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  1. Where would Lester rank – top 10?

    Comment by CampBrice — May 10, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

  2. I would ignore things like an elite BB rate. In fact a high BB guy probably has better stuff, as it is less often put into play early in the count.

    I think I would take contact rate first and foremost, with some wiggle room based on the ground ball rate as you describe.

    2/3 contact rate, 1/3 ground ball rate?

    Comment by Joecool — May 10, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

  3. I would have thought that Strasburg’s name would have at least been mentioned, even if it was just to remove him from the conversation.

    Comment by odditie — May 10, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

  4. I love Felix so much. I seriously cannot imagine last season without him.

    Comment by Alec — May 10, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

  5. It may be premature, but Michael Pineda has got to already be in the top 10 for the categories you described – “velocity, movement, intent, and simply how hard is it for opposing hitters (of all types) to produce against what they’re thrown.”

    Comment by Ton — May 10, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

  6. What about A.J. Burnett? He always seems to be mentioned as a guy who has great “stuff”.

    Comment by sstracher — May 10, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

  7. I’m inclined to vote Other for Greinke’s sake. Even if it’s not the BEST in baseball, I want to give him a nod.

    Comment by Mario Mendoza — May 10, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

  8. “I would have thought that Strasburg’s name would have at least been mentioned, even if it was just to remove him from the conversation.”

    God, I miss Strasburg. Get well soon, kid.

    Comment by DMCj — May 10, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

  9. Much different top 5 than you listed yesterday.

    FWIW, here’s my top 5.


    Comment by HotStubbsTimeMachine — May 10, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

  10. Beyond weird that Strasburg’s name isn’t mentioned. Talk about an elephant in the room.

    Comment by Richie Abernathy — May 10, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

  11. Look at how much better lefties hit against him. He is defying expectations, but there is a real platoon split there. If he ever gets a change up figured out though, I would think he rockets up this list since his fastball is so unhittable.

    Comment by Alec — May 10, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

  12. Great work, Dave. Can’t argue with your top 5, though I personally said Halladay. He’s a magician with the baseball.

    Best stuff of my lifetime – Pedro Martinez.

    Comment by ayjackson — May 10, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

  13. Dave,

    I will take my 9% support for Morrow and be happy! Thanks for the follow up post though.

    Comment by Mike Ketchen — May 10, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

  14. Easy Verlander, though if Strasburg was healthy he’d be #1. We have no clue if his stuff is the same anymore.

    Comment by Casey Whitman — May 10, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

  15. Morrow’s stuff is really as good as anybody’s (outside of Strasburg). His strikeout ability is ridiculous and guys look terrible swinging at his pitches when he locates them where he wants to.

    Comment by George — May 10, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

  16. No, it is not.

    Comment by Alec — May 10, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

  17. Didn’t BPro once try to quantify “stuff” with respect to league components (K/9, BB/9 K/BB, etc.)? Granted today it’s not probably sophisticated with the advent of pitchfx so it could probably use an update to incorporate better data capturing (e.g. velocity, movement, etc.)

    Comment by TomG — May 10, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

  18. I’m not sure if anyone else is with me here… but I don’t agree with your definition of “stuff”. To me, a pitcher with great “stuff” is a pitcher who throws pitches that are hard to hit. For example Jonathan Sanchez has great stuff as evidenced by his low opponent avg and high strikeout rate. However he doesn’t have the consistency to hit his locations often enough to be an elite pitcher… but he still has great “stuff”.

    I guess I would say that in order to be considered in the top 5 “stuff” department, you’d have to show a low opponent average, lots of strikeouts and a lot of swing and miss strikes.

    Comment by Swing and a miss — May 10, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

  19. From what I seen over the past three years it would be


    This is based on velocity, command, and control. I did not consider rookies or pitchers with less than three years of experience.

    Comment by MrBigShot — May 10, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

  20. “Stuff” = tats.

    Comment by Jason B — May 10, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

  21. I tend to agree more with the previous poster – I equate “stuff” more with lotsa swinging strikes and a low BAA moreso than pinpoint control.

    Comment by Jason B — May 10, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

  22. Pineda actually has very little movement on his pitches, especially the fastball. Honestly, along with the lack of even a third pitch, this should be his biggest criticism.

    Comment by Brett — May 10, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

  23. Try watching him.

    Comment by Guy That Agrees with George — May 10, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

  24. Gotta agree Swing and a Miss and Mendoza above me, combining both their takes. Best “Stuff” to me always screams pitchers that can throw any pitch at any time and get any hitter to swing and miss. The first name that jumped to mind was Greinke. All though Felix is clearly great at this too and throws fast.

    I have never equated velocity to “stuff”, always thought Maddox had some of the best “stuff”, as did Pedro.

    Comment by Shea Sera Sera — May 10, 2011 @ 4:27 pm

  25. Where would Chapman rank if tomorrow the Reds decided to turn him into a starter?

    Comment by Ellis — May 10, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

  26. Strasburg, Ubaldo. Definitely agree with the Pedro sentiment. Stuff basically means you can turn on the TV, not know who is pitching and kind of wonder how anyone can hit the guy. I had that feeling watching a young Gil Meche and Ryan Dempster. When Pedro was young, you wondered how anyone could hit him. David Cone had great stuff.

    I also think movement has more to do with it than pure velocity. Kyle Farnsworth has anti-stuff, but he throws hard, and oh so straight.

    Comment by db — May 10, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

  27. Complete homer vote for Verlander, but it’s hard to argue against any of the guys on this list.

    Comment by Chris — May 10, 2011 @ 4:39 pm


    Comment by AndyS — May 10, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

  29. I wish (good) changeups got the respect they deserve.

    Halladay and Daniel Hudson are so much fun to watch because of how their changeups fool people. I haven’t looked at the data, but I’ve seen the swings. It’s enjoyable.

    Great piece, Dave. Thanks!

    ps: I agree that Strasburg should be near the top of the Stuff Chart.

    Comment by Criminal Type — May 10, 2011 @ 4:44 pm

  30. I agree. First person I thought of was Pedro. I thought stuff was ability to throw what ever you want where ever you want for the desired result (an out).

    Comment by verd14 — May 10, 2011 @ 4:44 pm

  31. I love looking at topics like this, and I also find it interesting that the great pitchers that you normally wouldn’t refer to as having the best “stuff”: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jered Weaver, and Dan Haren, currently make up 4 of the Top 5 pitchers in the MLB based on WAR.

    Comment by Tyler — May 10, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

  32. So Clayton Kershaw would be in the top 5 then

    Comment by J — May 10, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

  33. The guy’s had a K/9 over 11.00 over his last 160+ IP in the toughest division in baseball for a reason. He has filthy stuff.

    Control and command could be improved (and have been), but his stuff compares with any of these other names.

    Comment by George — May 10, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

  34. Morrow’s swinging strike percentage over the last two seasons is 10.9%, which was 3rd for AL pitchers (behind Liriano and a changeup pitcher in Marcum) and 11th in the majors. When you consider that he’s doing that against the best offenses in baseball with regularity, it becomes even more impressive.

    His K/9 over that same period, of course, is 11.03, Lincecum is the next closest at 9.98.

    So yeah, I’d love to see an argument why he shouldn’t be on this list.

    Comment by George — May 10, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

  35. I agree with you. I was arguing the definition of “stuff” in the article… which basically led to a top 5 list of best pitchers, not necessarily best “stuff”.

    Comment by Swing and a miss — May 10, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  36. he is not top 10.

    Comment by johngomes — May 10, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  37. The whole point of this post was to distinguish “stuff” from actual pitching ability. Neither Halladay nor Pedro was a top-tier “stuff” guy.

    If you don’t think Randy Johnson had the best stuff in your lifetime, I don’t even know what to say to you.

    Comment by Random Guy — May 10, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

  38. I have to go with Verlander. When he’s on, he’s absolutely filthy. Felix is a CLOSE second, IMO.

    Comment by wahbjo01 — May 10, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

  39. Bless you for using “whole other.” Not that anyone ever *writes* “whole nother.” But still. Your next assignment is to properly use the word “comprise” (not “comprised of”) and “begs the question.”

