On the Mound Baseball Trivia Experts

PLDennison is sitting here engrossed in the Indians-Orioles game and asked me to post the following question which he has been unable to ascertain by himself.

What hitter and pitcher (in the history of baseball) faced each other the most in their careers and what were their line scores against each other?

So, who’s first up to bat with an answer…?

Such data has not been compiled. Any answer would be a guess.
The likeliest candidates for the batter end of it: Ty Cobb or Pete Rose. I would choose Cobb because in his day, there were fewer teams and more complete games which means that there would have been more opportunities to build up plate appearances for such a matchup.

However, Cobb outlasted every pitcher that started in the majors at the same time.

My official WAG: Ty Cobb vs. Walter Johnson.

BobT: You might be right on. Two more that come to mind are Eddie Collins and Johnson, and Musial and Spahn. Too bad Spahn and Aaron were on the same team.

Well as long as were saying there is likely to be no data to prove it,

My guess would be Satchel Paige and someone. There were fewer teams in the Negro League(so more games between any two teams), and Paige pitched for like 30 years.

I have no sources to back me up, but since this is a very interesting question, I’ll offer some logic, and some educated guesses.

First, we have to find some pitchers and hitters who played in the same league for LONG stretches of time. And certainly, in the pre-expansion days, when there were only 8 teams, and 4 man rotations were the norm, pitchers and hitters saw a LOT more of each other than they do today.
So… since the careers of Ty CObb and Walter Johnson overlapped so completely (Cobb 1905-1928, Johnson 1907-1927) that’s my best guess.

Other posibilities? We have to start with pitchers who spent a LONG time in one league…


  1. Phil Niekro (1964-1983 with the Braves)
  2. Warren Spahn (1946-1965 with the BRaves)
  3. Steve Carlton (1965-1986, with the NL)
  4. Robin Roberts (1948-1966) with the Phillies
  5. Grover Cleveland Alexander (1911-1930) in the NL.

So… what hitters’ careers overlapped most fully with the above pitchers’?

I would imagine Pete Rose faced off against both Phil Niekro and Steve Carlton a LOT… especially Niekro (being in the same division).

Stan Musial must have batted against Spahn and Roberts a lot, too.

SO… my best guess is Cobb vs. Johnson, with Rose vs. Niekro as my follow-up guess.

Pretty good guess. However . . . let us consider: back then you had, at most, a 154-game schedule. So if Player A was in the bigs for 20 full seasons, he played 3080 games. If Player B was in for 20 seasons, but he played in the 162-game schedule, 3240 games.

However. This is probably going to be a divisional matchup. Someone with an ESPN fantasy account (fantasy baseball) could look at batter-pitcher matchups for the load of (albeit mostly decent) pitchers available today. Some things to keep in mind:

  1. Unbalanced schedule: before this, you played every NL or AL team an equal number of times. After this you see favored matchups . . . for example, Tony Gwynn seeing a lot of Kevin Brown. Greg Maddux and Robin Ventura going at eachother a helluva lot.

  2. Games per year. This is a difference if you have enough years in there. Over 20 seasons, that’s 160 games. Figure 10 games against a particular opponent, you’ll get between 2 and 4 extra games against pitcher X. That’s 6-16 extra at-bats, IMHO. More if pitcher X gets traded.

  3. Are we counting walks? For some guys, like Teddy Ballgame, this is a big factor.

But my WAG . . . let’s think of someone who’s been playing on the same damn team forever . . . Cal Ripken work for y’all? I thought so. Now, good ol’ Cal’s been on the Orioles since 1979, I think. Might be wrong on the year. Now let’s consider who’s in his division: The Yankees, Red Sox, and Toronto. Forget about Tampa Bay for a while. They’re relatively new.

Now we gots to think for a pitcher who’s been around nearly as long as Cal, and Roger Clemens works for me. Now, I ain’t about to go and count games or at-bats, but next time the Orioles play the Yankees, someone with a fantasy baseball account can check for us.

Another guess might be someone who was in the Rangers’ division when Ryan was there, and who was traded some what in synch with him, and to the same divisions, or at least leagues.

Old Timers’ guess: maybe Gehrig and Johnson?

It’s between Cobb v. Johnson and Rose v. Niekro from these stats:

     Innings Pitched              At Bats

1 CY YOUNG       7356.0   1 PETE ROSE        14,053

2 PUD GALVIN     5941.1   2 HANK AARON       12,364


4 PHIL NIEKRO    5404.1   4 TY COBB          11,434

5 NOLAN RYAN     5386.0   5 EDDIE MURRAY     11,169

From straight numbers alone, thats the way it looks. There are some problems, though.

