Open Thread: Ed Whitson



You won’t find many Yankees fans with fond memories of Ed Whitson, but the Yankees signed the right-hander to a five-year contract worth $4.4M on this date in 1984. Whitson was expected to help anchor the rotation, but he instead pitched to a 5.38 ERA in 195.2 IP for the Yankees before being traded back to the Padres just a year and a half into the deal. People will blame it on him being unable to handle New York and all that stuff, but you’ll rarely see anyone acknowledge that Whitson wasn’t even all that good in the first place.

Coming into the 1985 season, his first with the Yankees, Whitson owned a career 101 ERA+ in over 1,000 innings spread across eight years. He was almost perfectly average. Yes, Whitson did post a 3.24 ERA in 189 IP for San Diego in 1984, but he struck out just 103 batters (4.9 K/9) and his 2.45 K/BB that year was easily the best of his career up to that point. Still, that’s roughly equivalent to what Phil Hughes has done so far in his career (2.36 K/BB). Whitson was so bad the year before (1983) that he was demoted to the bullpen at midseason, and the year before that (1982) he was a mop-up reliever that made some spot starts down the stretch. He was an average pitcher at best, but one that happened to have the best year of his career (up to that point) at the right time.

After flopping in New York and going back to San Diego, Whitson went back to being perfectly average in a roundabout way. He pitched to a 4.46 ERA in the two and a half seasons immediately after the trade, then had the two best years of his career at age 34-35 (2.63 ERA in 455.2 IP from 1989-1990). He posted a 5.03 ERA in 1991 and done with baseball after that, out of the game at age 36. In terms of bWAR — which is based on results (runs allowed) and not process (FIP) like fWAR — Whitson had five seasons worth 2.0+ bWAR  of in his 15-year career. Javy Vazquez has eleven such seasons (including one with the Yankees!) in his 14-year career, for some perspective. A.J. Burnett has six such seasons in his 13 years. Whitson retired with a career 98 ERA+ in over 2,200 IP after the 1991 season, an almost perfectly average pitcher that was supposed to be more for the Yankees.

* * *

Here is your open thread for the night. The Nets are playing tonight, and they’re the only local sports team in action. Hooray for that. Talk about that game or anything else here, it’s all good.

Categories : Open Thread


  1. Steve S. says:

    You know, if George was still alive…oh wait. Never mind.

  2. RetroRob says:

    People knew at the time that it wasn’t going to turn out well.

    • Steve S. says:

      After the Rainbow Trout experience, every deal looked good if the player was physically able to pitch.

      • Pat D says:

        Are you referring to the legendary Steve Trout?

        • Steve S. says:

          His friends called him Rainbow, George called the commissioner and tried to have the trade reversed for injury reasons. Yes, after seeing his medicals and giving him a physical to complete the deal.

          • Pat D says:


            • RetroRob says:

              Tewksbury. Drabek. Rijo. Dave Righetti (wrongly banished to the pen). Tim Burke (he could have been the closer).

              The Yankees had arms back in the 1980s they could have used to build the stronger rotation they never seemed to be able to find for that lost decade.

              I’m not even going to touch upon the non-pitcher trades of prospects, from Buhner to McGee to McGriff. Well, I guess I just did!

              • Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

                I thought Righetti to the pen was odd, even as a kid, but what did I know? I just went with it and rooted for spry youngsters like the Niekro brothers and Tommy John.

                In retrospect, yeah, pretty frigging dumb.

                I remember liking Tewksbury, being bummed when Drabek and Dennis Rasmussen were traded, Rijo sailing through the night and looking mighty rushed, Pascual Perez being a Yankee but never pitching, not sure where the hell Britt Burns went, and cameo appearances by guys like Ray Fontenot, who was from the same town Guidry was.

                I got a faux retro 80′s Yankees tee off of Etsy for Christmas this weekend. It’s got eight faces on them, my favorite of which is Brian Fisher.

                • RetroRob says:

                  In fairness, it’s easy to look back and pick and choose which younsters the Yankees should have kept. Rijo did land the Yankees Rickey Henderson.

                  I could have added Al Leiter on to this list, but Leiter took years to get through his injuries, perhaps caused by Dallas Greene’s abuse when he was on the Yankees. (Rijo, too, might have had his development delayed by the Yankees rush, although I’m not sure about that.)

                  Trading a prospect(s) to land a player of Henderson’s quality is understandable. Most of the other trades were crazy. I can only imagine how we’d be reacting today if those deals went down!

                • RetroRob says:

                  In fairness, it’s easy to look back and pick and choose which younsters the Yankees should have kept. Rijo did land the Yankees Rickey Henderson.

