Pitchers Who Bested Barry Bonds

I’ve been staring at my computer for hours, trying to figure out a poetic way to summarize Barry Bonds‘ career. In between bouts of writer’s block, I’ve gawked at his career stats so many times that I’ve memorized them: a batting line of .298/.444/.607, 762 home runs, 688 intentional walks, 514 stolen bases, a 158.1 bWAR.

Bonds is undoubtedly one of the game’s most powerful and feared hitters. Over 22 seasons, 1,224 pitchers helped pave his path to Cooperstown, and I can’t help but wonder how many of those received even a modicum of success against his 1.051 OPS and .435 wOBA.

Breaking it down by category, Baseball-Reference gives us a few answers. While hundreds of pitchers meet each criterion, the players mentioned below have the most plate appearances against Barry.

Fewest hits: LHP Chris Peters held Bonds hitless through 14 PA, allowing just two walks over five seasons. Eight other pitchers have notched at least 10 PA without giving up a hit: Giovanni Carrara (13), Derek Lowe (13), Joe Boever (12), Cris Carpenter (12), Mark Wohlers (12), Troy Brohawn (11), Bob Patterson (11), and Horacio Ramirez (10). Brohawn came closest to shutting Bonds down completely, issuing a single walk in his 11 PA against the slugger.

Fewest home runs: RHP Rick Sutcliffe managed 51 PA without surrendering a home run. Bonds nabbed just four extra-base hits in that time, a double for each season from 1986-1989.

Fewest walks: Southpaw Kent Mercker avoided walking Bonds for 41 PA, intentionally or otherwise. It’s a solid 18 more appearances than runner-up Norm Charlton, who finished 23 PA without a walk.

Fewest intentional walks: Although Mercker refused to walk Bonds, lefty Sid Fernandez holds the most appearances without an intentional walk at 80 PA. He also recorded 14 strikeouts, the second-most of Bonds’ 1,224 opponents.

Most strikeouts: This one goes to right-handed starters Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, who each logged 16 strikeouts against Barry. They had the most opportunities, too, with 157 and 108 PA, respectively (excepting Tom Glavine, who struck Bonds out 11 times in 120 PA).

Of course, despite sample-sized successes, this question still begs an answer: Which pitcher put up the best numbers against Bonds?

Only six pitchers saw him at least 80 times: Greg Maddux (157), Tom Glavine (120), John Smoltz (108), Curt Schilling (100), Dennis Martinez (100), and Sid Fernandez (80). Each left their mark on the future Hall of Famer. Maddux faced Bonds over 21 of his 22-year career. Smoltz walked Bonds 28 times. Fernandez denied Bonds an extra-base hit for 6 years and 44 consecutive PA.

Overall, however, Dennis Martinez blows away the competition. Against ‘El Presidente,’ Barry batted .228/.290/.337, earning a .627 OPS, 7 extra bases, 8 walks, 2 intentional walks, and a solo home run. Martinez’s most dominant efforts were showcased in 1987, when Bonds went 14 PA without reaching base.

The most significant category Dennis did not lead this group in was strikeouts, placing last with 8 Ks to 34 groundouts and 26 flyouts—55 of which were handled by his Baltimore, Montreal, and Atlanta compadres.

The Martinez-Bonds match-ups spanned the first decade of Bonds’ career, taking a brief break from 1994-1997 while Dennis tested the waters in the American League. When he returned for a final plate appearance in ’98, it was to hand Bonds one last intentional walk.

Here’s how Bonds fared versus the rest of the 80+ PA pack, with a little help from B-R:

Greg Maddux 157 132 35 3 1 9 19 24 16 .265 .376 .508 .883 0 1 9 0 3
Tom Glavine 120 97 30 6 2 5 16 19 11 .309 .425 .567 .992 0 2 5 2 2
John Smoltz 108 80 22 5 0 9 15 28 16 .275 .463 .675 1.138 0 0 7 0 1
Dennis Martinez 100 92 21 5 1 1 7 8 8 .228 .290 .337 .627 0 0 2 0 0
Curt Schilling 100 80 21 4 1 8 21 19 13 .263 .410 .638 1.048 0 0 8 1 0
Sid Fernandez 80 69 18 2 1 1 8 10 14 .261 .363 .362 .725 0 0 0 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/11/2013.

