By the Decade: The rise, fall and rise of pitching

Buying low on Buck
Wang to throw off a mound in 6 to 8 weeks

With 2010 upon us, it’s nearly time to wrap up our Yankees By the Decade retrospective on the aught-aughts. I’ll publish a summary of the series, but first, we have to tackle the Yankees’ starting pitchers.

For the Yankees, the 2000s was a tough decade of pitching. For the first four seasons, the Yanks thrived on pitching, and then, it all fell apart. After losing Andy Pettitte, David Wells and Roger Clemens following the 2003 season, the team struggled through some sub-par pitching performances from 2004-2008. Only last season with the arrival of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett did the Yanks’ pitching again bring the team a World Series win.

As the decade’s dust settled, the final Yankee starting pitcher tally reached 62. Nine players made just one start for the Bombers, and another seven drew the ball for two starts only. We’ll get to them later. Below is the table of all Yankee starters who made 10 or more starts as well as their overall numbers. Due to the limitations of David Pinto’s Day-by-Day Database and the Baseball-Reference Play Index, I couldn’t break out these pitchers’ starters-only numbers in any reasonable amount of time.


The bottom of this chart is a scary sight indeed. Al Leiter, Randy Keisler, Kei Igawa, Shawn Chacon, Sidney Ponson, Carl Pavano, Denny Neagle, Darrell Rasner and Jeff Weaver all made enough starts to give me nightmares today. The ninth and tenth slots — Jaret Wright and Kevin Brown — are illustrative of why the Yanks suffered through five years of postseason futility.

To find the true stars of the decade, we have to look at the top of the list. For a few years, Chien-Ming Wang was as good as it gets for the Yanks. Now he’s a non-tendered free agent trying to come back from shoulder surgery and a bad foot injury. El Duque and David Wells were both stand-out starters during their peak years, but the two made just 82 and 61 starts respectively this decade. Roger Clemens made 144 starts, and while his 117 ERA+ as a Yankee leads the list of those we’re considering, his total output doesn’t match that of those who lead the list.

And so we are left with two candidates for pitcher of the decade. Do we give the award to Andy Pettitte or to Mike Mussina? On the one hand, Pettitte won two World Series with the Yanks and gave us a 2009 to remember. Mike Mussina, through no fault of his own, captured zero World Series titles. On sentimentality and rings, Pettitte has the upper hand.

But numerically, can Andy take the cake? Outside of pick-offs — 36 for Pettitte against two for Moose — Mike’s numbers are seemingly better across the board. He has an ERA edge of 0.28 runs and leads in the ERA+ race 114-110. He struck out 7.41 per 9 IP while Andy K’d just 6.69 per 9 innings. His 4.02 K/BB ratio is better than Pettitte’s 2.51 figure by a significant amount. Mussina gave up nearly 0.25 more home runs per 9 innings than Andy, and Pettitte’s .638 winning percentage is slightly higher than Mussina’s .631 mark. Wins, though, aren’t exactly the best metric of pitching success.

So in the end, I’m left with a choice. Does Mike Mussina win on the strength of his 2001, 2003 and 2008 seasons as well as his relief appearance in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS? Does Andy Pettitte carry the decade on his World Series prowess and bulldog mentality? I might give the slight edge to Pettitte while recognizing that Mussina in his prime was a better pitcher, but it wouldn’t be wrong to do otherwise. As the new decade dawns, CC Sabathia and perhaps a young hurler named Joba or Phil could inherit this mantle. For now, the two old bulldogs can fight it out.

After the jump, a complete list of all who made nine starts or fewer for the Yankees this decade.

One Start: Brian Bruney, Scott Proctor, Kris Wilson, Darrell May, Tim Redding, Brandon Claussen, Brett Jodie, Christian Parker, Ed Yarnall
Two Starts: Chase Wright, Jorge DePaula, Alex Graman, Donovan Osborne, Mike Thurman, Ben Ford, Jake Westbrook
Three Starts: Dan Giese
Four Starts: Jason Grimsley, Adrian Hernandez, Tanyon Sturtze
Five Starts: Alfredo Aceves, Sean Henn, Dwight Gooden
Six Starts: Chad Gaudin, Tyler Clippard, Esteban Loaiza, Matt DeSalvo
Seven Starts: Brad Halsey
Nine Starts: Cory Lidle, Jeff Karstens, Sergio Mitre

Buying low on Buck
Wang to throw off a mound in 6 to 8 weeks
  • Matt Imbrogno

    Rasner and Ponson haunt me.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      And look at how bad Kei Igawa was too.

      • Matt Imbrogno

        Ugh, you don’t have to remind me. I went to so fucking many Igawa games in the summer of ’07.

        • Brian

          Isn’t it appropriate that Igawa’s ERA was 6.66. The Mark of the Beast. Obviously, he sold his soul to get an MLB deal.

          • Rey22

            He definitely HAD to sell it for that one game he pitched in relief of the injured Karstens (Or Rasner…?) against the Sox where he pitched like 8 masterful innings. I was in shock.

