Best Toronto Blue Jay P – Dave Stieb vs Roy Halladay

Better Jay Pitcher – Dave Stieb or Roy Halladay?




Common Traits

  • Started MLB careers at 21
  • Effectively (due to Stieb’s arm injury) ended their Toronto careers at the age of 32.
  • Each have over five all-star appearances
  • Led the AL in innings pitched at least twice in their careers
  • Tagged with rare and elusive term ‘True Ace’
  • Both were perfectionists, although Halladay had a bit more tact than Stieb.
  • Offerings

    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.

    Conventional Stats


    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

    Dave Stieb


    Roy Halladay


    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.




    Stieb WAR

    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.

    Halladay WAR

    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?

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    19 replies on “Best Toronto Blue Jay P – Dave Stieb vs Roy Halladay”
    1. says: Dragonzigg

      Great comparison. I think one thing worth noting is that they both began their careers as pure power pitchers and then later on developed their breaking balls to avoid having to rely purely on the high heat. Also, the difference in approach are notable – Halladay the iceman versus Stieb who had no trouble showing his emotions.

    2. says: eyebleaf

      It’s a tough one. It’s more like 1A and 1B. Based on the fact that Stieb threw 800 more innings than Doc, I feel like I have to give him 1A over Doc.

    3. says: Kman


      Thanks for the comments. I had a pitch offering section in the rough draft but cut it. I’ll add it back in.

    4. says: Graeme

      Nice job on the numbers. Before reading this, I would have said Halladay hands down, but looking at Stieb’s numbers, it’s closer than I thought. The CG numbers are staggering – Halladay has had twice as many over the last six years or so than anyone else, but Stieb had twice as many as Doc.

    5. says: eyebleaf

      @ Graeme: By looking at their numbers, it’s a beautiful window into how much baseball, and pitching in particular, has changed. Pitch counts clearly didn’t mean shit in Stieb’s day. Most pitchers had the mentality that they would start what they’d finish. Now guys are overjoyed if they go five innings and “do their job.” Life in the bullpen in Stieb’s day, and before, must have been a hoot.

    6. says: Callum

      It is too bad we don’t have access to pitch counts (or do we?). It is difficult to compare Doc’s innings compared to Stieb’s. A Doc CG would run ~ 100 pitches. A Stieb (from my hazy memory) would be substantially more.

      Speaking of CG’s, Stieb had a ton of them. But that was the style of the time. Only once did he lead the league in CG vs. Doc’s 5. Interesting.

      @dragonzigg. I find it also peculiar that for a pitcher like Stieb who was a “power pitcher” his strikeout numbers were uncharacteristically low. In his rookie season he had only 52K in 130IP. However, for a power pitcher he hardly ever gave up the long ball: 0.4 per 9IP. What’s going on here?!?!

      It is true Stieb never went on the DL but he did pay the price for his injuries. I remember numerous springs (’86, ’87) where he was on his own program because he was rehabbing shoulder and elbow injuries.

      As well, Stieb’s 1990 season was exquisite after bouncing back from those injury riddled seasons. An ERA+ of 140. But nothing like his ’84 season of 172. That 1984 season is a great supporter of the irrelevance of the W-L record since Stieb was only 14-13 then.

    7. says: Ian

      This is a very very tough decision – if it were up to me, I’d call it a tie. It’s so close to call and both Stieb and Halladay will be looked on as the best pitchers the Blue Jays ever had.

    8. says: Kman


      I couldn’t find any pitch counts on baseball-reference or retrosheet. It’s safe to say that Stieb would have thrown 120+ in his complete games. He walked batters at a much higher rate than Doc.

    9. says: Callum

      Everyone talks about the Dave Stieb glare but Halladay was no saint himself. I remember a few daggers thrown thirdbaseman Eric Hinske’s way whenever he would flutter a dying pigeon over to 1B. And when Rios misplayed the popfly in Boston that bounced off his glove into the stands for a HR. If looks could kill, there would have been a massacre at Fenway that night.

      A bonus with Stieb was that his mound presence permeated my existence so much so that I shocked parents with my incessant crotch-grabbing during midget & pee-wee baseball games.

    10. says: slamdog sadowski

      Its really amazing how much feel for pitching Dave Stieb had, considering he pitched very little in college and as most people know he started in the Blue Jays org as a Cf and then started pitching fulltime in 79. Halladay because of fewer pitches and maybe a tad bit more stamina and strength will probably be considered a better pitcher in a few years. Its very close but I would probably give an edge to Roy!

    11. says: Callum

      I’ve gotta say that it is a tie. Halladay has all of the shiny stats that make most aroused (i.e. BB:K ratio, K/9IP, Winning %, Cy Youngs) but Stieb just got it done. Their ERAs are identical, and though Halladay’s ERA+ is better, lets give him another 800+ innings in his career and see where he shakes out at. Probably closer to Stieb’s level.

    12. says: bob

      I will give the edge slightly to Stieb. Without looking it up not sure if I could anyway. Stieb left so many games with the lead only to watch it blown by an awful bullpen. I remember one occasion when the television crew just kept flashing back to Stieb on the bench as run after run scored. It had become a regular occurance. Hence that is why Stieb had so many complete games and innings he would rather take the chance with his tired arm than the bullpen. My guess is add 20 wins on account of useless bullpen.

    13. says: Rico

      Stieb is without question in the top 3 pitchers of the 80’s in the AL along with Morris and Sabherhagen and arguable in the NL as well. Gooden, Clemens, Orel, came later, Viola, John Tudor are second tier and guys like Mike Scott, Valenzuela didn’t have the numbers throughout the decade. From 2000-2010, Doc probably ends up with a similar conclusion – top 3 in the decade. I call it a tie.

    14. says: Jim Billy

      I hope the change from looking at things like Wins as being the benchmark for HOF pitchers will help Stieb get a veteran’s comittee selection in 20 years. I hope the same for Tony F. who is inexcusably absent from the HOF. Look at the list of HOF SSs, Tony is arguably better than almost all of them. Tony was the best all-around SS of his generation. Ripkena and Trammell were better offensively and Ozzie better defensively, but he was much better defensively than the first two and wayyyy better offensively than Ozzie.

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