First Pitch: Bill Mazeroski vs Hall of Fame Pitchers

Over the last two days, we have looked at how Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell fared against Hall of Fame pitchers during their career. Those two players were known as great hitters and they did very well against some of the best pitchers of their era. They also struggled against a couple of journeymen pitchers.

Today I wanted to look at Bill Mazeroski and how he did against Hall of Famers during his 18-year career. He’s a little different than his two teammates because Mazeroski is known more for his premium defense at second base. He won eight Gold Gloves, and according to defensive WAR stats, he’s the 24th best player of all-time, tops among all second basemen.

That means that we are looking for different results here than with Clemente and Stargell. If a pitcher held them to a .750 OPS over 100+ plate appearances, that’s a clear win for the pitcher. Mazeroski had a .260/.299/.367 slash line during his career. He hit 138 homers during the regular season, plus two during the postseason, including one of the most famous home runs ever. That slash line tells you that he wasn’t a huge threat at the plate, even if he occasionally put one over the wall. So you would expect him to have some issues against the best pitchers during his career.

I’m going to post a break down of how he fared against the 16 Hall of Fame pitchers he saw during his 18 seasons. Unlike Stargell and Clemente, where I looked at the pitchers who shut them down, I’ll end this post with a little extra on the pitchers Mazeroski loved to face. For now, here are the Cooperstown 16:

Don Drysdale – Mazeroski was basically average against Drysdale, who he faced more than any other pitcher on this list. In 144 plate appearances, he batted .266/.287/.367, with three homers. That’s the same exact slugging percentage and nearly the same batting average as his career mark, with a slightly lower OBP.

Warren Spahn – Mazeroski did some of his best work (among these pitchers) against the great left-hander. He hit .292/.312/.425 in 126 plate appearances. Also impressive here, just seven strikeouts.

Sandy Koufax – Stargell and Clemente both struggled versus Koufax, and Mazeroski was no different. He hit .190/.248/.220 in 109 plate appearances, with no homers.

Bob Gibson – It may have been a good idea to sit Mazeroski against Gibson, though chances are whoever replaced him wouldn’t do much better. Maz hit .141/.190/.172 in 106 plate appearances. His only extra-base hit was a homer.

Juan Marichal – Marichal also had Mazeroski’s number. In 99 plate appearances, he hit .229/.245/.250, with two doubles and no homers.

Gaylord Perry – Maz did a little better against Marichal’s teammate. Versus Perry, he batted .258/.263/.301, with no homers and one walk, in 96 plate appearances.

Robin Roberts – If there’s one pitcher on here who Mazeroski actually wanted to hit against, it was Roberts. He batted .324/.346/.500 in 80 plate appearances. He had three homers and just four strikeouts.

Jim Bunning – Bunning was another tough opponent for Mazeroski, who must have appreciated the trade to get the right-hander during the 1968-69 seasons. In 76 plate appearances, he hit .155/.197/.239 with one homer. This was another impressive showing as far as strikeouts go, with Bunning only picking up three.

Don Sutton – Maz did decent against Sutton, at least at getting on base. He batted .279, with a .323 OBP, but the slugging was just .311 due to 15 of the 17 hits (in 65 plate appearances) being singles. So he was still slightly below average here.

Fergie Jenkins – In 59 plate appearances versus Jenkins, Mazeroski hit .276/.276/.414, with zero walks, five doubles and one homer.

Steve Carlton – Lefty went up against Mazeroski 51 times. He held him to a .196/.260/.283 slash line, with one double and one homer. Carlton picked up just three strikeouts.

Phil Niekro – Mazeroski didn’t get on base often against Knucksie, but he made his hits count. In 38 plate appearances, he hit .216/.237/.459, with three doubles and two homers, among his eight total hits.

Tom Seaver – Seaver dominated Mazeroski over 38 match-ups. He went 4-for-33, with a double, four walks and a sacrifice fly, resulting in a .362 OPS.

Nolan Ryan – Maz didn’t see Ryan often during their short time together in the NL. He went 2-for-10 with two singles and a walk. Zero strikeouts.