                  I could have added Al Leiter on to this list, but Leiter took years to get through his injuries, perhaps caused by Dallas Greene’s abuse when he was on the Yankees. (Rijo, too, might have had his development delayed by the Yankees rush, although I’m not sure about that.)

                  Trading a prospect(s) to land a player of Henderson’s quality is understandable. Most of the other trades were crazy. I can only imagine how we’d be reacting today if those deals went down!

                  McGriff would have been blocked by Mattingly, which I’m sure is why they dealt him so early in his career, but that was faulty decision making. For one, Mattingly was a decent OFer. No, he wouldn’t have been the gold glove player he was at first, but it would have been worth the sacrifice. Or they could have used McGriff as a DH/back-up 1Bman, just as they should do that now with Montero as DH/C.

              • Steve S. says:

                At least we got Ricky for Rijo. That wasn’t a bad deal at all. Drabek for Rhoden was classic 1980s George.

                • Steve S. says:


                  From ages 23-28 Rijo was one of the top pitchers in baseball. Damn.

                  • Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

                    He was very good, and was about 12 when the Yankees threw him out there and decided he was trade fodder.

                    Yes, we got Rickey for him but, as much as I love Rickey, this is the type of “but he’s an ELITE player” kind of move which added little to the team but you hear people clamoring for here…..again, easy for me to say in retrospect. Preteen me loved Rickey.

                    And, of course, Rick Rhoden was another average guy who was expected to put on pinstripes and turn into Whitey Ford. :)

                    I do love those days. I honestly do. They built character. :)

      • Slu says:

        Wasn’t Trout after Whitson? 1988 if my memory serves me.

      • Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

        Oh man. Steve Fucking Trout. I still can’t believe that actually happened. I still don’t understand HOW it happened.

  3. Pat D says:

    Of course it’s easy to predict now that Whitson was going to flop. But I’m pretty sure that ERA+ was not created then and no one looked at K/9 or K/BB. Or is that just me believing no one was too enlightened 27 years ago?

    I will say this for Whitson: He could pull of the psycho routine. Seriously, if you ever see the MLB Network Countdown show of, I think it’s the Most Infamous Arguments, or something like that, there was a huge brawl between the Padres and Braves in a game in 1984. Something like 3 or 4 separate bench-clearing brawls and the Padres bench almost going into the stands after fans. It was at this last juncture that Whitson, who had started and either been relieved or ejected, emerged from the dugout, looking like he was supposed to be in the shower, but with a look that he was fully ready to end someone’s life. I don’t think I would have messed with him.

    • nsalem says:

      At the end of the 1954 season the Yankees acquired Bob Turley in an 18 player trade with Orioles (he was a key piece) His K/BB rate was an unimpressive 1.02/1. A few years later he won a CY Young award and the 7th game of the 1958 World Series with a 6.2 inning 2 hit relief appearance on 2 days rest. His Game 5 performance was a complete game shutout. I think K/BB is important but often does not tell the whole story.

      • whozat says:

        Turley was 24 in 1955, so it wasn’t crazy to think he might get better. After he cut down his walks in ’57, he was great in ’58 and then never started more than 24 games ever again. Also, he lasted a third of an inning in his first start in the 58 world series. So, let’s not cherry pick :-) Clearly he wasn’t someone who became a reliably good starter, and if you’re looking for someone dependable…K/BB is one good indicator of sustainable performance.

        • nsalem says:

          I don’t recall anybody on this site suggesting that someone with a 1.02/1 K/BB rate has any kind of chance for big improvement. If it has happened I missed it. Maybe I’m wrong I see more of the opposite. Some here doubt Betances chances as a starter with rates that are two and three times better than Turley.
          He never started more than 24 games after 1958 not because he wasn’t reliable but because he had injury issues throughout the rest of his career. At one point he requested and was denied surgical options (similar to what happened to Roger Maris). Yes he did have a bad game one in the 1958 WS but he closed out the series giving up one run in 16 innings.. He brought the Yankees back from a 3 to 1 deficit and pitched over half of the innings in the last 3 wins. If I was really cherry picking I would have mentioned he also got the save in Game 6 getting the last out with the tying and winning runs on base (the batter he retired was none other than Frank Torre. I think most would consider these three performances much more compelling than his first game failure. If I wanted to be argumentative I would say it was you who did the cherry picking, but I won’t. K/BB on the positive side may be indicative of a good pitcher, but a bad rate may not spell doom for a starting pitcher as some may believe.

