There have been two men in recent history who made Braves fans’ hearts sink when they visited Turner Field.
There is Ryan Howard, the longtime Philadelphia Phillies first baseman who was perhaps the most feared power hitter in baseball at one point. He has a world championship, an MVP award and a Rookie of the Year Award to show for it.
And then there is Mike Piazza, one of the best hitting catchers in MLB history. Piazza was a 62nd round pick by the Dodgers and was only drafted as a personal favor because his father was good friends with Tommy Lasorda. He went on to have a Hall of Fame career in which he spent eight years in the NL East with the New York Mets.
Both stars terrorized the Braves, but who was the ultimate Braves killer? Let’s look at the numbers and see who gets the nod.
Numbers against Atlanta: 183 G, .280 AVG, .362 OBP, .935 OPS, 32 2B, 52 HR, 155 RBI, 174 Ks
Numbers against Atlanta: 155 G, .303 AVG, .375 OBP, .948 OPS, 33 2B, 38 HR, 111 RBI, 99 K
To me, it is clear that Piazza is the true Braves killer. The left-handed power hitter Howard has played every major league game in his 13-year career with the Phillies and in the NL East. Howard is fresher in the memory of Braves fans, his terrible Gwinnett stint aside. I think many fans would have guessed no other hitter had the Braves number like Howard did, and he was incredible against them, but Piazza gives him more than a run for his money when taking a look at the numbers.
Howard struck out so much more than Piazza. Piazza got on base more and put up similar power numbers when taking the number of games played into account. Piazza also had significantly better numbers in Turner Field than Howard did. He had a .304 average and a .976 OPS in Turner Field, as compared to Howard’s .268 average and .895 OPS there.
Sure, Howard’s numbers do not tell the whole story considering the way his game aged. However, I think there is also something to be said of how good Piazza was throughout his career, and that he was able to put up this type of production from the catcher spot. Howard had five more years in the division, though Piazza did still play the Braves at times throughout his tenure with other teams. If Piazza had spent more time in the division earlier in his career, his numbers would have been absolutely ridiculous against Atlanta. Most of Piazza’s production against the Braves was in his 30’s, the same age that Ryan Howard lost his step and started a steep decline.
So for you young readers out there who did not get to watch him play the Braves much, just know, Mike Piazza was the ultimate Braves killer.