Now that we’ve finished up with the position player side of the polls, we move on to the pitchers. There will be several posts regarding the men of the mound, so if your favourite pitcher isn’t here, hold out for the next round of pitchers and maybe that’s where you’ll find him.
Dave Stieb (1979-1992)
The Blue Jays took Stieb in the 5th round of the 1978 draft, and he was pitching in the Majors about a year later, making his debut just under a month short of his 22nd birthday. The borderline (or should be) Hall of Famer had many great moments for the Blue Jays, including flirting with no-hitters several times. He finally accomplished that feat, the only one in Blue Jays’ history, on September 2, 1990.
Stieb, a fierce competitor who frequently stared down opponents and teammates alike, had a long and very successful career in Toronto. He put together a 175-134 record with a 3.42 ERA. He didn’t fare as well in the playoffs though. After picking up the win with 8 shutout innings in the Blue Jays’ first ever postseason game, his other four postseason starts didn’t go well at all. He allowed 15 runs on 20 hits over 23.1 innings, taking the loss when the Jays were eliminated in both 1985 and in 1989.
Stieb holds the club record for games started and innings pitched, and as such also holds the record for other counting stats like strikeouts and wins, plus the bad ones like hits, walks, home runs and bean balls (although many of them were intentional). He also leads all Blue Jays in bWAR at 56.9, but is second in fWAR at 43.6.
Jimmy Key (1984-1992)
The Blue Jays took Key in the 3rd round of the 1982 draft. He made it to the Majors for the 1984 season, where he spent it entirely in the bullpen, picking up 10 saves along the way. He entered the rotation in 1985, earning himself his first of 2 All Star nods. His best season with the Blue Jays was 1987, where he went 17-8 with a league leading 2.76 ERA, coming in second in Cy Young voting behind Roger Clemens.
Overall, Key’s time in Toronto is probably a bit underrated. He ranks third in both bWAR and fWAR at 29.7 and 28.1, respectively. His 116 wins put him in 4th all time as a Blue Jay, and his 3.42 ERA places him right in line with both Stieb and Halladay.
Key had one of the best pickoff moves of his time, and his most notable pickoff came in the 1992 World Series, when he picked off Otis Nixon off first base.
Juan Guzman (1991-1998)
The Jays picked up Guzman in a 1987 trade with the Dodgers, sending former first round draft pick Mike Sharperson the other way. While Sharperson had a couple serviceable years for the Dodgers, this is a trade the Blue Jays clearly won.
Guzman made his debut for the Jays in June of 1991, and he struggled a bit right out of the gate. He twice gave up 4 runs in under 5 innings, taking the loss in both of his first two career starts, both against the Orioles. But he took off from there, never losing again until his last start of the season. In total, he went 10-3 with a 2.99 ERA, finishing second to Chuck Knoblauch in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Overall in his career with Toronto, Guzman went 76-62 with a 4.08 ERA. He definitely had some rough years, but he also had some pretty great years as well. And he was even better in the postseason, where he went 5-1 with a 2.44 ERA over 8 starts, helping the Jays to their back to back World Series titles.
Pat Hentgen (1991-1999)
The decision for the 5-7 spots for this list was between Guzman, Hentgen and Jim Clancy. Ultimately it was Clancy who was left off this list (he’ll be on the next one), as Guzman had the higher peaks and playoff success, and Hentgen broke the tiebreaker by bringing home the Jays’ first Cy Young award in 1996.
That 1996 season was magical for Hentgen, and more specifically, that second half of 1996 was spectacular. At the break, Hentgen was 8-6 with a 3.86 ERA, good, but not even good enough to make the All-Star Game. Over his final 16 starts though, he went 12-4 with a 2.58 ERA, throwing 7 complete games and cutting his walk rate in half. His season totals were a 20-10 record, a 3.22 ERA, and a league leading 10 complete games, 3 shutouts and 265.2 innings.
Over his entire career with the Jays, Hentgen went 107-85 with a 4.28 ERA. He played in 3 All Star Games, won the one Cy Young, and picked up votes in 1993 as well. He gave the Jays 19.7 fWAR, but was quite a bit more valuable by bWAR, contributing 26.8 over his 1636 innings.
Roger Clemens* (1997-1998)
It pains me a bit to put Clemens on this list, but it’s also impossible to talk about the best pitchers in Blue Jays history while ignoring Clemens. He was here for just two years, but those two steroid infused seasons produced two of the greatest pitching seasons in baseball history.
Combined over 498.2 innings, Clemens went 41-13 with a 2.33 ERA, throwing 14 complete games and 6 shutouts, and striking out 563, including a club record 292 in 1997. He won the pitching triple crown and the Cy Young award in both seasons, made the All Star teams, and picked up some MVP votes.
I won’t get into the details about his off field antics, but there’s a reason his name is a swear word around here.
Roy Halladay (1998-2009)
From one of the most despised men in the history of the team, we now jump to one of the most adored. Halladay’s career got off to a flying start in 1998, when on the last day of the season in just his second career start, Halladay took a no-hitter into the 9th inning, only to lose it on a 2-out home run by Bobby Higginson. The game lasted just 105 minutes, one of many hallmarks of Halladay’s career in Toronto.
Halladay sits at or near the top of pretty much all career pitching stats for the Jays, sitting 3rd in starts and innings, second in wins and bWAR, and first in fWAR. His 3.43 ERA falls just behind Stieb and Key, but his 74 ERA- is easily the best among starting pitchers with at least 500 innings (Stieb is second at 82). He picked up the Cy Young award in 2003, finished in the top 5 four other times, and made 6 All Star appearances while with Toronto.
The last true workhorse in MLB, Halladay led the AL in complete games 5 times. His 67 complete games are the most in baseball since the 1994-1995 strike, and the next closest active player is Justin Verlander at 26. When Halladay was pitching for the Jays, it was a treat, and really felt like we were watching something special. His place in Cooperstown is well earned, and we were lucky to have watched him pitch.
Who was your favourite Ace pitcher?
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