We wrap up our run through the rotation, today looking to see who your favourite backend starter was. This isn’t meant to be someone who struggled to hold a spot in the rotation, but rather someone who had a solid hold in the rotation, but wasn’t necessarily someone you had a lot of confidence in. But in spite of the fact that they never really were considered great starters, they were still good enough to hold down a Major League rotation spot.
Jesse Jefferson (1977-1980)
The Jays took Jefferson as the 47th overall pick in the 1976 Expansion Draft, picked from the White Sox. He made the 4th start of the inaugural season, and made a total of 33 starts that season. He made 30 the following season, before finding himself in more of a swingman role his final 2 years in Toronto, making 28 starts and 35 relief appearances over those 2 seasons.
Overall, across 666.1 innings in Toronto, Jefferson went 22-56 with a 4.75 ERA. He was worth 3.6 bWAR, 3.4 fWAR in his time, but all of that value came in his first two seasons.
In his short time in Toronto, he has a pair of fairly memorable starts. In his June 18, 1977 start against the Orioles, he managed to walk 9 batters, a Blue Jay record that has since been matched four other times, but never beat. His other memorable start came on May 16, 1980, when he threw an 11 inning complete game shutout against the Athletics.
John Cerutti (1985-1990)
Cerutti was was the Jays’ first round pick in the 1981 draft, making his way to the Majors a few years later. He made the rotation in 1986, and over the next 5 years made 107 starts and 80 relief appearances. He pitched to a very solid 46-35 record, with a 3.86 ERA and a 106 ERA+ over those seasons. He gave the Jays pretty much 1 WAR per 100 innings in his time with Toronto, a very solid piece of a competitive team.
Woody Williams (1993-1998)
The Blue Jays took Williams in the later stages of the 1988 draft, taking him in the 28th round. He made his debut as a 26 year old in 1993, making 30 relief, but didn’t make the playoff roster. 1994 and 1995 saw him in the bullpen again, before making his way to the rotation in 1996, and spending 1997 and 1998 in the rotation getting 31 and 32 starts.
Over 76 starts and 90 relief appearances for the Jays, Williams posted a 28-34 record with a 4.30 ERA over 613.1 innings. He gave the Jays 9.6 bWAR, but just 4.6 fWAR.
Josh Towers (2003-2007)
The Blue Jays plucked Towers off the scrap heap prior to the 2003 season, as he struggled to make the Orioles and they let him go as a Minor League Free Agent. He spent most of 2003 in the Minors for the Jays, before making the rotation in 2004, and making 33 starts in 2005, even eclipsing the 200 inning mark. Inconsistencies continued to plague him, and he spent half of 2006 in the Minors, and then another struggling 2007 season resulted in the Jays letting him walk in Free Agency.
In 558.1 innings as a Blue Jay, Towers went 37-42 with a 4.93 ERA, picking up a save along the way. Fangraphs has him as the 2nd best starter of this group, giving him 5.1 fWAR, while bWAR was not so kind at 1.2 bWAR.
Ted Lilly (2004-2006)
The Blue Jays brought Lilly over from Oakland, perhaps the single most JP Ricciardi move of the JP Ricciardi era, trying to replicate some success that the A’s were getting out of the same player. Lilly was coming off a solid 2003 season, where 12-10 with a 4.34 ERA. And the he was marginally better the next season, going 12-10 again with a 4.04 ERA. He even made the All Star game that season.
Over his 3 seasons in Toronto, Lilly made 89 starts, going a total of 37-34 with a 4.52 ERA. He was worth 6.1 bWAR, and a nearly equal 5.5 fWAR.
Drew Hutchison (2012-2016)
Hutchison was a 3rd day draft pick in the 2009 draft, coming in the 15th round. He made his debut in the 2012 season, pitching pretty well over his 11 starts before going down with a torn UCL in his pitching arm. He missed the entirety of the 2013 season as well, before making his way back for a full season in 2014. His strong year earned him the Opening Day start in 2015, but he didn’t make the playoff roster after posting a 5.57 ERA on the year.
He spent most of the 2016 season in the Minors before he was shipped off to the Pirates. In his 76 games as a Blue Jay, he went 30-21 with a 4.92 ERA. He gave the Jays just 0.2 bWAR over his 406.1 innings, but a much more impressive 4.3 fWAR.
Who was your favourite backend starter?
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