Padres' Top 5 righty starters: Cassavell's take

May 26th, 2020

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 ... if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorites at this position.

Padres All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | Bench

Here is AJ Cassavell’s ranking of the Top 5 right-handed starters in Padres history. Next week: lefty starters.

1) , 2002-09
Key fact: Peavy's 24.8 bWAR is tops in franchise history among all starting pitchers, and his 1,348 strikeouts are 312 more than the next closest Padre

There's a fun debate to be had starting at No. 2 on this list. But there's not much room for discussion for the top spot. Peavy is easily the Padres all-time best right-handed starter, and it's not particularly close. He combined a brilliant peak with solid longevity -- eight excellent seasons in which he posted a 3.47 ERA and 92 wins. During an other-worldly stretch from 2004-08, Peavy was one of the best pitchers in baseball. In that span, he won a pair of ERA titles and a pair of strikeout titles. Peavy posted a 2.95 ERA across those five years -- second only to Johan Santana -- and he took home the '07 National League Cy Young Award with what's easily the best season for a Padres pitcher this century. In fact, according to Wins Above Replacement by Baseball-Reference, Peavy owns each of the top four seasons for a Padres pitcher since '00.

2) , 1993-99, 2004
Key fact: Ashby is the last Padres starting pitcher to reach consecutive All-Star Games (1998 and '99)

Ashby's peak ran parallel with the most successful stretch of seasons in Padres' history. That's not a coincidence. Ashby was an integral piece of two division winners in the late 1990s. He played second fiddle to Kevin Brown in the rotation on the '98 pennant-winning club, but he was extremely effective in that role, posting a 3.34 ERA with a 17-9 record and a trip to the All-Star Game. Clearly, Ashby saved his best seasons for San Diego. He spent parts of eight years with the Padres and parts of eight years elsewhere. Ashby posted a 3.59 ERA with the Friars -- compared with a combined 5.17 mark for the Phillies, Dodgers, Rockies and Braves.

3) , 1989-95
Key fact: With 1,036 strikeouts, Benes is just one of two Padres (with Peavy) to record at least 1,000 strikeouts for San Diego

There's not much separating Benes and Ashby here. Their Padres statlines are nearly identical. Benes holds the edge in fWAR, 22.6-18.0. Ashby holds the edge in bWAR, 22.8 to 20.8. They both pitched exactly 187 games for San Diego -- with Benes holding the slight edge in innings. Ashby won 70 games to Benes' 69, but Benes' 3.57 Padres ERA was better than Ashby's 3.59 mark. It's probably too close to call at No. 2, but we'll give Andy A. the edge over Andy B. because of his contributions on two postseason clubs. Still, Benes was excellent over his seven seasons in San Diego, posting a sub-4.00 ERA in each of the first six before he was dealt to Seattle midway through the 1995 campaign.

4) Kevin Brown, 1998
Key fact: Brown's 8.6 bWAR in 1998 is tied with '87 Tony Gwynn for the best for a single season in Padres history

Sure, Brown was only a one-year rental. But there might not be a single more effective rental in baseball history. After winning the 1997 World Series with the Marlins, Brown was dealt to San Diego for the final year of his contract. His '98 season is widely regarded as the franchise’s best pitching season. Brown posted a 2.38 ERA with a Padres-record 257 strikeouts. He was utterly dominant at times, at one point winning 11 consecutive decisions. Over 35 starts, Brown recorded seven complete games and three shutouts. Then, in the NL Division Series, he struck out 16 Astros and outdueled Randy Johnson in arguably the greatest game ever pitched by a Padre. Brown couldn't carry the Padres to his second straight title, but he still posted a 2.52 ERA that postseason. In short: Brown was the most important player on the best team in franchise history. That fact alone earns him a spot on this list.

5) , 1983-84, '86-91
Key fact: Whitson, with Peavy and Randy Jones, are the only pitchers in franchise history with multiple sub-3.00 ERA seasons of at least 200 innings

Whitson was an integral part of the Padres' 1984 NL pennant-winning rotation, posting a 3.24 ERA over 31 starts. He authored one of the most clutch performances in franchise history, too, pitching eight innings of one-run ball with the Padres on the brink of elimination in the NL Championship Series. Whitson would sign with the Yankees as a free agent the following offseason, only to return to San Diego via trade in ‘86. His second stint with the Padres was even better than his first. Across ‘89 and '90, Whitson posted a 2.65 ERA and 13.5 bWAR -- the highest two-season total for a pitcher in Padres history.

Honorable mention

Eric Show remains the Padres' all-time wins leader with 100, and his 15.9 bWAR ranks fifth among righty starters.
• No Padres starter began his career better than Joey Hamilton, who posted a 3.05 ERA over his first two seasons.
Gaylord Perry only spent two seasons in San Diego, but he took home the 1979 NL Cy Young Award and recorded a 2.88 ERA with 15 complete games across those two seasons.
Clay Kirby was the Padres' first ace, posting a 3.73 ERA from 1969-73.
Chris Young recorded a 3.60 ERA from 2006-10.