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Interesting note from Dave Till in a previous thread that seems worthy of breaking out into a separate discussion: "[Roy Halladay] ... stands a chance of becoming the Jays' best pitcher ever [...] Right now, if you're just measuring peak performance level, I'd already rank him about sixth all-time, behind Stieb, Clemens, Hentgen, Guzman and Key."

Without necessarily limiting ourselves to peak performance level -- frankly, that seems kind of unfair to the near decade of Jays pitchers who endured the pre='85 pennantless stretch -- what would be the Jays all-time rotation? Figure a minimum of two righties and two lefties plus a fifth starter who could be either a righty or lefty.

I don't think Jerry Garvin or Dave Lemanczyk are going to be banging on the door of this all-time rotation, but what about ...

... a career recognition award for my main man Jim Clancy? And if we're talking about peak performance, don't Jack Morris and Doyle Alexander at least deserve mention? Or does Alexander still bear the Scarlet Letter "D" up north for leading Sparky's Tigers to the '87 AL East title?
All-Time Jays Rotation | 23 comments | Create New Account
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Dave Till - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 09:52 AM EST (#33711) #
MED: Alexander and Morris were useful pitchers, but the bar is being set pretty high here. Key, Stieb, Clemens, and Guzman all won ERA titles in their best seasons, and Hentgen won the Cy in his.

Morris had one year as a reliable inning eater (1992) and one year in which he was awful. Alexander was good for two and a half years, but didn't reach either Stieb's or Key's performance peak.

If we're creating an all-time rotation, deciding whether to base membership on career statistics or peak performance, or a combination of the two, is tricky. Clemens had two of the greatest individual seasons ever, but was only here for two years.

Also, I'm not sure whether forcing the all-time rotation to have two lefties in it is a good idea. The Jays once went over four years without a victory from a lefthanded starting pitcher (from Mirabella in 1980 to Key in 1985). The only half-decent lefties I can think of are Key, Wells, Garvin briefly, and maybe Flanagan and (ugh) Cerutti.

Here's my picks for the all-time rotation:

Clemens (peak) or Clancy (career)

If you have to have a second lefty, remove Halladay and add Wells.
_Matthew Elmslie - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 09:55 AM EST (#33712) #
I think longevity is a factor too; Clemens was great but he was only here for two years, and is that long enough to qualify for such an honour?

Let's go by number of starts. Here are all the Jays pitchers, in alphabetical order, who've made more than - mm - 50 starts for them:

Alexander 103
Carpenter 122 (plus whatever he did last year)
Cerutti 108
Clancy 345
Clemens 67
Escobar 75
Flanagan 76
Garvin 65
Gott 65
Guzman 195
Halladay 49 (plus whatever he did last year)
Hentgen 222
Key 250
Leal 151
Leiter 61
Lemanczyk 82
Loaiza 44 (plus whatever he did last year)
Morris 61
Stieb 408
Stottlemyre 175
Underwood 62
Wells 138
W. Williams 76

This list has clarified my thoughts; there's no way that Clemens contributed enough in his 67 starts to make the list over Clancy with 345. I'll take:


It looks like I just took the top five in GS, but that wasn't my intention. The list does correlate with value pretty well, I think, at least in this case. After all, you've got to be pretty good to stay in rotation for that length of time. I'll replace one of the five with Halladay if he can pitch at this level in rotation for another couple of years or so; the better he is the less time it'll take.
_Jordan - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 11:06 AM EST (#33713) #
I started to post my own Best Rotation, but I never got any further than the first two slots, because for a moment I couldn't decide who the ace should be. This might surprise some people, but you could make a strong case for Jimmy Key, not Dave Stieb, as the all-time Blue Jays #1. Check out this comparison of their career records:


Key had more wins and fewer losses, a much better ERA and the same ERA+. He allowed far fewer baserunners in 300 fewer innings, and came out with a noticeable advantage in WHIP, 1.229 to 1.245. He also struck out more batters per inning than Stieb. On his side of the ledger, Dave threw more innings, gave up fewer H/IP, and demolished Key in both complete games and shutouts (though it was a different era for pitcher usage and thus for those two categories).

How about peak seasons? Here are Stieb's and Key's five best seasons according to ERA+:


Advantage Stieb at the top, advantage Key at the bottom; overall, it's a near-draw. Stieb had 11 seasons of a 100 or higher ERA+, while Key had 10. These guys had remarkably similar careers, when you get right down to it.

