No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only.
Here is AJ Cassavell’s ranking of the top five left-handed starters in Padres history. Next week: relievers.
1. Randy Jones, 1973-80
Key fact: Jones recorded 71 complete games and 18 shutouts while with San Diego. As a team, the Padres have recorded 51 complete games and 21 shutouts this century
There will never be another pitcher like Randy Jones, a wizard borne of a different era. Jones was the Padres' first certifiable ace, and he posted numbers that are almost impossible to comprehend. During his National League Cy Young Award-winning 1976 campaign, Jones made 40 starts, and he completed 25 of them. With a devastating sinker that induced weak contact and quick outs, Jones pitched 315 1/3 innings and struck out only 93 hitters. But he recorded a 2.74 ERA and won a remarkable 16 games -- before the All-Star break.
And yet, that probably wasn't even Jones' best season with the Padres. A year prior, he won an ERA title with a 2.24 mark across 36 starts, racking up 7.5 wins above replacement in the process. Jones' peak was elite, even if it lasted only two years. But he was rock solid across six other seasons in San Diego. He finished with a 3.30 ERA and 92 wins for the Padres. Jones' No. 35 is retired in San Diego, and he's one of the most beloved players in club history. He's an easy choice atop this list.
2. Bruce Hurst, 1989-93
Key fact: Among Padres left-handers, Hurst ranks second in wins (55) and WAR (15)
Given Jones' accomplishments, there was always going to be a steep drop-off before the No. 2 spot on this list. But Bruce Hurst fits in nicely behind Jones, mostly because of his similar style. Hurst wasn't overpowering, but he was still immensely effective and an absolute workhorse. In all four of his full seasons with the Padres, Hurst made at least 31 starts and threw well above 200 innings. He led the National League with 10 complete games in 1989 and four shutouts in '90. Over 131 starts, Hurst posted a 3.27 ERA.
At the end of his San Diego tenure, Hurst offered one final important contribution. The Padres sent Hurst and righty Greg Harris to Colorado in the trade that landed Andy Ashby, Brad Ausmus and Doug Bochtler -- one of the most lopsided deals in franchise history.
3. Dave Dravecky, 1982-87
Key fact: Dravecky made five relief appearances in the 1984 postseason, holding the Cubs and Tigers scoreless over 10 2/3 innings
A key cog in the Padres' run to the 1984 pennant, Dave Dravecky spent parts of six seasons in San Diego and never recorded an ERA above 3.76. He finished with a 3.12 mark and 456 strikeouts in 199 games (119 starts). After a strong rookie season in '82, Dravecky made his lone All-Star team the following year, then helped push the Padres to their first World Series appearance. But Dravecky's best season came in '85, when he recorded a 2.93 ERA over 34 games (31 starts).
4. Sterling Hitchcock, 1997-2001, '04
Key fact: Hitchcock made four starts during the Padres' 1998 playoff run, posting a 1.23 ERA with 32 strikeouts
Based on regular-season performance alone, Sterling Hitchcock might not crack this list. But his performance in the 1998 playoffs was otherworldly. Four of the most important games in franchise history fell in Hitchcock's lap, and he outdueled (in order) Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and David Cone. Strangely enough, Hitchcock's primary highlight from that playoff run is probably his go-ahead single in the NL Championship Series clincher.
Over six seasons with the Padres, Hitchcock was solid, posting a 4.47 ERA in a hitter-friendly era with 6.4 WAR. But those numbers don't capture his October for the ages.
5. Dave Roberts, 1969-71
Key fact: Roberts' 7.5 WAR in 1971 is tied with Jones for best in franchise history. That season, however, Fergie Jenkins and Tom Seaver were both worth 10-plus WAR -- two of only 16 such seasons in the last 50 years. Roberts, with a 14-17 record, slumped to sixth in Cy Young Award voting
Dave Roberts' Padres tenure was short, and the teams he played for were forgettable. But three last-place finishes shouldn't diminish Roberts' excellent run in San Diego. He posted a 2.99 ERA over three seasons and precisely 500 innings with the Padres. Roberts capped it with a brilliant 1971 campaign, in which he posted a 2.10 ERA over 269 2/3 innings. He was dealt to Houston the following offseason.
• Bob Shirley notched a 3.58 ERA over four seasons with the Padres, including a rookie-record 12 wins in 1977.
• Mark Thurmond made only 85 starts for the Padres, but he was excellent as a rookie in 1983, then posted a 2.97 ERA on the pennant-winning '84 club.
• Clayton Richard ranks second on the Padres' wins leaderboard and first in strikeouts.
• Dennis Rasmussen posted a 3.80 ERA across parts of five seasons.
• San Diego native David Wells was solid across three Padres seasons (and started the first game at Petco Park, as well as the most recent playoff game played there).