41 thoughts on “Pitchers Who Bested Barry Bonds

  1. 1
    Dalton Mack says:

    Found it interesting that Schilling, he of the best K/BB ratio in the modern era, would have such a poor ratio against Bonds. I understand that we’re talking about one of the top 3 players of all time, but 0.68 vs. 4.38 is a significant swing.

  2. 2
    Josh says:

    I remembering watching a preseason game during Bonds’ late-career peak. Ray King got him to whiff on three straight pitches. One of the craziest things I’ve ever seen in a game, even preseason.

  3. 3
    Mike L says:

    Sorry to hijack a post, but for some odd reason I find my screen suddenly stalling on the last two HHS posts (and I get the “script” message. I use Firefox, and no other site I use is having this problem. Is there something different in the interface, a different type or number of ads, or maybe just the length of the comments to the two posts? Don’t think it’s my computer nor isp.

  4. 4
    MikeD says:

    I know Sid Fernandez’s motion and release was very difficult for hitters to pick up, helping his K% despite having less-than-stellar velocity. I wonder if Dennis Martinez was similar. Trying to figure if there was anything to explain their success. His OBP and SLG vs. Maddux, Glavine, Schilling and Smoltz, all future HOFers (assuming the BBWAA get their act together again), shows the game’s best couldn’t figure Barry out.

    Also interesting is Sid never gave him an intentional walk, something no others can say. Yet my guess is many of his intentional walks came when Bonds’ hitting went cartoonish, and Fernandez (and Martinez) had retired.

  5. 5
    Mike L says:

    Comment about the post. Are we comparing apples and oranges a little? Fernandez and Martinez faced Bonds earlier in his career. Martinez pitches about 250 innings total after 1995, Fernandez about 212. Bonds wasn’t quite the cartoon figure earlier in his career (just merely great)

    • 7
      Richard Chester says:

      It would be interesting to see the stats broken down into pre-2000 vs. post-1999. It’s easy enough to do with B-R.

      • 8
        Mike L says:

        Bonds through his age 27 year, 1992, his last year with the Pirates: 4255 PA, 176 HR, 576 RBI, and a .273/380/503 slash line with an OPS+ of a mere 147. 15 years afterwards, almost double the plate appearances, 586HR, 1440 RBI, .312/.477/.666 with an OPS+ of 199. His HR and BB rate were at least 80% higher the final 2/3 of his career.

        • 28
          bstar says:

          The differences between the real Bonds and the cartoon version are even more stark:

          pre-2000: .288/.409/.559/.968 163 OPS+
          post-1999: .322/.517/.724/1.241 221 OPS+

      • 22
        seth says:

        During Maddux’s 300th win, they had this graphic about him facing Bonds:

        86-93: 343 Ave, 6 HR, 11 RBI, 10 W, 12 K
        94-3rd inning of 300th win: 204 Ave, 2 Hr, 6 RBI, 12 W, 3 K

        Didn’t have PA/AB for context. Don’t know what, if anything, it means

      • 34
        Ashley says:

        Just looking at the five players with the most PA against Bonds, here are the splits.

        Pre-2000 – http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/DNksf

        The five aforementioned pitchers still led the pack during this time frame.

        Fewest hits: Chris Peters, 13 PA.
        Fewest home runs: Rick Sutcliffe, 51 PA.
        Fewest walks: Kent Mercker, 31 PA.
        Fewest intentional walks: Sid Fernandez, 80 PA.
        Most strikeouts: Sid Fernandez (80 PA), John Smoltz (89 PA), and Greg Maddux (120 PA), 14 SO.

        Post-1999 –
        Maddux: 37 PA, 5 H, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 5 BB, 3 IBB, 2 SO, .161/.270/.258, .528 OPS
        Martinez: N/A
        Glavine: 30 PA, 6 H, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 9 BB, 4 IBB, 0 SO, .300/.500/.550, 1.050 OPS
        Smoltz: 19 PA, 3 H, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 7 BB, 1 IBB, 2 SO, .250/.526/.583, 1.110 OPS
        Fernandez: N/A

        Curt Schilling led the post-1999 group at 50 PA, with 10 H, 2 2B, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 8 BB, 4 IBB, 8 SO, 1.039 OPS.