So why do I still say Dave Stieb was the best Blue Jays starter ever? Because 70 of Jimmy Key's wins and two of his best seasons came in uniforms other than Toronto's. Nine of his 15 years were spent as a Blue Jay; four were as a Yankee and two as an Oriole, including

1993, NY: 18-6, 3.00, 236 IP, 219 H, 43 BB, 173 K, 141 ERA+
1994, NY: 17-4, 3.27, 168 IP, 177 H, 52 BB, 97 K, 140 ERA+
1997, Bal: 16-10, 3.43, 212 IP, 210 H, 82 BB, 141 K, 128 ERA+

Moreover, Key played for far more competitive Blue Jays teams than Stieb did; in fact, Toronto's remarkable streak of 11 straight winning seasons coincided almost precisely with Key's career. Had Jimmy Key spent his entire career as a Blue Jay, then the battle between these two for supremacy would be intriguing; as it stands, though, Stieb is the clear #1 and Key is his able assistant.

So my all-time Jays rotation is very close to Matthew's:

1: Stieb
2: Key
3: Clancy
4: Hentgen
5: Guzman

The bullpen, to my mind, is a slam-dunk: Plesac the setup lefty, Ward the setup righty, Henke to close it out.
Craig B - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 11:10 AM EST (#33714) #
Jordan, your staff looks good. I think I'd add Clemens in the fifth slot ahead of Guzman, but it's close as Guzman had some *good* years as well.

I would add Mark Eichhorn in as the long man in the pen despite his only having about 4.5 seasons in Toronto... three full and parts of three others.
Coach - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 12:01 PM EST (#33715) #
Mick asks, "Or does Alexander still bear the Scarlet Letter "D" up north for leading Sparky's Tigers to the '87 AL East title?"

I think I can speak for everyone -- YES!

Whatever the organizational pitching coaches did with Halladay's mechanics in early 2001, it worked. Doc was always supposed to be this good (remember that awesome start at the end of '98?) but got derailed. How long he has to remain on the current track to become the best Jay hurler ever is a matter for debate; Stieb was great for quite a while.

On "peak performance" Doc's 2002 is up there with anything Key or Hentgen accomplished, so I'd put him on my Top Five list already, certainly over Guzman, who rattles around in the same "frustrating disappointment" corner of my brain as Escobar.

I hope the diligent researchers and sabrmetricians who frequent this site will forgive me -- I really appreciate your input -- but I can't help thinking of this from a different perspective. If you had a time machine, and could get them all at their best, and there was a big series coming up, the only reason I'd insert Key as my #2 is because Halladay (#3) has a similar style to Stieb's. Then I'd go with Boomer, and Hentgen's not a bad fifth. Typical unscientific coach-speak, I know. If we're honouring "best all-time," Clancy's durability gets the nod over Doc's brilliance, but that might seem like a foolish statement this time next year.

I can't be objective about the Rocket; I'm still mad at Estes for missing his fat ass.
Dave Till - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 12:35 PM EST (#33716) #
I rank Stieb ahead of Key because Stieb was more durable. Key hurt his arm three times in his career, and couldn't pitch more than about 215 innings without getting hurt the following season. Stieb, on the other hand, pitched over 265 innings for four straight years without significant arm damage. Given a choice between Stieb in his prime and Key in his prime, I'd take Stieb. (Early in 1983, Stieb was virtually unhittable - his ERA was well under 2.00.)

I find that I agree that Clemens shouldn't be in the all-time rotation on general principles. Has there ever been a pitcher who was disliked by so many people? All of Canada and New England can't stand Clemens, and I suspect he might not be popular in Texas either.
_rodent - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 12:49 PM EST (#33717) #
As we're dreaming...

At their peak: Stieb, Key, Clemens, Morris, Wells... and Eichhorn, Plesac, Ward, Henke...and -- not that these guys need a vulture -- Dennis Lamp for that one splendid season.
Pistol - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 02:05 PM EST (#33718) #
I think Guzman deserves a little more credit for his 'peak' value. In his first 2 seasons he was on such a roll that I never expected him to give up a run (I was also young and foolish then...).

1992 - 16-5, 2.64ERA, ERA+156; 2-0, 1.71 ERA in 3 postseason starts

The strike and college killed most of my interest in baseball from 94-00, so I never saw firsthand the Guzman struggles after his first 2 season, so maybe I overrate him based off of my memories.
_Jordan - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 02:46 PM EST (#33719) #
This thread has gotten me thinking about an All-Time Once-Were-Blue-Jays team. What's the best 25-man roster you could create that would feature players in their prime who were also, however briefly, members of the Toronto Blue Jays? This is the list I came up with.