    Oh, and great post. I still wish Morrow pitched for the M’s.

    Comment by Handwasher — May 10, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

  40. Yeah this is a valid point. But “stuff” for me correlates to saying a guy is a “5 tool player.” Pujols isn’t a “five tooler” but has been hands down the best player in baseball the past 5 years.

    Comment by Eriz — May 10, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

  41. When Romero is on, he has explosive stuff – the other day Sabathia said the Yankees hitters were chattering about this in the clubhouse after facing him. At times his command ebbs and flows, but other nights he has it all: low- to mid-90s heater with excellent movement to both sides of the plate, great command, outstanding curve, outstanding change.

    Comment by greenfrog — May 10, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

  42. Yeah, Cameron’s list isn’t a great one. Great command and control have a lot to do with successful pitchers (look no further than Halladay and Lee, perhaps the two best majors in the majors), but those qualities have nothing to do with raw stuff.

    Comment by George — May 10, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

  43. *pitchers in the majors

    Comment by George — May 10, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

  44. I’m curious, Felix obviously has amazing stuff, yet his strikeout rate is only good, not amazing like you would think it would be with the stuff he has. Is there any thought as to why this is?

    Comment by Chris — May 10, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

  45. Pre-2001 Pedro was absolutely a top tier stuff guy.

    Comment by Judy — May 10, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

  46. Lol@ prime Pedro not having premium stuff.

    Comment by Noxage — May 10, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

  47. Felix works down in the zone with an elite two-seamer and gets lots of groundouts. Thus, less Ks. In the general sense, it’s the same reason that Halladay doesn’t post elite K/9s; ‘too many’ quick easy groundouts and double plays erasing potential strikeouts.

    Comment by NBarnes — May 10, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

  48. Yep. I’ve never considered stuff to be related to velocity–it has more to do with movement and deception.

    Comment by Blue — May 10, 2011 @ 5:42 pm

  49. If you just focus on strikeout rate, you’re essentially going to come up with a list of fly-ball pitchers who throw a lot of four-seam fastballs up in the zone. It gets you extra strikeouts, but it also costs you more home runs. It’s a trade-off that a lot of pitchers aren’t willing to make, and rightly so.

    You can’t simply look at strikeout rate, or swinging strike rate, in isolation from the rest of what a pitcher is doing. If Morrow pitched down in the zone, his K/9 would go down, even if his stuff didn’t change.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — May 10, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

  50. Makes sense, thanks for the reply.

    Comment by Chris — May 10, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

  51. Verlander, plain and simple. He can throw 100 in the 9th with movement. He’s his own closer. Everybody who says Strasburg should watch Verlander pitch, Verlander is the guy SS hopes he is in two years.

    Don’t get me wrong, the results aren’t always there, but a well placed Verlander fastball is probably the best offering by a starting pitcher in all baseball.

    /bbplayer crush inspired rant.

    Comment by Deadpool — May 10, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

  52. Verlander, Felix, Lincecum, Greinke, Jimenez. Best combination of velocity and excellent secondary pitches.

    Pedro was a stuff guy in the same way that Lincecum is a stuff guy – they have good fastballs but aren’t upper 90s guys at all. I think Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens fit the “stuff” mold most from that generation. Pedro’s sort of the halfway point between those guys and someone who got his outs based on control and movement, like Maddux.

    Comment by Eric Cioe — May 10, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

  53. I’d assume that he’s a smarter pitcher and thus knows that it is beneficial to pitch to (weak) contact most of the time

    Comment by exxrox — May 10, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

  54. For sheer arm strength, I think the only guy in the majors who compares to Verlander is Ubaldo. Maybe Felix. But Verlander can carry his league-best velocity deeper than anyone, and throws 110+ pitches every time out with no repercussions.

    Comment by Eric Cioe — May 10, 2011 @ 5:51 pm

  55. Obviously there’s no agreed upon definition for “stuff,” but I think of it as similar to athletic ability in basketball. If a guy is 6’9″ with a 4-foot vertical and he can run like a point guard, he has the basketball version of “stuff” in that he has raw tools that can be but aren’t necessarily effectively.

    For baseball, I would define it as “the ability to make a baseball do things” in a way that few players, even at the major league level, can replicate. For the most part, that involves velocity and movement, both vertical and horizontal. Command and control are absolutely important aspects of pitching success, but they’re something different. A great changeup can be a fantastic weapon, but is more a product of technique than an elite fastball or breaking ball. I would argue that all or nearly all major league pitchers can learn an effective changeup, but most will never be able to throw a 98 mph fastball or a devastating 12-6 curve, due to limitations in arm speed or wrist flexibility. That’s “stuff”: top end tools that separate a few from the rest.

    Tthe best “stuff” I’ve ever seen was by Kerry Wood when he first came up. Strasberg is the only guy I’ve ever seen that’s close. (I was born in ’80, so I haven’t really seen Koufax or Seaver or anyone else that came before the late-Ryan/early-Clemens era.) Hopefully that’s where their similarities end. Pedro is up there. I’d put Lincecum tops of current (non-injured) pitchers, though Felix and Verlander are awfully impressive.

    A few years ago Kazmir would’ve been on the list. Crazy.

    Comment by Gerald — May 10, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

  56. I know this is a discussion of starters, but i’m still surprised no one has mentioned Marmol. I’d be curious to see a list of relievers as well.

    Comment by Scott M — May 10, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

  57. I’d like to mention Marmol as well. Sure, he’s basically just fastball-slider, but he’s nearly unhittable when he’s on.

    Comment by Bryan — May 10, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

  58. Like Halladay, he probably trades some Ks for contact. Makes sense for Felix in Seattle.

    That said, Halladay’s swinging strike% is at a career high, as is his K/9. 1.49 FIP!

    Comment by Travis — May 10, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

  59. I agree that stuff is really having 2+ pitches that are awesome, you might get a good proxy on stuff looking at pitch type values.. if hes got 2 good pitches you’ll probably see a the nice positive pitch values in at least 2 categories..

    I thought Edwin Jackson would rate highly in terms of stuff..

    Comment by Jim Lahey — May 10, 2011 @ 6:07 pm

  60. I voted for Felix, but Jonathon Sanchez has some of the best stuff of the game, but you would never know it because he cant locate it. He would be Tim lincecum if he learned some more control.

    Comment by Kevin Yost — May 10, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

  61. I think he would be up there, that fastball is certainly some pitch.

    Comment by Kevin Yost — May 10, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

  62. When I think stuff, most of the guys listed in the articles/comments are right on, but I also have to give props to Neftali Feliz.

    Comment by tdotsports1 — May 10, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

  63. I remember watching the Tigers vs Mariners game earlier in the year and before the game, the Tiger’s commentators talked about how straight his fastball and how it should be hittable because of its lack of movement. They regretted what they said. I’ve watched all of his starts and I can say I’ve never seen so many late swings in a long time. He reminds me of Josh Johnson with a more explosive fastball and less accuracy (ability to throw to a desired location, not ability to throw strikes). I want everyone if they can to watch Pineda’s first at bat versus Jose Bautista on April 12th. In the at bat he started it by throwing 3 fastballs, all for balls to make the count 3-0, then he threw a fastball down the middle for a called strike, 3-1, then a fastball on the outside corner called strike, 3-2, then a fastball right down the middle, whiff, swinging strike, strikeout. He just threw 6 straight fastballs to, arguably, the best AL hitter and struck him out. Not many guys can do that.

    Comment by mo2119 — May 10, 2011 @ 6:13 pm

  64. Yeah, speaking of not even knowing what to say to someone, I don’t know how to begin to address someone who says that Pedro’s stuff was not top tier.

    It’s too bad linear weights don’t go back to when the two of them were in their primes, but they at least show enough to indicate that Pedro in his prime had four devastating pitches. Randy was really mostly a two pitch pitcher, and interestingly enough his fastball, though good, was not as dominant as we might suspect. It’s just that his slider was out of this world.