          • whozat says:

            You’re generalizing from a single data point. No one denies that it’s _possible_ for a pitcher with awful control to figure it out. But if you’re trying to predict the future of a particular player, and he has mediocre control, the odds are that he will not figure it out and will struggle to succeed as a starting pitcher, especially in this day and age when hitters understand that there’s more value in working a 6 pitch walk than in grounding to short on the first pitch and trying to beat it out.

            • nsalem says:

              First you said “Turley was 24 in 1955, so it wasn’t crazy to think he might get better.”
              Then “But if you’re trying to predict the future of a particular player, and he has mediocre control, the odds are that he will not figure it out and will struggle to succeed as a starting pitcher,”

              Are those two statements contradictory?

              I’m also not so sure what players understand in this day and age. Though walks are up almost double, K rates are up over 300% and OBP is down from 1955 even in the AL with no DH.

            • Jose M. Vazquez.. says:

              There is no better example that wildness in an early pitching career is not predictive of future performance than Sandy Koufax himself. For his first five or six years he was as wild as one can be. Then he figured it out and wham, the best of the best.

    • DSThom says:

      “…no one looked at K/9 or K/BB. Or is that just me believing no one was too enlightened 27 years ago?”

      It’s you.

      One of the less aware comments to grace RAB.

  4. Steve S. says:

    Do the Sox have anyone worth paying attention to above A-Ball? And no, Lavarnway doesn’t do it for me.

  5. Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

    Steinbrenner always believed he could take an average starter and suddenly make him pitch better once he put on pinstripes. It’s why we wound up with wonders like Whitson, Tim Leary, Andy Hawkins, and a list of guys I probably have erased from my memory.

    • nsalem says:

      I think that one of the problems as we got into the 80′s was that Steinbrenner’s behaviour was so erratic that it became quite difficult to attract top level talent. His treatment of Winfield after the 1981 World Series scared of a lot of players. I don’t remember specifics but I do remember some top talent (maybe Kirk Gibson in 1988 ) who publicly declared they wouldn’t play for the Yankees.

  6. Jimmy says:

    I saw Whitson pitch what had to be his greatest game as a Yankee down in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium in June 1985. He pitched a complete game shut out against the Orioles 10-0. Dave Winfield had a monster game if I remember right.

  7. dc1874 says:

    Wasnt Whitson the pitcher who was chased in his private auto by Yankee fans after one of his horrific starts at the stadium????

    • RetroRob says:

      Yes, among other things. He was followed home, spit on, and nails put in his driveway.

      He was never a great pitcher, but it seems clear he also was impacted emotionally by pitching in NY. Here’s an article from the LA Times back in 1986. Fans are crazy.

      Free agent Whitson had a 53-56 record when Yankee owner George Steinbrenner rewarded him with a five-year, $4.4-million contract in December 1984.

      And what was 1985 like?

      “My first look at hell,” Whitson said the other day.

      He won only one of his first 12 starts, losing six. He then won five of his last seven decisions en route to a 10-8 record, but his earned-run average for his last 13 starts was 6.44.

      The zealous Yankee fans seemed to take it personally. There were times he was spit on while walking to the parking lot, he said, and others when he was followed home, where nails were left in his driveway.

      There were threats against his house and family, and then the September fight with then Manager Billy Martin, who emerged with a broken arm.

      Whitson started Wednesday night against the Kansas City Royals in the second game of the new season under a new manager. Whitson seemed to regard it as an exorcism, a chance to erase the bad memories of 1985. This was going to be bigger than big.

      “If I don’t win, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone shot me,” he said before the game. “There’s more pressure on me now than any other game I’ve pitched in my life.

      “Pitching in the World Series (as he did in 1984) isn’t half as bad as this.”

      The exorcism failed.

      Whitson was booed before, during and after a 2-inning stint in which he allowed 4 runs and 6 hits, the Royals going on to a 7-4 victory.

      Yankee catcher Butch Wynegar described the scene when Manager Lou Piniella finally brought out the hook.

      “Eddie was walking around the mound saying, ‘I can’t pitch here, I can’t pitch under these circumstances, I’ve got to get out of here.’

  8. MannyGeee says:

    *afraid someone on this thread is gonna tell me to get off their lawn…..*

  9. Yankeeforlife says:

    I remember going to Fenway at the start of the 1985 season for the first (and as it has turned out only so far) time ever, and being treated to a classic Whitson start. He didn’t get out of the second and gave up like 8 or 9 runs. It was freezing cold and miserable, and Ed made it worse. Did anyone else call him “Weenie Armed” Witson? My buddies and I were never in his corner after that day…

  10. bankers hours says:

    Now Beltran tells the Yanks he’d play for 2/26 after the yanks picked up Swishers 10.5m option. I like Swisher a lot but let’s not compare him to Beltran who’s a legimate no 3 hitter and a proven playoff performer. I would have signed Carlos and if the Yanks really thought Nick was such a steal at 10.5m then they could have moved him, maybe to St Louis. I’m getting a sick feeling that the new Steinbrenners are getting cheap. Imagine Jeter Grandy Beltran Cano Arod Tex Mpntero Martin and Gardy, wow.

