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Ted Williams vs. Left-handed Pitchers

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  • Ted Williams vs. Left-handed Pitchers

    In another of my lengthy perusings of SABR's treasured Home Run Encyclopedia, I was surprised at coming across this fact--namely, that a scant 12.3% of Ted Williams' lifetime home runs came against left-handed pitchers. Further analysis yielded this equally surprising fact--to wit, that of all the LH sluggers in the game's history with at least 300 lifetime home runs to their credit, only Duke Snider (who was frequently sat down against lefties) has a worse percentage of his home runs off of lefties.

    The breakdown is as thus (list is as of 1995, when the book was published):
    Code:
    Name	       Total  Vs. RHP  Vs. LHP   %*
    Babe Ruth	714	495	219	30.7
    Reggie Jackson	563	384	179	31.8
    Willie McCovey	521	421	100	19.2
    Ted Williams	521	457	64	12.3
    Eddie Mathews	512	418	94	18.4
    Mel Ott	        511	400	111	21.7
    Lou Gehrig	493	350	143	29.0
    Stan Musial	475	320	155	32.6
    Willie Stargell	475	372	103	21.7
    Carl Yastrzemski452	374	78	17.3
    Billy Williams	426	325	101	23.7
    Darrell Evans	414	317	97	23.4
    Duke Snider	407	374	33	8.1
    Graig Nettles	390	281	109	27.9
    Norm Cash	377	316	61	16.2
    Johnny Mize	359	274	85	23.7
    Yogi Berra	358	273	85	23.7
    Dave Parker	339	237	102	30.1
    Boog Powell	339	270	69	20.4
    George Brett	317	229	88	27.8
    Fred Lynn	306	246	60	19.6
    Harold Baines 	301	243	58	19.3
    Chuck Klein	300	241	59	19.7
    
    * - Percentage of total home runs hit against LHP.
    If that wasn't provocative enough, further research turned up this.

    Code:
    Category   AB    H  2B 3B  HR  RBI   BB  SO   BA  OBA   SA
    Total    4005 1339 261 27 259  895 1048 383 .334 .473 .607
    vs left   928  276  58  3  33  174  193 127 .297 .422 .473
    vs right 3077 1063 203 24 226  721  855 256 .345 .488 .647
    
    Career   7706 2654 525 71 521 1839 2019 709 .344 .482 .634
    Although admittedly the above analysis only samples a minority portion of Williams' numbers, it seems evident from the above figures that Williams was a noticably weaker hitter, as well as slugger against lefties. This is in marked contrast to the numbers against lefties put up by his most prominent rivals for status of greatest hitter--Ruth, with his power numbers; Cobb, with his efficiency (lifetime .347 against lefties).
    Last edited by HitchedtoaSpark; 05-11-2004, 06:56 PM.
    A swing--and a smash--and a gray streak partaking/Of ghostly manoeuvres that follow the whack;/The old earth rebounds with a quiver and quaking/And high flies the dust as he thuds on the track;/The atmosphere reels--and it isn't the comet--/There follows the blur of a phantom at play;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel--/And damned be the fellow that gets in the way.                 A swing and a smash--and the far echoes quiver--/A ripping and rearing and volcanic roar;/And off streaks the Ghost with a shake and a shiver,/To hurdle red hell on the way to a score;/A cross between tidal wave, cyclone and earthquake--/Fire, wind and water all out on a lark;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel,/Plus ten tons of dynamite hitched to a spark.

    --Cobb, Grantland Rice

  • #2
    Hitch, I was wondering why you used only half of Williams AB's in your analysis? I expect LHB to do less well against LHP and by your own account, Cobb hit 20 points less than his overall BA vs LHP. As his BA vs RHP would have to be higher than his career BA to balance the shortfall vs LHP that would put his split somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 points. I admit I'm a little surprised by the size of Williams split, but only a little. And I wouldn't read too much into it without knowing what portion of Teddy's career you choose not to include and why.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Ted Williams vs. Left-handed pitchers?

