Ranking the Toronto Blue Jays' 5 Greatest Pitchers of All Time
October 25, 1998, has been seen as a great day in Toronto Blue Jays history. The ball passed from one legend to another when reliever Dave Stieb took the ball from starting pitcher Roy Halladay for the first and only time in club history.
These icons are widely considered two of the greatest in Blue Jays history, so it is no wonder that this moment has been frozen in time.
However, where do the two rank on the list of the best Blue Jays pitchers in franchise history?
There have been many magical moments and memories from the Rogers Centre mound in the club’s 38-year history.
Which of these out-architects deserve to be at the front of this list?
5. Roger Clemens
Although Roger Clemens did not spend a great deal of time with the Blue Jays organization, his stat lines in a Jays uniform speak for themselves.
Wins above replacement (WAR) are highly regarded as true markers of statistical dominance in Major League Baseball. Clemens’ single-season numbers in 1997 have lofted him to first all time in WAR, as he put up a jaw-dropping 11.9 in that campaign.
Though yet to enter the MLB Hall of Fame due to performance-enhancing drug allegations, he has boasted stellar numbers throughout his career, all the way up to 2012 with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League.
For the 1997 and 1998 MLB seasons, Roger Clemens shot himself to the forefront of the Toronto sports landscape and remains ingrained in its history today.
These accolades put Clemens in the conversation regarding the best hurler to button up the Jays jersey.
4. Jim Clancy
His 11-year span with the Blue Jays saw Clancy post 128 wins, good for third all-time among Jays pitchers.
The balance of his career win total (140) was made up of appearances with the Braves and Astros, but it is clear that Clancy had the majority of his success as a Blue Jay.
In his 15-year career, Clancy started 381 games, including 40 for the Blue Jays in 1982. His longevity that year was no fluke, either: In 1985, Clancy only allowed 52 runs scored against him in 23 games started.
3. Duane Ward
In his nine-season MLB career, Duane Ward proved to be one of the most consistent pitchers in Jays history. While Ward’s consistency put him at an advantage over the streaky “stars,” one aspect of it lands him on this list.
He was consistently excellent. If you have engineered a nearly franchise-best 3.18 ERA over the course of a decorated career, the stat holds a large amount of merit.
As a relief pitcher in the early 1990s, Ward allowed fewer and fewer runs. A rundown of the best relief pitchers of all time on Missing BJ (based on Baseball-Reference.com stats) has Ward’s 1992 campaign as one of the best:
Duane Ward ’92 – ERA 1.95, ERA+211, WHIP 1.135, 3.5 walks and 9.1 strikeouts per 9. 1.4 ALI, 3.2 WAR. 7-4 record with 12 saves (4 blown). 101.1 innings pitched.
’93 – ERA 2.13, ERA+204, WHIP 1.033, 3.1 walks and 12.2 strikeouts per 9. 1.6 ALI, 2.9 WAR. 2-3 record with a league-high 45 saves (6 blown) and 70 games finished. 71.1 innings pitched.
Ward’s ability to register on Missing BJ’s list more than once puts into perspective just how consistently good he really was in the prime of his career.
2. Roy Halladay
The top two pitchers in Blue Jays history are barely ever in dispute. The No. 2 slot has been set ever since the trade that sent Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies,and it has often been said that if Halladay stayed in a Blue Jays uniform, he may have eclipsed the eventual No. 1.
Halladay’s stats speak for themselves. In a lengthy 11-year stay as a Blue Jay, Halladay has put up an impressive amount of wins and is either first or second in most major pitching categories.
A particularly eye-opening stat line came in his sixth season, in which he lost just seven games in 36 starts, including nine complete games and two shutouts.
His success continued after leaving for Philadelphia. While Halladay didn’t have much playoff experience, he still came out in the clutch when it mattered, posting a no-hitter in the 2010 National League Division Series.
Toronto fans can still remember Halladay fondly. In his return to Toronto on July 2, 2011, Halladay was welcomed home in emotional fashion.
All in all, Halladay only posted two years as a sub-.500 pitcher: 2000 and 2013.
1. Dave Stieb
You can ask the question to any Jays fan, and they will most likely give you the same answer: The greatest pitcher in Blue Jays history is Dave Stieb.
A Blue Jays pitcher from 1979 to 1992 with a brief stint in 1998, Stieb leads Toronto in many important categories.
His career WAR is a spectacular 57.0, light-years ahead of any competitor and 68th all time. The closest competitor is Halladay, who is 11 points below him. It goes to show how valuable Stieb was to his team.
Additionally, his 175 wins leads the franchise by 27 over his closest competitor.
It is unlikely that Stieb will be eclipsed as the best pitcher in Jays history for a very long time, and whoever is able to do so will have to work extremely hard. There is no pitcher to don the Jays uniform who comes close.
Statistics courtesy Baseball-Reference.com.