    That’s not to say that Randy didn’t have some insane stuff. But the notion that Pedro was not a top tier stuff guy is, well, just kind of crazy.

    Also, I think it’s awfully hard to simply conclusively anoint someone as having the best stuff of our lifetime (it sounds like we’re all the same generation) without at least mentioning that Roger Clemens knew a few way to get hitters out as well.

    Comment by Ben — May 10, 2011 @ 6:14 pm

  65. Yeah, I thought this conversation wouldn’t be complete without Clemens. So, he and Randy Johnson and (I assume) Nolan Ryan are way up there on the all-time stuff list.
    Who else? Walter Johnson? Satchel Paige? I suppose it isn’t even possible to compare… too bad.

    Comment by bookbook — May 10, 2011 @ 6:14 pm

  66. Just a note on Morrow: he doesn’t carry his great velocity deep into every start. Last night, 70 pitches in, his once-explosive fastball was sitting at 89.

    To me, that’s a big part of stuff: how deep can you carry your velocity?

    Comment by Eric Cioe — May 10, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

  67. It can’t just be pitches that are hard to hit – a pitcher who throws a good changeup that gets alot of K’s is not someone I would say has filthy “stuff” – but it really comes down to what your definition of stuff is, as everyone’s seems to vary a bit

    Comment by Ton — May 10, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

  68. Of what I’ve seen this year, oddly enough, I’d have to go with SF Giants pitcher, Brian Wilson. He has upgraded big time over last year and added at least two wicked new pitches that he is throwing for strikes.

    Comment by channelclemente — May 10, 2011 @ 6:18 pm

  69. Are you guys not reading the same article I am? There’s a definition of “stuff” up there as an incredibly hard fastball, bonus points for movement, and one huge breaking pitch. That is, Randy Johnson. The definition is not a huge repertoire of well-above-average pitches, which is what Pedro had. Pedro’s stuff was very good — a fastball maxing out at about 95-97 (per Wiki) is nothing to sneeze at. And he was absolutely a dominant pitcher. But that’s not what we are discussing here.

    And yes, Roger Clemens is in the discussion for best stuff of our lifetimes. So is Nolan Ryan.

    Comment by Random Guy — May 10, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

  70. I wasn’t looking at swinging strike% or K/9 in isolation, I posted them to show just how foolish Morrow can make hitters look.

    Despite not getting GBs, Morrow is still an incredibly effective pitcher, though. He’s had a 3.06 FIP/3.38 xFIP in the AL East since last year. If he could go a bit deeper in games, we’d be calling the guy an elite pitcher.

    Comment by George — May 10, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

  71. His fastball was regularly 92-94 in the inning. In fact, he reached 96 at one point.

    Comment by George — May 10, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

  72. If we are talking about stats, Pineda lead the league in Z-Contact % at 80.5% and among the names leading in Z-Contact %, he is the only one that is a “strike-thrower”. So even though the hitter knows he is getting strikes, he can’t consistently make contact with pitches in the zone.

    Comment by mo2119 — May 10, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

  73. Gah, can’t believe Kershaw is polling better than Lester. If he had to pitch in the AL East he wouldn’t be nearly as good.

    Comment by Dan H — May 10, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

  74. @ Random Guy

    I’m sorry that you had to look up Pedro’s fastball speed on wikipedia and didn’t get to witness his complete and utter domination in person. 95-97 fastball with movement, with 3 plus secondary pitches. It’s the definition of “stuff”. Completely unhittable.

    Comment by JohnnyComeLately — May 10, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

  75. Pedro’s circle change was arguably the best pitch of anyone in baseball. I think you’re talking out of your ass.

    Comment by Crap Shoot — May 10, 2011 @ 6:40 pm

  76. Who exactly doesn’t recognize Halladay’s stuff as elite? He throws like five pitches that are at least above average.

    Comment by Marc — May 10, 2011 @ 6:40 pm

  77. Pedro’s average fastball in 2002, very much his prime, was just under 91. “95-97″ might have happened twice a game, maybe. He had great movement, the best changeup in the game, and two good breaking balls. Like Lincecum, almost exactly. Lincecum also doesn’t throw 95-97.

    Comment by Eric Cioe — May 10, 2011 @ 6:40 pm

  78. Best all time reliever stuff? Eric Gagne?

    Comment by JohnnyComeLately — May 10, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

  79. Flawed concept from the start. I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, but fastball velocity is not at all how I would define “stuff” and I would venture to bet that it is not how most people would define it either. I don’t know how I would define it other than how unhittable a pitcher is. Carlos Marmol has “stuff”. Have you seen him throw a slider? True, Randy Johnson had stuff, but that was just as much because of his slider that hit a left handed batter on the back foot AFTER the batter swung and missed it as it was the fact that he could hit triple digits with his fast ball. And, of course, Pedro Martinez was the biggest “stuff” pitcher of my lifetime in my opinion. In his prime he was practically unhittable, and he didn’t do it with a triple digit fastball. Yes, at times he could dial it up pretty high, but for the most part he sat in the low 90′s, and his best pitch was an absolutely filthy changeup that made the best hitters in the game look foolish. Another pitcher on that same vein was Johan Santana in his prime. Again, a guy that usually sat in the low 90′s or even high 80′s, but absolutely untouchable for several years because he had one of the best changeups in the game. Anyway, TL;DR stuff isn’t about velocity.

    Comment by Shannon — May 10, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

  80. Bartolo Colon has Double Stuf ®

    Comment by Choo — May 10, 2011 @ 6:49 pm

  81. David Ortiz says that Jered Weaver has the best stuff in the game.

    Comment by bSpittle — May 10, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

  82. maybe 5 years ago…

    Comment by batpig — May 10, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

  83. Yankee fan myself. Born im 1975. Pedro hss insane stuff. Sat consistently mid 90s with 3 great secondary out pitches. Best of my lifetime, clemens, johnson, martinez, verlander, felix. Smoltz has unbelievable stuff early in his career as well

    Comment by Bpdelia — May 10, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

  84. I would not argue that the Unit had the best stuff of that era, but to say Pedro didn’t have top-tier “stuff” is insane. His stuff is a whole ‘nuther tier up from Halladay.

    Lincecum is the best comparable, but Pedro was much better still. If you go by the “simply how hard is it for opposing hitters (of all types) to produce against what they’re thrown” litmus test, Pedro was ELITE, and clearly “top tier”. Watching batters attempt to hit against him was comical.

    Comment by batpig — May 10, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

  85. Marmol would have gotten my vote if listed, and he definitely belongs on the short list. Ridiculous movement.

    Comment by reillocity — May 10, 2011 @ 7:11 pm

  86. for sure. If you want to open the “closers” door, then in-his-prime, chock-full-o-roids Eric Gagne was the filthiest pitcher I have ever seen.

    and he is a classic example of how a GREAT offspeed pitch can clearly by “great stuff” when mated with a dominant fastball. You never saw such ugly swings….

    Comment by batpig — May 10, 2011 @ 7:13 pm

  87. A slightly different way of looking at this using pitch values per 100 pitches. I took the 2010 qualifying pitchers and determined the average and StDev pitch value weight per 100 pitches for those pitchers. I then tallied the number of pitches for each pitcher where the wPitchType/c is at least the 1 SD value (average +1 SD).

    I came up with 12 pitchers who had 2 pitches that were above the thresholds and they are
    Adam Wainwright (SL/CB)
    Ubaldo Jimenez (FB/SF- small sample size on the splitter, his change just misses the cutoff)
    Cliff Lee (FB/CB)
    Felix Hernandez (FB/CH)
    Ted Lilly (FB/CB)
    Roy Oswalt (FB/CB)
    Justin Verlander (SL/CH)
    Chad Billingsley (SL/CH)
    Shaun Marcum (SL/CH)
    Tim Hudson (FB/CB)
    Mat Latos (FB/SL)
    Jon Lester (CT/CH)

    If I change the threshold to .5 SD above average, Adam Wainwright has 4 pitches (FB/SL/CB/CH) that qualify. 11 others have 3, with Halladay, CJ Wilson, and Lester joining the list, and Marcum, Hudson, and Lilly dropping off.