        • vin

          I once went to 4 straight Derek Lowe starts over the course of 2 seasons in LA and in SD. I’ve had more than enough of him by that point.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    I miss the Keisler Elf.

  • vin

    It’s no surprise that when the Yanks were at their best this decade, they used fewer starters than when they were at their worst:

    ’03 and ’09 = 9 starters used (3rd fewest of any team this year)
    ’02 = 10 starters
    ’01 = 11 starters

    ’05 and ’07 = 14 starters (would’ve been 2nd most of any team this year)
    ’08 = 13 starters

    I think Mussina AND Pettitte pretty much sum up the Yanks’ decade: one guy had great talent but the team couldn’t get over the hump during his tenure, while the other was a part of the successful old guard.

    Pitcher of the decade: Mike Pettitte

    • Salty Buggah

      I’d argue Andy Mussina was just as good…

      • vin

        That’s Andy Eugene Mussina, buddy.

  • Jake H

    Bad bad stuff there.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      A lot of 9-7 ball games in the Aughts.

  • DRU

    Remember when Brad “Admiral” Halsey was the next best thing?

    Whats funny is that Mike’s numbers ( ERA/WHIP/K/SHO/CG ) were all better than Andy’s. So on the surfaces, it looks like a landslide for Mussina. HOWEVER, if it was game 7 of the WS at any time in the 2000’s, which guy would you want on the mound?

    Easy call…give me Andy every time.

    • JobaJr

      I’m never going to forget when Halsey dueled against Pedro on July 1st, 2004. One of the best games I’ve ever seen.

      • DRU

        Agreed, I was in love with him after that game and cursed the Yanks for trading him away. Last I heard he was pitching for Long Island in the independent league. WOW..imagine going from pitching a gem at Yankee Stadium against the Sox and one of the best pitchers of all time in front of 55K screaming fans….to pitching in Long Island in front of 150 people. My god

    • Rose

      “The Admiral” moniker has now found it’s way to David Robertson…aka “The Admiral, David Robertson”

      So at least it’s not a total loss…lol

  • theyankeewarrior

    Look at how bad Joba was in his early 20’s, pitching in the AL East. No wonder there are so many people calling for him to pitch the 8th inning. He just doesn’t project to be a starter.

    • kunaldo

      it’s pretty crazy how high he is on the IP list

    • kimonizer

      To be fair those numbers include his relief data (or at least I think that is what Ben means in the parentheses). Nevertheless, I agree. Only CC has him beat on ERA+ in the list (although SSS does apply as well)

    • jackson

      Not to mention that of all the guys on that list only Joba Chamberlain has a bulldog mentality.

      • Nick

        To be fare Jaba got pulled from games when he should have got some experience. They babied him to much. Well at least that is what I think.

  • JMK aka The Overshare’s Excessive Back Hair Complex

    Kei Igawa’s ERA truly is satanic.

    • Chris

      Cone’s is worse.

      • Rey22

        What’s Cones? How much more satanic than 6.66 can it get?

        • JGS

          not more satanic, but it was 6.91

      • Rey22

        How much more satanic than 6.66 can it get?

        • Rey22

          Bah….double post fail.

      • JGS

        he put up a 6.91 ERA and a Brackmanian 1.768 WHIP in 2000. How the hell did they keep him in the rotation for 29 starts?

  • joe

    CMW’s numbers are damn good. Sad to see him go.

    • DRU

      He hasn’t ruled out coming back to the bombers.

  • Rose

    Ramiro Mendoza – ERA+ 119


    He also has a nice 5 World Series rings just like the “core 4” as well…

  • Mark

    What a decade, I can’t believe I somehow ended up in the seats for an Osbourne start, the DePaula start and Scott Proctor’s fateful turn in the rotation.

    • DRU

      If I was Scott Proctor, I would blow up Joe Torres house. That guy killed him…

      • jsbrendog

        this made me laugh out loud at my desk

      • J.R.

        When Torre became the manager of the Dodgers proctor must have cried.

      • Zack

        The guy who was hiding injuries and hiding being an alcoholic was killed by the manager and not himself?? Ok.

  • kimonizer

    This brings me back to a question regarding Mussina. If he gets into the Hall (which I think he should) will he be given an Oriole cap or a Yankee cap?

    • DRU

      I dont think he will make the Hall. If Bert Blyleven isnt in, Moose shouldnt.

      287 Wins
      3.31 ERA
      1.20 WHIP
      3701 K
      242 CG
      60 SHO

      270 Wins
      3.68 ERA
      1.19 WHIP
      2813 K
      57 CG
      23 SHO

      Now Moose had a better win%, look at the rest of the #’s.

      • Chris

        When you consider that Mussina pitched in the steroid era, it becomes a lot closer. Mussina had a 123 ERA+ while Blyleven had a 118 ERA+. Mussina also had a better K/9, BB/9 and (obviously) K:BB.

        • DRU

          Very true, Bert pitched a TON more games/innings to reach that level. Also, he was never really considered the best of his time, ( finished around .500 for his career ) he just was able to pile up numbers. Moose pitched in the steroid era and in the AL BEAST.

          Question though, was Moose ever considered the best of his generation?

