He had to know this would happen when he wrote an article about the 100 best pitchers’ duels of 2011 on Grantland.com, and ended it saying “My list of the 100 best pitchers’ duels of 2011 is better than your list, for one reason and one reason only. You don’t have any list.”
Oh I have a list all right… but Mr. James and I have a much different idea of what it means to be a good pitchers’ duel. The way I look at it, a pitchers duel is when both starting pitchers hit a lot of batters. Number of plunks count, as well as the quality of the player who gets hit.
I don’t have 100 of them, because there just weren’t that many good ones. I have 5.
#5 – Gavin Floyd vs Jeff Niemann – April 21st – Niemann hit Alex Rios in the top of the 2nd, and Floyd hit Casey Kotchman in the bottom of the 2nd. Niemann then hit Carlos Quentin in the top of the 3rd and Floyd hit Reed Brignac in the 4th. And, as an added bonus, Cesar Ramos came in to relieve Niemann and plunked Juan Pierre in the 6th. Floyd 2, Niemann 2. Niemann gets a slight edge for hitting Q!, a 2011 all-star, but hitting Q! with a pitch doesn’t have a very high level of difficulty.
#4 – Jason Marquis vs Ian Kennedy – June 5th – This one started a bit late in the game – Kennedy hit Nationals major expenditure Jason Werth and 2011 MVP ballot participant Mike Morse, both in the 5th inning. Marquis about evened things out by hitting Justin Upton in the 6th. Arizona relievers went on a Danny Espinosa plunking contest, and went a combine 2 for 3 – Esmerling Vasquez and Joe Paterson hit him, but JJ Putz failed in his attempt.
#3 – Brandon Morrow vs Tim Wakefield – Sept 7th – Morrow started the game off hitting Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis in the 1st inning, but Wakefield countered by hitting Eric Thames in the 3rd and Jose Bautista in the 5th. Morrow wins the duel two all stars to one, but Boston relievers came on to plunk Brett Lawrie and former pitcher Adam Loewen in an attempt to even the score.
#2 – CJ Wilson vs Brian Gordon – June 16th – Brian Gordon used to play for the Rangers, and despite that, or maybe because of it, he hit Elvis Andrus in the 1st inning of his first start as a Yankee. Wilson responded in the 3rd hitting Nick Swisher, and Gordon came back in the top of the 5th hitting Adrian Beltre. Wilson responded by hitting Curtis Granderson in the bottom of the 5th. Andrus and Swisher were 2010 all stars, Granderson was a 2011 all star, and Beltre was an all star both years. Then just to cap off the festivities, Michael Kirkman came in for the 12th inning and plunked Robinson Cano.
#1 – Josh Beckett vs CC Sabathia – June 9th – 1st inning – Beckett hits Derek Jeter. 3rd inning – Beckett hits Alex Rodriguex. 4th inning – Sabathia hits David Ortiz. 5th inning – Beckett hits Curtis Granderson. Beckett wins, 2 franchise players to 1, with an MVP candidate kicker. This was a little bit one sided compared with the Wilson vs Gordon duel, but I’m giving it the edge for the best plunkers duel of the season based on the star power of both the batters and the pitchers.