January 17, 2017
What Does Batter/Pitcher Matchup Data Tell Us?
Because it’s Hall of Fame week, there have been plenty of Edgar Martinez partisans out there making the case for the former Mariners third baseman/designated hitter. Martinez’s case is dulled somewhat by the fact that he spent so much of his career designated to hit, and perhaps more damning that he didn’t reach 3,000 hits nor 500 home runs (nor 50 stolen bases) for his career.
I’ve again heard the line about how Martinez absolutely owned Mariano Rivera. Martinez faced Rivera 23 times in his career and went 11-for-19 against him (also, three walks and one HBP) with three doubles and two home runs, good for a .579/.652/1.053 line off The Sandman. That’s a great bit of trivia, but ... well, this is the part where I tell you that based on this article by a talentless hack who once named himself after an auxiliary kitchen utensil, 23 plate appearances is nice but it doesn’t tell us much of anything.
We know that Martinez was a great hitter (and a Hall of Fame-level hitter), but those numbers could just be total randomness. Against another Hall of Famer, Nolan Ryan, he was was 1-for-19 lifetime with 10 strikeouts. He didn’t have any success off another noted ace closer from the era going 1-for-14 with two walks against ... oh, that’s his line against Billy Taylor.
We can’t really use that matchup information to predict much of anything. That’s the official sabermetric party line and we’re not allowed to question that.
Warning! Gory Mathematical Details Ahead!