    Based on this, Wainwright could have been part of the discussion as having (or had) potentially great stuff.

    Using 3 years of stats on the 0.5 SD threshold (and removing a few small sample sizes) the list of 3 pitch pitchers are:

    Ubaldo Jimenez
    Tim Lincecum
    Jon Lester
    Justin Verlander
    Roy Oswalt

    That’s a pretty good list.

    Comment by Bob — May 10, 2011 @ 7:13 pm

  88. Swinging strike rate is definitely important but I think another part that needs to be considered that I don’t think we necessarily can with the data at hand at this point is how many of a pitcher’s throws out of the strike zone get swung at. I know there’s PitchF/X data for hitters swinging at balls in and out of the strike zone, but does this exist for hitters? This stat could be weighted down by aggressive swingers but a big part of “stuff” is getting guys to swing at pitches out of the strike zone a la K Rod for the Angels circa 2003 getting swing-throughs while pounding the dirt in front of the plate.

    Comment by JWTP — May 10, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

  89. I gotta go with Verlander.(probably a homer pick but oh well) It’s insane how he can hold his velocity so late in games. I was reading on ESPN that during his no hitter he was averaging 99.6mph on his fastball from the 7th inning on. That’s insane. Sure that may have been adrenaline so if you want to throw that out I’ll give another example. During his last start of the season last year after throwing 110+ pitches for the game and well over 3000 for the season he was still touching 101 according to pitch f/x(I think the number was 101.6 to be exact) Crazy. Here’s the link to it.

    On top of that his curve can be filthy. According to an article from Tom Verducci from SI he said that Verlander’s curve had more spin than anybody’s in baseball according to pitch F/x, with close to 4000RPMs. Insane.

    I will say though I don’t think his delivery looks that deceptive. Of course I can’t tell what it looks like from the battter’s point of view but from the CF camera to me it doesn’t look like he hides the baseball that well so I don’t think it gets on hitters as fast as it could. Of course I don’t have evidence of this it’s just what it looks like to me so I could be wrong.

    Comment by Matt C — May 10, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

  90. Oops typo on that spin rotation I put. It was actually 3,000 not 4000.

    Comment by Matt C — May 10, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

  91. Great article Dave, amazing work as always.

    I cant argue against any of the guys on this list. Sure, Strasburg isn’t included. However, I wouldnt say he needs to be. When you have tommy john surgery everything about a pitcher can change. So (while he looked superhuman last year) we may never see that pitcher again. Of course he could return and still be a top “stuff” pitcher but that is uncertain. Due to the nature of his injury I wouldn’t say demands a spot on the list in the same way that Felix, Ubaldo, and Verlander do. (Though I would not complain if he was listed.)

    Comment by Joe — May 10, 2011 @ 7:22 pm

  92. If Lincecum is not in the conversation, it’s not worth engaging in. No real platoon split, and killer fastball, curve, slider and change. When one weapon isn’t working, he’ll get you with the other.

    Comment by hairball — May 10, 2011 @ 7:28 pm

  93. That’s not a quantitative analysis.

    Comment by hairball — May 10, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

  94. Your 3-pitch list is pretty awesome. Also, I assume Tim was meant to be on the 2-pitch list as well.

    Comment by hairball — May 10, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

  95. No love for me?!
    I may not throw 98, but I got plenty movement on all my pitches!
    Cmon throw me a bone here…top 15? please…?

    Comment by ChadBillingsley — May 10, 2011 @ 7:40 pm

  96. Isn’t Volquez supposed to have top notch stuff? (Even though in reality he sucks) I read on that he has a great swing and miss rate (even though in terms of preventing runs he stinks at it).

    Guys with great stuff are awe inspiring to watch when they have their A game, but in terms of actually winning with them on the mound every 5th day, I’d much rather have a guy with decent stuff but consistent command than a guy with great stuff but inconsistent command. (Talking about real baseball, not roto)

    I think command and late movement matter more than velocity.

    Comment by papasmurf — May 10, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

  97. When A.J. is on his game his stuff is top 5.

    Comment by Vic — May 10, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

  98. Yes, relievers please!

    Comment by Joe — May 10, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

  99. Then I would have thought that Yu Darvish’s also should have at least been mentioned, even though he’d never pitched in MLB.

    And FWIW, here is my top 5:


    If you’d like to exclude Darvish at any cost, then I’d include Jimenez instead.

    Comment by gradygradychase — May 10, 2011 @ 7:57 pm

  100. Eric Cioe – dude Pedro was at his best in the mid-to-late not 2002. He was still great then but not at his peak. And yes in the late 90′s he was hitting 95-97 mph on thr gun with REGULARITY. There’s no way you could have watched him pitch in those days, as I did, and state differently.

    Comment by jpg — May 10, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

  101. Meant to say mid-to-late 90′s

    Comment by jpg — May 10, 2011 @ 8:11 pm

  102. you misspelled “was”

    Comment by batpig — May 10, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

  103. I’m not sure anyone can meaningfully assess Johnson’s and Paige’s “stuff” – just don’t have the tools that we have to disect movement, velocity, break, etc etc that we do today. No offense to those super-duper pitchers of course.

    Comment by Jason B — May 10, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

  104. *Chortle*

    Comment by Jason B — May 10, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

  105. Hey gimme some of those dude…

    Comment by Rich Garces — May 10, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

  106. HANDS OFF MY OREOS!! I’ma have those after this ham sammich…

    Comment by Mama Cass — May 10, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

  107. I think the difference between guys like Cliff Lee & Halladay and guys like Hernandez or Verlander is the former has a serious edge on control and ability to throw multiple plus pitches for strikes — the latter have more overpowering fastballs and swing and miss ability.

    Comment by Patrick B — May 10, 2011 @ 8:39 pm

  108. I agree, although you have to admit that if he threw more strikes he’d also probably be more hittable.

    Comment by Matt — May 10, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

  109. Wilson’s two seamer, which he is just starting to work in, has some mind boggling run on right handers. And his cutter in on lefties just keeps getting better and better.

    Comment by Matt — May 10, 2011 @ 8:43 pm

  110. I think to properly define stuff you would need to set it up as a component of results (maybe something like average of RA and FIP to give some credit for weak contact).

    A whole bunch of things above have been called “stuff” or “parts of stuff” – fastball velocity, pitch value for >1 pitch, K/9, swing throughs (1 – contact %)..

    What ISN’T stuff? BB/9? BABIP? I mean, who has the least “stuff” but still functionally gets guys out? Zito? Livan Hernandez? Kirk Reuter?

    Is stuff = 1 – hittability? Are guys with good stuff easier or harder to foul off?

    What about (of all things!) batting average or even slugging average against!
    There is obviously a defensive component in there we would like to squeeze out however.

    [1 – (oSLG – (BABIP – leagueAvBABIP)) ?? I guess the last number is basically a constant, so only needed for comparing accross leagues.

    Comment by zenbitz — May 10, 2011 @ 9:04 pm

  111. Pedro in his peak (’99-’00) had incredible stuff. He would always poll at the top of the league surveys with his changeup and curveball and he was still averaging 94-95 (with great movement) with his fastball. He could even get it up to 97-98 a couple times a game. You don’t post the type of numbers he did those two years without top-of-the-line, elite stuff. No amount of pitchability can get you to a 1.39 FIP without incredible stuff.

    Comment by EDogg1438 — May 10, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

  112. @Dave:

    I see what you mean about focusing just on strikeout rate, but what about focusing on swinging strike percentage?

    I haven’t found a way to sort the leaders on that stat. I’d be interested in seeing the results.

    Comment by RMelyon — May 10, 2011 @ 9:21 pm

  113. Daniel Bard…if only for this pitch:

    Comment by Friedman — May 10, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

  114. He has the best fastball in the game, maybe. Not overall stuff

    Comment by Taylor — May 10, 2011 @ 9:33 pm

  115. This might have been mentioned already, but, where might Mark Prior be ranked when he was on top of his game and not injured?

