Top 10 Blue Jays Relievers of All Time
2. Duane Ward
JEFF GOODE / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO
Former Blue Jays stopper Duane Ward has fond memories of 25 years ago when the SkyDome opened.
Duane Ward was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1982. He was selected in the 1st round, 9th overall. Things didn’t work out as the Braves and Ward would have hoped. Ward was being groomed as a starter but the results were coming very slowly. Ward had sky high walk rates and rather low strikeout totals. After giving him a brief look at the major league level, Atlanta dealt him to Toronto for Doyle Alexander. Ward spent the rest of his career with the Jays and played his first game for them that year.
In 1987 Ward and the Blue Jays began to see improvement when they started to transition him into reliever at Syracuse. 1988 was a breakout year for Ward. He stuck with the major league team the whole year and never started again. He quickly became Tom Henke’s set up man. Ward’s emergence was one reason why the Jays traded Eichhorn. Ward was Henke’s right hand man for the next four years and helped give the Blue Jays one of the best bullpen pairs in baseball. Henke left after the 1992 season and the keys to the bullpen were passed down to Ward. He was to prove more than worthy of them. He filled his predecessor’s shoes and maybe even one-upped him that year. Ward had 45 saves, a 2.13 ERA, 2.09 FIP, 1.033 WHIP and a 12.2 K/9. Ward placed 5th in Cy Young voting, 22nd in MVP voting and went to the all-star game.
Ward got the save in the famous 15-14 victory in Game 4 1993 and was the winning pitcher in the deciding Game 6. Ward kept his best stuff for World Series’. In such games he had a 1.13 ERA, 14.6 K/9, 3 wins, 2 saves, only 1 earned run and just 5 walks/hits against in 8 innings.
Sadly, for all intents and purposes, that was the last year that Ward would compete. He did pitch 4 games in 1995 with the Jays but he was a shell. Injuries struck Ward hard and cut him down in the prime of his career. Ward might have been #1 on this list if he was able to play as long as Henke. Even being cut short at age 29, Ward is still the clear number 2 here. 4 of the Top 10 best seasons by WAR for a Jays reliever belong to Ward.
Ward had a 3.07 ERA and a 2.70 FIP in 450 games with the Blue Jays as a reliever. 9.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 0.42 HR/9 with a gmLI of 1.42.
Ward is 2nd in WAR, 3rd in WARIP, 2nd in Games, 1st in innings, 6th in K/9, 2nd in HR/9, 2nd in FIP, 2nd in WPA, 2nd in SDs, 2nd in Saves, 1st in strikeouts
Ward occasionally does radio work on Blue Jays broadcasts these days.