This is an important question — it’s the most important question anyone should ask themselves in life: why do you think you were put on this Earth?
Carlton: Teach the world how to throw a slider.
Steve Carlton, a hall-of-fame left handed pitcher best known for his play with the Philadelphia Phillies, had one of the filthiest sliders from the left side in the history of the game:[youtube R7xsdUOEnvg]
Dave Stieb, a right-handed pitcher, is best known as being the ace of the Toronto Blue Jays pitching staff (and arguably the best pitcher of the 1980s). He had one of the best sliders from the right side:[youtube mhszV6Aa6-k] I always thought that Kenny Powers was based on a hybrid of Rod Beck, Mitch Williams and John Rocker. Now I’m thinking Stieb might have had a part to play…
Unfortunately for us, we have no quantitative data (such as pitch f/x) to judge who really did have the nastiest slider. In the Carlton video, it was mentioned how difficult Carlton’s slider was on right-handed hitters. I can’t say for certain how many times Carlton used his slider to finish off RHB, but his career BAA vs. RHB is an impressive .246. Lefties hit .233 against him.
Stieb? He limited lefties to a .247 BAA. He held righties to a .231 BAA. Impressive.
This is not a post on Stieb’s Hall-of-Fame credentials (or lackthereof). We’ve already done one of those. However, it’s interesting to note that of all pitchers since 1982, only five pitchers have had four consecutive seasons of 6+ WAR: Roy Halladay, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson… and Dave Stieb. (h/t High Heat Stats)
Carlton? He never did it. Though, he did have one season – 1972 – where he posted a 12.2 WAR. Stud!
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section who’s slider you prefer. I must say, the first slider thrown in the Stieb video looks a lot like a frisbee. Bobby Cox was right; American League hitters wanted nothing to do with him. The best slider ever? Well, that might belong to Bob Gibson. But that’s a story for another day.
During his career, Carlton became as famous for his silence as for his slider after deciding to stop talking to the media. Carlton wasn’t the only one who was hesitant to grant interview requests:[youtube oRZa_4Uzp10] [youtube 6kvdEvx9GE8]
Photo of Dave Stieb courtesy of Tony Dejak of the Associated Press. Photo of Steve Carlton courtesy of his 1977 Fleer baseball card.