Better Jay Pitcher – Dave Stieb or Roy Halladay?
During the early portion of his career Stieb threw mostly fastballs (sinker & 4-seamer) and sliders. He was just like Cosmo Kramer – he owned the inside portion of the plate. Dave led the AL in hit batsman five times. In his later years he added a overhand curve and started to use his change-up with more frequency. Roy Halladay was also primarily a power pitcher in the early portion of his career, favoring a fastball and overhand curve. After his ‘reinvention’ following the disastrous 2001 season he added in more off-speed pitches and movement on his fastball. Now Halladay throws about every pitch known to man.
Doc has a far better winning percentage (top 20 all-time) and K/BB ratio. He also has a higher era+. While Stieb was an inning eating machine during his prime (more on that later) he only led the league in complete games once. Halladay led the AL five times in CG. Halladay takes this round.
Awards and Voting
I’d have to give the award nod to Stieb, as he collected MVP votes in three different seasons (to Halladay’s zero). Stieb pitched in one more all-star game. Conversely Halladay won a Cy Young and has placed in the top five in voting five times vs Stieb’s two.
I personally don’t give too much credence to the awards section. Baseball writers employed very few stat metrics in the 1980’s, which potentially cost Stieb a Cy Young or two. Stat head and baseball historian Rob Neyer placed Dave Stieb on the 80’s under-rated team.
Career Metrics via Baseball Reference
If you’re looking for a full explanation of these metrics head over to baseball reference. Essentially they combine stats, yearly & historical league rankings and other factors such as awards, all-star appearances, voting, etc. Mix them around a bit and you come up with the above numbers. Halladay leads in three of four metrics.
Side note: Stieb was on the HOF ballot for only one season, 2004. He received 7 votes (1.4%) and was subsequently dropped from future voting. He was competing against two first ballot HOF in Molior and Eckersley. However it’s doubtful that the American based writers would have given him 5%, even in a down year.
How much leniency should be thrown Dave’s way due to his abuse from 1982 – 1985 which subsequently hampered the rest of his career? Over that four year stretch he threw 288, 278, 267 & 265 innings. True, shoulder injuries didn’t place him on the DL until 1991, yet he never reached 210 innings in a season after the 1985 campaign.
During the ‘abuse’ seasons Stieb’s lowest WAR total was 6.4. He maxed out at 7.7 and averaged 6.85 WAR over that stretch. He was the AL leader in the old sabermetric stat win shares in all four seasons, an outstanding accomplishment. Bill James even named Dave the 74th best pitcher of all-time in his 2001 revised Historical Baseball Abstract. After his abuse seasons he scored above 4 WAR only one time (1990). His career total WAR is 53.
Doc put up 47.4 WAR during his tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays (2046.6 IP). This includes his disastrous 2000 season (-3.2 WAR), which was one of the worst pitching seasons of all-time (in-fact Halladay’s 10.64 ERA is the highest in the history of baseball for a pitcher with more than 50 innings pitched). Doc’s best single season total was 7.5 back in 2003. His career is more consistent in terms of his WAR scores, as he’ll string together a grouping of strong 5+ WAR seasons and then mix in a 3ish campaign.
Who gets the nod for WAR? Stieb had a better prime portion of his Toronto Blue Jays career in terms of WAR from 1982 – 1985. On the other hand Doc posted more overall 5+ WAR seasons and has the same number of 6+ WAR seasons as Stieb.
Who’s the Man?
Who was the better pitcher? It’s a tough call. Both were great pitchers and true aces. Halladay has better overall conventional stats, a Cy young and is more consistent in producing 5+ WAR seasons. Stieb has more MVP votes, some very strong supports in Neyer & James and had a stronger WAR ‘prime’ string of seasons while in a Jays uniform. It could be argued that Stieb is a case of what could have been without the abuse. Halladay would have posted 50 WAR in 800 fewer innings if not for his historically bad 2001 season.
Who do you think was the better Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, Roy Halladay or Dave Stieb?