Today we continue our run down the rotation, taking a look at mid-rotation starters. We’ve split the large list of mid-rotation starters into pre and post 2000, with one guy straddling the timeframe who shows up here.
Dave Lemancyk (1977-1980)
The Blue Jays took Lemancyk as the 43rd overall pick in the 1976 expansion draft, nabbing him from the rival Tigers. Lemancyk made the start in the second game of the 1977 season, and took the decision in the first Blue Jays’ loss. He made 34 starts that season, going 13-16 for a team that went 54-107 overall.
Over his 3.5 years in Toronto, 27-45 with a 4.68 ERA. He earned the opening day start in both 1978 and 1980, taking the loss in both games. He also made the All Star team in 1979, although he didn’t get into the game.
Jerry Garvin (1977-1982)
Garvin also joined the Jays in the 1976 Expansion Draft, the 4th overall pick taken from the Twins. He made his debut the day after Lemancyk, and got his career started with a string of very good games. He earned the win in his first start, going 8 innings while allowing 1 run on 4 hits. He followed that up with a pair of complete games, followed by a good 7 inning start and then another complete game. He finished the month of April with a 4-0 record and a 2.14 ERA.
The rest of his season wasn’t quite as good though, as he went 6-18 the rest of the way with a 4.62 ERA. He also threw another 9 complete games, giving him 12 for the season. His 12 complete games is the 5th most in franchise history, mostly a sign of the times, but also perhaps a reason why he only made 31 more starts in his career.
The 18 losses from that 1977 season are also tied for the club record, but he did give the Blue Jays 3.6 bWAR, so an 18 loss season isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Luis Leal (1980-1985)
The Jays signed Leal out of Venezuela prior to the 1979 season, and he made his debut as a 23 year old in 1980. He picked up the win against the Yankees in his first start. He made 151 starts over his 6 seasons with the Jays, pitching nearly 1000 innings. He went 51-58 with a 4.14 ERA, earning 10.6 fWAR and bWAR.
His best season was 1982, when he went 12-15 with a 3.93 ERA over 38 starts. He had 5.1 bWAR that season, and looked poised to help lead the Jays into the future. By the time the 1985 season came, however, Leal was struggling to stay relevant on the Jays, and pitched his last game on June 29 of that season.
Todd Stottlemyre (1988-1994)
The Blue Jays drafted Stottlemyre 3rd overall in the 1985 draft, making the bullpen out of the gate for the 1988 season. He made his first start 3 days later, and spent the majority of the season alternating back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation, and not doing very well with a 5.68 ERA over 98 innings. He played a similar role in 1989, but pitched much better to the tune of a 3.88 ERA over 127.2 innings.
In 1990, he entered the rotation full time and never looked back, being a rotation mainstay through the championship seasons. From 1990 to 1993, he went 51-48 with a 4.33 ERA over 772.2 innings, providing a pretty good 6.8 WAR.
He didn’t fare very well for the Jays in the playoffs though. Through 4 starts and 5 relief appearances, Stottlemyre threw 24 innings, allowing 20 runs on 30 hits and 11 walks while going 0-3 along the way. And to top it all off, he had an all-time baserunning... incident.
Jack Morris (1992-1993)
Classifying the Hall of Famer as a mid-rotation starter is maybe a little bit of stretch, but that’s really all his was in his pair of seasons in Toronto. While he did earn the opening day start in both years, he was also a shell of his former self, pitching to a combined 28-18 record with a 4.87 ERA over 393.1 innings. He was worth just 1.3 bWAR in those innings, although fWAR says he was a fair bit better at 5.4. His two opening day starts stretched his Major League record to 14 consecutive seasons making the opening day start.
His numbers in 1992 were certainly the better of the two seasons, when he went 21-6 with a 4.04 ERA, picking up some MVP votes and finishing 5th in the Cy Young voting. He was flat out terrible in the playoffs though, going 0-3 in his 4 starts, allowing 19 runs on 24 hits in 23 innings, walking 15 and allowing 6 home runs. His 21 wins marked the first time a Blue Jays’ pitcher crossed the 20 win plateau.
Morris struggled through arm troubles in 1993, and his season ended in early September after being unable to continue pitching. He didn’t play in the playoffs for the World Series winners, and he was released following the season.
Kelvim Escobar (1997-2003)
Escobar straddles the cutoff but since he was signed out of Venezuela in 1992, I’ll throw him in the pre-2000 group. Escobar worked his way up through the system, making his debut as a 21 year old in 1997, working exclusively out of the bullpen. He threw 31 innings, pitching to a 2.90 ERA and picking up 14 saves. He made 10 starts in 1998 while spending some more time in the bullpen, before getting the full time opportunity to start in 1999.
His flip flopping back and forth between the bullpen and rotation would become the defining characteristic of his time in Toronto, as he made it back to the bullpen in 2002 where he picked up 38 saves, the third highest single season total in franchise history. He is the only Blue Jay in history with at least 50 wins and 50 saves.
Overall, Escobar went 58-55 with a 4.58 ERA over 849 innings while picking up 58 saves as well. That adds up to a pretty impressive 10.6 bWAR, and an even better, 12th all time 13.4 fWAR.
Who was your favourite pre-2000 mid-rotation starter?
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