SP Roger Clemens
SP Phil Niekro
SP David Cone
SP Dave Stieb
SP Jack Morris
SP Dave Stewart
SP Frank Viola

RP Tom Henke
RP Dave Righetti
RP Dan Plesac
RP Duane Ward

C Lance Parrish
1B Fred McGriff
2B Roberto Alomar
SS Tony Fernandez
3B Paul Molitor
LF Rickey Henderson
CF Dave Winfield
RF Dave Parker
DH George Bell (heh)

2B/3B Jeff Kent
LF Jose Canseco
CF Al Oliver
RF Ruben Sierra
C/1B Carlos Delgado

The outfield defence wouldn't be spectacular, but you gotta like the depth on that starting staff. Did I miss anyone, or would there be better candidates to start rather than to be coming off the bench?
_Justin - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 03:00 PM EST (#33720) #
Shawn Green over Ruben Sierra is debatable I would think. The starting outfield seems pretty iffy defensively, but they would look great in the middle of the infield. How does Delgado compare to McGriff? McGriff career OPS+ of 136 over 17 seasons; Delgado career OPS+ of 139 over ~9 seasons. Delgado's best season had an OPS+ of 181, while McGriff's best season had an OPS+ of 165 (1992 with the Padres at age 28). I was surprised how consistently good McGriff has been when I looked up his numbers; my first inkling that Delgado's numbers would be quite a bit better.
_Sean - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 03:05 PM EST (#33721) #
John Olerud, surely? Jimmy Key, perhaps? Devon White had a couple of really good seasons (on the WS-winning squads, even), but I can't really comfortably argue that he should rank above Oliver, much less Winfield. Although I will go and look at it more closely, as White's defense would help shore up that defensively-atrocious corner OF...[Canseco/Henderson/Sierra: ugh!]

If, as I think that you have, you've set up your list under the premise that a player's prime counts for the purpose of eligibility no matter what team he was playing for, than it checks out.
Coach - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 03:20 PM EST (#33722) #
Pistol, you are right. I am the sum of my prejudices, and one of them is to downgrade pitchers whose stuff exceeds their smarts. Juan had excellent years in '92, '93 and '96; he could have been great, but had some arm trouble and never seemed to develop as a strategic pitcher.

Rodent's inclusion of Morris (21-6 in '92, though he was useless in the postseason, a year after his Gibsonesque Series) just clouds the issue for me. My list would change depending on the exact "rules of eligibility," but Black Jack was definitely one of the greatest pitchers to perform for Toronto. So was Clemens, no matter how annoying his personality. I also smiled at the Lamp reference -- he was more good-luck charm than vulture. The Jays' first divisional title ('85) was in no small part due to his 11-0 record and a couple of saves. Dennis had three scoreless appearances in the playoffs, allowing just 2 hits, a walk and no runs, with 10 K's in 9 1/3 IP. I'm sure everyone who was shivering in the park that night shares my not-so-fond memories of that lucky SOB Jim Sundberg and that wind off the lake. It was a routine pop fly!

Can someone with more spreadsheet or database savvy than me interpret how good Clancy was, relative to his age (he was in the rotation at 21) and how awful his expansion teammates were? I know his K/BB isn't great, and he gave up some gopher balls, but he didn't have great run support, or much of a defence, for the first several years of his career.
Coach - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 03:38 PM EST (#33723) #
My previous post sat unsent for a while on my desktop, so I was unaware that the thread now includes hitters. Jordan's list is excellent, though I have to laugh at the idea of Delgado as backup C (I saw him in the FSL several times, and he wasn't any worse than he is at 1B.) I agree with Justin; I'd make a spot for Shawn Green, and there's enough hitting to cut Sierra.

No offence to Parrish intended, but it seems like the franchise has yet to have its best ever at catcher. Molitor's "eligiblility" at 3B is the only reason that position isn't weak, too.
robertdudek - Tuesday, January 14 2003 @ 12:44 AM EST (#33724) #
Ernie Whitt was pretty good too - he has to go in as the #2 catcher. It's just not right to make carlos the 2nd string catcher.

Shawn Green is in his prime now, and is significantly better than Ruben ever was. Overall, I might even take him over Canseco.
_Matthew Elmslie - Tuesday, January 14 2003 @ 09:11 AM EST (#33725) #
"Juan had excellent years in '92, '93 and '96; he could have been great, but had some arm trouble and never seemed to develop as a strategic pitcher."

I remember the Bill James comment about him early in his career was something like, "Despite his success, I do _not_ anticipate greatness; I give him a 45% chance of his control disappearing, 45% chance of injury, and 10% chance that he'll have a top-flight career."

As it turned out, he had all three of those things, in roughly the proportions James mentioned (which I may not have recollected exactly accurately anyway).
_Jordan - Tuesday, January 14 2003 @ 09:34 AM EST (#33726) #
From, here's a list of Juan Guzman's Most Similar Pitchers by age, a list that captures both his potential and what actually resulted.