  11. Robert says:

    For this team to have a good off season they need to sign Jorge Soler and Armando Rivero.

  12. RickyM2 says:

    @Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    ” You don’t get to choose what year’s model of Beltran you want when you do that. If so, I’ll take a 1961 Whitey Ford and a 1978 Ron Guidry for the rotation.”

    *Thats hysterical LOL

  13. RickyM2 says:

    What ever happened to that kid Colin Curtis? Remember how he filled in for Gardner after Brett got ejected with a 0-2 count? Kid worked a full count and smacked that 3 run homer

  14. RYAN THE 13TH says:

    this team is in deep crap with the contracts they have on the books. its disgusting that they can’t afford to upgrade the rotation because they’re paying Jeter, Burnett, Feliciano, and Soriano around $50M. i don’t see how anyone can get excited about the next few years and its really frustrating to see the authors of this site be so condescending towards people that are becoming skeptical of this operation.

  15. RYAN THE 13TH says:

    Jeter doesn’t pay for himself. If Jeter pays for himself then why are the Yankees unable to make a significant bid for Darvish or sign Kuroda? And sure, throw A-Rod onto that list too. That brings the total up to nearly $80M on five players who are being paid about two times as much as they’re worth. This front office needs to be held accountable.

    • mbonzo says:

      So you’re saying the Yankees have too many large long term contracts, which is bad because they can’t hand out large long term contracts to guys like Darvish. Gotcha.

      • RYAN THE 13TH says:

        No. I said it prevented them from making a signifcant bid on a guy who they have been scouting and coveted for years. How strange that they started souring on him when they didn’t have a lot of money.

        If you want to replace Darvish with Buehrle, go for it. The point still stands.

        • mbonzo says:

          Not sure what you’re getting at with Darvish/Buehrle.

          My point was that you’re complaining about the Yankees handing out big contracts, but then advocating giving a guy like Darvish one. I’d much rather have to deal with Jeter/Arod/Tex/CC’s contracts than risk a Darvish contract, especially when it seems like other teams didn’t think he would be worth the money. At least you know the other guys will contribute a lot of WAR.

          Yankees are doing pretty damn well, why try to fix something thats not broken?

        • Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

          You only know what you have read on sites like this. They could have “soured”, as you put it, on him at any point during the scouting process or, most likely, when they weighed out the potential cost versus the likelihood of his making the adjustment successfully to big leagues.

          You are making connections where they don’t necessarily exist.

    • RickyM2 says:

      Jeter merchandise sells A LOT everywhere. So you have to add that in to figuring his salary.

      P.S. I still cant believe how he celebrated his 3000th. Still in awe.

    • Robert says:

      Who do you want at SS ?

  16. Rob says:

    Anyone watching Mlb networks ” the number game” they have Robinson as the greatest # 42 over Rivera. The only reason he is in the HOF is because he broke the color barrier.

    • mbonzo says:

      He was also really good. If we’re talking about pure contribution, he has 62.7 fWAR to Mariano’s 39.0.

      He wasn’t the best ever at his position, but he changed the game by winning the hears of fans with his play. Yes someone else probably could have broke the color barrier, but he made it look easy.

    • FIPster Doofus says:

      That’s an incredibly ignorant outlook. Color barrier aside, Robinson was an exceptional all-around player. He hit .311, reached base 41 percent of the time, had an .883 OPS, stole bases, and played great defense. He was the total package.

    • Ana says:

      Not sure if trolling or

    • Kosmo says:

      Robinson was 28 years old in 1947. Because of racism many African-American ballplayers had to wait until the majors finally opened its doors. The Yanks and the Sawx had at that time 2 of the most racist FO in the game. I believe Elston Howard was the first African-American to play for the Yanks and that wasn´t until the mid-fifties almost a decade after Robinson broke the “color“ barrier.

      • MannyGeee says:

        this… he didnt get to the MLB until he was in his prime. imagine what he could have done if he got another 6 years in the game.

        dude was legit.

    • Steve S. says:

      That’s because some things go way beyond baseball.

    • MannyGeee says:

      Homer fan is being a homer…

  17. Bronx Byte says:

    The Yankees have their modern day Ed Whitson. What would Billy Martin do watching Burnett collapse after the 3rd inning of a normal Burnett game ?

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