01 Jun

digging up data

In the manager’s office at Smith-Wills Stadium one day many years ago, Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan joked with Jackson Generals hitting coach and ex-big league masher Jorge Orta. “Jorge, this might be the first time I was ever glad to see you coming,” a grinning Ryan said as Orta approached for a handshake. In reality, Ryan handled Orta pretty well in their career matchups, holding him to a .179 average in 79 at-bats and striking him out 30 times. To be fair, Orta did hit a couple of home runs off the 324-game winner. Know who Ryan really hated to see coming? Will Clark. The former Mississippi State star famously homered against Ryan in his first career at-bat in 1986 and went on to smack five more bombs against him. No batter in MLB history hit more homers against Ryan, whose amazing career spanned 27 seasons (1966-1993). Clark was 12-for-36 career vs. Ryan, who did punch him out 12 times, adding to his MLB record total of 5,714 K’s. On the website baseball-reference.com, you can dig up career pitcher-batter matchups like those, and if you’ve got some time to kill, it’s worth a deep dive. Just taking Ryan as an example, you can decipher that he faced roughly two dozen Mississippians over the years. Rafael Palmeiro, Clark’s old MSU teammate, didn’t fare so well, going 2-for-12, two K’s. Jackson native Chet Lemon managed just five hits in 41 ABs vs. Ryan, fanning 18 times. Grenada native Dave Parker struck out 23 times and never took Ryan deep, though Parker hit .281 with a .338 OBP in 70 plate appearances. Greenville’s George Scott didn’t homer off Ryan either but did reach base 26 times in 67 plate appearances (.388 OBP) with 16 K’s. Former Shannon High star Dave Clark got just four at-bats against Ryan, but his one hit was a home run. Ex-Ole Miss star Donnie Kessinger and Gulfport native Bill Melton gave Ryan fits. Kessinger posted a .425 OBP and fanned just twice in 40 plate appearances. Melton hit two homers off Ryan and reached base 18 times against him, good for a .429 OBP.

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