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Jonny German lays it all out for us. I love looking at stuff like this.

A recent thread asked Bauxites for their wild visions of the future, Starting Pitching Division. This struck me as a fool’s errand into the unknowable, but it inspired me to trawl through the things we do know, the history of starting pitching in Toronto. I wanted to visualize it so I made a nifty chart.

The general rule for inclusion in the chart is that a pitcher has to have been one of the top 6 Blue Jay starters (by games started) in a single season. Once a pitcher is in on the basis of one qualifying year, the rest of his Blue Jay career is generally included as well. There is a common exception of not including seasons spent entirely in the bullpen or with less than 50 innings pitched. There are various exceptions where I've included pitchers who wouldn't have merited it if they only spent a single season in Toronto, i.e. Stieb and Hentgen's swan-song returns.

To help convey how big of a role each pitcher played in each season, I formatted their names according to how many innings they pitched. While I was at it I embedded info about how good the team was overall.

100 or fewer innings    76 or fewer wins    8 point font
100 to 150 innings        77 to 81 wins    10 point font
150 to 200 innings        82 to 86 wins    12 point font
More than 200 innings     87 or more wins    12 point font, bolded

I pro-rated the shortened 1981, 1994, and 1995 seasons so that the formatting remains consistent throughout.

A few thoughts / notes:
  • I specifically kept Stieb, Hentgen, and Halladay in the leftmost column even though it meant a hiccup in the general formatting (more on that later), but otherwise the columns should NOT be interpreted as “#2 starter, #3 starter,” etc.
  • Rather, the priority was for a pitcher to appear in one column only for his entire Blue Jay career.
  • David Wells is the only starter to have 2 significant runs in Toronto, though David Cone also appears twice and was a part of a championship team. It’d be fun to see how Tony Fernandez would look in a chart like this
  • No two “top 6” Blue Jay starters have ever had the same surname. Could Zach Stewart be the one to break that up?
  • Look for Roy Halladay to return to Toronto in 2015. Hopefully he’ll stick around for more than a single year and be more than a shadow of his former self
The most interesting part of the chart is how clearly it shows that the pitching history of the Blue Jays can be quickly described as 3 eras: Stieb, Hentgen, and Halladay. "Wait a second", you'll say, "That clearly doesn't include the present day". True enough. And the geezers will no doubt remind us that there was A Time Before Stieb. So let's also name the Pre-Competitive Era and the Future. How do those look if we draw lines through the chart?

  • To my thinking Stottlemyre is the most problematic pitcher in this scenario; he's something of a poor answer to "How do you transition from Stieb to Hentgen?"
  • Carpenter also straddles a line, but in my mind he clearly belongs in the more recent era as he'll forever be linked to Halladay and Escobar from their days as prospects
  • History may eventually tell us that Marcum and Litsch belong in the Halladay era. I'm hopeful that it's not true for Shaun, less confident about Litsch. I like Purcey's chances of having a decent career, but the line reflects that his starting days are behind him
The burning question, naturally, is "What shall we call the next great era of Blue Jay hurlers?". Romero may be the safest bet, but it could conceivably be Morrow, or Cecil, or even Drabek (which has a nice angle to it given the trade that brought him to Toronto). Marcum is another possibility, but it seems more likely that in this sort of discussion he’ll go down as a good transitional guy.


Thanks to Jonny!
Pinch Hit: Rotational History | 33 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 09:08 AM EDT (#224825) #
Cool, Jonny.  The whole thing is a bit of a horse race, with 7 pitchers (the important thing for me is to note that the chart has 7 columns).  Right now those 7 would be Morrow, Romero, Marcum, Cecil, Rzepczynski, Drabek and possibly Stewart. If you take the long view of it, we probably are just making the first turn and no one has a significant lead.
Jonny German - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 09:52 AM EDT (#224826) #
The long view indeed! Any of the 7 your named could flame out in spring training 2011, or could enjoy another 10 years full time in the Toronto rotation. Yaneverknow. Guzman had the talent to be talked about here in place of Hentgen, but not the health. Leiter eventually got healthy, but didn't stick around.
I should note for anyone who finds the charts a little grainy - I have that problem with my work computer, running IE7. You can fix it by zooming in (hold Ctrl and rotate your mouse wheel 1 click away from yourself). For me the charts are clear on my home computer in IE8, FireFox, and Chrome.
Flex - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 10:49 AM EDT (#224827) #
It's amazing to me that I can recall every pitcher on this chart except for Tom Underwood. I have absolutely no recollection of that guy ever pitching for Jays. I know it's true. But my brain doesn't believe it.
bpoz - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 11:05 AM EDT (#224829) #
Wonderful work Jonny. I am 58 years old and have experienced all 34 Blue Jay seasons. I remember a lot of it. Free Agency and $ Mega changed the way to be competitive.

