"When I face top pitchers, I'm at my best."
Gary Sheffield is trying to say that his stats so far have been poor because he's facing too many bad pitchers. If he were facing better competition, he'd be hitting the ball better, or so he claims. But is he right?
I've played around a bit on ESPN's batter v. pitcher stats for the Sheff and I think Gary's wrong.
I took the stats for all pitchers availbable on ESPN's BvP database for Gary and ranked each pitcher as either "great" or "not-great." It's a very subjective ranking, but I noted these 32 pitchers as "great" (over the course of Gary's career, sorted by Gary AB's):
I think it's fairly clear (and not that surprising) that Gary hits better against weaker competition, despite his protestations otherwise.
(There's a more scientific way to choose "great" pitchers, but I've avoided doing that work. If someone else would like to address that, please feel free.)