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:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
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.

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41 Comments on "Pitchers Who Bested Barry Bonds"

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Dalton Mack
Editor

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.

Jeff Hill
Guest

That’s one of many reasons why Schilling hates Bonds, couldn’t get him out.

Josh
Guest

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.

Mike L
Guest

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.

MikeD
Guest

Nothing on my end, Mike, although not on Firefox. Checked it in IE and Chrome, and both fine.

Ed
Guest

Hmmm…I did have some problems with the site last night but I thought it was a general internet issue and not something specific to HHS. But maybe I was wrong.

donburgh
Guest

I’m having the same problem with Firefox right now, so it’s not just you.

Mike L
Guest

I switched to Safari for HHS and that seems to have worked. But Firefox is a no go.

bstar
Guest

I’ve had problems in the past but Firefox is currently working for me.

MikeD
Guest
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… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

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)

Richard Chester
Guest

Ashley:
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.

Mike L
Guest

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.

bstar
Guest

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+

seth
Guest

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

Adam Darowski
Guest

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

birtelcom
Editor

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.

Ed
Guest

Were those syringes personally autographed by Bud Selig and Donald Fehr?

Graham Womack
Guest

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

John Autin
Editor
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:… Read more »
Ed
Guest

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.

Hartvig
Guest

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

John Autin
Editor

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:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/share.cgi?id=JpCzW

– They faced Bonds:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/share.cgi?id=jUiNZ

Phil
Guest

Neat. Bonds slugged 4.000 against 23 different pitchers.

trackback

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

sjhax56
Guest

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!

Ed
Guest

And he could throw no-hitters!!!

no statistician but
Guest

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.

Doug
Editor

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

John Autin
Editor

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.

Doug
Guest

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.

AlvaroEspinoza
Guest

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

Doug
Editor

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

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA200206080.shtml

mosc
Guest

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

mosc
Guest

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.

Ed
Guest

Mosc- This doesn’t answer your question but I thought you might enjoy this article. It’s about Trevor Hoffman challenging Bonds during a very high leverage situation.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/when-barry-bonds-made-an-out/

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