        Fewest hits: Greg Swindell and Troy Brohawn, 11 PA.
        Fewest home runs: Kerry Wood and Brandon Webb, 25 PA.
        Fewest walks: Terry Adams, 13 PA.
        Fewest intentional walks: Mike Myers, 26 PA.
        Most strikeouts: Randy Wolf, 9 SO in 23 PA.

        Hope that helps!

  6. 6

    Hot damn, Kent Mercker. The 41 BB-free PAs come with a .644 OPS. Remarkable. Or remerckerble, I guess.

  7. 10
    birtelcom says:

    Bonds faced Roger Clemens eight times in his career, over three games (first 10,000 fans to arrive received official MLB syringes). Not one of those eight plate appearances resulted in a ball in play: five walks (three of them intentional), one HBP, two Ks: .000 BA, .000 SLG, .750 OBP.

  8. 11

    Bonds was 3-for-33 lifetime against Chuck McElroy.

  9. 12
    John Autin says:

    Great stuff! I was looking into Bonds vs. Pitchers the other day and noticed Mercker’s amazing record of no walks in 41 PAs.

    Including postseason, the number of pitchers against whom Bonds had:

    At least 1 hit — 834
    At least 1 walk — 865
    At least 1 HR — 454
    At least 1 HR in 10 PAs or less — 191

    7 pitchers faced Bonds at least 5 times and never got him out, led by Guillermo Mota — 9 PAs, 1 HR, 8 walks.

    14 pitchers allowed a HR in the only time they faced Bonds.

    Scott Elarton: 10 PAs, 4 HRs, 1 double, 1 walk

    LHP Pete Schourek: 50 PAs, 7 HRs

    • 17
      Ed says:

      Bonds vs. the immortal Eddie Oropesa: 8PA, 2 HR, 1 2b, 1 single, 4 walks. Of course Oropesa’s career ERA of 7.34 in 92 innings indicates Bonds wasn’t the only one raking against him.

      • 18
        Hartvig says:

        You would think that Bonds would have been all over the Giants to sign him just to pitch batting practice…

  10. 13
    John Autin says:

    Bonds homered against:

    3 with 300+ wins
    16 with 200+ wins
    103 with 100+ wins

    38 who had a 20-win season

    5 with 3000+ strikeouts

    If anyone wants to play with these saved searches:

    – Bonds homered off them:

    – They faced Bonds:

  11. 14

    […] published at High Heat Stats on January 11, […]

  12. 19
    sjhax56 says:

    A quick check on B-R shows that in an 18-year career, Kent Mercker never had one season that would meet the criteria of Ron Shandler’s LIMA Plan (<9H/3BB/1HR per 9 IP). But he threw strikes to Barry Bonds!

  13. 21
    no statistician but says:

    I’d much prefer to see this kind of study done on Ted Williams, George Brett, Lou Gehrig. Hank Aaron, to be honest. The Jekyll and Hyde nature of Bonds’ career skews the numbers in peculiar ways. The four players I’ve mentioned stick in my mind as ones who, in memory, at least, seemed to batter, if you’ll excuse the expression, pretty much everyone when they were on.

    • 32
      Ashley says:

      I used B-R’s Play Index Batter vs. Pitchers tool when researching this post. You could do the same thing for Williams, Brett, Gehrig and Aaron. I’d love to see what you find out!

      • 33
        Richard Chester says:

        I believe those stats are only available from 1946 so that leaves out Gehrig and the early part of Williams’ career.

      • 37
        Richard Chester says:

        Here’s some info on Williams against pitchers with 50 or more PA.

        His 6 best OPS with the corresponding BA:
        Bob Keegan………1.530/.478
        Art Ditmar………1.501/.500
        Bob Turley………1.383/.413
        Jim Bunning……..1.352/.377
        Ned Garver………1.332/.417
        Bob Feller………1.306/.368

        His 3 worst:
        Ted Gray…………718/.250
        Tommy Byrne………753/.238
        Chuck Stobbs……..763/.265

        Most HR: 9 off Bob Feller in 113 PA.
        Fewest HR: 0 off Ted Gray in 55 PA.

        Tommy Byrne had a habit of talking to himself and to opposing batters while pitching so that may have had an upsetting effect on Williams.

        • 38
          Richard Chester says:

          I should have mentioned that those stats are from 1946 to the end of his career. Feller pitched prior to 1946. So did Byrne but only while Williams was in the military.

