Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista watches his 3-run home run against the Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh inning at Miller Park. Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

All-Time Single-Season Blue Jays Team - A Friendly Debate


CBS Sports Baseball Mucky Muck Dayn Perry has given us a list of the All-Time Single-Season Team for the Blue Jays. It is an intriguing list based solely on numbers. No eras, nothing but pure numbers. For the most part I am in agreement with the list but there are a couple I would challenge. It’s a fun game. Leave your team in the comments below. We’ll start with position 1: Pitching.

Here is Perry’s List & Accompanying Stats:

STARTING PITCHERS

1997 Roger Clemens: 21-7, 2.05 ERA, 222 ERA+, 1.03 WHIP, 292 K, 264 IP, 9 CG, 3 SHO
2003 Roy Halladay: 22-7, 3.25 ERA, 145 ERA+, 1.07 WHIP, 204 K, 266 IP, 9 CG, 2 SHO
1985 Dave Stieb: 14-13, 2.48 ERA, 171 ERA+, 1.14 WHIP, 167 K, 265 IP, 8 CG, 2 SHO
1987 Jimmy Key: 17-8, 2.76 ERA, 164 ERA+, 1.06 WHIP, 161 K, 261 IP, 8 CG, 1 SHO
1996 Pat Hentgen: 20-10, 3.22 ERA, 156 ERA+, 1.25 WHIP, 177 K, 265 2/3 IP, 10 CG, 3 SHO

The numbers provided are quite intriguing. It is hard to argue these being the top five seasons for starting pitchers. If you could have two Clemens years I would also list his 1998 numbers as well (like a 1 and 1A).The one that really stands out is that of my favourite Jay Dave Stieb. To say Stieb didn’t get his due would be a gross understatement. His 1985 season listed was great but people tend to forget what a workhorse he really was. I would replace his ’85 season with his ’82 season. He was not the strikeout artist that we remember but check out some of these numbers:

Year Tm W L ERA GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP
1982 TOR 17 14 3.25 38 19 5 288.1 271 116 104 27 75 141 138 1.200
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/5/2014.

Thank you to baseball-reference.com aaaaas usual. Stieb started 38 games. Stieb led the league in complete games with 19, shutouts with 5 and innings pitched with 288.1. These are numbers that will never happen again the way starting staffs are designed these days. I think there should be a shout out to a workhorse season like that. His ERA+ wasn’t great but I am still impressed. The rest of the starting five works for me.

RELIEF PITCHERS

2006 B.J. Ryan: 72 1/3 innings, 1.37 ERA, 335 ERA+, 86K, 3 homers allowed, .444 OPS against, convert 90% save opps
1986 Mark Eichhorn: 157 innings. 1.72 ERA, 246 ERA+, 53 games pitched more than 1 inning, 26 app. of 3+ innings
1992 Duane Ward: 101 1/3 innings, 1.95 ERA and 209 ERA+, 103 K, opponents’ SLG% .286

Those are some pretty impressive numbers. Eichhorn came within 7 innings of qualifying for the ERA title that season pitching only in relief! B.J. Ryan held his own in his first season here and Duane Ward was a great set-up man who was given the closing reigns after the Terminator left…Tom Henke. If you are a fan of the team it isn’t always about the numbers. Tom Henke was the first, and in some circles still the best, closer this team has ever known. He should be given a spot strictly based on his impact on the team after rescuing them from the perils of the Bill Caudill trade. Tell me this 1987 season shouldn’t maybe be placed on the board. He didn’t even warrant an honorable mention by Perry!

Year Tm W L ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
1987 TOR 0 6 2.49 72 62 34 94.0 62 27 26 10 25 128 182 0.926 12.3 5.12
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/5/2014.

CATCHERErnie Whitt, 1987: .269/.334/.455 (105 OPS+) 19 HR

The numbers show that Whitt was a pretty decent hitter and 1987 was definitely his best season. Was it the best catching season of all-time? I am more inclined to go with one of the honorable mentions. His glove maybe was a little suspect but Darrin Fletcher had a fantastic year at the plate in 2000:

Year Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2000 TOR 122 416 43 133 19 1 20 58 20 45 .320 .355 .514 .869 115
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/5/2014.

Fletcher had a higher ERA+ and had a slugging percentage over .500. His OPS was better than Whitt’s by almost 100. I understand Perry including the defense in the equation and I can accept that fact. To me, Fletcher more than made up for it with a very potent bat for the catching position.

FIRST BASECarlos Delgado, 2000: .344/.470/.664 (181 OPS+), 41 HR, 57 2B, 711 PA

I am not even going to debate this one. Toronto has had some monster seasons, Delgado being the crux of many of them, but his 2000 season is by far the best of the lot. 99 extra base hits??!! That’s just crazy. John Olerud had a great season in 1993 (his run for .400 was enthralling) but I give it to Carlos on this one.

