Does Andy Make Your Top 5?

When I go out on the street in my fake mustache (Bobby V. style, so I blend into the native populace) and ask the generic, run-of-the-mill Yankee fan who the greatest Yankee starting pitcher ever is, you know what everyone says? “Whitey Ford,” of course. When I ask who’s #2, however, what’s the most common answer? It’s, “uhhhh, ummmm, rrrrrrr, weeeellll.” I tried to look up uhhhh, ummmm, rrrrrrr, weeeellll on baseballreference.com, thinking maybe it was a Japanese pitcher I’ve never heard of, but no dice (k…ugh, I’m full of bad jokes, today). The fact is that, despite the grandest tradition in all of baseball, the Yankees haven’t had that many bona-fide superstar starting pitchers.

So I said to myself, “Self, who knows, maybe Andy Pettitte is the #2 Yankee pitcher of all time? Let’s look at the stats to see. Andy ranks 4th all-time in Yankee wins, so he’s certainly right in the mix. Heck, maybe he could even make a run at #1? A quick look at Whitey’s numbers reaffirm why they call him the Chairman of the Board. He’s #1 in wins, with 236 and an impressive ERA+ of 133 (remember, ERA+ is ERA in comparison to the rest of the league, with 100 being average, thus it accounts for many of the differences between various eras (ERA – era, groan).

Anyhoo, Andy does not compare. His ERA+ of 117 is very respectable, but it falls well short of the Chairman. Andy’s neutralized WHIP of 1.27 is actually better than Whitey’s but that’s really the only category where he has an edge. Could Andy be #2, though, that’s an interesting question. A look at the rest of the top 10 in wins looks like this (from baseballreference.com):

2. Red Ruffing 231
3. Lefty Gomez 189
4. Andy Pettitte 178
5. Ron Guidry 170
6. Bob Shawkey 168
7. Mel Stottlemyre 164
8. Herb Pennock 162
9. Waite Hoyt 157
10. Allie Reynolds 131

Red Ruffing is on many of the greatest Yankees of all-time lists, but his raw numbers don’t blow Andy’s away. Andy’s ERA+ is better than Red’s 109, though Red’s 1.264 neutralized WHIP beats Pettitte’s. Red’s intangibles, though, are tough to beat: he’s the ace of the greatest dynasty of all-time. The man won 6 world series and 20+ games for 4 years in a row from ’36-’39. At his peak, he was much more dominant than Andy.

Lefty Gomez is also tough to beat: the 125 ERA+ beats Pettitte’s 117 and his 1.28 neutralized WHIP is almost identical. He has a .649 career winning percentage, good for 15th all-time in the majors. His 5-0 record in World Series blows away Andy’s 3-4 mark.

After these three, though, Andy’s numbers compare very favorably with everyone else on the list. I’d put Guidry ahead, as well, but it’s close. Very similar ERA+, but Gator owns a sick 1.193 neutralized WHIP. Again, at his height, I think Guidry was a more dominant pitcher and I give points for dominance over stat accumulation.

Andy’s ERA+ and neutralized WHIP are better than everyone else on this list, so I’d slot him in as the clear #5 all-time Yankee starting pitcher. I’d say that the big argument would be Guidry vs. Pettitte at #4, but even giving Andy the 5 spot is pretty damn good. It’s pretty cool to think that the fifth best Yankee starter of all-time is our fifth starter this year. Where do you guys think Andy ranks on the list? Is he an all-time Yankee great?

5 thoughts on “Does Andy Make Your Top 5?

  1. Moshe Mandel

    It is funny, not too many people would think of ANDy that way. Ultimately, for all the history, most of the Yankee greats were hitters.

  2. Chris H.

    You know, Tom, I think you’ve touched on a great subject. As Moshe says, the Yankee greats are typically viewed, first and foremost, as hitters. It’s not necessarily a bias that makes that happen, instead it seems to be that the Yankees, although a tremendously storied franchise, don’t have as many pitching icons as you would think. I guess that’s why people are so enamored with guys like Joba and Phil Hughes and why Andy Pettitte gets as much love as he does—he’s one of few.

  3. VOIII

    This is another reason why we don’t put Joba in the pen…I still wonder if it was the right move for Rags…Would he have been as good as Petitte had he remained a starter…

    The Yankees have had many solid starters and have acquired many great pitchers towards the end of their career. They have had so few greats because they did’nt have the time to compile numbers with the Yankees.

    I wonder how other organization fare in this department outside of maybe the Dodgers and Braves. I mean how many organizations have had more than 1 or 2 legendary pitchers? Pitchers are so hard to judge and develop, this is why so many have acheived greatness after being traded, i.e. Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Pedro, Maddux etc… Most organizations have no clue as to what they have until they let them slip away…Just look at Johan Santana who was a rule 5er…

  4. Tom Gaffney

    Yeah, I found it very interesting how few all-time greats there were on the list. On the surface, it seems to belie the old adage that pitching wins championships. The Murderer’s Row teams of the 20’s certainly were bat-heavy, with Waite Hoyt really being the only top pitcher from that era. Ditto for the 50s/60s Mickey Mantle teams with Whitey being the guy. Interestingly, though, the 30s/40s dynasty as well as the 90s one were really pitching-centric. So how did they do it? Despite not having those uberriffic, all-time, yummy HOFers, they all were tremendously depth in terms of really, really good pitchers.

    Guys like Pettitte, Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Mel Stottlemeyer, Catfish Hunter, Guidry, Jimmy Key, Herb Pennock, Bob Shawkey, David Wells, and many others were tremendous pitchers. The 90s Yanks also won with their bullpen and, while guys like Nelson, Stanton, and Wetteland won’t make the HOF, their contributions were often what made the difference between the Yankees and their closest competitors. It’s odd to think that depth is more important than greatness, but it may actually be the case.

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