    Comment by HotPinS — May 10, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

  116. Would anyone say that Phil Niekro had good stuff?

    Comment by Travis — May 10, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

  117. Most of us would agree one stat in isolation doesn’t quantify “stuff”. So how about we take (count) for some list of categories. For example, if we chose these 5 (or any x similar categories):

    Swing and miss % in K-zone (in zone, still can’t hit it)
    Swing and miss % outside zone (filthy enough to get hitters to chase)
    Strikeout %
    Home run % (can’t square up; remove some bias on high fastball pitchers)
    Walk % (remove some bias on pitchers w/ wildness that helps their strikeout #s)

    I’d be curious if any pitcher would be in top 5% of all of those categories and which pitchers would have the highest counts. Or rank each pitcher in all categories, take cumulative score, and see which come out the lowest. Etc. But point being use a count-based score amongst x categories for now. Then maybe argue a weighted score…

    Comment by stuffNot1statStory — May 10, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

  118. it’s called O-swing%… and the leaders from 08-present are pineda, halladay, haren, baker(wtf?) and marcum

    Comment by fredsbank — May 10, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

  119. Not saying it’s necessarily the correct definition but my definition of stuff is basically something you can’t teach, it’s something you either have or not like velocity or a ton of movement on a pitch. You can often times learn a new pitch, or add deception to make you effective but you really can’t learn how to throw 100mph or have a filthy movement on a breaking ball.

    Comment by Matt C — May 10, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

  120. Yeah, they are both relatively vague concepts, although still helpful in analyzing baseball players to an extent. Either way, I guess, you don’t have to have the best stuff to be a successful pitcher, and just because you have great stuff doesn’t necessarily make you a successful pitcher.

    Comment by Tyler — May 10, 2011 @ 10:30 pm

  121. Jamie Moyer. The man whose fastball wouldn’t get a speeding ticket on some highways.

    Comment by Scott — May 10, 2011 @ 10:42 pm

  122. UH…HELLO?!

    Comment by StevieStrasburg — May 10, 2011 @ 10:57 pm

  123. I’m glad you mentioned Hudson. Hudson and Scherzer’s fastball/changeup combos are devastating.

    Comment by Oprah — May 10, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

  124. Scherzer and Greinke could definitely be on that list.

    I took Felix.

    Pedro and Randy Johnson for best stuff I’ve ever seen.

    Comment by Oprah — May 10, 2011 @ 11:03 pm

  125. That may have been a really hard slider from Morrow that didn’t break much.

    Comment by Oprah — May 10, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

  126. I think swingstr%, o-swing, and zone% are a good starting point. i’m sure there is a tight relationship between swingstr% & zone% with k/9, as well as one between zone% and bb/9, so may as well go with the less dependent variables.

    could we also use an arbitrary product of rpm or pitch f/x coordinates and velocity?

    Comment by stats — May 10, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

  127. Easily Strasburg, no one else is that close. His average fastball last year was 97.8, nearly 3 MPH higher than anyone else – combined with crazy control, an amazing slider, etc.

    He obviously wouldn’t have the best stuff now, but he did last year, and (hopefully) will in a couple of years.

    Comment by KrakenEater — May 10, 2011 @ 11:21 pm

  128. I always heard Darvish works primarily in the low 90s, he doesn’t seem like a great fit for this discussion.

    How about Chapman?

    Comment by OremLK — May 10, 2011 @ 11:55 pm

  129. I don’t know if I agree with the part of this article that having a change-up as an out pitch makes one lose reputation for having great stuff. I think it relates more to fastball velocity. Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana are two examples of guys with the change up as their main out pitch who are/were considered to have great stuff.

    Moreover I don’t understand the thinking in this article. Since when does Dave come to the conclusion that we are measuring something wrong, and then use that incorrect measurement to make a determination, such as he does here with fastball-curve/slider combo.

    Personally, I think that stuff should be measured by swinging strikes in the zone, like mo2119 said. It’s like, “here it is and you still can’t hit it.”

    Michael Pineda leads the league in Z-contact at 80.5% right now. That’s pretty incredible and affirms, to me, he has great stuff.

    The top 10 in Z-contact from 2005-present:

    C Hamels: 82.0%
    J Santana: 82.8%
    Jered Weaver: 83.5%
    CC Sabathia: 85.0%
    J Danks: 85.2%
    T Wakefield: 85.3%
    J Vazquez: 85.3%
    D Matsuzaka: 85.5%
    J Peavy: 85.6%
    T Lincecum: 85.7%

    Some unsurprising and some surprising names on there. I’d say Wakefield’s knuckler counts as “great stuff.” Everybody knows what’s coming and they often still can’t hit it.

    Comment by The Nicker — May 10, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

  130. Well that presupposes you agree with the definition. Even still, he has Halladay third.

    Comment by ayjackson — May 11, 2011 @ 12:12 am

  131. sorry but no.

    Comment by batpig — May 11, 2011 @ 12:17 am

  132. young healthy Prior had great “raw” stuff. You don’t get to be the “best pitching prospect ever” without elite stuff.

    didn’t have the ultra-velocity fastball like Kerry Wood (whom most would probably agree had slightly better raw stuff) so he probably would lose out to contemporaries like Wood, Pedro, or the Unit in the “best of the best” contest… but he sat mid-90′s with a ridiculous curveball, and his command of both pitches is what pushed him over the top.

    Comment by batpig — May 11, 2011 @ 12:25 am

  133. I do feel like z-contact has to be a factor, i.e. “it’s over the plate but you still can’t hit it”.

    That being said, that list has a big bias towards the guys with the filthy off-speed pitches (usually combined with a plus fastball). Fastballs in general have a lower swinging strike rate than a great slider or change.

    Hamels, Santana, Weaver, Sabathia, Danks, and Lincecum is basically a list of the most devastating changeups in the league.

    In fact, if you sort by wCH over that same timeframe (2005-present) Santana is #1, Hamels is #2, Lincecum is #3, Sabathia is #4, Weaver is #7, Danks is #9.

    Javy Vazquez has both a great change and a curve, Peavy had a ridiculous slider, and Matsuzaka has all sorts of junk.

    I would like to see a z-contact leaderboard but just for fastballs…

    Comment by batpig — May 11, 2011 @ 12:36 am

  134. You are right Randy Johnson wins…his slider was so intense

    Comment by adohaj — May 11, 2011 @ 1:23 am

  135. This article is not very good at all considering “Stuff” is all about velocity or at least most of it is. “Stuff” is not just velocity but more about all of the pitches that one throws. Just ask any American League hitter what kind of “Stuff” Tim Wakefield has or had. Same with many knuckleballers. “Stuff” is a well rounded term meant for all, not just heat.

    Comment by beagamer — May 11, 2011 @ 1:28 am

  136. If it was something that was well-defined, we probably wouldn’t call it “stuff” (one of the vaguest terms in the language).

    Based on how people use the term, it basically seems to means “everything other than command.” Basically how hard a pitchers pitches are to hit independent of his ability to put them where he wants to. In reality, of course, a pitch’s location has a big impact on how hard it is to hit, but the idea is to separate location from everything else.

    For example, a Nolan Ryan fastball down the middle would be harder to hit than a Greg Maddux fastball in the same spot, and a Ryan fastball on the corner (or really any area in or near the zone) would be harder to hit than a Maddux fastball in the same spot. Maddux, of course, had far greater ability to make his pitches go where he wanted, but that’s separate from the issue of stuff. Basically, command is where your pitches go and stuff is what they do on the way there.

    I voted for Felix, but if 2010 Strasburg was an option, he’d get my vote. For all the fuss about his fastball, his curveball was what really impressed me. In the few chances I had to watch him, it was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

    Comment by AlanSP — May 11, 2011 @ 1:36 am

  137. this stuff is confusing.

    Is this the definition of stuff that the scouts use when they grade pitchers?

    I’m no historian, but it seems like the pitchers with the best “stuff” tend to be the ones that need major surgeries such as Tommy John. It doesn’t pay to the have the best “stuff” if it’s going to cause you to be injury prone throughout your career because you throw the hardest.