      Originally posted by leecemark
      Hitch, I was wondering why you used only half of Williams AB's in your analysis?
      Follow the link in my post above.

      Originally posted by HitchedtoaSpark
      If that wasn't provocative enough, further research turned up this.
      A swing--and a smash--and a gray streak partaking/Of ghostly manoeuvres that follow the whack;/The old earth rebounds with a quiver and quaking/And high flies the dust as he thuds on the track;/The atmosphere reels--and it isn't the comet--/There follows the blur of a phantom at play;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel--/And damned be the fellow that gets in the way.                 A swing and a smash--and the far echoes quiver--/A ripping and rearing and volcanic roar;/And off streaks the Ghost with a shake and a shiver,/To hurdle red hell on the way to a score;/A cross between tidal wave, cyclone and earthquake--/Fire, wind and water all out on a lark;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel,/Plus ten tons of dynamite hitched to a spark.

      --Cobb, Grantland Rice

      Comment


      • #4
        Hitch, I followed the link to the article and it said "based on his career totals his stats were better in virtually every category for the missing years". Without seeing any numbers I would have assumed Williams, like virtually every other LHB, didn't do as well against LHP. He was still pretty damn good against them though. I think modern LHB might be expected to do a little better against LHP than old timers for this reason - There are alot of left handed pitchers in the majors today who don't belong there. Everyone knows that LHP have an advantage over LHB, but bad lefties aren't really a better option than good righties when you've got a tough left handed batter to retire. The new conventional "wisdom" that you need a couple lefties in the pen as specialists goes against all logic. Sorry to have diverged from your topic, just a pet peeve of mine.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by leecemark
          Without seeing any numbers I would have assumed Williams, like virtually every other LHB, didn't do as well against LHP. He was still pretty damn good against them though.
          While fully cognizant of the fact that left-handed batters tend to do rather worse against left-handed pitching than they do against right-handed pitching, my point is that Ruth's and Cobb's markedly superior numbers against lefties seem to present for them a compelling case as greatest hitter of all time over Williams. I wouldn't say Williams was neutralized against lefties, but he certainly seemed somewhat less than the greatest hitter who ever lived when facing left-handed pitching--something that can't be said about Ruth or Cobb.

          Hopefully, someday we can get complete RHP vs. LHP splits for Williams.
          Last edited by HitchedtoaSpark; 05-12-2004, 01:23 PM.
          A swing--and a smash--and a gray streak partaking/Of ghostly manoeuvres that follow the whack;/The old earth rebounds with a quiver and quaking/And high flies the dust as he thuds on the track;/The atmosphere reels--and it isn't the comet--/There follows the blur of a phantom at play;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel--/And damned be the fellow that gets in the way.                 A swing and a smash--and the far echoes quiver--/A ripping and rearing and volcanic roar;/And off streaks the Ghost with a shake and a shiver,/To hurdle red hell on the way to a score;/A cross between tidal wave, cyclone and earthquake--/Fire, wind and water all out on a lark;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel,/Plus ten tons of dynamite hitched to a spark.

          --Cobb, Grantland Rice

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Ted Williams vs. Left-handed pitchers?

            Originally posted by HitchedtoaSpark
            In another of my lengthy perusings of SABR's treasured Home Run Encyclopedia, I was surprised at coming across this fact--namely, that a scant 12.3% of Ted Williams' lifetime home runs came against left-handed pitchers. Further analysis yielded this equally surprising fact--to wit, that of all the LH sluggers in the game's history with at least 300 lifetime home runs to their credit, only Duke Snider (who was frequently sat down against lefties) has a worse percentage of his home runs off of lefties.
            There are two obvious reasons why Snider had such a low percentage of his HR against left-handed pitchers:
            1. He actually did poorly against lefties
            2. He faced substantially fewer lefties in his career.

            Most likely…a combination of both.