Hoyt Wilhelm – These two faced each other 11 times and Wilhelm won ten times. Mazeroski singled in the other at-bat. That gave him a .091/.091/.091 slash line.

Whitey Ford – Ford only faced Maz in the 1960 World Series, and he held him to one single in six at-bats.

As for the pitchers he loved to face, here are the ten best OPS he put up against guys he faced at least 15 times (plate appearances in parenthesis):

  1. Ron Piche (15) 1.467 OPS (four homers)
  2. Don Newcombe (39) 1.233 (five homers)
  3. Jack Fisher (42) 1.174 (four homers)
  4. Hal Jeffcoat (20) 1.108
  5. Jay Hook (37) 1.093
  6. Clem Labine (21) 1.079
  7. Carl Erskine (16) 1.071
  8. Brooks Lawrence (40) 1.059
  9. Taylor Phillips (29) 1.046
  10. Cal McLish (26) 1.042

Newcombe is a surprise near the top with that many plate appearances. He was a great pitcher for a time, but Mazeroski touched him up for more homers than any other pitcher. Stan Williams also allowed five homers, but he faced Maz more often.

SONG OF THE DAY

DAILY QUIZ


RANDOM STUFF OF THE DAY

Ryan Palencer, who used to cover the Indianapolis Indians for this site, has his own site now called Outside the Chalk Lines. Over the weekend he posted an interview with former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jermaine Allensworth. You can hear the 32-minute segment here.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

By John Dreker

We have two Pittsburgh Pirates trades on this date, three former players, and one very special game to cover from 1925, with something you don’t see everyday.

The Trades

On this date in 1941, the Pirates traded future Hall of Fame center fielder Lloyd Waner, to the Boston Braves for pitcher Nick Strincevich. Waner had been with the Pirates since 1927, but he was coming off of his worst season in 1940, when he hit .259 in 72 games with just three RBIs. At age 35, he had played just three games with the Pirates in 1941. Strincevich was a 25-year-old rookie in 1940 for the Braves. He went 4-8, 5.53 in 32 games, 14 as a starter, throwing a total of 128.2 innings. He had pitched poorly in 1941 for Boston, allowing five runs in 3.1 innings over his three relief appearances.

The trade worked out well for the Pirates, although not right away. Waner never returned to his Hall of Fame form. He hit well for Boston, batting .412 in 19 games, but they quickly traded him to the Reds. By June of 1944, after being released by the Dodgers, Waner re-signed with the Pirates and was used off the bench for the rest of 1944 and 1945. Strincevich didn’t pitch much for the Pirates between 1941-42 and he spent all of 1943 in the minors, but the Pirates were rewarded for sticking with him. He won forty games from 1944 until 1946, and pitched nearly 600 innings. He fell off in 1947 and was sold to the Phillies a month into the 1948 season. You can read more about him in our Obscure Pittsburgh Pirates feature.

On this date in 1962, the Pirates traded pitcher Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell to the New York Mets for first baseman Jim Marshall. Mizell was in his ninth season in the majors and third with the Pirates during the 1962 season. He was a hard-throwing lefty with a 90-86 career record, six times winning in double digits. At the time of the trade, the 31-year-old had a 1-1, 4.96 record in four games, three as a starter. Marshall was just shy of his 31st birthday at the time, playing well for the expansion Mets. In his four previous seasons, he never hit above .252 and topped out at 11 homers. He was hitting .344 with three homers in 17 games for New York.

After the trade, Marshall really fell off at the plate, hitting .220 with two homers for the Pirates in 55 games. At the end of the season they released him and he never played in the majors again. Mizell was no better. He pitched 17 games for the Mets, a total of 38 innings, finishing with a record of 0-2 with a 7.34 ERA. New York would release him in early August, ending his big league career.

The Players

Keon Broxton, outfielder for the 2015 Pirates. Broxton was acquired as a minor leaguer in 2014 from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a cash deal. Arizona signed him as a third round draft pick in 2009. Broxton played just seven games with the Pirates, seeing brief time at all three outfielder spots, while going 0-for-2 at the plate. He was used as a pinch-runner six times and scored three runs. After the 2015 season, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, where he split three seasons between Triple-A and the majors. Broxton played for three different teams in 2019 and then re-signed with the Brewers as a free agent this past off-season. He’s a career .209 hitter in 376 games, with 39 homers and 60 steals.