    Comment by Young Gung — May 11, 2011 @ 1:44 am

  138. Gagne vs. Bonds, and both roided up…that was something to see…

    Comment by al fredo — May 11, 2011 @ 1:50 am

  139. One other thing. I think the lack of respect for change-ups as something that’s a part of “stuff” is silly. It was Pedro’s best pitch, and Johan Santana’s, and now Lincecum’s and Felix’s.

    It’s a misconception that change-ups are just about being slower that the fastball the batter is expecting. That’s a part of the value, or course, but that’s basically true of any off-speed pitch. Commentators always go on about pitchers having the same arm speed for their fastball and change as if it were simply a slow fastball.
    What really makes great change-ups great is the same thing that makes great curves and sliders: movement. Pedro’s change wasn’t great because hitters *really* thought it was a fastball. It was great because of its insane, late screwball-like break.

    Comment by AlanSP — May 11, 2011 @ 1:56 am

  140. Kerry Wood, prior to injury. Really there was nobody else who could throw like that.

    Comment by Rumsfeld — May 11, 2011 @ 1:58 am

  141. For me, stuff is defined by the ability to wow and to make major league hitters look foolish. I don’t discriminate against pitch types (except maybe knuckleballs and eephus pitches), I just look for pitches that are so exciting that they seem out of this world. It could be high heat blowing away hitters, sliders or changeups causing wild flailing swings at pitches nowhere close to the zone, or big breaking balls that buckle knees.

    From my point of view, it doesn’t include some things that I know to be effective like avoiding walks, getting groundball contact, etc.

    Stat-wise, I think you have to look at things like strikeout and swinging strike rates. I’d want to discount some for groundball rates as you suggested but like I said, effective pitching isn’t always stuff.

    Besides the other suggestions of recent “stuff” guys, I’d like to throw out Rich Harden (back when he was getting injured only one or two months a year). He never had the huge strikeout numbers, but when he was on, he had ridiculous wow pitches.

    Comment by Jason — May 11, 2011 @ 2:19 am

  142. I thought that was the definition of command not stuff

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — May 11, 2011 @ 3:12 am

  143. For “best stuff in my lifetime”, I’ll take the first two seasons of Dwight Gooden.

    Comment by Rickey H — May 11, 2011 @ 4:17 am

  144. If you define “stuff” primarily by fastball velocity, than Felix shouldn’t top the list, as his average fastball velocity has been declining and now sits at 93,5. I wonder if that is cause for concern?

    Comment by vj — May 11, 2011 @ 5:09 am

  145. Good call. A prefiguration of Kerry Wood. PitchFX on those two (’98 Wood, ’84-’85 Gooden) would be a kick.

    Comment by Rumsfeld — May 11, 2011 @ 6:58 am

  146. a fastball is never unhittable.

    Comment by Richard — May 11, 2011 @ 7:23 am

  147. agree with hairball… sort of negates the rest of the picks when lincecum isn’t in your top 5.

    Comment by Richard — May 11, 2011 @ 7:25 am

  148. since we’re talking about active players, it’s not weird.

    how about we see if his stuff is still there after his recovery.

    Comment by Richard — May 11, 2011 @ 7:26 am

  149. if the definition of ‘stuff’ isn’t primarily having pitches that are hard to hit, then there is no definition. a guy that pitches to contact does so because he doesn’t have good ‘stuff’, or it’s just not good enough to consistently produce misses.

    velocity as a primary factor is bogus as well.

    movement + deception = stuff

    for example, lincecum’s change is probably his best pitch, and accounts for a good number of strikeouts, ugly swings, and sprained ankles. lincecum, by all accounts, has elite stuff.

    Comment by Richard — May 11, 2011 @ 7:36 am

  150. as would everyone else… keeping the ball in the zone isn’t always the way to get outs. use lincecum as an example. he gets an insane number of swings/misses out of the zone, by design.

    Comment by Richard — May 11, 2011 @ 7:42 am

  151. as a huge giants fan, i’m going to go ahead and disagree here…

    wilson has the potential for great stuff, but right now it’s just good. his two seamer is better than it’s been, but every pitch he has is hittable. he’s a great example of a guy with a big fastball and decent secondary pitches that just doesn’t rise to the level of even having a conversation about their ‘stuff’. he gets outs, which is why he’s the best closer in the majors, but his stuff definitely isn’t the best.

    Comment by Richard — May 11, 2011 @ 7:46 am

  152. You know who none of us mentioned but had some of the best stuff ever for a rhp? Eatly doc gooden. Top tier high velocity fastball and for four years a simply unhitablr cv. 84-87 goodens “stuff was right there w ryan and clemens

    Comment by Bpdelia — May 11, 2011 @ 7:47 am

  153. go away, this discussion is for major league pitchers, not kids in rehab.

    Comment by Richard — May 11, 2011 @ 7:54 am

  154. My 1-2 are Halladay and Lee. The ability to pound the zone without getting punished probably the single most valuable and the single rarest asset a pitcher can have, and those two have it in spades. It’s also, in my mind, the best indication of how good a pitcher’s stuff is; if you can throw that many strikes without getting punished, your stuff must be untouchable.

    Comment by jordan — May 11, 2011 @ 8:28 am

  155. I believe that would be the best way to do it. I also believen The Freak and The King are probably the only two who rank in four out ot those five in the top five

    Comment by Mike Ketchen — May 11, 2011 @ 8:43 am

  156. best stuff I ever saw… Steve Carlton.

    Comment by Dave S — May 11, 2011 @ 8:52 am

  157. I would take Lee and Hamels over Halladay… maybe Oswalt over Roy too.

    When I think stuff… I think a guy who make you say… “that pitch was FILTHY”.

    Halladay is all about preternatural command.

    Comment by Dave S — May 11, 2011 @ 8:58 am

  158. You left one out. What about Jonathan Sanchez. He’s maddening to watch pitch because he walks too many people, but he flat out misses bats. He has no-hit potential every time out, although, he usually walks too many guys to finish a game. Still, led the league last year in BAA, which would seem to suggest both a low BABiP as well as pretty good stuff.

    Comment by Giant Torture — May 11, 2011 @ 9:13 am

  159. Bartolo is going to have these pretty soon. This presents a rather large problem for the Yankees.

    Comment by Chris Cwik — May 11, 2011 @ 9:14 am

  160. Well yah. As an overall pitcher I’d have him top 3. In terms of this hand-wavy thing we’re trying to definitively label, he’s just outside my top 5. No need to get all uppity.

    Comment by HotStubbsTimeMachine — May 11, 2011 @ 9:33 am

  161. When I think of who has the best ‘stuff’ in the Majors I would assume Ron Washington or Josh Hamilton’s name would have to come up…

    Comment by Resolution — May 11, 2011 @ 9:42 am

  162. But it’s a rather accurate one.

    Comment by HotStubbsTimeMachine — May 11, 2011 @ 9:46 am

  163. David Ortiz is probably wrong.

    Comment by Bron — May 11, 2011 @ 9:49 am

  164. You are the Brett Wallace of pitchers. No.

    Comment by Kaka — May 11, 2011 @ 9:52 am

  165. Thanks tips.

    Comment by Kaka — May 11, 2011 @ 9:53 am

  166. Agreed with hairball. Maybe my perception of ‘stuff’ is different or something, but his is absolutely nasty. Absolutely has to be top3, IMO.

    Comment by Mike H — May 11, 2011 @ 10:27 am

  167. How about me in 1986?

    I scuffed the piss out of the ball that year.

    Comment by Mike Scott — May 11, 2011 @ 10:53 am

  168. Fastball velocity x Offspeed movement = Stuff. Simple as that. Nothing necessarily to do with being an effective pitcher.