If I may ramble a little or a lot:-

1) I believe a team can get good fast. ie 1982 10 Font to 1983 12 Font bolded. Then we stayed up there for a decade.
2)Accidents happen Jose Silva RHP 99 MPH fastball. Car accident messed up his leg but still managed to have a ML career mainly as a reliever with Pittsburgh I believe. His time was probably between Steib and Hentgen I believe.
Wishful thinking.... McGowan pitches for the Jays in 2011, a little.
3)1991 Guzman... 10 Font. Pitched our only playoff victory in 1991 against J Morris amd the Twins I believe. Would have pro rated quite well too.
4) 2005 10 Font only. Halladay hit by pitch.. cracked shin..16 wins ?... Towers & Chacin carried us with their 12 Font bolded.
5) For the immediate future our 2010 top 4 pro rated could easily have been 12 Font bolded.

Super production Jonny. Thank You
bpoz - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 11:09 AM EDT (#224830) #
I remember T Underwood & Dale Murray. I am not sure but Underwood could have got us Damaso Garcia from NYY and Murray could have got us Fred McGriff.
John Northey - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 12:48 PM EDT (#224834) #

A very fun chart to look at.  If Marcum is traded (possible) then he'll be in the Halladay era obviously.  One wonders if other teams have such clean ace lines as the Jays with Stieb/Hentgen/Halladay.

Checking the Expos...
Bill Stoneman was their first ace, 1969-1973 (OK, not much of one with a 93 ERA+ but you take what you can get)
Steve Rogers started in 1973 with a 248 ERA+ over 17 starts, and stuck around until 1985 (barely, just 7 starts that final season)
Dennis Martinez was aquired in 1986 via a trade and stayed until 1993
Pedro Martinez took over in 1994, and boy did he, until after the 1997 season :(
Javier Vazquez is probably the next ace from 1998 - 2003 (two horrid seasons to start, then pretty good for 4 more)
Livan Hernandez is the final one in Montreal, from 2003-2004 (plus 1 1/2 years in Washington).

Huh.  that worked really well too.  Stoneman/Rogers cross over in 1973, Rogers retires just before Dennis Martinez arrives, Pedro takes over once Dennis leaves, Vazquez gets his shot right as Pedro goes, and Hernandez takes over during Vazquez's final season.  Just 2 cross-overs in the teams history, with one being two 1/2 seasons and the other a full season for both in what was the last good year for the Expos (83-79, 8 games out of a playoff spot).

China fan - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 01:12 PM EDT (#224835) #
Jonny, this is a fascinating chart, a lot of fun to look at.  One question:  why does it appear that Morrow is listed as the current ace of the Jays staff, the heir to Halladay?  Is this just a formatting thing (maybe to keep Romero in the same slot as last year) or are you saying that Morrow is the new ace?
Mike Green - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 01:19 PM EDT (#224837) #
CF, I think that it is pretty clear from the text of the article that the 2nd column from the left does not necessarily mean the #2 starter.  Romero, Marcum, and Zep were pitching in 2009 with Halladay, and so Jonny has defaulted them to other slots, and he tries to keep people in the same slot so that it is easy to take the long view of which pitchers have started during which years. 

People shouldn't get the wrong idea.  Jimmy Key was a helluva pitcher, really not far from Hall of Merit territory.  For a few years, Juan Guzman was an important ingredient of a championship team.
Matthew E - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 01:36 PM EDT (#224839) #
For a few years, Juan Guzman was an important ingredient of a championship team.

