Last week, I took a look at where Andy Pettitte ranks on the Yankees all-time leaderboards in several categories. That gave me the bright idea of trying to figure out where he ranks on the team's all-time list of best starting pitchers. That got out of control fairly quickly, as I found myself ranking the team's top-20 starters since 1920. I'm going to break this down into two posts: numbers 11-20 this week, and numbers 1-10 next week. This way, instead of just giving you a lot of numbers, I can give you a little bit of a narrative (in addition to a lot of numbers). I'm primarily using ERA, ERA+, innings pitched, games started and the concept of "ace" seasons I discussed a few weeks ago (200 innings pitched with a 120 ERA+ or better).
In addition to all the numbers I pulled from Baseball-Reference, I used some subjectivity in the rankings. How much is a better ERA offset by "x" many fewer innings pitched? In addition to career totals, I tried to identify each pitcher's peak consecutive years, balancing length and performance the best I could. Finally, I considered how long the team counted on him to be the guy they could build the pitching staff around. You may prefer wins, WAR, career totals, or something else, but here's where I ended up:
David Wells, 1997-98 and 2002-03: Averaged 31 starts, 213 IP, a 17-7 record, 3.90 ERA and 114 ERA+, plus one perfect game.
Orlando Hernandez, 1998-2002, 2004: I'm going to go with "enigmatic." He averaged 23 starts and 146 IP during the regular season, topping 200 IP just once in six seasons. A 3.96 ERA and 116 ERA+ isn't isn't anything to sneeze at, but it always seemed like he could be so much better than what the results said he was. In the postseason, he was as big a reason as anyone for the 1998-2001 dynasty: 13 postseason starts, 90.1 IP, 9-2 record, 2.48 ERA.
Monte Pearson, 1936-1940: In 114 starts and 825.2 IP, he went 63-27 with a 3.82 ERA and 117 ERA+. One ace season, and three other near-ace seasons. Threw the first no-hitter in Yankee Stadium in 1938, traded to the Reds after the 1940 season, and was done after 24.1 IP there.
20. Roger Clemens, 1999-2003, 2007: 174 starts, 1103 IP, 83-42 with a 4.01 ERA and 114 ERA+. I knocked him down the list because he was significantly better both directly before and after pitching with the Yankees, which I find incredibly annoying. Knocked down further by the bizzarre Mike Piazza bat-throwing incident and Suzyn Waldman's reaction to his 2007 comeback.
19. Tommy John, 1979-82, 1986-89: Didn't take long for a surprise name, did it? I wasn't expecting to have him on this list, but I only remember his second stint when he was 43-46 years old (and surprisingly effective at 43 and 44). From 1979-81, he averaged 31 starts, 227 IP, a 17-9 record (winning 20 twice), a 3.07 ERA and 127 ERA+.
18. Tiny Bonham, 1940-46: Posted a 1.90 ERA in 99.1 IP as a rookie, then averaged 26 games, 23 starts, 195 IP, a 13-8 record, 2.71 ERA and 128 ERA+ over the next five years. Traded to Pittsburgh after 104.2 poor innings in 1946, and had one good year in three there. I discounted his peak somewhat because of the dilluted level of play during World War II.
17. Vic Raschi, 1946-53: Had a nice six year run from 1948-53 as a durable, solid guy, averaging 32 starts, 236 IP, an 18-8 record, 3.44 ERA and 113 ERA+. Raschi was part of six World Series winners, going 5-3 with a 2.24 ERA in 60 IP.
16. Carl Mays, 1920-23: Had a nice three year run to start his Yankees career, averaging 35 starts, 296 IP, a 22-11 record, 3.20 ERA and 125 ERA+. He was terrible in 1923, then put together six good years with the Reds. Unfortunately, he beaned and killed Ray Chapman in 1920.
15. Bob Shawkey, 1915-27: The only one on the list to lose seasons to my 1920 cutoff, he was the mainstay of the first Yankee dynasty's pitching staff (1921-23). From 1920-23, he averaged 32 starts, 268 IP, an 18-12 record, 3.21 ERA and 124 ERA+.
14. Spud Chandler, 1937-47: A career 109-43 record, 2.84 ERA, 132 ERA+, and MVP in 1943 when he led the league in wins (20), winning percentage (.833), ERA (1.64), complete games (20), shutouts (5), and ERA+ (198). He only had seven seasons of more than 120 IP, and two of his four best came during the war (1942 and 1943).
13. David Cone, 1995-2000: I still remember where I was and how excited I was when they acquired him from the Blue Jays. He couldn't go as deep into games as he used to, or start as often as he used to, but from 1998-2000 he was pretty much the ace we all wanted - 30 starts, 199 IP, 15-7 record, 3.28 ERA and 138 ERA+. His 3.91 ERA and 118 ERA+ in 922 innings with the Yankees is skewed by his horrific 2000 (4-14, 6.91 ERA, 70 ERA+ in 29 starts).
12. Mike Mussina, 2001-2008: It was hard for me to find the right place to rank Mussina. He had five ace or near-ace seasons (while averaging just over 6 IP per start in 2006, and less than 6 IP per start in 2008), but was mediocre in 2004 and 2005, and bad in 2007. Nonetheless, on the team's all-time leaderboard, he's 10th in WAR, 12th in wins and sixth in strikeouts. In 1553 IP with the Yankees, he was 123-72 with 3.88 ERA and 114 ERA+.
11. CC Sabathia, 2009-Present: That's right, I ranked him 11th. He's pitched like the ace we expected him to in each of his first four seasons, averaging 32 starts, 226 IP, an 18-7 record, 3.22 ERA and 135 ERA+. He absolutely put the team on his back in the 2009 postseason: five starts, 36.1 IP, 4-1 record, 1.98 ERA. I reserve the right to change his ranking annually until he retires.
Next week, I'll post my top 10.