    Comment by John — May 11, 2011 @ 11:10 am

  169. In 86 I had ridiculous “stuff”….then I found the stuff and it was all over…

    Comment by Doc Gooden — May 11, 2011 @ 11:26 am

  170. I don’t know about the best stuff, but Grady Sizemore definitely has the best junk in MLB.

    Comment by grandbranyan — May 11, 2011 @ 11:58 am

  171. too soon…

    Comment by fredsbank — May 11, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

  172. Pedro tore his rotator cuff in 2001, his fastball never returned to the levels it was previously. That’s why his prime often referred to as ’97-2001 where his fastball would sit at aroun 94 and top out at 98. He was still pretty dominant in 2002, and when healthy, in 2003 as well, but he did it with less velocity. I remember quite vividly the anxiety I felt on Opening Day 2002 when Pedro got shelled by Toronto with a fastball rarely topping 92.

    Regardless, saying Pedro wasn’t a “stuff” guy is about as ludicrous as suggesting Kuiper was a power hitter.

    Comment by Misfit — May 11, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

  173. If you want to re-hash old what ifs, you should be wishing Tim Lincecum were a Seattle Mariner.

    As a writer, I have no problem with “a whole nother”, though sometimes I use hyphens if I know I’m going to run into the grammar police. It’s ok to have flair.

    Comment by JamesDaBear — May 11, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

  174. Any definition of stuff that doesn’t put Halladay at or near the top is a stupid definition.

    Comment by Llewdor — May 11, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

  175. Without shadow of a doubt… the winner is Jose Canseco; Runner up (allegedly) : Bond :)

    Comment by LUIS — May 11, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

  176. “command is where your pitches go and stuff is what they do on the way there”

    That is the most clear and precise definition of “stuff” that I’ve read so far.

    Comment by Liem — May 11, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  177. Oh, I must have missed the press release announcing his retirement.

    Comment by Richie Abernathy — May 11, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

  178. I beieve I have othe best changeup in baseball. My fastball is slow and straight, and my breaking ball is slow and hittable, but my stuff is nasty.

    Comment by Chirs Narveson — May 11, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

  179. Whoa! The Big Mac of Oreos? Like a racially mixed Mark McGwire? Devastating!*

    Seriously though, I think “The Big Mac of Oreos” should go mainstream as a way to describe awesomeness squared. It’s much catchier than previous versions “The Castle Anthrax of massage parlors,” “The ’69-’72 Rolling Stones of Cuban burgers” or “The John Holmes of handlebar mustaches.”

    * Mike Stanton!

    Comment by Choo — May 11, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

  180. @Dave Cameron

    On the whole, I think you’re right in this article, but I object to one claim you’re made a few times: I’m not buying this strike out rates = fastball pitchers throwing up in the zone and getting lots of fly balls.

    MLB average gb% last season was 44%. 6 of the top 10 K/9 guys last season were 44% or better. Gallardo just misses as 43%. Felix, Dempster, Jimenez, Oswalt, Billingsley and Wainwright are all 8+ k/9 guys with above average to high GB% last season. Strasburg doesn’t qualify, but he was 47.8% gb’s.

    While there are a lot of guys who throw high heat to get batters to chase, I think you’re over estimating the overall role of that K%.

    Comment by philosofool — May 11, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

  181. LOL – Remember all the pre-arrival hype about how Matsuzaka had six pitches including a gyro ball and he was going to annihilate all MLB hitters?

    For once the Mets won – when their bid was topped by the Red Sox.

    Comment by Random Guy — May 11, 2011 @ 2:21 pm

  182. To all the people who are talking historical smack about pitchers with awesome stuff- no Nolan Ryan?

    As Robin Ventura could tell you, you didn’t mess with the Ryan Express.

    Comment by Big Johnson — May 11, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

  183. weaver is famously not a traditional ‘stuff’ guy

    Comment by fredsbank — May 11, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  184. “A pitcher who throws more strikes might have a lower strikeout rate with equal stuff simply because he doesn’t run into as many 3-2 counts as his wilder counterpart.”

    Dave, why would you assume that more 3-2 counts = more strikeouts? Checking the MLB splits for last year, PAs decided on a full count resulted in a K only 22.9% of the time compared to 40-50% of the time on pitches decided on 0-2 (49.3%), 1-2 (44.6%) and 2-2 (40.0%) counts. Also pitchers who started 1-0 on a hitter went on to strike that hitter out 15.4% of the time while pitchers who started 0-1 (including when the first pitch was put in play) went on to a strikeout 22.1% of the time. Which suggests to me that better control should only improve a pitcher’s strikeout rate, not decrease it.

    Comment by ElJimador — May 11, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

  185. BTW, I shoud clarify that even subtracting walks from PAs decided on a full count the result of the PA was a strikeout 32.8% of the time — still far less than on PAs decided on all other 2 strike counts.

    Comment by ElJimador — May 11, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

  186. Tulo, Josh Hamilton and Ryan Howard may take exception to that.

    Comment by channelclemente — May 11, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  187. interesting that you mention this, considering what’s gone on at b-ref lately

    Comment by fredsbank — May 11, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

  188. “I mean, who has the least “stuff” but still functionally gets guys out? Zito? Livan Hernandez? Kirk Reuter?”

    I would like to see an article exploring this, the “flip side” of the stuff coin, as it were. Nice thought.

    Comment by Jason B — May 11, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

  189. “My 1-2 are Halladay and Lee. The ability to pound the zone without getting punished probably the single most valuable and the single rarest asset a pitcher can have,”

    It’s a fantastic asset, and those guys have it in spades. I don’t think that’s what “stuff” is though. That’s more “command.”

    Comment by Jason B — May 11, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  190. I must confess I didn’t read all the comments, but what immediately strikes me based on the voting results is that the consensus definition of best stuff is not in line with the articles definition.

    Comment by Ez — May 11, 2011 @ 6:10 pm

  191. 1. Why doesnt Morrow show up on the Fangraphs FBv list? Even when i change the innings parameter, i cant find him anywhere, and i know his fastball velocity is near tops in the league.
    shown here:

    2. Is there a way to access the velocity charts from each pitchers main Player Page? i cant seem to figure out how – (if it is possible)

    3. Timmy’s avg FBv is 92.9 and his avg SLv is 86.3
    He is most definitely top 5 in terms of “stuff”. no question there.
    and that doesnt even take into account that he has the best split/change in all of baseball, AND a devastating curveball.
    really 4 top of the line elite “stuff” pitches

    Comment by cs3 — May 11, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

  192. edit – the page wasnt working before (wouldnt load and kept showing me a “page error”). now apparently it is.

    now when i set innings parameter to 10 Morrow shows up at #8, 93.8mph

    Comment by cs3 — May 11, 2011 @ 6:20 pm

  193. J.R. Richard, anyone?

    Comment by Joseph D — May 11, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

  194. The 3 main FIP categories are SO, BB, and HR. Loosely, SO are pure ‘stuff’, BB are pure control/command, and HR are half and half.

    So why not a simple ratio that reflects this, such as SO/(HR + .1*IP). The adding in of the .1*IP is meant to dilute the HR impact by around half. Of course, to make it really good, you’d want to at least park adjust the HR….

    Comment by dcs — May 11, 2011 @ 7:40 pm

  195. josh johnson has days when he is absolutely unhittable

    Comment by rapiddave — May 11, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

  196. Their is more than one kind of stuff. Electric stuff. Filthy stuff. Soft Stuff. Great Stuff. They are all very different.

    Comment by Keith_Allen — May 11, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

  197. Sorry about the Typo’s. It’s there, not their.

    Comment by Keith_Allen — May 11, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

  198. Random Guy- Stuff as defined by people who use the term professionally has more to do with true velocity (speed+movement) and late, sharp break on the secondary pitches. It does not necessarily correlate with MPH. It more closely correlates with ability to freeze hitters via movement or deception, even rotation on the baseball.

    Second, Randy Johnson had great stuff, Clemens had great stuff. Neither of those two had anything over Pedro in his prime, 3 overwhelming pitches. Maybe research or watch old tape man… Not sure I can help you beyond that.

    Comment by CaR — May 11, 2011 @ 9:49 pm

  199. I find it interesting that no one has mentioned Mariano Rivera. The guy has been telling hitters speed and location for 15 years and he’s still unhittable. He is completely unique as a pitcher. He must have absolutely wicked stuff to be able to do what he does. Granted, he probably has the best command of any pitcher in the game, but in some ways that makes it even more amazing. Hitters know his command is so good that they can basically look for a pitch in a tiny window.