Important ingredient, nothing; in 1991 and 1992, Juan Guzman was basically unbeatable. He was the trump card. Wasn't he due to pitch Game 7 of the '92 Series, if there had been one? Or Game 7 of the ALCS? Whichever one it was, I was fairly relaxed in Game 6, because I was thinking, "It doesn't matter what happens today, because these guys can't beat Guzman tomorrow."

(He was still good in '93, but not as good; his flashy W-L record is more due to run support. And let it not be forgotten that Guzman led the league in ERA in 1996! After his first year, Bill James wrote about him something like, "Despite his early success, I do not anticipate greatness. I figure he has a 40% chance of injury, 30% chance that the wildness returns, 30% chance of a top-flight career." James was exactly right: all three of those things happened, in roughly those proportions.)
Jonny German - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 01:47 PM EDT (#224840) #
I'm loving the Latin connection on the Expos JN. "If you ain't an -ez, don't bother applying!". The Ace Continuity does work pretty well for them, tho they don't have the kind of longevity that Blue Jay aces have had (averaging 6 years each rather than 10 apiece since Garvin). And things have gone in the toilet for them in Washington as far as this discussion goes - Ramon Ortiz? Matt Chico? John Lannan?
Mike Green - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 02:08 PM EDT (#224842) #
Matthew E, I agree completely.  My point was that the fact that a pitcher is found in the #3 slot from the left on Jonny's chart does not in any way suggest that the pitcher was average, or so-so, or a #3 pitcher, or whatever.
John Northey - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 02:17 PM EDT (#224843) #

Washington?  Where is that?  Do they have a team?  :)

Expos starters I pretty much knew who they'd be before writting it.  Washington I have no clue as I avoid seeing who is there now.  I do like their consistent last place finishes though :)

Shawn Hill was going to be the Livan replacment it looked like in 2007 (124 ERA+), or maybe Tim Redding or Matt ChicoJohn Lannan was the only guy over 100 for ERA+ in 2008.  In 2009 Lannan kept it up, Hernandez came back.  2010 sees Stephen Strasburg start up. 

I'm leaning towards a lost 2007, John Lannan taking over for 2008-2010 and Strasburg about to take over.  Very messy though and about as ugly as that team has been.  Appropriate for a team that 'peaked' as 4th out of 5 in 2007 or as a 500 team in 2005 (last place 500, but still 500).  Checking attendance you see them in last place after 1997 until they left Montreal (guess losing Pedro was the final straw).  8th out of 16 in their first year in Washington before dropping to 11th, then either 13 or 14th ever since despite a new park in 2008 and ... er ... OK, not much else outside of the Strasburg hype.

DaveB - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 04:35 PM EDT (#224848) #
Nice recap of the Expos' pitching history, but I can't look back at it without thinking of the "missing" ace, Randy Johnson, traded in 1990 (with two other pretty good pitchers) for free agency-bound Mark Langston. Johnson would have been the bridge between Martinez and Martinez (assuming they still made the deal with L.A), got them to a WS and with Pedro and Vlad might have kept them in contention and drawing decent crowds for another 5-7 years, thus possibly saving the franchise.

Great work on that chart, Jonny. Really makes clear how difficult it is to keep guys and for them to be productive (especially the No. 3-5 starters) for a long period of time. No team is immune to injuries, bad trades, free agency. The Jays have a chance to repeat the Giants' homegrown starter success not because they have good arms, but because they have so many of them. Still, I think it's quite possible that the ace of the staff four years from now did not pitch an inning for the Jays this year.

Richard S.S. - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 07:12 PM EDT (#224854) #

 Still, I think it's quite possible that the ace of the staff four years from now did not pitch an inning for the Jays this year

If it takes 4 years to get an Ace for this team, they'll have to break it down and start again.   Vernon Wells (35) will be in the final year of his contract.   Aaron Hill (32) will be a Free Agent or in the last year of his contract.   Adam Lind (31) will be in the first option year of his contract.   Will Yunel Escobar (32), Shaun Marcum (33) and Jose Bautista (34) still be on the team?   Will Ricky Romero (30), Brandon Morrow (30), Brett Cecil (28), Marc Rzepczynski (29), Jesse Litsch (29), Zach Stewart (28) and Kyle Drabek (27) still be pitching for us?   Are Travis Snider (26) and J.P. Arencibia (28) still with us?

