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.
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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.
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