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Pitchers Who Excel Against MLB’s Best

March 24, 2012 by staff 

Pitchers Who Excel Against MLB’s Best, It’s an axiom that most of baseball (75 percent) is pitching and thus we are all conditioned to believe that ultimately pitchers control outcomes when it comes to the matchups versus hitters.

But the conventional wisdom is wrong. There’s little debate among statheads that it’s hitters who generally have the most influence over what happens in an at bat. The trick is to isolate the exceptions to the rule – the pitchers who through their talent take most control over their pitching destiny.

A simple way to identify these pitchers, I think, is to look at how they perform against No. 3 hitters – since most teams place their best hitter in that spot. Last year, No. 3 hitters MLB-wide sported an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) of .805 vs. the MLB average of .720 (No. 4 hitters compiled a .791 OPS). Of course, there are sample size caveats and some pitchers, due to unbalanced schedules, faced weak-hitting teams that also have relatively weak-hitting No. 3 hitters. Still, I’d much rather bet on pitchers who dominated No. 3 hitters versus those who were dominated by them.

Following are the pitchers who had the most success versus opposing No. 3 hitters in 2011. The qualifications are 0.31 No. 3 batters faced per team game.

Player Team AB AVG OBP SLG OPS BABIP
Matt Harrison Tex 80 .163 .253 .175 .428 .213
Alfredo Aceves Bos 42 .119 .269 .214 .484 .132
Gio Gonzalez Oak 94 .191 .248 .245 .492 .233
Matt Garza ChC 87 .161 .240 .276 .515 .194
Clayton Kershaw LAD 100 .210 .262 .260 .522 .286
Jered Weaver LAA 101 .178 .224 .347 .571 .197
Tim Hudson Atl 96 .188 .243 .344 .586 .177
Shaun Marcum Mil 85 .176 .247 .341 .589 .162
Ricky Romero Tor 98 .184 .266 .327 .593 .208
Tommy Hanson Atl 57 .175 .266 .333 .599 .211
Mike Leake Cin 79 .203 .238 .367 .605 .217
Alexi Ogando Tex 77 .208 .256 .351 .607 .237
Michael Pineda Sea 81 .259 .286 .321 .607 .345
Zack Greinke Mil 76 .224 .280 .329 .609 .278
Cole Hamels Phi 93 .204 .267 .344 .611 .236
Vance Worley Phi 56 .232 .308 .304 .611 .295
Dillon Gee NYM 74 .189 .302 .311 .613 .203
Trevor Cahill Oak 90 .189 .295 .322 .617 .211
Jaime Garcia StL 92 .217 .263 .359 .621 .257
Johnny Cueto Cin 65 .231 .333 .292 .626 .275

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