To make room for Troy Tulowitzki, the Yankees officially designated A.J. Cole for assignment on Friday. It was not really shocking, as he was the most expendable person on the 40-man roster.
Cole’s Yankee career will not be remembered fondly. It actually started pretty well for the first couple of months, and he slowly went from pitching in blowouts and emergency situations into slightly higher leverage spots later in the season. A lot of those went quite poorly. His ERA with the Yankees through July was 1.57. From August on, it was 8.40. After a rough start with the Nationals, Cole had gotten his ERA under five in July. It finished at 6.14.
Cole wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last, to see a good start completely blow up in his face. In honor of the reliever, here is a list of marginal Yankees who were seemingly in the midst of good seasons, only for things to go very wrong.
Al Gettel was a rookie in 1945, and started his career with 7.2 scoreless innings across two games. He had some downs at points in the season, but on the whole, he was pretty solid. His final three starts in August were three-straight complete games, over which he allowed just three earned runs and four in total. In all, he threw five complete games on the month, and his season ERA dropped below three. Then September happened.
Gettel appeared in just three games in September. He allowed a total of 21 runs in them. He followed up the run of complete game by allowing 10 runs on 15 hits on September 4th, and then two other starts which weren’t much better. Gettel’s season ERA nearly rose an entire run in those 16 September innings. He finished the year at 3.90, which doesn’t sound terrible, but equated to a 83 ERA+ in 1945. Three games turned a above average season into a below average one.
David Cone is a beloved figure among many of us here at Pinstripe Alley. He has occasionally referenced articles from this website on air during YES broadcasts of Yankee games. However much we love him, we can admit his final season with the Yankees in 2000 was not great.
However, he actually put up a decent month in August 2000. He made six starts across the month, and other than one against the Athletics, they were all pretty solid. He allowed zero runs in a game for just the second time all season on August 20th. Cone was the winning pitcher just four times all season, and three of them came in August. While he was by no means flawless, was this him getting back on track ahead of a potential playoff run?
No, no it was not. Cone got five starts in September. The fewest runs he allowed in a game was one, but he lasted just 2.2 innings in that game. In the other four, he allowed six, seven, four (in just 1.1 inning), and six. His ERA for the month was 12.46, which is the worst of any Yankee pitcher in September or October ever.
Cone would face just one batter in the postseason, but it actually worked out. He got Mike Piazza to fly out to end the fifth inning with the Yankees clinging onto a one-run lead in game four of the World Series.
In 1983, Don Mattingly was in his second year in the majors, but first receiving anything resembling major playing time, and he did quite a lot with it. After a particularly hot August, Mattingly’s OPS for the season was up to .856. For reference, eventual AL Rookie of the Year winner Ron Kittle finished the year at .818.
Mattingly was way behind Kittle in playing time and counting stats, so he would never have gotten close to him in voting no matter what happened. However, with another good month in September, maybe he gets some votes. He almost certainly gets some love when people reexamine things years later with advanced stats and modern baseball sensibilities.
Instead, Mattlingly went 18 for 94. His .521 OPS for September/October dropped his overall season number to .742. That’s an overall drop of over .100 points, and in monthly splits, a drop of .448.
This one doesn’t count but was too good not to include. Baseball Reference has a stat called tOPS+. What it does is compare a player’s OPS+ in a certain split compared to their overall season or career OPS+. If one split is equal to their overall numbers, then the tOPS+ for that split would be 100. If they hit better than their overall numbers, then it’s above 100. Worse than that, below 100.
Babe Ruth put up a tOPS+ of 44 in September 1932. That essentially means he was 56% worse that month than the rest of his season. However, because he was Babe Ruth, 56% worse equals a .820 OPS. That OPS is better than seven different players who got MVP votes that year. Babe Ruth’s worst month was better than some legitimately good seasons from other people.