          You bring up a great point though, pitchers in the steroid era. Guys like Maddux and Clemens should get bumps up ( even if Roger was juiced up himself ). One pitcher who I dont “think” was on the juice and should be a 1st time HOF pitcher is Pedro. He doesnt have the career numbers that they usually look for..300 wins ( 219 ), but does have the 3000 K’s. Also, I dare anyone to find a better prime than Pedro. From 1997-2003, he was UNREAL! Especially in the middle of that time..1999-2002, I challenge anyone to find a better 6 year stretch for ANY pitcher.

          241 IP / 1.90 ERA / 0.93 WHIP / 305 K / 67 BB / 5.9 H/9 / 11.4 K/9
          233 IP / 2.89 ERA / 1.09 WHIP / 251 K / 67 BB / 7.2 H/9 / 9.7 K/9
          213 IP / 2.07 ERA / 0.92 WHIP / 313 K / 37 BB / 6.8 H/9 / 13.2 K/9
          217 IP / 1.74 ERA / 0.74 WHIP / 284 K / 32 BB / 5.3 H/9 / 11.8 K/9
          116 IP / 2.39 ERA / 0.93 WHIP / 163 K / 25 BB / 6.5 H/9 / 12.6 K/9
          199 IP / 2.26 ERA / 0.92 WHIP / 239 K / 40 BB / 6.5 H/9 / 10.8 K/9

          Aside from 1998, his 1st year in Boston, his WHIP during that span was sub 1. Look at 99 and 2000, that is just silly. In the middle of the steroid era, pitching at Fenway…those have to be considered the best numbers of all time when you factor in everything. I only found one year that was close to this, 1968 Bob Gibson.

          304 IP / 1.12 ERA / 0.85 WHIP / 268 K / 62 BB / 5.8 H/9 / 7.9 K/9

          That ERA is incredible, but Pedro is right there with WHIP and tops his H/9 and K/9.

          I challenge you baseball fans to take the Pedro challenge. Look up some of the greatest pitchers of all time and find me better numbers than Pedro’s 6 year stretch ( possible ) or his 2 year peak from 1999 to 2000 ( nearly impossible ). Remember, some of these guys like Walter Johnson threw 300-400 innings, focus on the H/9, K/9, BB/9, KK/BB ratio.

          I bet you that we witnessed the best 2 year stretch of all time. AND WE BEAT HIM!!!!!


      • vin

        Two wrongs don’t make a right. They should both be in.

        Mussina had a higher ERA+ than Bert – their eras were quite different. 123 to 118. And Mussina did get more Cy Young love 9 top ten finishes to Bert’s 4. The voters always love a guy who they remember as being great, than one who was consistently good for a long time.

      • Rey22

        Very true, yet at the same time you have to consider he pitched in the monster AL East his whole career during the prime years of the Steroid Era. If he did it cleanly (Nothing to suggest he didn’t), that has to count for something.

      • ggc

        According to one of those stats people are always using these days ( WAR, maybe?) Mussina is the 24th best pitcher of all-time.

    • J.R.

      He gets to pick.

      • jsbrendog

        not true. i thought they told you. wasn;t that the issue with gary carter recently?

        • kimonizer

          Yeah, they get to pick, which is why it is so intriguing. I think Moose really liked being a Yankee, but he was so dominant for stretches with the Orioles that they might pick them.

          • JGS

            I think they did that to stop teams from signing surefire Hall of Famers at the end of their careers and paying them extra to wear their cap

        • vin

          I believe that’s the case – the HOF chooses. He did make 40 more starts for the O’s and had better numbers across the board with them.

  • Rey22

    When you’re in the discussion for the best free agent long term pitcher deal, it means you did some pretty good things. I’d have to give Mussina the slight edge, despite his 07 struggles.

  • Do Not Feed The Trolls!

    Its crazy that even with Wangs horrible 2009 he still comes out with a 4.16 ERA

    If you dont factor in 2009

    ERA-3.79 ERA+117 WHIP-1.293

    Thats f’n great honestly.

  • Tom Zig

    I miss Matt DeSalvo

  • Kiersten

    It’s amazing that we made it to the playoffs 9/10 years with some of the pitchers on that list.

  • deadrody

    Shawn Chacon ought not to give you nightmares at all. Going into 2006 with him as part of the rotation is bad, but he was very very good for them in 2005 and they very likely would not have won the division without him.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      Plus, he had a 3.68 ERA in 06 before he took a line drive off the shin.

  • http://chefrob rob

    had to think real hard about when bruney started. then i remembered and had a good laugh at that bit of girardi genious. i believe rain was predicted so he saved his starter.

  • Mark

    Chacon really wasn’t a bad pitcher, he had a few crappy stretches but overall, he made positive contributions. It is a shame that he has since been exiled from baseball for doing something that most Astros fans have been fantasizing about.

    • ggc

      A 6.29 ERA in AAA last year probably isn’t helping. His exile makes more sense than say, Jay Gibbons.

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  • BPR

    Bizzarre that Jorge Depaula and Brandon Claussen combined for three starts, and IIRC flirted with no hitters in two of them.