Best Blue Jays Ever: Starting Pitcher


May 17, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; A view of a Toronto Blue Jays ball cap and logo during the game between the Texas Rangers and the Blue Jays at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Blue Jays defeated the Texas Rangers 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we’re coming down to the end of things. Nothing left but the pitchers. I had mixed feelings about this list, as I know the Blue Jays have had some pretty fantastic pitchers come through town over the years, but they’ve also had some real stinkers.  Given the fact that a large chunk of Jays history took place during an era of insane offense, I was a tad worried I wasn’t going to find a whole lot here. I think I’ve come up with a pretty good list which encompasses most of Blue Jays history. Sadly once again we were not blessed with an abundance of current Jays (and by abundance I mean there are none), but here’s hoping in 10 years time if someone does a series like this again we’ll see the likes of Marcus Stroman, Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez on the top of the list. Lets get going then. We’re going to have to tweak the rules a bit for the pitchers, so here they are:

  • We are looking at only the player’s career with the Jays
  • Must have played at least 3 full seasons in Toronto (no one-year wonders here)
  • Must have been a fairly regular player (we’ll say average of 25 starts per season)
  • Historical impact with the club will be considered as well as overall statistics (it can’t just be about numbers can it?)
  • WAR will not be considered (otherwise what’s the point? I could just list them in order of WAR, and that’s no fun

5.) Doyle Alexander

Career with the Jays: 46-26, ERA: 3.56, IP: 750, BB: 172, SO: 392, ERA+: 118, FIP: 3.84, WHIP: 1.23

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We’re starting out with a blast from the past. Doyle was part of those early eighties Jays teams and was a big part of the ’85 team that won the AL East pennant. Doyle’s start, as you can see, are not exactly stellar, but he was a solid pitcher for the 4 years he was here. Alexander was the essence of a control pitcher, he didn’t strike out many batters, but he didn’t hurt himself by giving up a lot of walks either. Honestly, even though I’ve been a Jays fan I don’t remember much of Doyle, even though I’m quite familiar with most of his contemporaries. At any rate, he get the number 5 spot on the list for being a solid if not spectacular piece of the first pennant winning team in Toronto.

4.) Juan Guzman

Career with the Jays: 76-62, ERA: 4.07, IP: 1215.2, BB: 546, SO: 1030, ERA+: 111, FIP: 3.98, WHIP: 1.35

Good old Jheri Curl Juan. I remember when he exploded on the scene with the Jays in 1991, he was this exciting kid from the Domincan who could throw absolute smoke. He had so much movement on his fastball that oftentimes it looked like a slider. I once heard his catcher Pat Borders say that when Juan was pitching all he had to do was put down one finger and he’d still win the game. The problem with Guzman, like so may other pitchers, was consistency and injuries. Juan’s ERAs while with the Jays went 2.99, 2.64, 3.99, 5.68, 6.32, 2.93, 4.95, 4.41, not exactly easy to predict huh? Guzman was perhaps one of the most talented arms to come through Toronto, but he just couldn’t put everything together. Is it just me or are you getting sick or hearing that about a Blue Jays player? Well Juan here’s to your spot at #4 and to what might have been.

3.) Jimmy Key

Career with the Jays: 116-81, ERA: 3.42, IP: 1695.2, BB: 404, SO: 944, ERA+: 121, FIP: 3.70, WHIP: 1.19

Ah, Jimmy Key. He was a staple in the Jays rotation for 9 years. He has the distinction of being the only lefty on this list (as it turns out the Jays have not had a lot of really good left-handed starters). Jimmy was part of those great teams in the mid-eighties and early-nineties. He was an All-Star twice and finished second in for the Cy in 1987 (which is something I didn’t know). Jimmy was one of those unheralded pitchers that just went out every day and did their job without a lot of attention.  I remember when the Jays had announced their rotation for the ’92 series. There was a lot of uproar because Key was listed as the fourth starter. Many thought the Jays should have stuck with a 3 man rotation because Key had a somewhat mediocre regular season (13-13, 3.53 ERA). Boy did he prove the doubters wrong when he came out in a “key” (ha ha get it) game 4 and absolutely owned the Braves for 7 innings. He left that night to a standing ovation because the fans knew that was his last game as a Jay in the Skydome (he would leave as a FA that winter).

2.) Dave Stieb

Career with the Jays: 175-134, ERA: 3.42, IP: 2873, BB: 1020, SO: 1658, ERA+: 123, FIP: 3.82, WHIP: 1.24

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A lot of people my age may be surprised that Stieb isn’t at the top of the list. In fact, I’m a bit surprised myself. I fully expected Stieb to be at the top of this list because for as long as I can remember he’s just been considered to be the best starter the Jays have had. Them I got a chance to dig into his numbers, and…well…they aren’t what I thought they would be. Don’t get me wrong Stieb was a good pitcher for a lot of years, he’s got the accolades to prove it (7 All-Star games, a no-hitter, several one-hitters), but I was expecting stats that were a bit more…I don’t know, eye-popping I guess. Stieb played 15 years for the Jays at the top of their rotation and he was one of the first real stars the team had. He was one of my favorite Jays growing up and it pained me to stick him at #2, but I had to do it because really the best Blue Jays starter of all time is…

1.) Roy Halladay

Career with the Jays: 148-76, ERA: 3.43, IP: 2046.2, BB: 455, SO: 1495, ERA+: 133, FIP: 3.47, WHIP: 1.19

Once again, we have a no-brainer for number one on the list. Doc really is the best the Jays have had to toe the mound. It’s not really close. Halladay’s numbers are flat-out terrific especially considering he played during the steroid era. It’s also pretty amazing considering he almost flamed out as a young pitcher. After a dreadful season in 2000 the Jays demoted him all the way down to A ball to re-work his delivery. That was one of the best decisions this organization has made because it worked like gang-busters. When Halladay came back for good in the middle of the 2001 season, he was basically unstoppable. He had some injury bumps along the way, but nothing arm related, and went on to have a stellar career in the blue and white (6 All-Star games, 1 Cy Young win). His most impressive achievement, in my mind, was September 6th 2003 when he pitched a 10 inning shutout against the Tigers. That was a rare feat 30 years ago, it was even more impressive during the juiced era. It just a shame that the Jays couldn’t (or wouldn’t) surround him with better teams because it was heart-wrenching to watch him pitch that no-hitter in the 2010 division series with the Phillies. Here’s to you Roy, the best starting pitcher the Blue Jays have ever had.

That’s my list. Got a beef? Sound off in the comments below.

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