The Top 10 Greatest Pitchers in Toronto Blue Jays History

Beloved Hall of Famer Roy Halladay headlines Just Baseball's ranking of the top 10 hurlers to pitch for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
BALTIMORE - MAY 27: Roy Halladay #32 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on May 27, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

When the Toronto Blue Jays signed talented righty A.J. Burnett to a five-year, $55 million deal in advance of the 2006 season, the hope was that he would help give Toronto a strong No. 2 to pair with ace Roy Halladay as the team tried to return to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

Burnett pitched at a pretty high level for the Blue Jays from 2006-2008, going 38-26 with a 3.94 ERA and 3.82 FIP across 81 outings.

But while Toronto posted a winning record in each of Burnett’s three seasons with the team, in the era of only one Wild Card per league, the Blue Jays weren’t ever able to get to the postseason with the one-two punch of Halladay and Burnett.

After leading the American League in strikeouts (231) over a career-high 221 1/3 innings pitched in 2008, Burnett opted out of the remaining two years on his deal to become a free agent.

Ad – content continues below

Burnett landed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the division-rival New York Yankees, and while his results over the lifetime of that contract were rather disappointing, he did win a World Series in his first season in the Bronx.

Had Burnett played out his full five-year deal in Toronto, he would have made this list. Instead, he fell just short of cracking Just Baseball’s countdown of the 10 greatest pitchers in Blue Jays history.

10. Pat Hentgen (1991-1999)

Best Season With The Blue Jays: 1996 – 20-10 with a 3.22 ERA, 156 ERA+, 3.94 FIP, 1.250 WHIP, 177 strikeouts, 10 complete games and 6.0 fWAR

Career Stats With The Blue Jays: 107-85 with a 4.28 ERA, 110 ERA+, 4.66 FIP, 1.391 WHIP, 1,028 strikeouts, 31 complete games and 19.7 fWAR

Hentgen spent parts of 10 seasons with the Blue Jays, and some of his career marks with the team don’t stand out. However, what he did at his peak was enough for him to make this list.

A three-time All-Star (1993-1994; 1997), Hentgen led baseball in innings pitched in both 1996 and 1997, winning the AL Cy Young Award in the first of those two campaigns.

Ad – content continues below

Hentgen held the Philadelphia Phillies to six hits and one run over six innings of work in Game 3 of the 1993 World Series. The Blue Jays came out on top that day at Veterans Stadium to take a 2-1 lead in a series they would eventually win.

In addition to the aforementioned Burnett, Hentgen edged out Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, Kevin Gausman and Mark Buehrle for the final spot on this list.

9. Doyle Alexander (1983-1986)

Best Season With The Blue Jays: 1984 – 17-6 with a 3.13 ERA, 132 ERA+, 3.46 FIP, 1.135 WHIP, 139 strikeouts, 11 complete games and a 5.0 fWAR

Career Stats With The Blue Jays: 46-26 with a 3.56 ERA, 118 ERA+, 3.84 FIP, 1.232 WHIP, 392 strikeouts, 25 complete games and 11.2 fWAR

Alexander only spent parts of four seasons north of the border, but he made them count.

In both 1984 and 1985 — his two full seasons with the Blue Jays — Alexander won 17 games. His .739 winning percentage in 1984 was the top mark among all pitchers in the sport. In the second of those campaigns, Alexander finished sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting.

Ad – content continues below

Alexander’s .639 win/loss percentage is the third-best mark among qualified starters in franchise history, with the righty also ranking in the top five in franchise history in WHIP (1.232) and BB/9 (2.064).

8. Duane Ward (1986-1993; 1995)

Best Season With The Blue Jays: 1993 – 2-3 with a 2.13 ERA, 204 ERA+, 2.09 FIP, 1.033 WHIP, 97 strikeouts, 45/51 (88.2%) on save attempts and a 2.6 fWAR

Career Stats With The Blue Jays: 32-36 with a 3.18 ERA, 128 ERA+, 2.72 FIP, 1.240 WHIP, 671 strikeouts, 121/157 (77.1%) on save attempts and 14.8 fWAR

One of the greatest relievers in team history, Ward spent nine of his 10 MLB seasons with the Blue Jays.

For the bulk of his time in Toronto, Ward was the primary set-up man for another name coming up on this list. Largely because of that, he’s only second in team history in H/9 (7.317) and third in strikeouts per nine (9.281).

Ward was the closer for the Blue Jays in 1993, though, having the finest season of his career en route to helping Toronto repeat as World Series champions. He was an All-Star in 1993, setting new single-season club records for saves (45) and games finished (70) in the process.