If it takes us that long to get into the Post-Season, will Alex Anthopoulos and/or John Farrell still be with us, especially as Paul Beeston contract only runs 2 more years? 

bpoz - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 07:34 PM EDT (#224855) #
For what it is worth I agree with you DaveB our Ace of 4 years from now has not yet pitched for the Jays.

First lets define THE STAFF ACE as 1 guy not more than 1 guy. Now we argue. I chose Guzman as the 92 & 93 ACE and I would give my reasons exactly what Mathew E said.

The ACE cannot be 2 or more guys and Romero & Morrow came closest to a 2010 No Hitter. But Marcum & Cecil are basically equivalent to the other 2 IMO. So maybe there is no clear cut best pitcher.
Matthew E - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 09:33 PM EDT (#224858) #
The thing about "the 2014 ace may not have pitched an inning for the Jays yet" doesn't mean that none of these guys are good enough; it just means that by 2014, the Jays may have a rotation in which Zach Stewart or somebody else is even better than whichever of the current guys are still on the team. That's not a pessimistic thing to say; it's just a recognition that, in baseball, there are unpredictable ebbs and flows of talent. I think it's obvious that the current guys are good enough, and the fact that no single one of them stands out above the others is not anything like a problem. Give me a rotation of Morrow, Romero, Marcum, Cecil, and the best of Rzepczynski, Drabek, Stewart, Litsch, McGowan, and Richmond, and I'll take them to war in every pennant race that comes along.
DaveB - Tuesday, November 02 2010 @ 11:34 PM EDT (#224862) #
The thing about "the 2014 ace may not have pitched an inning for the Jays yet" doesn't mean that none of these guys are good enough; it just means that by 2014, the Jays may have a rotation in which Zach Stewart or somebody else is even better than whichever of the current guys are still on the team. That's not a pessimistic thing to say; it's just a recognition that, in baseball, there are unpredictable ebbs and flows of talent.

Thanks Matthew E, that's exactly what I meant. There is some serious pitching depth in the Jays' system with McGuire, Alvarez and Stewart who in four years would be 24-26 years old and potential aces, along with youngsters like Sanchez and Syndergaard who might be pushing for the back of the rotation. Four years before winning the WS in 1993, future ace Pat Hentgen was in the FSL and walking too many guys, Juan Guzman was a struggling reliever in AAA. But more likely in my opinion is the Jays making a free agent acquisition or a trade that brings aboard the eventual top guy, especially if they continue to improve. Four years before 1992, Jack Morris looked like he would be the lifelong ace of the Tigers rather than winning back-to-back WS for the Twins and Jays, David Cone was with the Mets. Little did Texas know four years ago that their eventual ace would be Cliff Lee. AA's philosophy of building organizational depth is the right one and will allow that kind of trade to happen.

I would say it's very unlikely that the current top five (including Drabek) will all avoid injury, trades or some inexplicable decline into mediocrity by 2014. At least one, and probably two, will be out of the equation by that time.

John Northey - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 08:26 AM EDT (#224866) #
Interesting to see how often guys show up and how home grown the long term guys are.

4+ years on chart...
Home Grown: Stieb, Hentgen, Halladay, Key, Marcum, Leal, Stottlemyre, Carpenter, Wells, Cerutti, Escobar

Brought in: Clancy (via expansion draft), Jefferson, Alexander (Yankees released him...hehehe), Guzman, Towers.

Wow, more extreme than I expected. Two guys from 1977, Doyle Alexander (who the Yankees paid to pitch for us), Juan Guzman (traded here while in minors) and Josh Towers vs 11 guys who were first signed here (iirc). I figured a few more trades would be mixed in there. One could argue Wells is a mix and match as he has 2 years here as a home grown then was traded for years later for 2 more.

