The Yankees’ 50 best starting pitchers

19 10 2015

As we approach the end of my series on Yankee starting pitchers, I have ranked the pitchers I regard as the 50 best Yankee starters.

I will explain my selection criteria after the list, but I don’t elaborate on the choices individually in the list. Links are to earlier posts in which I address those pitchers (most of them in this series): Read the rest of this entry »

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Yankees who succeeded as starters and relievers

13 10 2015

This continues my series on Yankee starting pitchers.

The Yankees have had an extraordinary number of pitchers, it seems to me, who have succeeded both in starting and relieving roles.

The two most successful pitchers in both roles were not Yankees: Dennis Eckersley, a 20-game winner before becoming a Hall of Fame and MVP closer, and John Smoltz, a Cy Young Award-winning starter before cementing his Hall of Fame bid by becoming a dominant closer.

As I explained earlier in this series on Yankee starting pitchers, Allie Reynolds should join them in the Hall of Fame for his career, which combined starting and relieving excellence in the same season again and again and even within multiple World Series.

Read the earlier post for the full case to include Reynolds in the Hall of Fame, but this tidbit explains how he succeeded in the dual roles: In 1951, Reynolds led the American League with seven shutouts and had twice that many relief appearances, also posting six saves.

No Yankee (no pitcher in major league history, for that matter) matched Reynolds’ dual starting/relieving mastery within seasons, but others have succeeded notably in both roles:

Dave Righetti

Rags was a promising Yankee starter of the 1980s. He won Rookie of the Year with an 8-4 record in the strike-shortened 1981 season and posted a solid 14-8 record in his third year in the rotation, 1983. He pitched exclusively as a starter that year, completing seven games and pitching two shutouts. One of those shutouts was a July 4 no-hitter against the Red Sox. (More on that game in a separate post on Yankee no-hitters.)

Righetti seemed on his way to a successful starting career.

However, the departure of Goose Gossage after the 1983 season left the Yankees without a closer, so manager Yogi Berra tried Righetti in the role. He was a perfect fit. Rags saved 31 games in 1984, 29 in 1985 and then set the major league record with 46 in 1986. In seven years as the Yankee closer, he saved 224 games, never fewer than 25 in a season. Read the rest of this entry »





Yankees’ 20-game winners: Mel Stottlemyre, Bob Shawkey, Vic Raschi …

12 10 2015

This resumes my series on Yankee starting pitchers.

These won’t be all the Yankee 20-game winners, just the ones that didn’t make earlier posts in this series on Yankee starting pitchers. So these are the ones who never won a Cy Young Award or won 200 career games or deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, etc.

They are notable as Yankees for at least one season reaching that important 20-win mark. I present them roughly in the order I regard their importance as Yankees.

Mel Stottlemyre

Stottlemyre won 20 games three times for the Yankees in the late ’60s (when they were lousy teams, finishing around or even under .500). He posted a .690 winning percentage for a team that went .475 in 1965. That isn’t exactly Steve Carlton in 1972 (27 wins for a last-place team), but it’s an illustration of the fact that the starting pitcher is usually the biggest factor in whether his team wins a game.

Stottlemyre, a five-time All-Star, finished 164-139, well below Hall of Fame consideration unless your career is tragically shortened. He is probably best remembered for two things (which are why I moved him to the top of this list; I easily could have started with either of the next two pitchers):

  • Bob Gibson's autograph, with some Cardinal teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

    Bob Gibson’s autograph, with some Cardinal teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

    Holding his own as a rookie in head-to-head matchups with Hall of Famer Bob Gibson in the 1964 World Series. Gibson was perhaps the best World Series pitcher ever, but Stottlemyre prevailed in Game Two, leading 4-3 after eight innings and getting a complete-game victory, 8-3, after the Cardinals’ bullpen gave up four ninth-inning runs. Gibson did not give way to the bullpen in Game Five, winning 5-2 in 10 innings (the loss going to Pete Mikkelsen in relief; Stottlemyre gave up one earned run in seven innings). Both pitchers came back on two days’ rest in Game Seven, and Gibson prevailed, 7-5. The Yankees lost the Series, but their rookie pitcher gave an enticing glimpse of what was to come (though, sadly, it was his last World Series as a pitcher).

  • Stottlemyre was pitching coach under Joe Torre for the Yankees from 1996 to 2005, an excellent stretch of Yankee pitching.

The Yankees surprised Stottlemyre this season with his own plaque in Monument Park. Read the rest of this entry »





Farewell to Yogi Berra: A Hall of Fame character (and player)

23 09 2015
My baseball autographed by Yogi Berra

My baseball autographed by Yogi Berra

You can think of a few baseball players and athletes who were as great as Yogi Berra at their sports. But I can’t think of another athlete nearly as great as Yogi who was known more for his character and humor than for his play on the field.

RIP, Yogi. I never saw you play, but admired you from the first things I learned about you as a young Yankee fan.

I love this opening of Mike Stewart’s Associated Press obituary:

The lovable legend of Yogi Berra, that ain’t ever gonna be over.

The Hall of Fame catcher renowned as much for his dizzying malapropisms as his unmatched 10 World Series championships with the New York Yankees, died Tuesday. He was 90.

Berra, who filled baseball’s record book as well as “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations,” died of natural causes at his home in New Jersey, according to Dave Kaplan, the director of the Yogi Berra Museum.

And this ending to the obit is classic Yogi, too: Read the rest of this entry »