Some of the greatest pitchers to ever take the mound have been Blue Jays. In their 40-season history, Toronto has produced three Cy Young Award winners: Pat Hentgen (1996), Roger Clemens (1997-98), and Roy Halladay (2003). They've also produced one of the greatest pitchers to ever not win a Cy Young Award in Dave Stieb, who was named to seven All-Star teams with the Jays and had the second most wins of any pitcher in the 1980s with 140. Stieb—who holds many franchise pitching records, including wins, ERA, and strikeouts—also led the league in ERA in 1985 and threw a no-hitter in 1990 after falling just short on three separate occasions.
On the other hand, the Jays, who in recent years have been known more for their bats than their arms (although I’m not sure the same could be said about the 2016 season), have also produced some of the worst hurlers of all time, because for every Dave Steib there is a Jeff Byrd, and for every Roy Halladay a Josh Towers.
Here are some of the worst of the worst in Jays history.
16 Drew Hutchison
With a 13-5 record in 2015, Drew Hutchison might have fooled a few Blue Jays fans into believing that he was actually a good pitcher—good enough even to start the opening game of the season in 2014—but if you look closer, the sabermetrics reveal that he was in fact more of a liability than an asset, with a team-low -3.1 wins above average (meaning he added -3.1 wins worth of value to the team) in what was supposed to be his best season.
With nearly a 5 ERA in 4 seasons despite a .588 win-loss percentage, Hutchison is a prime example of how pointless a measurement of success wins are. The only reason he was 13-5 in 2015 instead of 5-13 was because he had some of the best offensive support in all of baseball.
15 Luis Andujar
Every once in a while a pitcher comes along who makes you scratch your head and wonder how he ever made it to the big leagues in the first place. One of those guys was Luis Andujar, who'd already logged two atrocious—albeit brief—seasons in the majors, walking more batters (30) than he struck out (20) with the White Sox, before joining the Jays mid-season in 1996. The change of environment did little to improve upon Andujar's game, as he would go on to register 6 losses and no wins with a combined ERA of 6.79 and a WHIP just short of 2 before the team finally came to its senses and sent him down to the minors, where he toiled for a few seasons before being relegated to independent ball.
With hundreds of minor leaguers in every organization vying for a shot in the show, you've got to wonder how a guy like Andujar, who had a career -21 RAA (runs above average; in other words, the amount of runs this player is better, or in this case worse, than others in the league), was given a chance over so many others—and not just one chance, but several chances, with 4 big league seasons and over 120 innings of work, despite being unable to prove that he could get batters out consistently.
14 Drew Storen
Until the last few games of the season, the 2016 Jays pitching staff has been about the only consistent thing on the team—that is, of course, for one exception: Drew Storen. Storen, who'd spent time as a closer and a setup man for the Washington Nationals from 2010-15, was brought over to Toronto in exchange for Ben Revere, and he was expected to compete with last year's closer, Roberto Osuna, for the 9th inning. But the only thing he ended up competing for was the distinction of most disappointing acquisition in franchise history, as he would go on to prove that he was incapable of stranding inherited runners, posting a 6.21 ERA in 31 games.
The biggest cheer Jays fans got from Storen was learning that he had been traded to the Mariners.
13 Brad Mills
Brad Mills only pitched 52.2 innings for the Blue Jays, but he was able to leave such a terrible impression in that time that he earned a spot amongst the worst in franchise history. In 16 games (9 as a starter) with Toronto, he let up 59 earned runs (did we mention he only pitched 52.2 innings) on 13 home runs, with a WHIP of nearly 2.
Here’s the thing: The Jays had a chance to wash their hands of Mills altogether when he was traded to the Angels after compiling an 8.57 ERA from 2009-11, yet for some reason that will never be understood to the fans, they decided to re-sign him in 2014 by claiming him off waivers. Perhaps they augured some sort of development or growth in Mills’s pitching abilities that others couldn’t see? Not the case, as he ended up being even worse in his second stint with the team, letting up 13 earned runs in just 4.1 innings in 2 games, at which point Toronto finally came to its senses and decided to designate him for assignment.
