There have been multiple submissions discussing all-time Yankee rotations based on pitcher career contributions. However, I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at how the best Yankee rotation would shape up based on peak value.
By that metric many of the usual choices don't make the cut, probably including the Chairman of the Board, one of my childhood stars, Whitey Ford. Indeed, I'd love to include my childhood favorite, Mel Stottlemyre; but I must admit reluctantly that he isn't good enough to crack this rotation:
- Jack Chesbro, 1904 HOF pitcher Chesbro went 41-12, 454.2 IP with 48CG in 51 starts PLUS four relief appearances. His 1.82 ERA approximated his 2.11 FIP. 6.7 H/9 and 1.7 BB9 meant that he compiled a 0.937 WHIP. He starts. He finishes. He wins.
- Ron Guidry, 1978 Lousiana Lightning brings the heat from the left side to complement the previous day's RHP deceptive movement. He was 25-3, 273.2 IP, 16 CG, 9 of them shutouts to tie Babe Ruth's 1916 record of most shutouts by a lhp in a season. His 1.74 ERA against a 2.19 FIP said that he was dominating lineups in the toughest division despite facing the DH. That worked out to a 208 ERA+, currently 31st on the all-time season charts. 6.1 H/9 and 2.4 BB9 meant that his 0.946 WHIP was in Chesbro territory. Meanwhile, his 8.2 K/9 and 248 SO left those of us who watched him to think about only Steve Carlton as about the only reasonable comp historically.
- Russ Ford, 1910 My next rhp is not exactly a household name today. Russ Ford led the Yankee staff with a 26-6 over 299.2 IP. He had 29CG in 33 starts plus finished three games in relief. His eight shutouts were nearly Guidry quality. A 1.65 ERA and 1.87 FIP were impressive even in the dead ball era, giving him a 160 ERA+. Indeed the following year he was almost as good, with a 158 ERA+. Ford's very stingy 5.8 H/9 not only lead the league, but was 14th best all time to this day; and 2.1 BB9 yielded a 0.881 WHIP. His 6.3 K/9 was rather impressive for the time, with only Walter Johnson (7.6) and Smokey Joe Wood (6.6) posting notably better results. Ford was excellent for the Yankees until he jumped to the Federal League in 1914, where he posted a 180 ERA+, leading the league in multiple categories for Buffalo.
- Lefty Gomez, 1937 Back to the left side for a better-known pitcher inducted into the HOF in 1972. Gomez went 26-5 with a 176 ERA+ in 1934. But with reservations I'll go with 1937. He was 21-11, 278.1 IP, 34 GS, 25 CG, 6 ShO. As in 1934, he posted a 2.33 ERA, each time to lead the league, this time with a 3.13 FIP that also lead the league in the hard-hitting 30s. That was a 193 ERA+, which unsurprisingly lead the league and is 52nd best in baseball history. The 7.5 H/9 and 3.0 BB9 for a 1.171 WHIP may seem high, but it was sixth in baseball behind Charlie Root and ahead of Dizzy Dean. His 194 SO easily bested Bobo Newsom's 166 and Carl Hubbard's 159. His 6.3 K/9 keeps pace with Russ Ford's best season, but more importantly it lead the league and was second in baseball to Van Mungo in that season.
Because these pitchers were used to a four-man rotation (and Chesbro would have been willing to go with three at times), that's what I'll use. Therefore, on the bench to round out the staff in case of injury or the nearly inconceivable long or middle relief appearance are the nearest misses:
RHP Catfish Hunter, 1975. The Yankees signed the 1974 Cy Young winner and were not disappointed. Catfish nearly earned another Cy for the Yankees, getting edged out to finish second behind the great Jim Palmer. Hunter was 23-14, with an anachronistic 30 CG in 39 starts, compiling 328 IP. His 2.58 ERA was good for a 144 ERA+. Only 6.8 H/9 led the league, and 2.3 BB9 actually were a bit high for this control pitcher. The combination gave Catfish a 1.009 WHIP to lead baseball for the second season in a row.
LHP Andy Pettitte, 1997. Pettitte dropped from second in the Cy voting in 1996 to fifth in 1997 (Clemens and the Big Unit posted superb seasons), but that doesn't change the fact that '97 was Andy's best with the Yankees. 18-7 over 240.1 IP, Pettitte ERA was a petite 2.88, against a 2.96 FIP, for a 156 ERA+. Over those 240 IP Andy allowed only seven HR despite pitching in the steroid-era AL east. His 8.7 H/9 and 2.4 BB9, and solid 6.2 K/9 were impressive for the era.
Rouding out the staff, Mariano will mop up when needed. I'll also carry Goose '81 or '82 and Chapman '16 to round out the staff, although nine pitchers really seems like too many for this squad.
Whom did I leave out that you think deserves a spot? Whitey? Moose? Think DRob '11 belongs in the pen? Let me know.