It doesn’t seem like Max Scherzer is afraid of anything — or anyone, for that matter.
But despite his otherworldly success over the last decade, there still one player who he never wants to see walking up to the plate.
“I was going to ask you your hitter that you hate to face, but looking at the stats, it was pretty obvious,” Jayson Stark told Scherzer in the latest episode of Baseball Stories. “Shin-Soo Choo.”
In 30 plate appearances against Scherzer, the Rangers right fielder is batting .583 with two doubles, a triple, three home runs and six RBIs.
“He should stay in the American League,” Scherzer elaborated. “He’s the guy that owns me.
“I don’t like him,” Scherzer said, laughing, but when pressed by Stark, added, “I like everybody, but man, he’s really got my number.”
Luckily for Scherzer, his move to the NL rarely pits him against Choo, who has been with the Rangers for the last five seasons.
The last time Mad Max faced Choo was in 2017 when the Rangers made a rare visit to Nationals Park. While Scherzer pitched well, giving up just three hits and striking out 10, two of those hits were to Choo, who also hit a solo shot. Before that, the last time they met on the diamond was 2012, when Choo was on the Indians and they met multiple times per year in AL Central play.
But like Scherzer, for every pitching goliath, there’s a proverbial David. Here’s a closer look at which hitters have cracked the code on some of MLB’s greatest active pitchers.
The three-time Cy Young winner and MVP has a 1.005 WHIP through 11 seasons in Los Angeles — that’s fourth-best in MLB history. No hitter in the game wants to face Kershaw, but two players have had a much easier time against him than the rest of the league.
Albert Pujols and Dexter Fowler.
Pujols, a career .304 hitter, has faced Kershaw 41 times and has racked up a .382 average with 13 hits (five doubles), three RBIs and seven walks, the most Kershaw has ever given up behind Matt Holliday’s 11 walks. And it wasn’t all during Pujols’ prime; he’s notched a hit off of Kershaw in each of the past four seasons.
Fowler has faced off against Kershaw 58 times and has mustered 20 hits with a .382 average, but has also struck out a staggering 13 times. Considering Fowler has a .265 career average, overperforming by more than 100 points shows that he sees the ball out of Kershaw’s hand better than almost anybody.
Through Chris Sale’s nine-year career between Chicago and Boston, he’s averaged 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings with a 2.95 ERA and played in six All-Star games. And like Kershaw, the players who have Sale’s number are among the game’s best.
Sale’s biggest enemies are reminiscent of his days on the south side of Chicago, with Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor (.455 average) and Jose Ramirez (.421) and Detroit’s Victor Martinez (.423) controlling him in the AL Central.
Martinez’s career is all but over — he hasn’t posted a full-season WAR above 1.0 since 2014 — but he’s not done terrorizing Chris Sale. While the bulk of V-Mart’s success against sale came in 2013 (11-for-17 with a homer), he’s still 6-for-18 versus Sale with two walks over the past two seasons.
Corey Kluber must hate facing Mike Moustakas.
Despite a resume that includes two All-Star games and two Cy Youngs, Kluber can’t seem to figure out the Royals lefty. Moose, a career .253 hitter, has hit .462 in 42 plate appearances against Kluber with seven doubles and four RBIs.
Another AL central foe, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, has also found success against Kluber. Miggy has hit .383 with six home runs against Kluber. Meanwhile, veteran OF Melky Cabrera has hit an astonishing .452 against Kluber. And even though he couldn’t find a team to sign him until late April this year, he has dominated Kluber through 2017, when he went 9-for-17 against him.
No wonder the Indians were the team to finally sign Melky. If you can’t beat ‘em, sign ‘em.
Jacob deGrom may not have his long hair anymore, but the righty is still throwing fire for the Mets this season. With a 1.87 ERA and an average of 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings, deGrom is on pace for a dominant year. But he has yet to face the two hitters who overpower him at the plate.
Christian Yelich, who was traded from the Marlins to the Brewers in the offseason, has the highest batting average against Jacob deGrom at .438. However, the Mets only have four games left this season against the Brew Crew, and it is likely deGrom will only have to face Yelich for one game.
But another threat has just moved closer to the young star: Giancarlo Stanton. While not in the same league, the Subway Series pits deGrom against Stanton in a six-game showdown this year. Stanton is hitting .409 in 25 plate appearances against deGrom, and has a whopping eight RBIs and four home runs with a 1.000 slugging percentage.
Most of Stanton’s stats were padded by his unreal 2016 season that included five RBIs and three home runs. But with the heated series slated for the beginning of June, deGrom is sure to be sweating when Stanton walks up to bat.
Justin Verlander’s résumé is nothing to scoff at. The six-time All-Star, MVP, Triple Crown and Cy Young winner was traded to Houston last year and added a World Series win to his list of achievements.
But that hasn’t stopped the Royals’ Salvador Perez or Indians’ Jose Ramirez from teeing off against him.
Perez, who has faced Verlander 67 times, has 16 RBIs, two homers and eight doubles off the ace. The Silver Slugger is a career .272 hitter and only has hit .400 or better against two pitchers in his career – Verlander and the Indians’ Josh Tomlin.
Ramirez has five RBIs, two homers and three doubles with a .407 average, but has also been walked five times. As a career .290 hitter, he has somehow found success against Chris Sale as well (.421).
Unfortunately for Verlander, the Astros face Cleveland seven more times and Kansas City six more times this season alone.
Every athlete does whatever they can to avoid injuries. But this year, injuries may be Zack Greinke’s best friend.
Of the top six active batting average leaders against Greinke, he’ll only have to face four this season. Former teammate Corey Seager will miss the entire 2018 season following Tommy John surgery, and the Nats’ Daniel Murphy remains sidelined after his October knee surgery.
Greinke’s biggest current threat in MLB is the Mets’ Asdrubal Cabrera, who has lit him up for 15 hits in 41 plate appearances, including three doubles, a triple and three RBIs. The four-time All Star and Cy Young winner isn’t known for walking batters — he averages just 2.2 per nine innings — but has walked Cabrera five times in his career.
Luckily for Greinke, the D-Backs only face the Mets seven times this year, and with Greinke not slated to start in the first series, he’ll be lucky if he only has to see Cabrera in one outing this year.
While there were surely plenty of pitchers in the NL that were excited about slugger Giancarlo Stanton heading to the AL this offseason, none were happier than the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner.
Stanton, a career .267 batter and .551 slugger, has absolutely owned Bumgarner in his career. Stanton, who has only hit better against Mike Pelfrey (.545) in his career, holds a .526 average against Bumgarner with a 1.105 slugging percentage. He has hit five doubles, two home runs and driven in five runs.
Bumgarner is lucky: the Giants don’t face the Yankees this year, and a World Series matchup between Bumgarner and Stanton is far from probable.
Also, Bumgarner isn’t alone. Only one player leads hitters in slugging percentage against more than one pitcher on this list, and it’s Stanton. Jacob deGrom and Bumgarner have that in common.
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