Last week, we examined the five players that generated the highest WAR in the New York Yankees’ history, covering only position players. This time, we will discuss the top five performers on the mound.
As a reminder, we will use FanGraphs’ version of WAR and not Baseball Reference’s. The folks at Beyond The Box Score can help us explain the difference between the two:
The two most widely-used flavors of WAR come from Baseball-Reference (rWAR) and FanGraphs (fWAR) and have key differences in their calculations. Most glaringly, FanGraphs uses FIP as the basis of its pitching evaluation, while Baseball-Reference relies on a context-neutralized version of Runs Allowed.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the top 5 WAR generators for the Yankees, as far as position players go, are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Derek Jeter, in that order. All of them are rightfully Hall of Famers, and every Yankee fan know their tales and achievements.
Can you guess the pitchers, though? Here are them:
Andy Pettitte, 57.1 WAR
A member of the “Core Four,” Pettitte is the Yankees’ all-time leader in WAR for pitchers. While his 3.94 career ERA with the Yankees may not seem extraordinary on its face, the lefty won five World Series rings (1996, 1998–2000, 2009) and was an All-Star on three separate occasions (1996, 2001, 2010).
He has more than a few postseason tales: he won the 2001 ALCS MVP and is the all-time leader in starts (42) innings pitched (263) and wins (19.) The New York Yankees had his number 46 retired. Recently, he was one of the MVPs in convincing Gerrit Cole to sign with the team.
Whitey Ford, 54.9 WAR
Edward Charles Ford, better known as “Whitey,” was an instrumental part of the Yankees’ successful fifties and sixties. A left-hander, he played his entire 16-year career with the Bombers, with a 2.75 ERA and 3170.1 innings pitched.
Ford was a six-time World Series champion (1950, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962) and won the Cy Young award in 1961, a season that all Yankee fans will remember because of the Mickey Mantle-Roger Maris record chase.
Ford led the American league in wins three times and in ERA twice. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1974.
Ron Guidry, 49.3 WAR
The Louisiana Lightning is yet another lefty in the team’s rich history. Guidry won 170 and lost only 91 with a 3.29 ERA in 2392 frames. He had a 1978 to remember, winning the Cy Young with a 25-3 record and a 1.74 ERA.
Guidry was a four-time All-Star (1978, 1979, 1982, 1983) a two-time World Series champion (1977, 1978) and a five-time Gold Glove Award winner (1982–1986). He also paced the AL twice in wins and ERA.
From 1986 until his retirement in 1989, he served as the New York Yankees captain. The team retired his number, 49. A late start to his career (he was in his age-27 season when he received his first real shot) likely robbed him of the chance of making the Hall of Fame.
Red Ruffing, 43.4 WAR
Like Ruth, this pitching list had to have a player traded from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees only to take his performance to another level. Go take a look at Ruffing’s statistical profile and see it for yourself.
Upon acquiring Ruffing in 1930, the Yankees had him alter his delivery to use his body more. He went on to have an excellent career with the Bombers: he was a six-time All-Star (1934, 1938–1942) a six-time World Series champion (1932, 1936–1939, 1941), and the AL’s wins leader (1938) and strikeout leader (1932.) He has been a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame since 1967.
Mariano Rivera, 39.1 WAR
Ah, the Sandman. In the history of the game, there hasn’t been a reliever so consistently great as Mariano. He is the only reliever in the top 10, which speaks volumes about his dominance.
With a career 2.21 ERA in 1283.2 frames, Rivera shattered records, both in the regular season and in the postseason. He achieved 652 saves, the all-time record, and he fooled hitters with just one pitch: his trademark cutter.
Mariano was a 13-time All-Star (1997, 1999–2002, 2004–2006, 2008–2011, 2013) a five-time World Series champion (1996, 1998–2000, 2009) and a World Series MVP (1999). He won multiple awards recognizing the best relievers, and he led MLB in saves in 1999, 2001, and 2004.
Look at his postseason resume: he had a 8–1 record with a 0.70 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP. He has the most saves in October/November with 42, with a record 33 1/3 scoreless frames. The Yankees retired his number 42, and he is baseball’s only unanimous Hall of Famer.
Can you guess the next five pitchers in the Yankees’ WAR standings?