I’m going to post a few ‘just missed outs’ from the Top 60 list. In part because there wasn’t all that much difference from about number 45 to number 80 or so. In part because I like to remember some of these guys. And it makes for good off-day content. These are in no particular order.
Scott Downs | RP,SP | 2005 – 2010
Scott Downs, known to his friends as Snakeface. Well, maybe not his friends but people around here anyway. And we are all his friends. Scott was born March 17, 1976, in Louisville, Kentucky. The Cubs took him in the 3rd round of the 1997 amateur draft. Before Scott made the majors, the Cubs traded him to Twins for Mike Morgan. Six months later, he was traded back to the Cubs with Rick Aguilera for Kyle Lohse and Jason Ryan.
His nickname, Snakeface, came from a joke by Jays’ broadcaster Mike Wilner. Callers told Wilner that Downs needed something to strike fear in the hearts of batters, that he is too ‘baby faced’ to intimidate opponents. So, he said that Scott had gotten a snake tattoo on his face. Sorry, it isn’t true, but it’s a good story, and it had us looking closely at him when he came in to pitch for the first month or so of the season.
Downs make it to the majors in 2000, making 18 starts for the Cubs before being traded to the Expos for Rondell White. He made one start for the Expos, then spent most of the next three years having and recovering from 2 Tommy John surgeries. He was back in the majors in 2004 and made 12 starts for the Expos, going 3-6 with a 5.14 ERA. He also pitched a no-hitter for the Edmonton Trappers, the Expos Triple-A team, against the Las Vegas 51’s that year. After that season, he signed with as a free agent with the Blue Jays.
In 2005 he made 13 starts for the Jays and made 13 times relief appearances, finishing with a 4-3 record and a 4.31 ERA. In 2006 he was moved to the pen, pretty much full-time except for five spot starts. In 59 games, he was 6-2, 1 save, and a 4.09 ERA. Many starters who become relievers find success by throwing fewer pitches and throwing their best pitches more often. Relievers can come in and throw hard for a shorter period. Down became pretty much a two-pitch pitcher, throwing a curve and a sinking fastball that gets him many ground ball outs.
In 2007 he became a valuable pitcher; pitching in 81 games as a one-out lefty type, he had a 4-2 record with a 2.17 ERA. John Gibbons would have used him every game if he could have (well, except for the ones Halladay completed). And he held up to the workload very well.
2008 he worked his way into the setup role. Cito Gaston seemed to use him in every game that we were ahead and often when we were behind. He pitched multiple innings several times, and he was having one of the best seasons we’ve ever had from a setup man until he twisted an ankle late in the season. He likely should have been allowed to rest the ankle longer. You can’t blame Cito for wanting to keep using him. He had been a sure thing every time out until then. He had a 1.78 ERA in 66 games, 5 saves, and 24 holds.
In 2009, he pitched in 48 games and had a 3.09 ERA, with 9 saves and 10 holds. He missed some time with a ‘toe strain’, hurt when running out a ground ball, in a game in Philadelphia. Cito started telling pitchers not to swing after that.
2010 was Scott’s last season with the Jays. He pitched in 67 games with a 2.64 in 61 innings with 26 holds.
After the season, he signed a three-year/ $15 million contract with the Angels, gaining us a draft pick (who turned out to be Jacob Anderson, who left baseball to act on Game of Thorns. No, this Jacob never made it past A-ball). Downs has been as good and consistent as any left-handed reliever in baseball, but I thought paying him $15 million a season was a little overkill, especially at age 35.
Career Downs pitched 13 seasons in the MLB. He had a 3.56 ERA in 619 games, 50 starts. With the Jays, he pitched 6 seasons and had a 3.13 ERA in 347 games, 18 starts.
Scott is married and has two children. He wrote the initials of his children, Katherine Grayson and Harrison, in the dirt in the back of the mound when he pitched.
Scott Downs rankings on the Jays pitcher’s leader board:
bWAR: 24th, 8.8
Games: 9th, 347
Innings pitched: 47th, 407.2
Strikeouts: 35th, 341