            With regard to Reason #1: Having seen Snider play for his entire career in Brooklyn, I can confirm that he often looked inept against the league’s best lefties…Brecheen…Simmons…Haddix…Antonelli…Spahn. And it’s certainly true that he was occasionally benched when he was swinging poorly and when a tough lefty was scheduled to pitch against the Dodgers.

            As for #2: As you know, for most of his Brooklyn career, Duke was the ONLY lefty in the Dodger starting lineup (Hermanski, Amoros and Rube Walker batted left, but were mostly part-time players), and benefited from the fact that opposing teams SELDOM threw a lefty against the powerful right-hand batting Dodger lineup. And even more seldom in Ebbets Field. So he probably had one of the lowest career ABs against lefties of any of the sluggers on the list. And therefore the fewest opportunities to hit a home run against them.

            It would seem that an accurate conclusion about Snider could be drawn if we knew how many ABs he had against lefties vs. righties…similar to the table shown for Williams.

            Comment


            • #7
              I believe Ted Williams hit more homeruns against Right-handed hitters mostly because he faced mostly RHG pitchers. The Red Sox in his day had a strong lineup of RIGHT HANDED HITTERS (tailored to take advantage of that short LF fence at Fenway) and so at least in Boston few visiting teams dared to use a left-handed pitcher.

              For a pull-hitter like Williams, the short field in left was not an advantage. But I do believe his career BA was helped because he got to face mostly RH pitchers. Other Boston LH hitters may also have enjoyed better Batting Averages because they faced mostly RH pitchers (e.g., Yaz and Boggs).

              But the career breakdowns you displayed are disturbing because they show RH or LH pitcher data only for about half his career at-bats. (Probably the last half of his career?)

              There must be site somewhere that gives "splits" information for all of Ted's seasons.
              Luke

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by shlevine42
                There are two obvious reasons why Snider had such a low percentage of his HR against left-handed pitchers:
                1. He actually did poorly against lefties
                2. He faced substantially fewer lefties in his career.

                Most likely…a combination of both.

                With regard to Reason #1: Having seen Snider play for his entire career in Brooklyn, I can confirm that he often looked inept against the league’s best lefties…Brecheen…Simmons…Haddix…Antonelli…Spahn. And it’s certainly true that he was occasionally benched when he was swinging poorly and when a tough lefty was scheduled to pitch against the Dodgers.

                As for #2: As you know, for most of his Brooklyn career, Duke was the ONLY lefty in the Dodger starting lineup (Hermanski, Amoros and Rube Walker batted left, but were mostly part-time players), and benefited from the fact that opposing teams SELDOM threw a lefty against the powerful right-hand batting Dodger lineup. And even more seldom in Ebbets Field. So he probably had one of the lowest career ABs against lefties of any of the sluggers on the list. And therefore the fewest opportunities to hit a home run against them.

                It would seem that an accurate conclusion about Snider could be drawn if we knew how many ABs he had against lefties vs. righties…similar to the table shown for Williams.
                Your recollections are incredibly accurate.

                Over a sample size of about 1,000 games, Duke Snider's line against left handed pitching was .206/.295/.375...however he had 2500+ PA against right handed pitching, and 161 against lefties. This is incredible to me.

                Incidentally, I just noticed that retrosheet posted all the PBP data, matchups, and splits for the 1954 National League.

                Comment


                • #9
                  This is why I love BBF. I never knew Williams fared that poorly against lefties. If Williams played today the other teams would platoon him to death with lefty relievers!
                  Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules
                    This is why I love BBF. I never knew Williams fared that poorly against lefties. If Williams played today the other teams would platoon him to death with lefty relievers!
                    Assuming those figures are accurate, we have just over half of Ted's PA's covered, and unlike Ruth and Cobb, indeed he was not remotely close to as great against lefties. We're missing the early years of his career. He was just a very good hitter with a very good OBP and above average power.