SECOND BASERoberto Alomar, 1993: .326/.408/.492 (141 OPS+) with 17 homers, 35 2B, 55 SB, 80 BB, 67 K

More walks than strikeouts, 2nd most stolen bases in team history for a season, OPS of .900, gold glove defense. Alomar is far and away the best second baseman the Blue Jays have had and quite possibly will ever have. Damaso Garcia gets a nod for his ’82 season but Alomar is far and away the best seasonally and overall.

SHORTSTOPTony Fernandez, 1987: .322/.379/.426, 29 2B, 32 SB, 51 BB, 48 K

It is a travesty that Fernandez is often overlooked as a star shortstop that he was. In the 80′s you had Ozzie Smith and Tony Fernandez as standout defensive shortstops but offensively Fernandez had him dead to rights. Alan Trammell is still garnering attention to get in the Hall of Fame. I say Fernandez was robbed of the chance to keep is name on the ballot due to people thinking of his Indian days as opposed to his 4(!) stops in Toronto. No other shortstop in team history did what Fernandez did. Alfredo Griffin was good but Fernandez was better. Better than Manny Lee and Tony Batista and the like. His speed, his smooth bat and pure love of the game makes this a fine choice…and it’s not often I agree with the Perrynator…

THIRD BASEKelly Gruber, 1990: .274/.330/.512 (127 OPS+), 31 HR, 36 2B, 303 TB, 1.026 OPS with runners in scoring position.

The golden locks flowed from his cap. He had a triple play out in the World Series that wasn’t a triple play. He married a Sunshine Girl. Kelly Gruber was a great 3B for…well…one season really. His other seasons were not too bad in a Blue Jays uniform but 1990 was special. Heck he even was 4th in MVP balloting and won a Gold Glove. For me? As much as I was a big fan of Ed Sprague and the Rance Mulliniks/Garth Iorg tandem this 1990 is the gold standard to this point. If Brett Lawrie lives up to the hype there is a good chance he gets this spot in the future.

LEFT FIELDGeorge Bell, 1987: .308/.352/.605 (146 OPS+), 47 HR, 369 TB, 134 RBI.

He was MVP that year and there is a surprising dearth of decent left field seasons in Blue Jay land. Again, I have to agree with Perry. This season was a knockout. Aside from the collapse of ’87 it was great to finally gain recognition south of the border for what was happening in Toronto at the time. Winning in ’85 started it, Stieb carried it forward and George Bell thumped them over the heads with it. The ball maaaay have been juiced that year but a .957 OPS is pretty good for the 80′s and a .605 slugging was truly worthy of MVP.

CENTER FIELDDevon White, 1991: .282/.342/.455 (116 OPS+), 17 HR, 10 3B, 40 2B, 33 SB

Devon White was a special talent. One of the shrewdest moves Pat Gillick ever made. It was the move before The Trade. White added a speed element at the top of the order that the Jays hadn’t seen since the Lloyd Moseby era. He also added defense never seen in centre field for the Jays. I loved watching Shaker roam the Exhibition Stadium grounds but White just looked effortless. I had the pleasure of having lunch with him in my teen years and he was a gracious, kind but very shy man. He just let his play do the talking. 1991 gave us the first sign of great hope in centre field. He would become one of the key elements that brought a championship. You got it right again Perry. Damn you.

RIGHT FIELDJose Bautista, 2011: .302/.447/.608 (182 OPS+), 43 HR, 132 BB, 312 TB

This is a definite coin flip with Bautista’s 2010 season. Barfield hit 40 HR and had the best outfield arm I have ever witnessed but it pales in comparison with what Bautista accomplished. You can argue that his 2010 was more productive because he drove in more runs than 2011 and a higher slugging percentage.

Year Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2010 TOR 161 569 109 148 35 3 54 124 9 2 100 116 .260 .378 .617 .995 164 351
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/6/2014.

In 2011 his OBP went up almost 100 points due to an inordinate number of walks. That is the biggest change. He hit more HR and scored more runs and drove in more runs in 2010. Played in more games and a higher amount of total bases. Sure he hit for higher average but those seem to be singles and the walks. For my money I think that 2010 was the better year but it truly is how you want to decipher what constitutes best season. Take that Perry.

DESIGNATED HITTERPaul Molitor, 1993: .332/.402/.509 (143 OPS+), 211 hits, 22 HR, 37 2B, 22 SB

UP until the last couple years I felt this was by far the best DH season in team history…better than Winfield, better than Cliff Johnson. That is until Edwin Encarnacion arrived on the scene. It again comes down to what you consider a superior season, power or speed and bat control.

Year Tm G AB R H 2B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2012 TOR 151 542 93 152 24 42 110 13 84 94 .280 .384 .557 .941 153 302
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/5/2014.

I dig the power. I dug the home runs. He even has an OPS+ 10 points higher and his OPS was also higher. Molitor, however, brought a certain intangible to the game. He was the leader. A silent motivator who hustled on every play. Not to downplay Encarnacion’s accomplishments but Molitor was the perfect DH for the best team this franchise has ever known.

This was definitely a fun little challenge. As I said, feel free to open the debate in the comments below. I love subjective arguments. Who wants to get started?

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