When 2022 HOF candidates faced off

January 4th, 2022

Few stats seem quite as random and nonsensical as head-to-head matchups. Logically, we expect a group of great players of the same generation -- like, say, those on a Hall of Fame ballot -- to be about as evenly matched as pitchers and hitters can get. And while that's often the case, you can still come across generational pitchers who could never solve the All-Star hitters of their era, and vice versa.

With 13 familiar faces from the 2000s and 2010s on this year's ballot, there are plenty of interesting head-to-head matchup numbers to examine. Take these eight, for example.

Barry Bonds vs. Curt Schilling
.263/.410/.638, 8 HR, 21 RBIs (100 PA)

Bonds offers no shortage of ridiculous matchup stats with the pitchers on the 2022 HOF ballot -- see also his .407 average against Tim Hudson -- but no one saw more of Schilling than he did, as their careers overlapped for 20 seasons. The eight home runs Bonds hit off Schilling in the regular season were his most against any pitcher. And while Bonds' two multi-homer games against Schilling look modest against his staggering career total (71), Schilling allowed just 15 over his entire career.

Manny Ramirez vs. Andy Pettitte
.391/.452/.652, 5 HR, 23 RBIs (104 PA)

Pettitte faced Ramirez more than any other batter in his career -- in this case, it's the downside of being on opposite sides of a divisional rivalry (Red Sox vs. Yankees) for the better part of a decade. Conventional wisdom states that more head-to-head at-bats favors the hitter, and in this case, it shows. No one had more hits (36) or RBIs against Pettitte, and in 104 plate appearances, Ramirez struck out just eight times against 10 walks. Meanwhile, his five home runs off Pettitte include one in the 1998 ALCS. Also worth a mention is Ramirez's one-time teammate and fellow 2022 Hall of Fame candidate David Ortiz, who slashed .343/.407/.500 in his career against the longtime Yankees lefty.

Ryan Howard vs. Tim Hudson
.343/.434/.686, 7 HR, 20 RBIs (83 PA)

Remember the late 2000s? If so, you may remember Howard’s unmatched ability to ruin any pitcher’s day. Hudson, mostly with the Braves, pitched to Howard, a career Phillie, 83 times -- more than any other pitcher, by a margin of 26 plate appearances. The seven homers Howard hit off of Hudson were his second-most against any pitcher and tied for the most any batter had against Hudson.

Alex Rodriguez vs. Joe Nathan
.500/.533/.929, HR, 3 RBIs (15 PA)

It's the smallest sample size on the list, but it's here for a reason. The Yankees were the chief architects of the Twins' postseason misfortune in the 2000s, and Rodriguez arrived in New York in 2004, the same year Nathan broke into Minnesota's bullpen. If Rodriguez's 7-for-14 line is a bit lean for your liking, consider that two of the five most pivotal plays in his career, ranked by championship win probability added, were hits against Nathan -- a double in Game 2 of the 2004 ALDS and a home run in Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS, each setting up a pivotal walk-off to give the Yankees a 2-0 series advantage. Talk about deeply unpleasant déjà vu.

Tim Lincecum vs. Jimmy Rollins
.180/.255/.220, 13 K (55 PA)

Rollins holds the distinction of being the first batter Lincecum ever faced in the Majors. He had a hit in that at-bat, but things were mostly downhill from there. The Phillies were going for their third consecutive pennant when they lost the 2010 NLCS to the Giants, a series in which Lincecum made two starts of seven or more innings and held Rollins to just one hit over six at-bats. That was very much on theme, as Lincecum steamrolled Rollins in most of their matchups, racking up 13 strikeouts to the nine hits Rollins had against him in his career -- seven of which were singles.

Jake Peavy vs. Andruw Jones
.048/.167/.048, 8 K (24 PA)

All of Jones' at-bats against Peavy came during the latter's Padres tenure, while he was busy posting a sub-3 ERA in four of his first seven seasons in the bigs. He was a tough customer, and he had Jones' number. Jones went 1-for-21 against Peavy, a .048 career average, for his second-lowest against any pitcher he faced at least 15 times.

Roger Clemens vs. Torii Hunter
.000/.067/.000, 15 K (30 PA)

Hunter is far from being the only great hitter who'd rather forget his at-bats against Clemens -- no one wins seven Cy Young Awards by being an easy matchup -- but his experience was, statistically, the greatest Clemens-related nightmare in the pitcher's 24-year career. In 11 games, Hunter compiled 30 plate appearances against Clemens and went an unfortunate 0-for-28 with two walks. Of over 300 batters with a career .000 average against Clemens, Hunter was far and away the one with the most opportunities. The next-closest batter went 0-for-21.

Mark Buehrle vs. Justin Morneau
.190/.234/.310, 6 K (64 PA)

The Twins and White Sox see an awful lot of each other, which meant that for the better part of a decade, Buehrle and Morneau could expect to match up at least once a year -- and they did, every year, from 2004-10. Those meetings heavily favored the southpaw Buehrle, who only tallied six strikeouts against the lefty-hitting Morneau, but managed to hold him to a measly .190 batting average with just three extra-base hits.