Yankee starter ERAs through the years: A graphical look

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On June 22 of this past year I noted that the 2011 Yankee pitching staff appeared to be on its way to racking up one of the franchise’s lowest single-season ERAs in years, and in fact, the team finished out the year with a 3.74 mark — the Yankees’ lowest seasonal ERA since the 1985 squad compiled a 3.69 ERA.

These tallies included both starting and relief pitching, and so today I wanted to take a look at some of the historical ERAs of Yankee starters to see just how good Yankee fans had it in the pitching department in 2011, at least compared with some other Yankee teams of recent vintage. To begin with, below is an update to the starting pitching chart I created back in an August post that took a look at how well-rounded the 2011 Yankees were.

At the time of that August post, the Yankee starting rotation had pitched to a 3.83 ERA (94 ERA-) and 3.88 FIP (96 FIP-), with the former representing the 13th-lowest mark — and 3rd-lowest since the team’s legendary 1978 (3.08 starters’ ERA) season — of the 43 Yankee clubs surveyed.

The Yankee starting rotation finished the 2011 season with a more-than-respectable 4.03 ERA (95 ERA-) and 3.97 FIP (95 FIP-), with the former tying the 1985 team’s mark for 18th-best of the last 43 seasons, though perhaps more importantly for Yankee fans of a certain age, the 4th-lowest ERA since 1985, which underscores both the dramatic increase in offensive levels of the last 25-plus years as well as the fact that it’s pretty damn difficult to put together a rotation in the AL that pitches to a sub-4.00 ERA.

The next chart shows the individual ERAs of the Yankee starting rotations — based on innings pitched — since 2003 (as always, click to enlarge):

A couple of things jump out at me:

  • Though the Yankees did the right thing cutting bait with Chien-Ming Wang when they did, it’s easy to forget that he was a pretty critical component of the 2006-2007 teams, compiling a total of 9.1 fWAR over those two seasons.
  • As I discovered last offseason, Mike Mussina may have been one of the more underappreciated Yankees in recent memory.
  • The Yankees have let a rather surprising number of starters put up 5.00-plus ERAs over the last nine seasons.
  • I still miss Joba the starter.
  • CC Sabathia has already been worth every penny he has yet to earn in pinstripes.
  • Good starting pitching is hard to come by.
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  • http://twitter.com/sprotster sprot sprotster

    I SEE YOU, Shawn Chacon.


      While it may be painful to see his mug as the lowest point on this graph, Shawn Chacon’s 2.85 ERA over 14 starts in ’05 should probably be on there.

      • Larry Koestler

        I went strictly by each season’s top 5 starters in IP (save this past season, when they obviously went six-man), which is why 2005 Chacon didn’t make the cut.

        Maybe I’ll make an expanded version at some point with all of the Yankee starters from the past decade or so, although that could take a while.

  • Matthew G.

    “Mike Mussina may have been one of the more underappreciated Yankees in recent memory.”

    Mike Mussina spent his entire career in the AL East and was probably the most consistent pitcher in the division in that time. I will take his year-in, year-out quality over a few short years of dominance from someone else, gladly.

    “Underappreciated” isn’t a strong enough word for Moose.

    • Improvident Lackwit

      A co-worker and I were talking about the best free agent signing the Yankees ever had and while Sabathia has turned out well, I think that award goes to Mussina.

      • Plank

        Without looking, maybe Reggie Jackson or Dave Winfield too?

        • Foghorn Leghorn

          good call on Reggie…probably the best. In Jackson’s 5 years with the team, they won 2 of 3 world series and 103 games and lost in the CS in 1980. Not so good in 79, but the man produced.

          Moose is the best FA signing since the mid 90s.

    • Greg c

      It bothers me that Clemens always received the recognition, even when Mussina was clearly better- while Clemens rarely pitched more than 6 innings, gave up more hits, walks, base runners, runs, and basically had the same strikeout rate. The 2001 CY Young and MVP voting was insane.

  • KeithK

    It’s depressing that even with a perennial championship caliber club you only needed to start the scale at 3.00.

  • Gonzo

    Look at Sidney Ponson just cheesing.

    Has anyone questioned him in all the missing women cases in Aruba?

    Too soon?

    • Plank

      I thought they had already arrested Johnny Van Der Meer.

      • Gonzo


      • vin

        Back to back, baby.

  • Mike Myers

    This is awesome….


    Can you do one of these for middle relievers or bench players? It would be a cool trip down memory lane.

    • Mike Myers

      p.s. Pavano seems to be missing for a few years…..

      ohhhh right

      • Larry Koestler

        Actually, that sounds like fun. I’ll see if I can pull something together.

  • MannyGeee

    wow… that is a fun face graph. alot of mugs I have been trying to erase from memory, so thats for that.

    • MannyGeee

      spell fail… “THANKS for that” is where I was going

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    When I was a young boy I knew the BA,RBI,HR total of every HOF. I also knew the records of every HOF pitcher. A lot has rained since then. That said, It is quite surprising to me that the 1985 team had a good ERA. Those 80s teams except for the 81 team were characterized by good hitting and very poor pitching. I cannot remember one member of the 85 staff.

    • Kosmo

      1985 Yanks had Guidry and Niekro and an excellent bullpen led by Righetti. 1985 Yanks won 97 games.

  • Manimal

    No love for IPK? If he didn’t even meet the inning requirement to be on the graph above then don’t you think the yanks pulled the plug too early? He came in 4th in the NL Cy Young voting last year…

    • Ted Nelson

      How’d Granderson finish in the AL voting?

      • Greg c

        That’s true, but last year when I said I thought IPK was the best out of the 3 and the wrong one to get rid of, all anyone could say was that Hughes is clearly better because he’s in the AL East and IPK was just some NL finesse starter with an easy time of it. Now, I like having Granderson- i don’t think anyone expected him to be MVP caliber ( just Austin Jackson’s ceiling, right?), and IPK was the least valued of Joba/Hughes/IPK.

    • Plank

      The Yankees didn’t pull the plug on him, they traded for a CF who was 4th in MVP voting.

    • Bubba

      Uh-oh… Looks like Plank and Ted are on the same page. What’s next… cats and dogs living together?

      Just Kidding. Please don’t start another Montgomery.

  • Claudell

    The sad thing is that, immediately after glancing at the chart and without expanding it, I spotted that peak and said, “Oh, that must be those teams from the late 80s and early 90s.”

    Those were some lean years.

  • Professor Longnose

    How do these compare to the league/other teams? Run environment now is quite different from 1985 or 1969.