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 »

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Catfish Hunter and other Yankee pitchers who made the Hall of Fame primarily for other teams

25 09 2015

This continues my series on Yankee starting pitchers.

Most of the Yankee pitchers in the Hall of Fame are there mostly, if not exclusively for their achievements with other teams:

Catfish Hunter

Catfish is the only pitcher in this post who added notably to his Hall of Fame credentials as a Yankee (the Yankee 300-game winners are in a separate post). He’s in the Hall of Fame, though, for his pitching for the Oakland A’s.

Catfish won 167 games for the A’s, concluding with four straight 20-win seasons. He also was 7-2 in the post-season (4-0 in the World Series), the best pitcher on a team that won three straight World Series. He won the Cy Young Award in 1974 and was in the top four in Cy Young voting the other two World Series years. He pitched a perfect game for the A’s.

But stingy A’s owner Charlie Finley, who couldn’t stand to pay the cost of maintaining a championship dynasty, violated Hunter’s contract and Catfish became baseball’s first big-name free agent. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, hungering for the kind of success Finley had achieved, snapped Hunter up. Read the rest of this entry »