    A left handed batter with a runner on base absolutely knows Mo is going to throw 91mph cutters on or just off the inside corner. They know this. 91 MPH cutter on the black or 2-3 inches inside. That’s it. If they foul it off, they are going to get the same pitch again. Over and over he throws it until he wins. And he has been winning for 15 years.

    It shouldn’t be possible.

    My dream is to have an at bat against Mariano Rivera. I just want to see what that pitch does from the hitter’s perspective. Because, to be honest, the pitch itself doesn’t look that impressive from the center field camera. It just looks like a fastball to me. It must be awesome to see from the batter’s box.

    …but if its not that impressive from the batter’s box then it is all about location. ….which wouldn’t be that surprising, since the ranking of pitchers by command would probably look something like Rivera, Halladay, Lee.

    Comment by Jason — May 12, 2011 @ 1:13 am

  200. while the rest of your post is great, the first sentence:

    “I find it interesting that no one has mentioned Mariano Rivera”
    is rather perplexing.

    …since its was made very clear that the entire article is about starting pitchers

    Comment by cs3 — May 12, 2011 @ 4:22 am


    almost as filthy as Brian Wilson’s 2 seamer.

    Comment by giantsbaseball28 — May 12, 2011 @ 6:13 am

  202. FWIW Strasburg has the nastiest stuff, now the question is, does he have what it takes to stay on the mound.

    Comment by Scott — May 12, 2011 @ 9:01 am

  203. Personally, I’d go one more than that and not even consider results. When I think of stuff at least, I think “Raw stuff.” Not the pitching (i.e. control, sequencing), but the pitches.

    If I had to operationalize stuff, I would do it based upon some sort of weighted sum of the velocity components of their different pitches: standard velocity and rotational velocity (e.g. movement). I’d probably also have a component for the perceptual element- how similar different pitches appear to be, versus how similar their trajectories are.

    I mean, just think of a guy like Danny Cabrera from a few years ago. They dude had STUFF. Sheesh, he was practically unhittable some days. Fast pitches, tons of movement, hard to tell if it was the fastball or the breaking ball. He was also totally ineffective because he couldn’t locate any of his pitches most days, leading to lots of walks and hard-hit “get me over” pitches. So for my thinking, stuff is more of a measure of “what could be” rather than “what is” for results.

    Comment by B N — May 12, 2011 @ 10:04 am

  204. I need to N-th the Pedro vote. His prime years in the late 90′s were one of the best examples of amazing stuff being harnessed I’ve ever seen.

    The closest comparison I can make is to think of Lincecum a couple years ago (when he was throwing harder). Now imagine that Lincecum had a better breaking ball (the circle change). Now imagine that he also has a plus curve and a plus cutter, which both have great movement. If you can imagine that sort of image, you can kind of think what Pedro was like in his prime.

    The only reason why Pedro probably didn’t rack up a bunch of no hitters was that he wore down too much to complete games. His stuff during that period was probably some of the best I’ve seen, if only for the fact that all his pitches contributed so strongly.

    Comment by B N — May 12, 2011 @ 10:16 am

  205. Yah, I think that actually is talking about command when you talk about placement. With that said, Maddux had highly underrated stuff. He’s a great example of where almost all the “stuff” was in the movement.

    Comment by B N — May 12, 2011 @ 10:20 am

  206. I think that’s actually a pretty good comparison actually. 5-tool indicates potential, like… athletic abilities. Stuff is like…. athletic pitches. But raw stuff goes nowhere. That’s why a lot of guys with great stuff actually cut down on their stuff a bit to get better command.

    Comment by B N — May 12, 2011 @ 10:28 am

  207. Well, the effectiveness of a changeup depends on its release and appearance LOOKING like other pitches a guy throws. So it’s “stuff” is looking like it will hit the plate at the same time and place as a fastball but actually hitting somewhere else. I think that might be harder to do for a 98 MPH fastball, to keep the release point and everything the same. But maybe not.

    Comment by B N — May 12, 2011 @ 10:37 am

  208. I think the weight on velocity is a little much. A Major League hitter can time up a 747 as long as it’s straight.

    Comment by pntiouspearslice — May 12, 2011 @ 11:02 am

  209. Felix is my favorite, but through 2011, as of a few days ago, Josh Johnson has the best stuff this year. He has the best combination of 2, 3, or 4 pitches.

    Tim Hudson is the only pitcher with five or six above average pitchers.

    Comment by Bobby A. — May 12, 2011 @ 11:09 am

  210. It is hard to take this article seriously when in your analysis you state,

    “We can argue over whether that’s a reasonable definition or not, but it is what it is; Roy Halladay is never going to be described as guy with elite stuff, even though opposing hitters have no real chance of putting up runs against him. Since his average fastball velocity is just 49th among qualified starters this year, Halladay is not considered a top-shelf stuff guy, despite the fantastic movement and wide variety of pitches he can throw.”

    Yet your final list is:
    1. Felix Hernandez
    2. Ubaldo Jimenez (the healthy version)
    3. Roy Halladay
    4. Tim Lincecum
    5. Justin Verlander

    How can anyone take this seriously?

    Comment by Fooey — May 12, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

  211. Reading Comprehension FAIL.

    Reason: Failing to understand the distinction between the author’s personal viewpoint and his attempt to describe what he feels is the prevailing common wisdom held by the majority of people.

    Comment by batpig — May 12, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

  212. Are you sure I am the one with the reading comprehension problem?

    This is right before the author’s list:

    To answer the question of who really has the best stuff, we have to look at the total package – velocity, movement, intent, and simply how hard is it for opposing hitters (of all types) to produce against what they’re thrown. And so, my top five would be as follows, with no disrespect intended to those who didn’t quite make the cut.

    Comment by Fooey — May 12, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

  213. yes, I am sure, that paragraph supports my point. He contradicts the previous paragraph you quoted by stating that, in his opinion, you must consider the total package (as opposed to just velocity).

    I’ll make it simple for you:

    In the 1st quoted paragraph Dave is asserting something about common perception, i.e. since Halladay ranks 49th in avg fastball velocity, he would not be considered a “top shelf stuff” guy.

    In the 2nd quoted paragraph, Dave is summarizing HIS OWN OPINION, i.e. when you look at the “total package” under the broader criteria of “how hard is it for hitters to produce against what they’re thrown”, he would actually rate Halladay 3rd.

    These two paragraphs are non-contradictory. FAIL.

    Comment by batpig — May 12, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

  214. stupid lack of “edit” feature…. anyway, just to clear up any confusion about my two uses of “contradict”….

    what I meant was that the two paragraphs are logically consistent and in no way imply what you are trying to twist it into.

    Comment by batpig — May 12, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

  215. ….but the discussion thread did veer into relievers for a while.

    Comment by Jason — May 13, 2011 @ 11:02 am

  216. I really do understand what you are saying, however, you haven’t convinced me that this whole article isn’t full of major contradictions.

    This is from the beginning of the article when the author is setting up his premises

    In general, the easiest way to explain the term “good stuff” is that it’s essentially a proxy for velocity. Guys who throws hard are stuff guys, while guys who don’t are not. There are some differences among pitchers with similar velocity – with movement and secondary pitches coming into play – but you’ll never hear a guy who throws 89 get labeled with better stuff than a guy who throws 95. By far, the main determinant of who has “good stuff” is how hard they throw.

    We can argue over whether that’s a reasonable definition or not, but it is what it is; Roy Halladay is never going to be described as guy with elite stuff, even though opposing hitters have no real chance of putting up runs against him. Since his average fastball velocity is just 49th among qualified starters this year, Halladay is not considered a top-shelf stuff guy, despite the fantastic movement and wide variety of pitches he can throw.

    Please read this again and tell me he isn’t making the case that “stuff” is mostly about velocity and the implication that Roy Halladay, lacking velocity, just isn’t going to cut it.

    Comment by Fooey — May 13, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

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