25-------David Cone
26-------David Cone
27-------Bartolo Colon
28-------Aaron Sele
29-------Walt Terrell
30-------Steve Busby
31-------Jose Guzman
32-------Earl Wilson
33-------Erik Hanson

Guzman caught our attention and imagination with his fast start, but oddly enough, his best season was 1996. Coming off two disappointing, injury-plagued seasons, including a 4-14, 6.32 in 1995, Guzman rose from the ashes to go 11-8, 2.93 in 27 starts with these peripherals: 188 IP, 158 H, 53 BB, 165 K. In a season when the league-average ERA was 5.30, Guzman's 181 ERA+ would rank him second all-time among Blue Jays starter seasons, right in between Roger Clemens' two Cy Young years. Less than two seasons later, he was an Oriole. Say, anyone seen Nerio Rodriguez lately?
_Nerio Rodriguez - Tuesday, January 14 2003 @ 10:03 AM EST (#33727) #
I'm in St. Louis, enjoying a nice hot cup of coffee.
_Jordan - Tuesday, January 14 2003 @ 10:29 AM EST (#33728) #
Yo, Nerio -- while you're there, say hi to Robert Person, Bryan Clark, Carlos Garcia and Bill Caudill, your fellow members in the Blue-Jays-Traded-Valuable-Commodities-For-Me-And-I-Stunk Hall of Fame. Bonus points to any B'Boxer who can name at least one of the players who were dealt to acquire each of these stiffs.
Coach - Tuesday, January 14 2003 @ 10:49 AM EST (#33729) #
Mmm, bonus points. John Olerud for Robert Person is an all-time low; why Cito couldn't leave a batting champion alone is something I will never understand, or forgive. Another lovable Jay, Alfredo Griffin, was involved in the Caudill trade, which was also regrettable. Overpaying for a Proven Closer is nothing new.

I've tried to forget Bryan Clark; was that on Gillick's watch?
_Matthew Elmslie - Tuesday, January 14 2003 @ 11:14 AM EST (#33730) #
Let's see if I can do this from memory.

Person was acquired for Olerud, as has been said.

Bryan Clark... was that for Barry Bonnell? Not that the Jays had room for Bonnell.

Caudill was for Griffin and Dave Collins, both of whom were a) fun, b) overrated, and c) about to lose their jobs to better players.

Garcia (with Plesac and Merced) came over for six minor-leaguers, including Jose Silva, Jose Pett, Abraham Nunez (right?) and, um, some other guys I don't recall at the moment. My least favourite trade ever, not because of who Toronto gave up but just because it was such a stupid idea to begin with.
Craig B - Tuesday, January 14 2003 @ 11:20 AM EST (#33731) #
Matthew... yes it was Bonnell. What's more, although Bonnell had played well in '83, as had Clark, BOTH players actually crashed and burned thereafter... neither was ever effective again.

One look at Clark's K/W ratios will tell you why his success came on borrowed time.
_Jordan - Tuesday, January 14 2003 @ 11:45 AM EST (#33732) #
Good job, Matthew -- right on all counts! I don't remember most of the other guys in the Pirates trade, either; the only redeeming feature is that most of those guys crashed and burned too, with the notable exception of throw-in Craig Wilson.

Bonnell, as Craig notes, was pretty worthless post-trade as well; if memory serves, he ended up doing something weird like piloting then-Mariners owner George Argyros's private plane. And jettisoning Griffin and Collins made room for Tony Fernandez and George Bell, so you gotta like that.

It says something about the Jays that they've never really had a Bagwell-for-Andersen experience, trading away a really good player for something worthless. I suppose the closest was when they dealt Derek Bell for Darrin Jackson, and Bell went on to have a couple of excellent seasons before his personality finally overcame his talent. That was a great trade in any event, though, because (a) it got rid of Operation Future Shutdown, and (b) it allowed them to deal Jackson to the Mets for Fernandez down the stretch in '93.

The Jays' trading history is populated with a lot of Jose Petts, Xavier Hernandezes and Ryan Thompsons, guys whose advance billing never matched their production. And although he was never traded, no discussion of overhyped Jay prospects would be complete without mentioning Sylvestre Campusano (with an Award of Merit to Eddie Zosky). For years, everyone said the Jays had a dynamite minor-league system, and for years, other teams gave up good players to acquire these busts-to-be. I'm not quite sure how Gillick and Ash managed it, but it sure was amazing to watch. I've characterized Billy Beane in the past as someone who rarely trades away the guys who'll be really good; I think that can apply to Gillick & Ash as well. The downside, of course, is that it points up how few really fine players the Jays drafted and developed from the mid-'80s through the mid-'90s. Six of one, half-dozen of the other, I guess.
robertdudek - Tuesday, January 14 2003 @ 06:57 PM EST (#33733) #
Jeff Kent and (after some injuries) Steve Karsay is about all I can rememeber in terms of young players.
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