466 OPS | 9 K, 4 BB, 2 HBP
Expected: 13.8 RC | 22-78 | .283/.356/.486 | 0.843 OPS | 9 K, 9 BB, 1 HBP

After a career spent terrorizing Gary Carter, Joaquin Andujar certainly didn’t let up in the last year of their rivalry. During the first game of the 1985 season—Carter’s debut as a Met—Andujar drilled him in the elbow with a hard sinker in the first inning. In the third, Andujar struck Carter out looking and in the fourth got him to ground out with two outs and two on. Then, to add to Carter’s miserable day, Andujar stole second off him in the fifth, one of only seven steals in Andujar’s entire 13-year career. Ultimately, Carter had the last laugh that day with a walk-off homer in the 10th.

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Carter also struggled against Rick Reuschel (8.8 RC), Mike Krukow (6.9 RC) and Joe Niekro (6.7 RC).
Andujar also dominated Keith Moreland (6.5 RC) .

No. 60. Brian Downing vs. Scott McGregor (9.5 RC, 85 PAs, 1977-1987)   View match-up

Actual:    3.3 RC | 12-78 | .154/.212/.231 | 0.443 OPS | 2 K,  6 BB, 0 HBP
Expected: 12.8 RC | 19-72 | .272/.374/.441 | 0.815 OPS | 9 K, 11 BB, 1 HBP

Between 1977 and 1987, Brian Downing and Scott McGregor faced off in 27 games. In those games, McGregor’s team had a 19-8 record, likely helped by keeping Downing’s bat in check.

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Downing also struggled against Mike Moore (6.7 RC).
McGregor also dominated Jason Thompson (6.7 RC).

No. 68. Claudell Washington vs. Nolan Ryan (9.1 RC, 102 PAs, 1974-1989)   View match-up

Actual:    4.3 RC | 13-90 | .144/.225/.244 | 0.470 OPS | 39 K, 10 BB, 0 HBP
Expected: 13.5 RC | 26-94 | .278/.327/.424 | 0.751 OPS | 17 K,  7 BB, 1 HBP

Claudell Washington showed decent power (five doubles, two triples) against Nolan Ryan on those rare occurrences when he could actually manage to make contact with the ball. Struggling to do so against Ryan certainly wasn’t unique to Washington, but striking out in 37 percent plate appearances (compared to 17 percent for his career) dug a pretty deep hole that he couldn’t claw his way out of.

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Washington also struggled against NONE.
Ryan also dominated Carlos May (8.6 RC), Chili Davis (8.1 RC), Jorge Orta (7.2 RC) and Thurman Munson (6.6 RC).

Stay tuned for our final article, highlighting the most lopsided match-ups of the 1990s and 2000s.

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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Comments

  1. the Flint Bomber said...

    I know Brian Downing was not a particularly strikeout-prone slugger (12%), but it seems amazing to me that Downing only struck out twice in 85 plate appearances against Scott McGregor and STILL hit so miserably.  That is a lot of weak contact!  The same point could be made for Yount vs. Blyleven.  Blyleven had over 3,700 career K’s, but only four of ’em were against longtime rival Yount…and Bert still owned him!

    I expected to see more Washington/Ryan-type lines, where a hitter’s inability to make contact against a certain pitcher buried his chances of being productive overall against that guy.  But nope.  I guess that’s the ’80’s for you.  Fun stuff!

  2. Chad Evely said...

    I agree. That’s why I find things like this so interesting: I really like discovering these (many times counter-intuitive) little tidbits. As a kid, I’d pore over the box scores generated from my Strat-O-Matic games so now having such a wealth of data available to do the same with actual results is fascinating to me. In related news: I’m kind of a nerd.

    I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the articles. I have the full results (top 500) over on my blog if you really want to delve deeper.

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