Ad – content continues below

In 2020, Ward was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

7. David Wells (1987-1992; 1999-2000)

Best Season With The Blue Jays: 2000 – 20-8 with a 4.11 ERA, 123 ERA+, 3.50 FIP, 1.293 WHIP, 166 strikeouts, nine complete games and a 6.2 fWAR

Career Stats With The Blue Jays: 84-55 with a 4.06 ERA, 110 ERA+, 3.84 FIP, 1.275 WHIP, 784 strikeouts, 18 complete games and 19.1 fWAR

By virtue of wearing an authentic Babe Ruth cap in one start and throwing a perfect game in another, Wells is perhaps most remembered for his two stints with the New York Yankees. However, the largest chunk of his career — parts of eight seasons — came with the Blue Jays.

His second go-round with the Blue Jays — who reacquired him in a trade with the Yankees before the 1999 campaign — was when he had most of his success.

In 1999, Wells led the AL in complete games (seven) and innings pitched (231 2/3). He followed that up by leading the junior circuit with 20 wins in 2000 while topping the entire sport in complete games (nine) and BB/9 (1.2), en route to finishing third in AL Cy Young Award voting.

Ad – content continues below

Wells is in the top six in franchise ranks in terms of career wins (84) and win-loss percentage (.604). He probably deserves even more credit for how good some of his numbers were in Toronto during the height of the Steroid Era.

6. Jim Clancy (1977-1988)

Best Season With The Blue Jays: 1982 – 16-14 with a 3.71 ERA, 121 ERA+, 3.83 FIP, 1.230 WHIP, 139 strikeouts, 11 complete games and a 4.3 fWAR

Career Stats With The Blue Jays: 128-140 with a 4.10 ERA, 103 ERA+, 4.05 FIP, 1.360 WHIP, 1,237 strikeouts, 73 complete games and 28.0 fWAR

Clancy might be a bit of a compiler, but he had some very nice seasons over the course of 12 campaigns with the Blue Jays.

On six occasions as a Blue Jay, Clancy logged more than 215 innings in a season (1980; 1982-1984; 1986-1987), leading the AL in innings pitched in 1982 and 1984. It’s not surprising then to learn that Clancy is second in franchise history with 2,204 2/3 innings pitched.

An All-Star in 1982, Clancy is also in the top five in Blue Jays history in strikeouts (1,237), complete games (73) and complete-game shutouts (11).

Ad – content continues below

5. Roger Clemens (1997-1998)

Best Season With The Blue Jays: 1997 – 21-7 with a 2.05 ERA, 222 ERA+, 2.25 FIP, 1.030 WHIP, 292 strikeouts, nine complete games and a 10.7 fWAR

Career Stats With The Blue Jays: 41-13 with a 2.33 ERA, 196 ERA+, 2.44 FIP, 1.061 WHIP, 563 strikeouts, 14 complete games and 18.9 fWAR

Yes, Clemens only spent two seasons in Toronto. But he won the AL Cy Young Award in both campaigns, so he had to be on this list.

After leaving the Boston Red Sox in free agency to join the division-rival Blue Jays on a four-year, $40 million deal, Clemens had about as good of a season as any in his illustrious career in 1997. He led baseball in wins (21), ERA+ (222), FIP (2.25) and innings pitched (264).

Clemens had to settle for only the best marks in the AL in ERA (2.05), complete games (nine), complete-game shutouts (three), strikeouts (292) and WHIP (1.030). The 10.7 fWAR he posted in that year was by far the best single-season mark of his career.

In 1998, he didn’t necessarily match what he did the year prior, but he was still arguably as good as any pitcher in the sport. He went 20-6 with matching 2.65 marks in terms of ERA and FIP, which were both the best in the AL. “The Rocket” also led the AL in strikeouts (271), ERA+ (174), H/9 (6.5), HR/9 (0.4) and strikeouts (10.4).

Ad – content continues below

Clemens was traded to the Yankees after winning his second straight AL Cy Young Award. Both his short tenure with the Blue Jays and the fact that trainer Brian McNamee alleges he started injecting Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs in 1998 have tarnished the righty’s legacy in Toronto.

But man, it’s hard to do much better on paper than he did in 1998 and 1999.

4. Tom Henke (1985-1992)

Best Season With The Blue Jays: 1987 – 0-6 with a 2.49 ERA, 182 ERA+, 2.33 FIP, 0.926 WHIP, 128 strikeouts, 34/42 (81%) on save attempts and a 3.3 fWAR

Career Stats With The Blue Jays: 29-29 with a 2.48 ERA, 167 ERA+, 2.53 FIP, 1.025 WHIP, 644 strikeouts, 217/254 (85%) on save attempts and 16.2 fWAR

For as impressive as Ward was, it’s Henke who gets the nod as the greatest reliever in the history of the Blue Jays.

