Jays From the Couch takes a look at the best seasons from a Toronto Blue Jays’ pitcher
Watching the tribute to Roy Halladay on opening day in Toronto brought back a number of nostalgic memories I have about this team. As the day wore on, I thought about it more, then as we moved into the night cap of the days games on the West Coast, the Seattle ESPN broadcast brought up the 11 straight opening day performances by Felix Hernandez. Just pointing to him as reference, they also mentioned that he would get his 10th win on opening day which tied Roy Halladay. Hearing and seeing that fact made me think who is/was the Jays greatest pitcher? Moreover, who had that one season to remember for our boys in Blue on the mound?
Roy Halladay would be in both conversations I think. But let’s start with single season performances. I guess we can first start with the finalists:
Dave Stieb (1982)
Dave Stieb had some great years for the Jays and still, my best memory is his no hitter in 1990. He had come close so many times, twice in 1988, and once in 1989 he had flirted with the no-no. Finally on a September Sunday in Cleveland he was granted his wish of a no hitter…every pitchers wish truthfully. These were 4 great starts and three great years Stieb had late in his career. Looking at the record books though, Dave Stieb had his greatest and most dominant year back in 1982.
Look at this: 288.1 innings pitched; 22 wins, 19 complete games and 5 shutouts…clearly dominant that year and should have been in the conversation, and likely won the Cy Young that year, had it not been for the Blue Jays overall performance. But let’s break this down a bit further…288.1 innings pitched, if you get 162 games divided by 5 starters you get about 32 starts. You divide that 288.1 by those starts and get 9 innings per start…seriously; out of those 32 starts, he got 17 wins and 19 complete games; then add that 5 of those were shutouts but also two of those were losses. Clearly a dominant workhorse season.
Roy Halladay (2003)
In a year he set some records, I would have to say 2003 was his best. Roy set the Jays record for wins (22), walks per 9 (1.083), and strikeouts per walk at 6.375….plain stingy. He also added 9 complete games and 2 shutouts as well. Roy was dominant, and it was still early in his career, and amassed 204 k’s in 266 innings pitched. These are great numbers, but truly overshadowed by Stieb’s 1982 season. Roy, although he left for Philadelphia late in his career is a lifetime Blue Jay. He knew it, the fans knew it, along with ownership and management as well. He wanted a championship and everyone respected him enough to let him earn it with a team that was built to achieve. He was a continuation of a pedigree of starting pitchers for the Jays that still lives on today. They all have that same description. Works hard, well respected, well mannered, humble, and quietly edgy. RIP Roy.
Roger Clemens (1997)
All those above traits of Jays top starting pitchers didn’t matter much when Roger Clemens came to town in 1997. With the Jays trying desperately to get back to the dance, and with some cash to spare, they chased the Rocket. I recall my excitement with this signing. I thought we were going back to the World Series despite flaws everywhere else in the lineup…let’s face it, I was young, naive and high on Rocket fuel (pun only). He was brought in to shine bright not long for this team before defecting to the pinstripes in the Bronx in 1999. Shine bright he did–in two years, he tallied 41 wins, 563 k’s, 14 complete games and 6 shutouts.
He flirted with both the Jays and Major League records in wins both years he was here, and still holds the top 2 spots in Blue Jay strikeouts per season with 292 and 271 respectively and single game strikeout total, with 18 in 1998. He also has the top two Base Out Wins Saved seasons…an obscure statistic, but with an 8.8 in 97 and 5.4 in 98 it shows his dominance. (As a note, the next best Jay was Dave Stieb in 85 who tied Roger at 5.4) You might think big deal, but take Greg Maddux for example, his best season was an 8.0 and the best since 1970 was Dwight Gooden with a 9.5 in 1985. Roger also had 21 wins to tie Jack Morris’ Blue Jay record in 1997, then came up one short in ’98…never able to beat that record. Halladay, as previously mentioned, broke that record in 2003 with 22 wins.
So those are the top 3 pitchers seasons in Blue Jays history, they are in no particular order so you can seed them as you see fit. I could have given an honorable mention to Duane Ward in 1991 who set the Jays record with 45 saves, a 2.77 era, a stingy 1.053 hits/9 and 11.068 k/9 (keep in mind that Randy Johnson‘s MLB record for a starter is 10.6098). Or even the moustachian one Dennis Lamp in 1985 who went 11-0 with only 105.2 IP and only 68k’s but, unbeatable that year.
Number one is up to you, I am a fan of all three players, and may choose Roy because of recent sentimentals, but Roger and Dave both made their cases.
Check back soon for my top 3 hitting seasons in Jays history, and the top 3 Managers down the road. Until then, swing away! BW
*Featured Image Courtesy Of S Brown JFtC
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