James Clancy| SP | 1977-1988
Jim Clancy was born December 18, 1955, in Chicago, Illinois. The Texas Rangers drafted him in the 4th round of the 1974 amateur draft, the best pick in that round. Thad Bosley was the only other player to have a major league career of any note. The Blue Jays picked him in the expansion draft of 1976. We did get a handful of valuable players out of that draft, including Ernie Whitt, Otto Velez, and Garth Iorg. Clancy was the first Jays pitcher to rack up 100 wins, beating Dave Stieb to the mark by a bit more than a month. They finished the 1996 season tied at 102
Clancy was called up to the Jays in late July of 1977, our expansion season, and made 13 starts staying the rotation the rest of the way. The next year he was in the rotation all season, going a respectable 10-12 with a 4.09 ERA for a lousy team. Jim was our best starter, though there was some control problems, walking 91 in 193.2 innings. In 1979 Clancy started the year in the rotation but didn’t do well. He finished 2-7 with a 5.51 ERA and spent much of the season in the minors.
Clancy spent most of the 80’s battling with Stieb for the number one spot in the rotation and number one spot on the team pitching leader list. 1980 was his first excellent year, making 34 starts, finishing 15 of them (second-best total in team history, Stieb finished 19 in 1982), throwing a big 250.2 innings, walking still too many (128) but having an ERA of 3.30, good for 10th in the league 6th in strikeouts with 152. That would look pretty good in our rotation this year.
After an off-year in the strike-shortened 1981 season, he had the best season of his career in 1982, making a team record 40 (!) starts, winning a career-high 16 games, losing 14, and throwing a career-high 266.2 innings (the only Blue Jays pitcher to throw more was Dave Stieb). He had a 3.71 ERA and made the All-Star team. After one good season (1983-3.91 ERA) and one bad season (1984-5.12 ERA), the Jays made the playoffs for the first time.
Clancy had a good season in 1985 after missing the first month of the season with an injury. He finished 9-6 in 23 starts with a 3.78 ERA. He made one relief appearance in our seven-game loss to the Royals in the ALCS, and it wasn’t good, giving up the winning run in the 8th inning of game three.
1986 and 1987 were good seasons for Clancy ERAs of 3.94 and 3.54 and had 29 wins, and he threw 460 innings. He was a heck of a pitcher, eating a ton of innings and having an ERA much better than league average. 1988 was his last season with the Jays, and it wasn’t a great one. He finished 11-13 with a 4.49 ERA.
After the 1988 season, Clancy signed with the Houston Astros as a free agent, but his arm was pretty much used up by then. He pitched two subpar seasons with them and then moved to pen throwing pretty well as a reliever for half a season before they traded him to Atlanta, where he got to pitch in the playoffs again, making it to the World Series.
Jim Clancy was a big guy 6’4”, right-handed, and a bull, threw many innings, many seasons for poor, but improve Blue Jay teams. He and Dave Stieb exchanged the team leads in wins several times. For a while there, Clancy and Stieb were our only decent starters. He was inconsistent. Sometimes he would look like a power pitcher, sometimes a control pitcher, sometimes he’d rattle off a bunch of wins in a row, then he’d lose a few. He was so close at times to be one of the great pitchers in the league but never quite got there. Likely on a better team, he’d have a few more wins and look that much better. He threw a fastball, slider, forkball, and change from a ¾ arm slot and was good at holding runners. He pitched for us for 12 years, pretty good for a player picked up in an expansion draft.
He gets to be this high on the list in large part because of his longevity with the team—number 4 among pitchers in fWAR, 5 in bWAR. He was also number 2 on our list in starts.
I couldn’t find any information on where Clancy is now or what he is doing. I’d be curious to find out. I’m sure he has a lot of interesting stories about the early days of the Jays.
Jim Clancy’s place among Jay pitching leaders:
bWAR: 5th, 24.8
ERA (>500 innings): 20th, 4.10
Wins: 3rd, 128
Games: 8th, 352
Innings: 2nd, 2204.2
Strikeouts: 3rd, 1237
Starts: 2nd, 345
Complete Games: 2nd, 73
Wild Pitches: 2nd, 82