Sure does put a big emphasis on home grown over any other method.
bpoz - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 10:09 AM EDT (#224867) #
Are the Jays one of the best at producing Good SPs. I think they are. But Detroit between J Morris and J Verlander were not so good.
Geoff - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 11:42 AM EDT (#224870) #
When are the Jays' young starters scheduled to hit free agency?
John Northey - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 01:05 PM EDT (#224871) #
Baseball-Reference has that listed...
Marcum: pre-2013
Morrow: pre-2014
Romero: signed through 2015 with 2016 option
Cecil: pre-2016 (estimated as not listed)
Rzepczynski: pre-2016
92-93 - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 01:21 PM EDT (#224874) #
Anyone else catch Drabek on the Fan taking calls? I was surprised to hear his response to the idea that he could pitch out of the bullpen in 2011 - he seemed to indicate he had never even thought about it and wouldn't be comfortable with it at all. Got me thinking about the whole Earl Weaver break em in as long relievers shpiel, whether a practical idea's efficacy is ruined by its subjects' lack of desire to follow along.
Mylegacy - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 01:50 PM EDT (#224877) #
Jonny - what an interesting, informative, imaginative post. Bravo!
Dave Till - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 01:55 PM EDT (#224878) #
Great chart and great post.

Has anyone seriously suggested moving Drabek to the bullpen in '11, or is this just a sportsdude trying to stir up trouble?

You all might appreciate this link: (If this makes no sense to you, here's the original, which is the first known printed reference to baseball, and dates to 1744.)

Dewey - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 02:12 PM EDT (#224879) #

Very nice charts, Jonny.  I'm still absorbing them.

One Jay pitcher’s fate has always puzzled me:  whatever happened to Luis Leal?  From 1982 to 1984 he was a solid part of the rotation; then, after 14 starts, he was gone by mid-summer 1985--never to pitch in the ML again.  Was he injured somehow?  Or was there some contractual hassle that prompted the Jays to dump him when they did?  Or had he simply stopped being sufficiently effective?  Anyone know?
Matthew E - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 02:17 PM EDT (#224880) #
I think it was a combination of injury and ineffectiveness. He was still in the organization in '86, though, because he and Garcia were traded to Atlanta for McMurtry before '87.
Dave Till - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 04:48 PM EDT (#224882) #
From what I recall, Leal just lost his effectiveness. I looked him up in Baseball Reference, and he was giving up a lot of home runs in 1985 (13 in 67 innings).

He was a big dude who wasn't in particularly great shape, and he threw a lot of innings from 1982 to 1984 (249 2/3 in 1982). B-R lists him as 6'3" and 205; ain't no way he was that light.

Dewey - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 07:07 PM EDT (#224886) #
Thanks, gentlemen.  I do remember Leal.  I rather liked him;   but the circumstances of his departure have always seemed a bit fuzzy.  I vaguely recall there being (alleged to be) some contractual provision that was about to click in if Leal stayed on the ML roster,  so he was disappeared.  Of course, that might simply have been some unsubstantiated media conjecture.  But it’s stayed with me, and I wondered about the truth of it. 
Magpie - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 07:40 PM EDT (#224891) #
Leal actually got off to a good start in 1985 - he was 2-1, 3.13 after five April starts, and coming off a 13-8, 3.89 season. He hadn't missed a start since Bobby Cox took over.

And he just completely lost all effectiveness. Over the next two months he went 1-5, 8.07. It was still quite a surprise that they actually sent him to Syracuse (Clancy had a stretch just like that pretty well every year.) Anyway, Leal went to Syracuse and pitched okay (6-2, 3.91 in 12 starts) over the last two months of the season. He spent 1986 in Syracuse as well and wasn't very good. While he was part of the McMurtry trade in February 1987, he somehow ended up back in the Jays organization, as his professional career ended with a few appearances in Syracuse and Knoxville in 1987.
Dewey - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 08:40 PM EDT (#224892) #
O.K.; thanks, Magpie.  Odd how he lost it so suddenly.  But I know it’s happened with others as well.
Mick Doherty - Wednesday, November 03 2010 @ 10:42 PM EDT (#224896) #
Mags, did he get Blassed?
Magpie - Thursday, November 04 2010 @ 01:13 PM EDT (#224909) #
No, his K/BB was pretty much the same as always. He was just throwing BP out there. In his last four starts, he gave up 28 hits (6 homers) in 14.1 IP.
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