5 Pitchers with the Most Intimidating Attitudes on the Mound
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Matchups between MLB pitchers and opposing batters will always be influenced by intimidation. More specifically, there are veterans like Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera who demoralize others with their distinct attitudes.
These masters of mental games were included and ranked with their off-the-field reputations and unique pitching tactics taken into consideration. Quality of stuff wasn't a direct factor—hence no Aroldis Chapman or Matt Harvey—though the following mound intimidators all possess great talent. Otherwise, they would not go about their business with such an edge.
As past victims and baseball writers can confirm, stepping to the plate against them is a most uncomfortable experience.
5. Francisco Rodriguez (Milwaukee Brewers)
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Most above Francisco Rodriguez on this list are physically imposing. Their size gives them the confidence to pick fights with opposing players.
Though a modest 6'0" and 195 pounds, K-Rod is eager to do the same. When crosstown rival Brian Bruney made critical comments of his celebratory routine in 2009, the veteran reliever tried to settle their feud with violence, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).
His pitching statistics also attest to how temperamental he can be. Throughout a relatively successful MLB career, the 31-year-old has thrown wild pitches at a remarkably high rate, averaging approximately one per 12.2 innings pitched.
There is another side to K-Rod, however. On those days when he walks the bases loaded or squanders most of a late-inning lead, we see his calmness.
“Rodriguez acts as if he doesn’t have a care in the world," Jon Heyman of CBS Sports once wrote. "The talent is too much, the poise unreal.”
4. Chris Carpenter (St. Louis Cardinals)
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For much of the past decade, Chris Carpenter's body has been telling him to stop pitching.
He suffered a torn labrum while recovering from shoulder surgery in 2003 and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007 shortly after having bone spurs trimmed from his elbow. Carpenter battled nerve problems toward the end of 2004 and for much of the past two summers.
Enduring all that made the right-hander more grateful to actually compete. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports calls him "a chippy hockey player on the mound" and also "fierce, vociferous, an intimidator who snarled and scowled." When chronic numbness threatened his career this spring, he reiterated, "I don't think I'll ever retire. I'll never say that word" (via Jordan Palmer, KSDK Sports).
Carpenter has been one of baseball's biggest trash-talkers. In his most infamous incident, the right-hander egged on opposing manager Dusty Baker. His "yelling match" in August 2010 caused a brawl between the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals.
According to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Carpenter's rehab suggests that he'll slide into the starting rotation upon activation from the disabled list.
3. Kyle Farnsworth (Tampa Bay Rays)
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Several years ago, Kyle Farnsworth would've been the clear-cut No. 1 on this list.
The reliever sabotaged himself in an interview with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, calling himself "a big teddy bear" and confessing that he no longer drinks.
However, teammate Evan Longoria believes Farnsworth still incites fear in the opposition through intimidation.
"If there was a scale of 1-10," Longoria told Topkin, "he'd be pretty close to a 10—the way he carries himself, his mentality, his demeanor on the field."
In that same article, longtime outfielder Johnny Damon went inside the mind of a petrified hitter facing Farnsworth:
Everyone has seen the highlights of him just beating someone down. … Any time he gets up to start throwing in the bullpen, everyone knows that intimidation factor, and they know what he's all about.
Damon was referring to a 2003 brawl when Farnsworth put opposing pitcher Paul Wilson in his place. The altercation led to a two-game suspension.
Farnsworth has a background in martial arts. David Laurila of FanGraphs insists that his graphic tattoos and tough-guy reputation have "overshadowed a long and mostly successful career."
2. Carlos Zambrano (Philadelphia Phillies)
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Given another injury to the Philadelphia Phillies' starting rotation or a few more poor outings from Tyler Cloyd, expect to see Carlos Zambrano back in the big leagues.
In case you missed it, Big Z agreed to a minor league deal with the Phillies earlier this month (via Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports).
He's infamous for his difficult personality and short fuse. Those who have forgotten specific examples need only read this refresher of his transgressions as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
Zambrano received the most "support" among MLB pitchers in 2010 when Sports Illustrated polled players about their meanest colleagues.
Compared to Kyle Farnsworth, this hefty Venezuelan is five years younger and half as mature.
If launching a home run against Zambrano means getting on his bad side, hitters had better settle for singles.
1. Mariano Rivera (New York Yankees)
Mariano Rivera masterfully belittles his foes with entirely different tactics. He's the antithesis of most intimidators.
While they're all on the verge of snapping, the Sandman wears an emotionless glare. His constantly stoic expression says, "I'm going to throw exactly what you're expecting in the exact location you'll be expecting it, and you'd be privileged to come away with a shattered bat."
Despite his absence of mid-90s heat (FanGraphs documents his gradual loss of velocity), Rivera is every bit as effective as ever. That ought to be attributed to his repeatable delivery and exuding arrogance.