Henke was an All-Star in 1987, the same season that he led the AL with 34 saves and MLB with 62 games finished. Henke is also the franchise’s all-time leader in those two categories, with 217 saves and 386 games finished for Toronto.

Ad – content continues below

“The Terminator” was part of the first World Series-winning team in 1992 and owns the franchise records for career ERA (2.48), FIP (2.53) WHIP (1.025), H/9 (6.570) and K/9 (10.295).

Henke was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011.

3. Jimmy Key (1984-1992)

Best Season With The Blue Jays: 1987 – 17-8 with a 2.76 ERA, 164 ERA+, 3.61 FIP, 1.057 WHIP, 161 strikeouts, eight complete games and a 5.6 fWAR

Career Stats With The Blue Jays: 116-81 with a 3.42 ERA, 121 ERA+, 3.70 FIP, 1.196 WHIP, 944 strikeouts, 28 complete games and 28.1 fWAR

A third-round pick out of Clemson in the 1982 MLB Draft, Key spent the first nine years of an excellent 15-season career with the Blue Jays.

Twice as a Blue Jay, Key was an All-Star, making the trip to the Midsummer Classic in 1985 and 1991. His finest campaign in Toronto came in 1987, when he led baseball in ERA (2.76), ERA+ (164) and WHIP (1.057).

Ad – content continues below

Key finished runner-up to the aforementioned Clemens, then with the Red Sox, in AL Cy Young Award voting in 1987.

Key played a crucial role in helping the Blue Jays win the first World Series title in franchise history in 1992. The southpaw allowed just one run over 7 2/3 innings pitched in Game 4 of the World Series; he earned his second victory of the series when he pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief against the Atlanta Braves in Game 6, the clincher.

2. Dave Stieb (1979-1992; 1998)

Best Season With The Blue Jays: 1984 – 16-8 with a 2.83 ERA, 146 ERA+, 3.32 FIP, 1.135 WHIP, 198 strikeouts, 11 complete games and a 5.6 fWAR

Career Stats With The Blue Jays: 175-134 with a 3.42 ERA, 123 ERA+, 3.82 FIP, 1.241 WHIP, 1,658 strikeouts, 103 complete games and 43.6 fWAR

Stieb had the longest Blue Jays career of any player in franchise history, which is why he leads the club in career wins (175), strikeouts (1,658), complete games (103), complete-game shutouts (30) and innings pitched (2,873).

This isn’t a case of someone who just compiled numbers, though. During his 15 seasons with the Blue Jays, Stieb won an ERA title (1985), made seven All-Star Game appearances (1980-81; 1983-85; 1988; 1990), and finished seventh or better in AL Cy Young Award voting four times, peaking with a fourth-place showing in 1982.

Ad – content continues below

The greatest individual highlight of Stieb’s career came on Sept. 2, 1990, when, after a series of close attempts, he pitched a no-hitter against Cleveland. That remains the only no-hitter in Blue Jays history.

Stieb is one of 11 members of the Blue Jays Level of Excellence and was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.

1. Roy Halladay (1998-2009)

Best Season With The Blue Jays: 2003 – 22-7 with a 3.25 ERA, 145 ERA+, 3.23 FIP, 1.071 WHIP, 204 strikeouts, nine complete games and a 7.0 fWAR

Career Stats With The Blue Jays: 148-76 with a 3.43 ERA, 133 ERA+, 3.47 FIP, 1.198 WHIP, 1,495 strikeouts, 49 complete games and 48.6 fWAR

Halladay’s career highlight reel may start with the regular season perfect game and postseason no-hitter he threw with the Phillies in 2010, but the overwhelming majority of his Hall of Fame career came in Toronto.

The greatest workhorse of his era, Halladay logged 220 or more innings six times (2002-2003; 2006-2009) with Toronto, while also leading the league in complete games (2003; 2005; 2007-2009) five times as a Jay.

Ad – content continues below

Halladay won the AL Cy Young Award in 2003, one of five times he finished fifth or better in voting for the honor while with the Blue Jays. Considering he leads all Blue Jays pitchers in fWAR (48.6) and win probability added (29.8), it was a no-brainer for him to be added to the Level of Excellence in 2018.

He was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 2019. With that, his No. 32 was retired, making him only the second player in franchise history to have that honor bestowed upon him by the Blue Jays, along with fellow Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar (whose retired number has since been rescinded).