Despite what happened on Thursday, Masahiro Tanaka is a good pitcher. His 2019 season stats don’t look so hot now, but for his career Tanaka is an above average pitcher. He is a two-time All-Star. Sometimes good players have really bad days. Thursday was a really bad day for him.
In (dis-)honor of Tanaka’s performance against the Red Sox, here is an entire team of notable Yankees and some of their worst days.
Pitcher: Catfish Hunter, July 27, 1978
Tanaka would be in contention for this slot, but at least he recorded an out on Thursday. Back on July 27, 1978, Catfish Hunter lasted six batters. They went: walk, single, walk, walk, single, single, before Hunter was pulled. By the end of the inning, he finished with a line of zero innings pitched and six earned runs. That’s the most for any Yankee starter who did not record an out.
Catcher: Thurman Munson, August 13, 1977
Few players in Yankees history are more beloved than Munson, but even he had a bad game every once in a while.
On this day, the Yankees lost to the Angels in 12 innings. Munson made six at-bats in the game and reached base zero times. In all but one of them, there was not only at least one runner on, but there was at least one runner in scoring position. In the bottom of the ninth, he came up with a runner on third and one out, and the game tied. He then popped up in foul territory, which is one of just a few ways to have made contact on that play and not driven in the winning run.
First Base: Wally Pipp, May 31, 1925
Pipp is now more remembered for famously losing his spot at first base to Lou Gehrig. However, he was a genuinely good hitter for the first couple Yankees teams to appear in, and eventually win, a World Series.
On this day against the Red Sox, Pipp went 0-for-4 with two walks as the Yankees lost 9-6 in extra innings. He made the final out of the game in the 12th inning. You may wonder why this is on here. Two walks isn’t terrible and there’s a couple 0-for-4 stat lines around baseball every day. Remember that thing about him losing his spot to Gehrig? Yeah, that happened two days after this game.
Second Base: Chuck Knoblauch, July 20, 1998
Knoblauch was slotted into the lead-off slot against the Tigers this day. While lineup construction has changed even since 1998, even then you wouldn’t want to put a bad player there. On this day, the Yankees would have been better putting anyone else there.
He made nine plate appearances in this game as it ended up going 17 innings. In the 12th, he drew a walk. In the other eight, he made outs. That performance is tied for the most at-bats without a hit in a game in Yankee history. Knoblauch is the only person to do it from the leadoff spot in the lineup. That game was actually the first of a doubleheader. Not shockingly, the second baseman did not play the second game.
Shortstop: Phil Rizzuto, May 30, 1952
It seems funny in retrospect, but Rizzuto was slotted behind Mickey Mantle in the lineup this day. Mantle had a very Mantle-ish day. He went 3-for-7 with a home run. Despite reaching base three times, the home run was the only time Mantle scored. While it’s not all due to Rizzuto, he didn’t help that day. The Yankees’ shortstop went 0-for-7, including making the penultimate out of the game with Mantle on second after a double with the Yankees down just one run.
Third Base: Graig Nettles, August 7, 1973
Nettles got just four at-bats in this game. He left six runners on base between them. The worst came in the ninth with nobody out and the Yankees down a run. Unfortunately for him, he lined into a double play. It didn’t end the game, but just two batters later, the Rangers squeaked out a win.
Left Field: Juan Rivera, June 1, 2003
Most of these highlight bad games by good to great players, and Rivera doesn’t really qualify for that second part. However, you can’t choose any game for this position other than this one.
The game in Detroit on June 1, 2003 started as a chance for Roger Clemens to win his 300th game. It ended over four hours later after 17 innings in a Yankees win, but a no decision for Clemens. In the middle, Rivera had one of the worst games you can imagine.
He finished the day 0-for-6 with one walk. However, in those six hitless at-bats, Rivera grounded into three double plays and left five runners on base in total. Two of the double plays happened in extra innings with the game tied. He finished the game with a winning percentage added of -0.820, which is not only the worst in Yankees history, but is the worst by any player in any game for which there’s play-by-play data. He even made an error in the game.
Center Field: Joe DiMaggio, July 31, 1940
At the conclusion of this 7-6 loss to the Tigers, the Yankees were 7.5 games back of Detroit and Cleveland in the AL standings. DiMaggio led the league in batting average that year, but went 0-for-4, and would have gone 0-for-5 were it not for a Tigers’ error.
The Yankees caught fire in August and September, and went into the final week with an outside shot at winning the AL. They ended up two games behind the Tigers. Who knows, DiMaggio picks up a hit at some point in that Tigers game, and they could’ve flipped that two game deficit into a tie atop the standings.
Right Field: Hector Lopez, September 9, 1962
Lopez went 0-for-7, leaving three runners on in an extra innings loss. That is only part of Lopez’s day. This was the second game of a doubleheader. In the opening game, he went 0-for-4. That must’ve been a very long day.
Designated Hitter: Travis Hafner, June 13, 2013
This is one of the games tied with Knoblauch’s for biggest hitless game, and in this game, we had the displeasure of watching it happen to a designated hitter, who is supposed to, you know, hit.