At this point in the spring, most people are getting a bit tired of trying to find meaning in the fake games of spring training. Those same people are probably relieved that the real-ish World Baseball Classic is starting up. Well not us. We don’t think the games have been fake enough. So in order to fill that void, we decided to see how completely fictional pitchers stack up against one another. We chose 13 pitchers across various platforms (one from print – because we had to – the rest from television and movies), calculated their Stuff rating, gave them scouting reports, and then ranked them by how nasty their stuff is. The first group all finished with Stuff grades that would have placed in 2016’s top 10 among real MLB starters (1.43 from Zack Greinke).
The Stuff metric was created to evaluate pitchers, and has since been shown to be useful in evaluating injury trends. However, let’s not forget why this metric was developed: to win bar arguments about why your team’s best pitcher has better stuff than some other stupid team’s best pitcher.
HOW WE DID THIS: We examined average fastball velocities as reported in various movies or TV Shows and compared them against known MLB movement and change of speed values. If it looked like someone threw a fast breaking ball, we chose the 75th percentile breaking ball speed. If they didn’t have much break on a pitch, we chose the 25th percentile pitch movement. We added all these things together to get a Stuff metric for some of your favourite fictitious pitchers.
Without further ado…the “Stuff” Report!
1. Sidd Finch (Sports Illustrated)
STUFF rating: 25.37
Sidd Finch is the true inspiration for this article. The Tibetan orphan exploded onto the scene in 1985, when George Plimpton reported on a pitcher with a fastball that touched 168 mph with pin point accuracy and unlimited ability to recover. Finch could have pitched 400 innings in a season based off these descriptions. This makes me think that maybe I should adopt a career of Yoga and mindfulness, as opposed to science, beer, and chicken wings. Probably not though.
So to put this in perspective, Finch throws 168 mph – that represents a pitch speed that is 25 standard deviations above league average. He doesn’t have a secondary pitch. Quite frankly, he doesn’t need a secondary pitch. There is no way that a human could physically hit a pitch at this speed, especially if he has the command that was described as being 80 grade. Your best bet is to get hit by a pitch, then use a pinch runner – because you’re probably a dead guy now. Sidd has the best Stuff for otherworldly pseudo-human, fictitious pitchers.
– Mike Sonne
2. Henry Rowengartner (Rookie of the Year)
STUFF rating: 3.63
OK, let’s address the elephant in the room. If your arm moves, and your tendons make a screeching rubber sound, that’s not a good thing. In fact, if any of your tissues sound like a car crash, go and see your doctor. And, if you’re a doctor reading this and your patient complains of an internal production of that stupid Stomp musical, maybe don’t let them throw baseballs? I don’t know. I’m not a real doctor. Rowengartner is going to go down in Cubs history in part due to his massive fastball (up to 103 on the gun, but averaging around 101), but primarily due to his one hanging Eephus that he used to strike out Alejandro Heddo and secure the pennant. His Stuff is second only to Sidd FInch in this report – his elite fastball buoys the ranking, but this is supplemented by the 85% change in velocity that comes along with the Eephus. I have to say, from a scouting perspective – those mechanics are ugly, and if it weren’t for the career ending re-injury, there was a really awkward puberty phase coming up that was going to screw with that arm. There’s a recurring theme of flashes in the pan in this list, but Rowengartner personifies how quickly an elite talent can come and go.
– Mike Sonne
3. Rigoberto Sanchez (Trouble with the Curve)
STUFF rating: 2.57
I’ve seen a lot of talk in this article of velocity, statistics, and saber-my-tricks, but you don’t need any of those things. You don’t even need your eyes to scout baseball, since I’m now legally blind but able to conceal it from a major league team. You need to close your eyes, and just listen.
I know what you’re thinking, that kid sounds like Sandy Koufax combined with Steve Carlton & Randy Johnson. And that isn’t even his best pitch.
Here comes that curveball, which admittedly you definitely need to see. You get almost nothing out of listening to the curveball, which basically invalidates the movie’s entire premise right there, but hey! The kid’s got a nice curveball.