Rose v. Niekro: Rose had 623 at bats in his rookie season 1963, before Niekro started his career in 1964. Plus, Niekro pitched 600 innings toward the end of his career in the American League '84-'87. He wouldn’t have faced Rose much then, Rose didn’t play close to a full season after '83. He did have +400 at bats in '85, but nothing like his +600 at bats a year seasons he had routinely in the 60’s and 70’s.

Cobb v. Johnson: Cobb had 508 at bats in 1905 and 1906 together, before Johnson broke into the league in 1907. Cobb also had 353 at bats in 1927, his last season, and one season after Johnson retired. That is 863 at bats where Cobb couldn’t have faced Johnson. They both played in the American League there whole careers, though.

I know I should of done plate appearences, but they didn’t have plate appearances as a all time record at http://www.totalbaseball.com. Looking at the all time walk list, though, there is only one player who it makes a real difference for and that is the Yaz. He had 1845 walks forth all time. Then again Rose had 1566 walks for eleventh all time, so I’m sure he’s still the leader in plate appearences.

Just a few considerations…

In Cobb & Johnson’s day, each league had 8 teams, and the season was 154 games. Thus, the Senators and Tigers played 22 games against each other every year. With 4 man rotations, that means Walter Johnson started 5 or 6 games a year against Cobb every year for 20 seasons. So… they played against each other ABOUT 110 times in their careers.

TOday, even with the longer seasons (162 games), NO teams play each other 22 times in a season, not even division rivals. And even if they did, starters pitch every 5 days now, and don’t stay in the games as long.

By comparison, Pete Rose and Phil Niekro faced off a lot from 1965-1983… but the Reds didn’t play the Braves 22 times a year, certainly not after the big expansion of 1969. My guess is, Niekro started 4 games a year against the Reds, maybe 5. That comes to ABOUT 85 games.

Yipe… I’m getting obsessed with this one. But a few other thoughts?

  1. Jim Palmer and Carl Yastrzemski
  2. Jim Kaat and Brooks Robinson

I have no idea the answer (it’s a damn good question), but I’d like to offer this bit of help to those seeking to answer it.

pldennison was watching the game last night, presumably, on the local DC broadcast[sup]1[/sup] for the O’s. They ask pretty interesting trivia questions each night, but if you’re a fan, or even knowledgable, of the opposing team, then you sometimes know the answer.

So, I’m thinking the answer involves an Indian. Lefty Grove? Al Rosen? Someone along those lines.

(My gut thought at first was Rose and Ryan, FWIW.)

[sup]1[/sup]Of course, pldennison and Peta Tzunami are from the land of Cleves, so they very well could’ve gotten a satellite dish and have been watching the local Cleveland broadcast, which of course renders my knowledge of local O’s broadcasts moot.

I asked a “Baseball Geek” friend of mine once. He told me that there was no way to answer it with any real accuracy, but it would have to have been a pitcher who pitched for many years in the era from the 1880’s to the 1910’s or so against a batter who played many years in that same era, always for different teams and within the same league.

Only then would the variables all line up - fewer teams, no relief pitchers, fewer starting pitchers, smaller benches in general, teams played each other more often, etc.

Yer pal,

Four months, three weeks, three days, 14 hours, 0 minutes and 6 seconds.
5863 cigarettes not smoked, saving $732.92.
Extra time with Drain Bead: 2 weeks, 6 days, 8 hours, 35 minutes.

Satan brings up a good point. In the Cubs’ first professional season, Albert Spalding started something like 60 games. (62 season) I think he got 54 wins that year. Someone who pitched in the early days of baseball a pitcher might have faced a single batter 6 times a game 15 games per year. It wouldn’t take too many seasons of this to establish a record that would be unbreakable in this day and age. Especially after the number of games per season increased from 62 pretty eraly on.

Jeez, and they say that Pedro guy is good! :stuck_out_tongue:

19th Century pitchers did throw a lot of innigns, but they didn’t necessarily last any longer than they do today. Cy Young did pitch a lot, but he was an exception in any era.

Cap Anson was the most durable 19th Century batter, however Cy Young’s career started a little too late to overlap as well as The Georgia Peach and the Big Train.