If you’ve ever been on Baseball Twitter, or really any part of Baseball Internet, you’re familiar with Joe Kelly’s Great Stuff™. It’s been memed. It’s been looked at seriously. It’s allowed certain former BP Local site managers to get away with extreme abuse of editorial privilege. Any time Joe Kelly appears in a game the Great Stuffs start rolling in, from tweeters and commenters and Kelly’s colleagues in equal measure.

But just where did the saga of Joe Kelly Has Great Stuff begin, and how did we get to where we are now? Who is primarily responsible for the meme? These are the types of questions we’ve all been asking. These are the kinds of questions to which you deserve the answers.

To find out, I took a brief look into unironic descriptions of Joe Kelly’s stuff by people in or reporting on baseball. Again, unironic, so apologies to Tim Britton, Brian MacPherson, and Evan Drellich, whose collective Great Stuff Awareness disqualifies them (but not their reporting) from this hunt.



WHO SAID IT? (source)


Good … Great

David Ortiz


Really good

Ben Cherington


Very good

John Farrell



Mike Napoli


… plays anywhere

David Ross



Peter Gammons


The best

John Farrell



John Farrell



Matt Yallof


So good




John Farrell


… there’s no denying his

John Farrell


… gotta love his

Jerry Remy



Kevin Boles



John Farrell



John Farrell



John Farrell


As you can tell, I ran out of steam a bit there at the end, but in about 45 minutes of research I found 17 distinct references that directly describe Joe Kelly’s stuff from people inside baseball. And believe me friends, I was selective.

Selective enough to omit this:

And this:

And this:

Those tweets don’t directly describe Joe Kelly’s stuff, so I left them out. Sort of.

Either way, the first reference to the greatness of Kelly’s stuff I can find from anyone inside baseball is from Ortiz in late 2013, recounting facing Kelly in the 2013 World Series. Yes, it’s easy to forget now, but there was a time when Kelly’s … evocative repertoire … was used against the Red Sox, and not in their service.

So how did we get to the point where a man with a career 3.91 ERA, who’s most famous for an embarrassing Cy Young prediction, is synonymous with an industry's propensity to fetishize “stuff?” How does one player—your standard doomed-starter-turned-sporadically-effective-reliever—now embody baseball’s willingness to overlook command, control, and execution if pitches look pretty or go fast?

To me, the answer is obvious.

Do you blame the first person who ever got the flu for all subsequent influenza outbreaks? No, so it’s not David Ortiz’s fault. Do you blame the reporters who just want to get in on the action? No, it’s a long season and they need the entertainment. Do you blame someone like me, who’s just trying to get some lolz on Twitter? No. And if you do, I don’t care.

Because it’s clear who you should blame. You should blame John Farrell.

In the study of 17 Joe Kelly Stuff references above, Farrell was responsible for eight of them. If we narrow that down to Joe Kelly Stuff references from 2016 or later, we’re at 60 percent.

I mean, just look at this:

More than 800,000 results linking Joe Kelly, stuff, and John Farrell. Might one or two of those be duplicative instances? I mean, maybe. But the numbers speak for themselves here. You might think Farrell is just a manager sticking up for his player, but I think it goes deeper than that. I think he knows.

Farrell is The Gravemind and Joe Kelly’s Great Stuff references are The Flood. Farrell is @dril and everyone else is the RTers. It’s so contagious, even Joe Kelly himself is falling for the stuff-describing craze. Here’s what Kelly said to Christopher Smith of when talking about playing catch with Chris Sale:

He's got obviously great stuff and with a little bit of funk. That's what makes him so good.

Is Kelly himself in on the joke? Is Farrell in on it? Are any of us truly in on it? Is it even a joke anymore?

Maybe not, because while Joe Kelly Has Great Stuff is often used ironically … it’s true. The offspeed pitches move. The fastball has crazy life. He was dominant as a reliever last season. I mean, look at this. And even more incredibly, look at this:

Like it or not Farrell has a point, because you can’t tell me a pitcher can do that without great stuff.

You just don’t have to tell me about his stuff as often.