As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on the greatest Yankee seasons of all time by position, I wanted to take a look at the top pitching seasons in Yankees history.
1. Ron Guidry, 1978. Traditionalists will love Gator’s 25-3 record, but that in itself doesn’t show just how great Guidry was in 1978. Guidry’s ERA of 1.74 led the league in by an amazing 0.53 and he became the only Yankee starter in history (min. 160 IP) with an ERA+ greater than 200, landing at 208. He was 2nd in the league in Ks and K/9, only behind Nolan Ryan, while giving up just 6.1 hits/9 and 13 HRs all season in a whopping 273.2 innings pitched. Guidry’s FIP was 2.19, leading the league by 0.52. He was flat out dominant in 1978, leading the league, batters included, in bWAR by a full win.
2. Lefty Gomez, 1937. Gomez with 8.9 bWAR was the most valuable pitcher and 2nd most valuable player in the AL in 1937. He led the league in wins, ERA, SHO, K’s, H/9, K/9 and K/BB. His 21-11 record doesn’t do him justice. Despite playing for a Yankee team that scored 979 runs, Gomez had 7 starts (21% of his total) in which they scored 2 runs or fewer. His 191 ERA+ is the third best in Yankee history and one of only three to even top 180.
3. Lefty Gomez 1934. Run support wasn’t an issues for Gomez in 1934 as he led the league with 26 wins (vs. 5 losses) while leading the league in ERA, CG, SHO, IP, K’s, WHIP, ERA+ and H/9. Per bWAR he was the most valuable pitcher in the league and 4th most valuable player, behind just Gehrig, Gehringer and Foxx, all fellow Hall of Famers.
4. Spud Chandler, 1943. Chandler was a decent pitcher who had just 809.2 career innings pitched through age 34. then, a,t 35 he had a season for the ages, winning the league MVP while leading the league in wins, ERA, CG, SHO, ERA+, WHIP and K/BB. He also OPS’d .658 in 98 AB’s for what it’s worth. His MVP was pretty legit too, as per bWAR he was tied for 2nd as most valuable player in the league. His ERA+ of 198 was 2nd in Yankee history. There is a major asterisk next to Chandler’s season, however, as in 1943 several great players, including Joe Dimaggio, Ted Wiliams and Bob Feller were off fighting in World War II.
5. Whitey Ford, 1964. Ford may have been a little better in 1958 but I’m putting his ’64 season here in part because he threw an extra 25.2 innings. His ERA was 2.13 and his FIP of 2.45 was the best of his career by 0.42. Despite leading the league in nothing, this was the best season of Ford’s career. It was the only season he cracked a bWAR of at least 6 (6.3), placing second in the league in that category (behind Dean Chance who had an amazing year).
Mariano Rivera, 1996. This was an easy one. As great as Mo has been as a closer, this was the most valuable season in his career. In his first full season in the majors, Rivera took the league by storm. He put up career highs in K/9 and allowed a career low 1 HR despite throwing 27 more innings than in any other season. While FIP has always been unkind to Mo, this was the only season of his career with a FIP under 2 (at 1.88). Despite throwing just 107.2 innings, Rivera was 9th in the league in bWAR for pitchers at 5.4.
Mariano Rivera, 2008. This of course was just an exercise in picking out Mo’s best year as a closer (though go check out what Steve Farr did in 1992, sneaky good). Though he’s had many off the charts years, I had to go with Mo’s 2008. His 12.83 K/BB ratio looks like a typo but it was legit. He also gave up just 0.5 HR/9, which is special for anyone but Mo, for him it’s average. You could easily argue about 5 of Mo’s seasons are his best and get no argument from me.