Top 10 MLB pitchers by 'stuff'

Matt Harvey, Stephen Strasburg on list of hurlers with best pitches

Originally Published: July 9, 2013
By Jared Cross | ESPN Insider

Matt HarveyBrad Penner/USA TODAY SportsMatt Harvey's pure stuff is the best in the game this season.

As every baseball fan knows by now, there is far more to determining a pitcher's ability than his win-loss record. What stadium does he play in? How is his defense? Is he getting unlucky or lucky on balls in play?

But one fun way to gauge skill is by breaking it down into the simplest terms: How good is a pitcher's stuff?

What follows is a ranking of 2013 starting pitchers based purely on "stuff." This won't tell you which pitchers hit the corners or expertly keep hitters off balance with their pitch sequences. In fact, we turned a blind eye to outcomes like walks, strikeouts and hits.

Instead, using PitchF/X data acquired from BrooksBaseball and coded by PitchInfo we built a model to project pitcher strikeout rates and ground ball rates based on the velocity and movement of their pitches, along with the frequency with which they throw each type of pitch. We used this model to forecast pitchers' performances based solely on their 2013 pitch data.

Here are the 10 starting pitchers with the best stuff this season.

1. Matt Harvey, New York Mets

"Stuff" projection: 8.2 K/9, 43 percent ground ball, 5.9 percent popups, 3.33 ERA


All four of Harvey's pitches are potential strikeout pitches, including an explosive four-seam fastball that allows him to live up in the zone. The images below show the locations of Harvey's fastballs and sliders against right-handed batters as seen by the catcher. The red areas show the locations where the most pitches are located, while the dashed box shows the rulebook strike zone. Harvey pounds the top of the strike zone with his fastball and paints the outside corner with his slider.

In addition to bushels of strikeouts, Harvey's high heat also induces popups -- he ranks eighth in MLB -- keeping opposing batting averages down and, perhaps, keeping him a hair underrated by advanced metrics.