  14. 29
    Doug says:

    Some other players with 60 WAR since 1950 (min. 25 PA against pitcher incl. post-season).

    Owned OPS Owned By OPS
    Albert Pujols Odalis Perez 2.145 Jason Schmidt 0.470
    Randy Johnson 1.678 Bud Norris 0.519
    Chris Capuano 1.675 Chad Billingsley 0.558
    Willie Mays Danny McDevitt 2.036 Max Surkont 0.296
    Jay Hook 1.750 Hank Fischer 0.406
    Clem Labine 1.482 Dennis Bennett 0.416
    Mickey Mantle Art Ditmar 1.641 Luis Tiant 0.311
    Hank Aguirre 1.461 Joe Sparma 0.441
    Pete Burnside 1.400 Saul Rogovin 0.442
    Hank Aaron Don Gullett 1.929 Jim Brosnan 0.338
    John Tsitouris 1.454 Bob Bruce 0.425
    Larry Sherry 1.451 Al McBean 0.477
    Wade Boggs Jim Slaton 1.359 Matt Young 0.287
    Rich Yett 1.244 Jesse Orosco 0.410
    Walt Terrell 1.169 Scott Sanderson 0.487
    Eddie Mathews Turk Lown 1.716 Joe Gibbon 0.352
    Moe Drabowsky 1.656 Jim Bunning 0.451
    Marv Grissom 1.595 Ken Johnson 0.482
    Mike Schmidt Fred Norman 1.655 Tim Leary 0.315
    Dick Tidrow 1.582 Eric Show 0.414
    Don Gullett 1.573 J.R. Richard 0.434
    Ken Griffey Mark Gubicza 1.560 Omar Olivares 0.336
    Kip Wells 1.516 Mike Boddicker 0.362
    Scott Eyre 1.407 Tony Fossas 0.410
    Alex Rodriguez Livan Hernandez 1.980 Joel Pineiro 0.344
    Kenny Rogers 1.878 C.J. Wilson 0.457
    Jeff Suppan 1.594 Ryan Franklin 0.500
    Frank Robinson Larry Sherry 1.910 Don McMahon 0.395
    Bucky Brandon 1.649 Jim McGlothlin 0.421
    Terry Forster 1.448 Pete Richert 0.432
    Rickey Henderson Mike Morgan 1.344 Luis Leal 0.369
    Rick Sutcliffe 1.287 Tom Glavine 0.422
    Jimmy Key 1.282 Dennis Eckersley 0.438
    Jeff Bagwell Omar Daal 1.564 Scott Sullivan 0.194
    Jeff Brantley 1.386 Doug Davis 0.298
    Bobby Jones 1.379 Rick Reed 0.408
    • 31
      John Autin says:

      Nice work, Doug.

      Boggs vs. Matt Young caught my eye: 2 hits in 25 ABs, one an infield hit. Boggs only got the ball out of the infield twice — a line single and a lineout to LF. The rest were 17 groundouts (5 to Young), 1 infield single, and 5 strikeouts.

      That all happened from 1983-90, when Boggs hit a combined .346. He did have some trouble with lefties, though.

      • 35
        Doug says:

        Jeff Bagwell vs Scott Sullivan is another head-scratcher. 0 for 24 with 6 walks and a sac fly.

        Also Willie May vs Max Surkont (3 for 32). Includes a double and 3 walks in Mays’ rookie season, when he faced Surkont 16 times.

  15. 30
    AlvaroEspinoza says:

    1 PA, 1K vs. Mariano Rivera. Wish I got to see that AB.

    • 36
      Doug says:

      It was an interesting game.

      Game was tied 3-3 after 8, on 3-run homers by Bonds (1st inning) and Nick Johnson (2nd inning).

      Bonds’ strikeout came on a 2-2 pitch in the 9th with one out and a runner on first. The winning run scored when the next two hitters reached:
      – on a “pop fly into short CF-RF”. Don’t know if that was a case of finding no-man’s land or possibly “after you, Alphonse” (or Alfonso).
      – a booted grounder by second baseman Alfonso Soriano


    • 39
      mosc says:

      Left handed power bats in the steroids era vs Rivera is not a pretty line. He dominated those guys more than anything else.

  16. 40
    mosc says:

    Anybody got a good way to look at the leverage for WPA on, say, bonds 9th inning really meaningful at bats and look at his line there? I think by the later years, people rarely even went after him.

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