12 Jo-Jo Reyes
JoJo the pop singer might have had a better chance at getting batters out than Jo-Jo the pitcher, who made 20 starts for the Jays in 2010 with a 5-8 record and an ERA of 5.40. He also put runners on base at a clip of nearly 1.6 per inning, which is “awful” by league standards according to FanGraphs’s calculations.
Alex Anthopoulos really has no one to blame but himself for this one, considering Reyes entered Toronto with some of the worst pitching numbers in all of baseball, including a 24.30 ERA the season before after giving up 9 earned runs on 10 hits in just 3.1 innings of work. In fact, Reyes’s partial season in Toronto was his best as a big leaguer, as he would finish his career with a 6.06 ERA and a .333 win-loss percentage.
After flunking out of the majors, Jo-Jo had to travel to another continent to find a team that would take him, pitching for the SK Wyverns of the KBO in South Korea, where he didn’t fair much better, going 2-7 with a 6.55 ERA and nearly a 1:1 strikeouts to walks ratio in 2014. Last we heard, Jo-Jo was still working on his mechanics in his local beer league, getting lit up.
11 Danny Darwin
Unlike the famous theory put forth by the English naturalist with whom this pitcher shares a last name, there would be no evolving in Danny Darwin's career. After leading the league in ERA and WHIP for the Houston Astros in 1990, he would go on to have a brief, yet disastrous, stint with the Jays in 95. Lasting just half a season, he posted a 7.62 ERA in 13 games (11 starts) while letting up 13 home runs in just 65 innings of work, finishing with a record of 1-8.
Natural selection soon took its course, however, as Darwin was released outright from the team halfway through the season.
10 Joey Hamilton
With his goatee and his less-than-athletic build, Joey Hamilton might have looked like a right-handed David Wells, but he didn’t come close to putting up the kind of numbers that Boomer had in his time in Toronto.
A former eighth-overall draft pick and top prospect in the Padres organization, Hamilton was looked upon by Toronto to fill the void left by back-to-back Cy Young winner Roger Clemens. To say that he didn’t live up to those expectations would be the understatement of the century, as Hamilton would post a 5.83 ERA with a losing record from 1999-2001 with the Jays, at which point he was released.
According to Bluebird Banter, Joey’s 1999 stat line (7-8, 6.52 ERA, 56 K, 39 BB, 98 IP) is the fourth worst in team history.
9 Jerry Garvin
Conan used to have a bit on his show called, “Things That Have Never, Ever Been Said,” where he and Andy Richter would utter phrases so absurd that they must never have been uttered before in the history of mankind, such as: “Man do I feel better since I ate that chicken parm I found in my glove compartment,” and, “Kanye, you’ve been awfully quiet over there.” One sentence they easily could have included in the bit is, “Boy, that Jerry Garvin sure is a great pitcher.”
A member of the notoriously bad 1977 pitching staff, Garvin gave up a league-leading 33 long balls and lost a team-leading 18 games. Despite his terrible rookie season with the team, the Jays stuck with him for 5 more years, allowing him to rack up a career record of 20-41 while giving up nearly as many runs (298) as the number of batters he struck out (320).
“Congratulations on your induction into the Hall of Fame, Mr. Garvin,” another sentence that has never, ever been said.
8 Bill Singer
Bill Singer was 33 years old when he joined the pitching staff for the inaugural season of the Blue Jays, at the tail end of a successful career that saw him win 116 games and earn two All-Star selections up to that point. But his success would not carry over to Toronto, where his ERA nearly doubled from years past, going from a low 3 to a high 6.
With two 20-win seasons and three seasons with more than 200 strikeouts, Singer was expected to be one of the key figures in the starting rotation, even being chosen to start the very first game in franchise history. The Jays would win that game 9-5, but it was thanks in no part to Singer, who let up 11 hits in just 4.1 innings while picking up the no decision.