                    The other proposition- and this was raised by Shlevine in talking about Snider, is how much better would he have been had he faced left handed pitching more often (as today's hitters do). I don't know that we can say he'd definately hit better than a paltry .297/.422/.473...but is it very likely that he would have? It's a somewhat circular argument, when you think about it..... What do you guys think? Incorporating your reading on his adaptiveness, approach to hitting, and other biographical/statistical information....

                    If Williams had a natural weakness for submarine pitchers or guys that threw certain types of pitches, for instance, he might be "specialized" to death in today's game.

                    Perhaps akin to when they brought in a guy like Chuck McElroy to face Barry Bonds.

                    Looking at his late career splits alone (which I stumbled upon originally) was telling, but more limited. I think these 5000+ PA builds a much stronger case.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ehh, I think if Ted played to day they'd tell him to slap the ball the other way but according to him "People don't come to Fenway to see me hit singles off the wall"
                      "he probably used some performance enhancing drugs so he could do a better job on his report...i hear they make you gain weight" - Dr. Zizmor

                      "I thought it was interesting and yes a conversation piece. Next time I post a similar story I will close with the question "So, do you think either of them have used steroids?" so that I can make the topic truly relevant to discussions about today's game." - Eric Davis

                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqul1GyK7-g

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I think if Williams had faced enough lefties he would have adjusted. I really don't put too much stock into this. Williams was probably the most intelligent hitter of all-time in terms of recognizing pitches, and making adjustments at the plate. The only thing he didn't do was hit the ball the other way against the shift, although he certainly could have. Williams preached never being beaten the same way twice, so I think if anyone could have avoided being specialized to death, it was him.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by csh19792001

                          Perhaps akin to when they brought in a guy like Chuck McElroy to face Barry Bonds.

                          Looking at his late career splits alone (which I stumbled upon originally) was telling, but more limited. I think these 5000+ PA builds a much stronger case.
                          Yeah but Barry reamed Unit in the NL.
                          "he probably used some performance enhancing drugs so he could do a better job on his report...i hear they make you gain weight" - Dr. Zizmor

                          "I thought it was interesting and yes a conversation piece. Next time I post a similar story I will close with the question "So, do you think either of them have used steroids?" so that I can make the topic truly relevant to discussions about today's game." - Eric Davis

                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqul1GyK7-g

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by dl4060
                            I think if Williams had faced enough lefties he would have adjusted. I really don't put too much stock into this. Williams was probably the most intelligent hitter of all-time in terms of recognizing pitches, and making adjustments at the plate. The only thing he didn't do was hit the ball the other way against the shift, although he certainly could have. Williams preached never being beaten the same way twice, so I think if anyone could have avoided being specialized to death, it was him.
                            I tend to agree. I think this is very interesting info but I don't think it's somehow damning to Williams. Like Ubiquitous said on the other thread, Williams did do truly awful against LHP in his really old and oft injured years, past age 38. Take out those years and his BA/OBP/SLG is .319/.440/.519. This is still missing the most of the first half of his career when overall he hit better than he did later. Add that on and I think just his BA will get up to at least .325 or so. He hit .350 career through age 38 so there's a difference, but it's not huge. According to the same member who wrote the pice being referenced Cobb hit 20 points below his career average against LHP. I don't think a 25 or so point difference is such a huge thing. He still has the huge amount of walks too. I think the biggest thing is that he appeared to hit for less power against LHP. Oveall I think Williams probably did have a bigger split against LHP than other left handed batters but I don't think it's somehow damning to his rep as perhaps the greatest hitter ever.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by dl4060
                              Williams was probably the most intelligent hitter of all-time in terms of recognizing pitches, and making adjustments at the plate.
                              He faced lefties plenty- even in this partial portion of his career- we still have over 1,000 PA's against LHP. And if he was the most intelligent hitter of all time, and constantly made adjustments, he wouldn't have had a VAST discrepancy in LH/RH splits, and wouldn't have had a glaring weakness in hitting against LHP in general.
                              Last edited by csh19792001; 01-18-2007, 02:09 PM.

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