MLB Power Rankings: LA Angels' Torii Hunter Lists Nastiest Pitchers in the AL
In his 15 seasons in Major League Baseball with the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels, right fielder Torii Hunter has had the opportunity to match up against some of the toughest pitchers in all of baseball. While he had his share of success with some of them, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is anxious to face them again.
On Friday night against the New York Yankees, Hunter faced starting pitcher Ivan Nova for the very first time, going 0-for-2 with a walk, his last at-bat a wicked liner back up the middle that nearly took Nova’s head off.
Hunter is well-known as one of the hardest working players in all of baseball, and there’s no doubt that he will take Friday night’s experience against Nova and file it away for future reference.
On Saturday night, before the second game of the series with the Yankees, Hunter was presented with a special crystal trophy in honor of his 1,000th lifetime RBI, collected on May 30 against the Kansas City Royals. Hunter became the 269th player in major league history to achieve that feat.
With his vast experience and knowledge, Hunter fully knows what it takes to prepare for each team and each of its pitchers.
In a wide-ranging interview, Hunter talked to Bleacher Report about facing pitchers for the first time, his success against certain pitchers and a list of the nastiest pitchers that he has ever faced from each American League team.
All quotes and sound bites in this slideshow were acquired via first-hand reporting on site at Angels Stadium as a credentialed representative of Bleacher Report, Inc.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.
Torii's Take on Young New York Yankees Right-Hander Ivan Nova
B/R: Torii, 0-2 with a walk against Ivan Nova on Friday night, the first time you have ever faced him. First impressions and what adjustments will you need to make against him in future matchups?
Torii Hunter: Well, the adjustments I have to make, I won’t tell you that, ‘cause that’s a big secret (laughs).
Nova has a great arm, good fastball, good off-speed, just give him some experience, let him have some starts under his belt, give him a year or two, he’ll figure out his way. If he hits his spots and doesn’t get behind in the counts, I think he’ll be fine.
Torii's Take on Saturday Night Starter CC Sabathia
B/R: You’ve had some success against tonight’s starter, CC Sabathia, in the past. A .284 lifetime average with three HR. Do you look at historical success, or do you focus more on how Sabathia has performed lately?
Torii Hunter: Definitely how he’s performed lately. In this game, you’re only as good as your last start, so I just want to see what he did in his last start, what he did to the team he faced, I think it was against Seattle maybe, and I want to know what he did to those guys, did he get the win, was he throwing more off-speed or whatever, because his game plan might be different when he’s facing us.
So when I get out there, and I can see what he’s doing, I’ll know if he’s doing the same thing that he did to Seattle, or if he’s doing something different. That will give me a pretty good game plan.
Update: Hunter was 0-for-4 against Sabathia on Saturday night, dropping his lifetime average against him to .267.
Torii's Take on the Toughest New York Yankees Pitcher He's Ever Faced
B/R: Is Sabathia one of the toughest Yankee pitchers you’ve ever had to face, and if not, who was?
Torii Hunter: CC? No. Definitely Roger Clemens. Roger Clemens didn’t work for me. There’s been a lot of Yankees pitchers who were really good—Mike Mussina, David Cone, a lot of guys I’ve faced over there that were pretty filthy, but Roger Clemens seems to be the one that owned me.
Every time I looked at the lineup when I was in Minnesota, and I’d think “Oh no, Roger Clemens again?” He was pretty much in my head. He threw his split-fingered to me all the time, never really threw his fastball, it was all splitters, so I was out. (B/R note: Hunter was 0-for-28 lifetime against Clemens).
B/R: How about in terms of the rest of the American League, and we’ll look at each team, either current or historical.
Torii Hunter: Okay, go for it.
In the following slides, Torii lists the toughest pitchers he's ever faced from each team in the American League.
TH: Mike Mussina. He was the nastiest pitcher. He was throwing 95-96 MPH with a knuckle curveball, changeup, cutter—you name it, he threw everything but the kitchen sink.
Boston Red Sox
TH: Pedro Martinez. He was pretty tough. I hit him pretty good (actually .219 lifetime), I just didn’t like facing him.
Tampa Bay Rays
TH: James Shields might be the toughest because of the changeup and everything. In my years of facing Tampa Bay, Shields might be the toughest I faced there(Hunter has a .240 lifetime average against Shields).
Toronto Blue Jays
TH: Blue Jays, hmmm. Kelvim Escobar, when he was a starter. He was a closer there as well, but as a starter, when he was starting he was pretty filthy with me.
I’m a right-handed hitter, he’s a right-handed pitcher, and he threw a lot of splitties, so most of the guys that throw splitties I never had much success with (.130 lifetime batting average against Escobar).
TH: In Cleveland, the toughest pitcher I faced was Bartolo Colon when he was on top of his game(.273 lifetime average against Colon).
Chicago White Sox
TH: Wow, White Sox. You’re really testing me, man! I’d have to say it’s always been Mark Buehrle.
In all my years, Buehrle has just been a smart pitcher, he’s a hurry-up pitcher who never lets you get comfortable in the box. It was definitely Buehrle. Maybe not the best, but definitely the smartest. Changes speeds, in and out, north and south, just an awesome pitcher.
B/R note: Hunter has a .224 lifetime average against Buehrle with three HR.
TH: I don’t know, I always hit Detroit pretty well. I had my first major league home run in the old Tiger Stadium. I would have to say it’s Justin Verlander. Verlander I just don’t like to face.
I’ve hit him pretty well (.333 lifetime, one HR); I just don’t like to face him.
Kansas City Royals
TH: Man, I really like hitting against Kansas City (.271 lifetime average against Royals, 30 HR, more than any other team).
I’d have to say Zack Greinke. When I saw that he was starting, I didn’t like it. I hit him okay (.273 average, three HR), I just didn’t like facing him.
TH: Joe Nathan. Never liked facing him, before he had surgery. I was always with that team until recently, so no one else really that comes to mind (0-for-3 lifetime against Nathan).
TH: It was always Mark Mulder. Mulder I did not like because he threw splitties and everything, so definitely him.
The numbers certainly bear out, as Hunter had a lifetime .125 average against Mulder.
TH: I will go with Freddy Garcia. Garcia back in the day was pretty nasty. I didn’t have to face him too much, but he threw hard, up around 96 MPH, and didn’t like to face him.
I knew Freddy wasn’t pitching in this series (now with the Yankees), and I was like “thank you!” Because now, he’s trying to fool you, he’s a little crafty now.
B/R Note: Apparently, Torii must have hit Garcia better when he left Seattle, because he has a .413 lifetime average against him.
TH: Wow, that’s tough, I’ve always liked facing the Texas Rangers (.279 lifetime average, 18 HR). I missed facing Nolan Ryan, so I’m thankful for that.
Maybe Alexi Ogando. I faced him, and he was okay; maybe he’s the best pitcher I’ve seen over there, but I haven’t seen much of him yet. No one else really comes to mind.