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Top 60 All-Time Greatest Blue Jays: #19 Juan Guzman

BBA-BLUE JAYS PITCHER Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

Juan Andres Guzman | SP | 1991-1998

Juan Guzman was born October 28th, 1966 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He was signed as an amateur free agent in 1985 by the Dodgers. Near the end of the 1987 season, the Jays traded Mike Sharperson to LA for him. It is one of the better trades in Jay’s history. Sharperson had some decent seasons for the Dodgers, but Guzman was a much better player. Pat Gillick knew what he was doing.

The Jays called Juan up to the majors in early June of 1991; the rotation was a bit of a mess behind the top three of Stottlemyre, Key, and Wells. Dave Stieb was hurt, and Denis Boucher didn’t pan out (and would be soon traded to Cleveland along with Glenallen Hill and Mark Whiten for Tom Candiotti and Turner Ward).

Juan made his first start on June 7th (he took the loss) and stayed in the rotation the rest of the way. He was great, going 10-3 with a 2.99 ERA. He lost his first two starts, then didn’t lose again until his last start of the season, a stretch of 20 starts. Guzman had 123 strikeouts in 138.2 innings, gave up too many walks (66) but kept the hitting to a minimum (98). He was equally great against left-handed batters (holding them to a .201 BA) and right-handed batters (.193 BA). He was second in the AL in Rookie of the Year voting to Chuck Knoblauch. We lost out in the ALCS to the Twins that year in 5 games. Guzman had our one win in game 2 of the series.

The next year he was in our starting rotation all season, though he missed most of August with a strained back muscle. He was excellent once again with a 16-5 record and a 2.64 ERA in 28 starts, good for a 5.5 bWAR. He struck out 165 in 180.2 innings, still giving up too many walks (72) but held opponents to a .207 BA. He was selected to the All-Star team and pitched a shutout inning in the game.

More importantly, in the first of the Jays’ back-to-back World Series wins, Juan won each of his two starts in the ALCS win over Oakland. In the WS, he started game three but didn’t get a decision, giving up only 2 runs in 8 innings of the game. The Jays won in the bottom of the 9th.

In 1993 we won the World Series again, and again Juan was a big part of our success. He was 14-3 in 33 starts with his highest ERA in his career to that point, 3.99. Guzman still walked way too many, 110 in 221 innings. He also gave up more hits than he had in the past. Batters had a .252 BA, which is pretty good still but not near as good as he had been his first two seasons. The trouble was a drop in effectiveness against left-handed batters who hit .282 against him, while righties hit just .223. He was third in the league in strikeouts. He received a Cy Young Award vote. Two other Jay pitchers finished ahead of him in the voting, Duane Ward and Pat Hentgen. Jack McDowell from the White Sox won the award that year. The writing was on the wall for his arm as he was allowed to throw 120 pitches or more in 12 starts. Cito never was gentle with young pitchers.

Once again won his two starts in the ALCS, this time against the White Sox, but Dave Stewart won the Series MVP for his two wins. They had an equal series. Stewart gave up 3 runs in 12.1 innings, Guzman 3 runs in 12 innings. They each gave up 8 hits, Stewart walked 8, Guzman 9, Stewart struck out 8, Guzman 9. Juan also made two starts in the World Series, getting a no-decision in a game one win and taking the loss in game 5.

Juan was lousy the next two lockout/strike-shortened seasons with ERAs of 5.68 and 6.32 and a combined 16-25 record. He still walked too many, but he was giving up more than a hit per inning. In 1996 he found the touch again, leading the league in ERA at 2.93, winning 11 and losing 8. He cut down on his walks, walking less than a batter every three innings. He also pitched better against lefties (.224 BA) than righties (.233 BA).

1997 was an injury-filled season for Juan. He only made 13 starts with a 4.95 ERA and a 3-6 record. In 1998 Guzman made 22 starts for the Jays before being traded to Baltimore on July 31st for Nerio Rodriguez and Shannon Carter. Yeah, we didn’t get much for him, but then he didn’t do much for the Orioles before they traded him to the Reds on July 31st (for future Jay B.J. Ryan), 1999. Guzman made 12 good starts for the Reds then signed with the Rays as a free agent before the 2000 season. He made one crappy start for the Rays before shoulder troubles caused the end of his career.

Juan had a pretty good 10-year career finishing 91-79 and a 4.08 ERA. He struck out 7.5 per 9 innings. Guzman was wild, walked way too many, and led the league in wild pitches in 1993 with 26 and 1994 with 13. He was slow and deliberate on the mound and very poor at holding runners. He threw a sinking fastball, rising fastball, slider, and curve. Bill Mazeroski said he had “Incredible stuff, and he’s just wild enough for hitters to have that in the back of their minds. The only drawback if his delivery. It is just a matter of time before he breaks down’. Mazeroski was right on that.

There are few Jays pitchers I liked watching more. I’m not sure what I’d think now, as he was so slow between pitches. I must have had more patience back then.

Juan has a foundation to ‘transmit Christian and human values to vulnerable sectors’. There are pictures of Juan on the site. He is still a handsome fellow.

Juan Guzman’s place among Jay pitching leaders:

bWAR: 6th, 21

ERA (>500 IP): 18th, 4.07

Wins: 7th, 76

Hits/9IP (>500 IP): 6th 8.14

Walks/9IP: 33rd, 4.042

Strikeouts/9IP (>500 IP): 9th, 7.63

Games: 28th, 195

Innings: 6th, 1215.2

Strikeouts: 4th, 1030

Games Started: 6th, 195

Wild Pitches: 1st, 88

I wanted a video of him pitching, this has more talking than I wanted but you get to see him throw.