Well, I’m sold. I’ve seen (sorry, heard) him throw about 10 pitches. Let’s sign Rigoberto to a major league contract.
This movie #&^$ing sucks, and no one should watch it.
– Ewan Ross
4. Ricky Vaughn (Major League)
STUFF rating: 1.98
Vaughn is your classic story of elite stuff with limited command – until the fairy godmother of optometry descends from the heavens and bestows the troubled Vaughn with the gift of eyesight. I’m still not entirely sure how this improved his command by 400%, though. Also, does anyone really know what role Vaughn filled on this team? He’s clearly a part of the rotation, but he also closed multiple games. He’s like John Smoltz’s career, wrapped into one season and smothered in cocaine and adultery. Back in ‘89, 96 on the gun was a lot more impressive than it is now, but the Wild Thing still fell into the top of Stuff rankings, registering a value of 1.96 – comparable to Craig Kimbrel.
– Mike Sonne
5. Hog Ellis (Major League III: Back to the Minors)
STUFF rating: 1.73
Minor league baseball sure has changed. Not only do they now apparently use digital baseballs instead of real ones, but general manager Roger Dorn somehow allows his affiliates to sign players without approval and managers to wager their jobs over a meaningless exhibition game. None of that diminishes the performance of “Hog” Ellis, however. That the slow-witted righty managed to make it to AAA despite a lack of any kind of secondary pitch speaks volumes about the power of his fastball. Getting all the way up to 100 mph, it is a true putaway pitch. However, his initial lack of a second pitch also speaks volumes about the horrible ineptitude of the Twins organization. Not only does he get to the highest level of the minors before learning his “curveball,” when he finally does figure out the pitch, it’s not from a coach. Instead, “Doc” Windgate, a journeyman pusballer, teaches Ellis how to throw his hook.
Ellis earns rave reviews for not only his fastball and how quickly he learned his breaking ball once it was finally explained to him, but also his tough as nails attitude. Twins bad guy Carlos Liston comes to the mound and threatens Ellis with a bat, and “Hog” just stares him down until he leaves. There’s no telling how high his ceiling really is, but he’ll likely only reach it in another organization that actually understands baseball.
– Joshua Howsam
6. Eddie Harris (Major League)
STUFF rating: 1.46
Eddie Harris has a misleading “Stuff” rating, because it’s entirely dependent on “stuff.” He has a well below-average fastball, but when he starts mixing in the K-Yball and the Criscoball, Harris becomes as tough to hit as any pitcher in the game. He uses completely unpredictable movement to get outs, but does occasionally draw complaints from his infielders for the “sticky situation” he creates when they pick up groundballs. There is also the risk that in any start, Harris will be ejected in the first inning with one complaint from an opposing manager, putting a heavy strain on the bullpen.
While he draws rave reviews for his willingness to battle on the mound, there are some makeup issues with the veteran righty. He has had run-ins with younger players on the roster, and in at least one instance stole liquor from inside a teammate’s locker. The resulting vengeance from the Voodoo deity, Jobu, forced Harris to miss the game nursing a head injury.
– Joshua Howsam
7. Nuke Laloosh (Bull Durham)
STUFF rating: 1.45
Laloosh has a live arm and a big fastball, but many within the industry are concerned about his makeup. According to sources around the team, he is often unwilling to work on his secondary offerings and is prone to altercations with teammates (although he always throws punches with his non-pitching hand). There are also questions about his strange delivery and his belief that “breathing through his eyelids” makes him a better pitcher. While Laloosh has the potential to contribute in a major league rotation, most projection systems and scouts see him as comparable to Steve Dalkowski.
– Nick Dika
This explosive information is clearly just too big for one post, so check out the pitchers whose “stuff” just doesn’t quite stack up, featuring reports on Roy Hobbs, Ryan Dunne, Billy Chapel, Ginny Baker, Chet “Rocket” Steadman, and Miles Pennfield II (plus a special bonus “Stuff” report).
Lead Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports