Former big-league Pitcher Tom Candiotti was quoted regarding the term stuff about a decade ago and said, “It seems the term has been around baseball forever. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, as scouting became more essential and more organized, the term stuff became more prominent as a technical term.” My first recollection was early in the 1967 season when the Red Sox played a series in Anaheim and some of the Angel hitters described what “great stuff” Jim Lonborg had displayed against them. It seems that they knew what they were saying, as Lonborg won 22 games that season along with the AL Cy Young Award.
When you do your scouting for the 2019 season, it could be that stuff should be part of your thought process. In the 2019 Bill James Handbook, Alex Vigderman looks at two primary categories that lead to pitching success…1) Throwing Strikes and 2) Having a Swing and Miss Pitch. It is clear from his analysis that the two are of “comparable importance”. Nine out of ten major league pitchers throw 60-69% strikes, but the difference in the range is enormous. The average ERA at 67% strikes is significantly lower than the average ERA at 60% strikes. Four out of five major league pitchers have swing-and-miss figures of 12-20% and once again the margins of the study show the difference. The average ERA at 19-20% is almost a run lower than the average ERA at 12%.
So, the dream Fantasy (and reality) pitcher would be the one who has above-average numbers in both categories. Logic might tell us that a pitcher who is above both the mid-point in strikes thrown (say 66%) and swings-and-misses (say 17%), might have the right stuff. Let’s look at rotation starters & closers from 2018 who met that criteria (in alphabetical order)…
> Shane Bieber (67/18) – 11-5 in 19 starts as a rookie, it seems like that 4.55 ERA might come down.
> Dylan Bundy (67/20) – Tough to find something good about a record of 8-16 with a 5.45 ERA, but the base skills are there.
> Carlos Carrasco (67/23) – No surprise here and Indians clearly understand with a 4-year $47 Million extension.
> Gerrit Cole (67/22) – 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA and will be a free agent in 2020…Ca Ching!
> Jacob deGrom (69/23) – At age 30, he has a ROY Award and a Cy Young.
> Edwin Diaz (67/29) – This verifies that the new Mets Closer has swing & miss stuff.
> Sean Doolittle (70/26) – The only Pitcher in the game with 70% strikes each of the last three seasons.
> Zach Eflin (66/17) – 11-8 with a 4.36 ERA in 24 starts…might be a sleeper pick.
> Ken Giles (70/23) – Frustratingly inconsistent as a Closer but did have 26 Saves in ’18.
> Josh Hader (67/29) – The poster boy for “bullpenning”, look at that swing & miss rate.
> Andrew Heaney (66/18) – A post-hype hurler with an injury history, he made 30 starts last season with solid results.
> Kelvin Herrera (67/20) – Coming off an injury, he’s still on the free agent market but has Closer credentials.
> Kenley Jansen (68/21) – Had a slow start and eventual off-season surgery that wasn’t arm related…the underlying numbers are still there.
> Clayton Kershaw (68/17) – Like most of us, he’s not what he once was…but he’s still good.
> Corey Kluber (67/19) – 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA…has averaged 32 starts over the last five years.
> Kenta Maeda (66/22) – What gets lost in his 8-11 record is that he struck out 11 batters per 9 innings.
> German Marquez (66/20) – The breakout seems to be real.
> Joe Musgrove (70/17) – How does an injury-prone starter with a 17-21 lifetime record get on the list? Maybe worth a flyer in the end game?
> Aaron Nola (67/19) – 3rd in the Cy Young balloting at age 25.
> Roberto Osuna (72/20) – Controversial player due to personal behavior, but the stats are off the charts…will turn 24 next month.
> James Paxton (68/22) – Will the results be better or worse in Yankee Stadium?
> Nick Pivetta (66/19) – With any luck, his 4.77 ERA could be a run better in ’19.
> Chris Sale (68/24) – If you’ve ever been in the ballpark when this guy pitches, you immediately think “He’s got great stuff”.
> Max Scherzer (69/24) – Arguably, the best Pitcher in the game…three Cy Young Awards in the last six years.
> Luis Severino (67/19) – Turns 25 next month…a perennial All-Star if he stays healthy.
> Noah Syndergaard (68/21)) – 13-4 in 25 starts.
> Jameson Taillon (66/17) – Emerged as the Bucs ace at age 26.
> Masahiro Tanaka (67/21) – 64-34 in five seasons…with a dangling elbow ligament.
> Blake Treinen (68/27) – Had 38 Saves and an ERA of 0.83!!
> Felipe Vazquez (67/22) – His GF (games finished) number for 2018 was 60!!
> Justin Verlander (69/22) – At age 35, this is amazing…didn’t miss a start and had 290 K’s.
> Alex Wood (66/17) – Cincy may not be as kind as L.A.
> Kirby Yates (66/26) – Sometimes when Closers come out of nowhere, you wonder if it was a fluke…these numbers alleviate your fears.
As George Carlin once said, “Have you ever noticed that their stuff is crap and your crap is stuff?” Hope all your hurlers have the right stuff.