Top 5 starting pitchers in Blue Jays franchise history by WAR

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Since the inception of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977, only four franchises in baseball have captured more Cy Youngs than the Jays’ five (the Dodgers, Braves, Red Sox, and Phillies each have six). It’s true. While the Blue Jays have often been known for their sluggers, the fact is, Toronto is actually one of the premier pitching franchises in all of baseball.

Woven into the fabric of this great history are some spectacular names, legends whom Jays fans can probably rattle off upon request. But who, you may be wondering, are the greatest of them all?

This article will count down the top five starting pitchers in Blue Jays franchise history according to Baseball Reference’s WAR. Let’s take a walk down memory lane, and a journey to the top of the mountain.

5. Jim Clancy (24.8 WAR)

It’s fitting that Jim Clancy kicks off this list, just ahead of flashier names like Juan Guzmán and Roger Clemens, since in many ways, Clancy was the guy who laid the foundation for what would become a longstanding franchise strength.

Selected with the sixth pick of the 1976 expansion draft, Clancy had been left unprotected by the Texas Rangers as just another young minor league pitcher who couldn’t find the strike zone. The Jays, however, were willing to overlook this fault due to the noticeable strength which Clancy possessed – the ability to bring the heat. “That boy could throw a ripe strawberry through a locomotive,” Jays pitching coach Bob Miller put it at the time.

(Side note: does this not make you long for a time when scouting reports were not bogged down by an oversaturation of advanced analytics, when talent evaluators looked at simpler things, like what type of fruit a pitcher could throw through what?)

Though Clancy did not suddenly find his control upon joining the organization, issuing 75 walks in 118 Double-A innings and putting up a 4.88 ERA, he was nonetheless called up to the Jays in July of their inaugural 1977 season. It went about as well as anything went for the 107-loss Jays that year, as Clancy finished with a 5.05 ERA.

The next year, however, he was much better, pitching to a 4.09 ERA across 30 starts, and by 1980, Clancy had established himself as a legitimate major league workhorse, throwing up 250.2 innings with a 3.30 ERA in 34 starts, 15 of which he went the distance in.

From there, Clancy became the Blue Jays’ rock, a “tower of strength,” team president Paul Beeston called him. He would ultimately put up more than 2,200 innings across 345 starts in his Blue Jays career, perhaps never among the best pitchers in the league, but an indefatigable workhorse who helped the Jays build from expansion team to contender.