Fergie No. 1, top Canuck winner vs. Jays, Expos

by on May 19, 2013


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* Ferguson Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) has the most wins by Canadian hurlers against Canada’s two major-league teams. ….

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By Neil Munro

On May 12th, Ryan Dempster served up six earned runs in five innings of work against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, to be tagged with his fourth loss of the season.

Although wins have not come all that easily for the Jays in the early days of 2013, their triumph was not the most noteworthy feature of the outing. In fact, this was the first time that Dempster had lost a game when facing one of the two Canadian major league franchises.

Prior to that loss, he had a perfect record of six wins and no losses in his 16 previous outings (five against the Blue Jays and 11 against the Expos). Dempster had five victories pitching against Montreal (the franchise relocated to Washington to start the 2005 season and his appearances against them from 2005 to the present are not counted) and one win against Toronto (on May 2 of this year).

His best pitching performance came against Montreal in Olympic Stadium on July 3, 2001. Dempster tossed a complete game shutout, allowing just four hits and two walks.

This raises an interesting question concerning the success – or lack of it – that other Canadian born hurlers have had while facing either Montreal or Toronto. Of course several pitching aces like Russ Ford or Phil Marchildon never had the chance to face these teams because the Expos (1969-2004) and the Blue Jays (1977-present) did not exist during their pitching careers.

It probably will not come as a surprise, but the Canadian born pitcher with the most decisions (and the leader in wins and losses) was the Hall of Fame standout, Ferguson Jenkins. Fergie fashioned 16 victories while giving up 12 losses against the Canadian teams. He was 10-9 against the Expos and 6-3 versus the Jays. He faced Montreal 25 times in his career, starting in 24 of those occasions. He posted an ERA of 3.08 in 169.2 innings against them, fanning 119 Expo batters while walking just 50.

Jenkins was even better against Toronto, fashioning a sparkling 2.23 ERA in 88.2 innings of work in 11 starts. Jenkins struck out 63 Blue batters while allowing only 15 bases on balls for a ratio of better than four to one in this regard.

Rheal Cormier, pitching primarily in relief, comes in second in career victories against the Canadian teams, winning 10 times against seven losses. Cormier was 8-7 against Montreal and he was a perfect 2-0 facing the Blue Jays. His 65 appearances against Canadian clubs are the most by any Canuck hurler.

Next on the list with the most wins against Canadian teams is Kirk McCaskill. The Kapuskasing native never had the opportunity to face Montreal in that inter league play was not instituted until after his retirement at the conclusion of the 1996 season. However, he did face Toronto 31 times in his career (22 of them in a starting role), winning nine decisions against eight losses. McCaskill posted an ERA of 4.10 in 147 innings of work.

Reggie Cleveland won eight times against Canadian teams, while losing just five decisions. Cleveland spent time in both leagues so he saw considerable action against Montreal and Toronto. Cleveland posted a 3-1 against the Jays and he was 5-4 while facing the Expos. He had 26 appearances (12 of them starting and 14 in relief) and worked 99.1 innings. His ERA was under four per game against both Canadian franchises. His winning percentage of .615 is second only to Dempster’s .857 mark of the Canadian pitchers with a significant number appearances.

However, five Canadian-born pitchers did manage to record one win and no losses. The five perfect mounds men in this regard were Jason Dickson, Paul Spoljaric, Claude Raymond, Ron Taylor and Barry Cort. Dickson, Spoljaric and Cort bested Toronto while Raymond and Taylor won their lone decision against Montreal.

Cort’s entire career consisted of seven outings with one win and one loss. He did victimize Toronto for his only victory in 1977 (the inaugural season for the Blue Jays). Chris Reitsma, a Canadian citizen, born in Minneapolis but raised in Calgary, was a perfect 2-0 against Canadian teams. Reitsma won one game each against the Expos and the Blue Jays.

Paul Quantrill, Jesses Crain and John Hiller won three times each against the Canadian clubs in their careers. All three wins posted by Crain and Hiller came against Toronto, while Quantrill had his three victories against Montreal. Since Crain is still going strong for the Chicago White Sox these days, we could see him add to his win total. Hiller and Crain lost only two times each (pitching against Toronto) while  Quantrill was tagged for eight losses in his career (twice versus the Blue Jays and six against the Expos). He had 42 appearances against Canadian clubs, evenly split between Toronto and Montreal. All but four of those games were in a relief role.

In all, some 27 pitchers born in Canada (28 when counting Reitsma) did manage to post a decision against one of both of the Canadian clubs. These hurlers had a combined record of 76 wins against 68 losses while facing the Expos and Blue Jays. It is interesting to note that their career won-lost records in the major leagues were a cumulative 1303 wins and 1259 losses.

Their winning percentage while facing Toronto or Montreal was .528 and was just .509 against all major league opponents. Perhaps they did feel a little pumped up when going against the teams representing The True North, Strong and Free.

Another interesting observation is that the composite career records of all of the Canadian pitchers while playing with the Expos and Jays was 40 wins and 57 losses. Perhaps the specter of pitching in front of Canadian fans wears off a little when you are part of the home team.

If that is indeed the case, then perhaps our current crop of pitching aces (like Scott Diamond, Jim Henderson, Dempster and Crain) should think twice about signing with Toronto the next time they become free agents. The career won-lost totals for those 28 Canadians are provided below.



Canadian Pitchers with Wins and Losses against Montreal or Toronto
Wins vs. Losses vs.        Losses vs. Losses vs.  Totals
Pitcher Toronto Montreal Toronto Montreal Wins Losses Percentage
Ferguson Jenkins 6 10 3 9 16 12 .571
Rheal Cormier 2 8 0 7 10 7 .588
Kirk McCaskill 9 0 8 0 9 8 .529
Reggie Cleveland 3 5 1 4 8 5 .615
Ryan Dempster 1 5 1 0 6 1 .857
Paul Quantrill 0 3 2 6 3 8 .273
Jesse Crain 3 0 2 0 3 2 .600
John Hiller 3 0 2 0 3 2 .600
Chris Reitsma * 1 1 0 0 2 0 1.000
Erik Bedard 2 0 4 0 2 4 .333
Rich Harden 2 0 3 0 2 3 .400
Aaron Myette 2 0 1 0 2 1 .667
Eric Gagne 0 1 1 2 1 3 .250
Mike Gardiner 1 0 2 0 1 2 .333
Shawn Hill 1 0 1 0 1 1 .500
Scott Diamond 1 0 1 0 1 1 .500
Adam Loewen 1 0 1 0 1 1 .500
Jason Dickson 1 0 0 0 1 0 1.000
Paul Spoljaric 1 0 0 0 1 0 1.000
Claude Raymond 0 1 0 0 1 0 1.000
Ron Taylor 0 1 0 0 1 0 1.000
Barry Cort 1 0 0 0 1 0 1.000
Steve Wilson 0 0 0 2 0 2 .000
John Axford 0 0 1 0 0 1 .000
Chris Mears 0 0 1 0 0 1 .000
Jeff Zimmerman 0 0 1 0 0 1 .000
Matt Maysey 0 0 1 0 0 1 .000
Gordie Pladson 0 0 0 1 0 1 .000
Team Totals 41 35 37 31 76 68 .528
Career Totals         1303 1259 .509
* Reitsma was born in Minneapolis but raised in Calgary



Neil Munro
Neil is a retired secondary school mathematics teacher with a life-long passion for the collection and analysis of baseball statistics. A North Bay Ontario resident for almost 50 years, Neil has fuelled his interest by serving as a research consultant with STATS Inc. He was the former chair of the Records Committee of SABR – the Society for American Baseball Research.

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