7 Roy Halladay (2000 only)
This one comes with a caveat. With 1,495 strikeouts and a record of 148-76 with the Jays, Roy Halladay is arguably the greatest pitcher in franchise history, challenged only by Stieb. But Doc’s legacy with the team wasn’t always so certain, not after he had one of the worst pitching seasons ever—not just in Jays history.
After establishing himself as one of the best young arms in the organization in his first two seasons in the big leagues, going 9-7 with a 3.75 ERA before the age of 23, he would go on to have a historically bad start to his third season, going 4-7 in 13 starts with an ERA of 10.64. That ERA still stands as the worst ever by a pitcher with at least 50 innings in a season.
6 Dave Lemanczyk
After leading the very first Jays pitching staff in wins with 13, Dave Lemanczyk would follow it up with arguably the worst single season ever pitched in franchise history, going 4-14 with a 6.62 ERA and more walks (65) than strikeouts (62) in 136.2 innings of work after being named the opening day starter. Unsurprisingly, according to the sabermetrics, Lemanczyk was the least valuable player on that 1978 team, with a -1.3 WAR and a whopping -27 RAA.
But Lemanczyck avoids the top spot on this list because he followed up his historically bad season by going 7-5 with a 3.15 ERA in the first half of the 79 season, earning his first and only selection to an All-Star team.
5 Erik Hanson
On the whole, Erik Hanson was not a bad pitcher. In fact, he was named to the All-Star team with the Boston Red Sox the year before becoming a Blue Jay, and before that, he'd pitched six successful seasons with the Mariners, once winning 18 games in a season with a 3.24 ERA and 211 strikeouts.
The same, however, cannot be said of his time with Toronto, where he went 13-20 with a 5.69 ERA (more than 1.5 points higher than his career mark) and averaged 4.4 walks per nine innings.
After his uncharacteristically bad debut season with the Jays, it was discovered that Hanson had been pitching with a torn labrum, from which he would never fully recover, retiring two years later after a pair of injury-shortened seasons with a combined ERA of 6.61.
4 Jeff Byrd
Yet another member of that inaugural pitching staff, and this guy was quite possibly the worst. The only reason he doesn't rank higher on this list is because at least his awfulness was contained to one season.
A mid-season call up, he became the youngest starter in the Jays rotation at 20 years of age, a franchise record that stands to this day. That's about the only good thing that can be said about his 17-game career, as he would put up possibly the worst numbers on a team filled with terrible stats, including a 2-13 record with an era of 6.18 and way more walks (68) than strikeouts (40).
In short: Jeff Byrd was for the birds, just not the blue birds.
2 Josh Towers
At least Roy Halladay can say that his awful 2000 season was an anomaly, whereas awfulness was the norm rather than the exception for Josh Towers. Rivaling Doc for the worst ERA in the history of the MLB with at least 50 innings of work, Towers let up an average of 8.42 runs per 9 innings in 2006 to go along with a 2-10 record. He also let up 17 home runs in just 62 innings, leading to an RAA that rivaled the Mariana’s Trench in terms of depth.
All told, Towers would compile a 37-42 record with a 4.93 ERA in 5 seasons with the Jays, making him one of the worst pitchers in franchise history.
1 Phil Huffman
Phil Huffman was the losingest pitcher on the losingest team in franchise history (1979, with 109 losses), which has to earn him top spot on this list. Chances are, had he played for any other team but the Jays, he would have been cut a lot sooner, but since they were just three seasons into their franchise history and struggling to gain a foothold in the league, they would have let just about anyone pitch. And with a 6-18 record and 68 walks compared to just 56 strikeouts in 176 innings, Huffman had the kind of pedestrian stats that might lead you to believe that he was in fact just some average Joe off the streets, rather than a big league pitcher.