Mark Smith, outfielder for the 1997-98 Pirates. He was a first round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1991, and made his Major League debut three seasons later. Smith played parts of three years with the Orioles, getting into a total of 67 games before they shipped him to the San Diego Padres in January of 1997. Just two months later, the Pirates acquired him, along with Hal Garrett, in exchange for Trey Beamon and Angelo Encarnacion. Smith began the season in the minors, getting called up in mid-June for good after getting a one-game shot in May. He would hit .285 with nine homers and 35 RBIs for the Pirates. None of those homers would be more dramatic than the one he hit on July 12th against the Astros. He came to bat as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 10th inning with no score and two men on base. With two outs and an 0-1 count, Smith took a pitch from the Astros John Hudek and deposited it over the left field wall for a walk-off homer. Smith was batting for Ricardo Rincon, who just threw the Pirates 10th no-hit frame in the top of the inning. Francisco Cordova threw nine no-hit innings before he was pulled.

The next season, Smith struggled at the plate, hitting just .195 with two homers in 59 games and the Pirates let him leave via free agency after the season. After leaving Pittsburgh, he played for the 2000 Marlins, 2001 Expos and 2003 Brewers, before finishing his career in Korea in 2005.

Dave Barbee, left fielder for the 1932 Pirates. He played briefly in the minors in 1925 after graduating from Oglethorpe University, a school that has produced nine Major League players, but none have appeared in the majors since the 1950 season. The next year, Barbee played 90 games for the Greensboro Patriots of the Piedmont League before joining the Philadelphia Athletics in late July. He hit .372 with 29 homers for Piedmont that year, but the success didn’t carry over into the majors. In 19 games for the Athletics, he hit .170 with one homer. He returned to the minors and surprisingly didn’t make it back until the Pirates came calling six years late. He hit 41 homers in the Pacific Coast League in 1930, yet that didn’t earn him a big league job, so he hit .332 with 47 homers the next year. For the 1932 Pirates, Barbee saw plenty of time in left field, playing alongside Lloyd and Paul Waner. He hit .257 with five homers and 55 RBIs in 97 games. Pittsburgh ended up selling him to the Detroit Tigers prior to the 1933 season, but he never made the majors again. He ended up playing the next three years in the minors, then after a seven year layoff, he played one more minor league season.

The Play

On this date in 1925, the Pittsburgh Pirates took on the St Louis Cardinals in what turned out to be a slugfest at Forbes Field. The Pirates had a comfortable lead going into the eighth inning. St Louis turned that 9-4 lead into a one-run deficit and they held the Pirates scoreless in the bottom of the inning. In the ninth inning, the Cardinals looked to add on to the score and they were getting help from the Pirates pitcher, Vic Aldridge. St Louis shortstop Jimmy Cooney, walked to open the inning. Aldridge then walked one of the greatest hitters ever, Rogers Hornsby. That brought up future Hall of Fame first baseman Jim Bottomley and he worked the count to 2-2. That’s when some Major League history happened.

Bottomley hit a line drive that looked like it was sure hit and the runners took off on the play. The Pirates shortstop that day was Glenn Wright and he made a magnificent leaping catch, then ran towards second base and touched the bag, then tagged out Hornsby as he reached the base. The crowd sat in a stunned silence, not knowing what had just happened because it transpired so quickly. That was until the players started running off the field, then Forbes Field erupted in cheer. It was just the sixth* unassisted triple play in baseball history (*After researching it, I believe the one by Paul Hines in 1878 to be legit, but some sources don’t count it).

The ironic part of that triple play was the fact the first runner, Jimmy Cooney, was the next big league player to turn an unassisted triple play, and he did it against the Pirates two seasons later. Unfortunately for the Pirates that day, they still lost 10-9 to the Cardinal,s but the 1925 season ended well with their second World Series title.

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