Does pitching really win championships? Yes, but …

21 10 2015

This concludes my series on Yankee starting pitchers.

This series started with an observation that the Yankees haven’t had many all-time great starters, but have won more world championships than any other team. I raised the question then about how could that be, if pitching actually wins championships?

I’ve covered notable pitchers in a variety of posts since then: Yankees in the Hall of Fame, Yankees who belong in the Hall of Fame, Yankees who had great careers but won’t make the Hall of Fame, and so on.

But I still haven’t thoroughly examined the question that started this discussion. So that’s where I’ll wrap it up. The Yankees have won so many championships without all-time great starting pitchers for a variety of reasons:

  • Pitching does win championships, but so do other factors. Yankee champion teams were often better at those factors than at starting pitching.
  • Pitching does win championships, but even an all-time great starting pitcher pitches only every few days. Depth of a rotation might be more important to winning a championship than having an all-time great as your No. 1 starter.
  • Pitching does win championships, but starting pitching is not all of pitching. Yankee closers rank higher on all-time-best lists than Yankee starters.
  • Managing, especially management of the pitching staff, wins championships.
  • Yankee starting pitchers have actually been pretty great. If not for the Hall of Fame biases against Yankees (and against longevity), Yankees would easily have more pitchers in the Hall of Fame than any other team.

I’ll elaborate on these points in order: Read the rest of this entry »





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 »





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 »





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 »