Yankees’ All-Time Single-Season Team


Forgive the self-promotion, but at CBS today I put together this post looking at the best single seasons in Yankees’ history. It’s part of a series we’re running looking at the best season at each position for every team, so the best catcher season, the best first base season, etc. As you can imagine, the Yankees’ all-time single-season team is loaded with Hall of Famers. Check it out as you kill time before the Super Bowl.

Categories : Asides, Self-Promotion


  1. ALZ says:

    .373/.474/.765 is bat shit crazy

  2. jjyank says:

    When 2012 Robinson Cano is your #9 hitter, you know you have a beast of a line up.

    Cool write up, Mike. I enjoyed it.

    • Matt Warden says:

      Imagine if you built out the full 25 man roster. My guess is the “depth” the Yankees would have compared to other teams would be pretty noticeable.

      • jjyank says:

        Indeed. By Mike’s line up, Joe DiMaggio would be the “fourth” outfielder. Pretty nuts.

        • Preston says:

          If you just picked 3 OF instead of a “RF” Dimaggio’s 1941 would trump Maris’s 1961 to me. .357/.440/.643 and he had 76 walks and an incredibly low 13!!! strikeouts. Oh, and he also had a little bit of a hitting streak that year.

      • RetroRob says:

        Right, although then we’re moving away from Mike’s best-ever seasons by position. If Maris and DiMaggio were on the same team, Dimaggio would go to center, Mantle to right, and Maris to the bench!

        Building the best-ever 25-man Yankee roster would be an interesting exercise.

  3. Folley of the predetermined outcome says:

    Great fun! I lived through a bunch of those seasons!

  4. Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

    Almost 1400 runs scored? Da-yum.

    Would there really be any of those other all-time teams capable of standing up to that lineup? I wonder if any of the many simulation games out there could really evaluate all the teams that are constructed using this series of articles.

  5. Doug says:

    What’s interesting to me is how many of those guys I’ve seen play given how many greats there were to choose from.

    6 of the starting 9 and 3 of the starting 5 pitchers and the entire bull pen.

  6. Jonathan says:

    If you were constructing the best lineup possible where you had all of them in their prime, instead of going off the best season, I’d still only make two changes. I’d have the 3 OFers as DiMaggio/Mantle/Henderson and the DH as Ruth. Our B starting lineup would still probably be pretty high up there.

  7. uyf1950 says:

    Come on no love for Whitey Ford’s 1961 or 1963 seasons. You honestly don’t think they were better than Pettitte’s 1997 season.

    • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

      I have a feeling he went with Pettitte’s season because of his superior ERA+. 156 vs. 115 and 129 for Ford’s two seasons.

    • nycsportzfan says:

      Herb Pennock’s 1924 season is tough to not put in.

      21-9 2.83era 25complete games.

      I’d have to take that yr over Dandy Andys 1997 season

    • nycsportzfan says:

      I’d have to think about Herb Pennocks 1924season over Andys 1997 season.

      21-9 2.83era 25complete games.

  8. dkidd says:

    is the babe’s 1921 season the best ever?

    • Ethan says:

      For the Yankees? Probably. But in all of MLB Bonds’ 2002 season would give Ruth a run for his money.

      • radnom says:

        1. Those numbers were enhanced by PED use.

        2. Bonds was less anomalous when compared with their respective contemporary numbers. Bonds wasn’t out-homering entire teams, not even close.

    • Dalek Jeter says:

      Well, according to bWAR, because baseball-reference is a lot easier for stuff like this…if we make the cut off 1900 (which a lot of people do) the best single season by a non pitcher is Babe Ruth’s 1923 Season. He only hit 41 homers that year, while triple slashing .393/.545/.764 (OPS+ 239), Walking 170 times vs 93 Ks, drove in 131 runs, scored 151, and stole 17 out of 21 bags.

      • Dalek Jeter says:

        All of that good for 14.0 bWAR.

      • Ethan says:

        I’m surprised he’s ahead of Bonds’ 2002 season. Bonds didn’t steal much and had only 110 RBI and 117 runs. But I really don’t pay much attention to those stats.

        Bonds OPS+’ed 268 that year!

  9. Dan says:

    Dump Giambi an and Earle Combs to lead off would make this team much better. Combs is in the top 10 all time with respect to runs scored per plate appearance.

    • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

      Eh. That has as much to do with hitting in front of Ruth and Gehrig his whole career, plus the higher run scoring era of the 20s and 30s in general as it does with how good Combs himself was (.397 career OBP).

    • Jonathan says:

      So you’d choose Combs over Rickey Henderson?

  10. Havok9120 says:

    That is a fun little series of articles. Thanks for pointing me to it, Blatant Self-Promotion or no.

  11. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    All the old guys on this team clearly reflects the organization’s issues with player development.

    This team desperately needs Casey Kotchman to back up Gehrig at first. Can you really trust a dead man to play all season?

  12. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    In all seriousness, though, 2012 Robbie making it is a big surprise to me.

  13. JCK says:

    Once this series is over, I’d be interested to see how many players appear on two lists (e.g., Clemens could be on both Boston and Toronto, I’d assume).

    • Paco Dooley says:

      A-Rod is on three, and so is, oddly enough, Adrian Beltre.

      The former is obviously disgraced and not going to the Hall, but odd to see the latter in such rare company (he has a career WAR around 70 – is he Hall worthy??)

      • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

        If Beltre stays healthy enough the next 2-3 seasons that he’s under contract (option for the third year), and doesn’t fall off a cliff, he’ll have probably around 2900 hits, 450 HR, 1500 RBI. Add in the defense and the good WAR numbers, and I say it’ll be hard to keep him out.

        • Paco Dooley says:

          I also just noticed that he is only a hair behind Jeter in career WAR, so will almost certainly retire with a higher WAR than Jeter, and has a decent shot at a career WAR of well over 80 given that he had 5+ last year. He also has a good shot at 3000 hits given that he still had almost 200 last year and is <600 away (and is 'only' 34 I believe).

          • I'm a looser and a trader baby so why don't you kill me? says:

            It shouldn’t, but I definitely think the 3000 hit plateau will factor greatly into the voters’ decisions. If he hangs on long enough and doesn’t otherwise play like poop I can see him getting in for sure.

      • Preston says:

        Depends on how much weight HOF voters give to his defensive numbers. How they vote for Scott Rolen, another guy who gets most of his value through superb D will be telling. If he doesn’t get in I don’t think Beltre has much of a chance.

  14. JGYank says:

    I plugged the steamer projections from fangraphs for the current Yanks into the lineup analysis and got this. Comes out to 760 runs. I considered bumping up Gardner and swapping Tex and McCann but I figured this lineup will be used most often.


    • Kosmo says:

      a projected improvement of about 100 runs. Not to shabby.

      • JGYank says:

        It’s a huge improvement from last year and seems accurate. But the projection doesn’t include backups getting playing time, injuries, baserunning, BA w/ RISP, etc. Their baserunning should also be really good with Ells and Gardner so that should add some runs. I think the projections do underestimate Ellsbury and Soriano somewhat but injuries could really hurt the lineup like last year so they need to stay healthy if they are going to score around 750 runs.

    • The Other Mister D says:

      I wonder what a lineup of Babe Ruths would have done…

      • JGYank says:

        I put 9 1921 Ruths (the same season Mike used) in the lineup and it scores 11.9 runs per game or about 1,928 runs a season.


        • RetroRob says:

          Geez, I wonder what would happen in reality (impossible, of course). And by that I mean, no pitcher can ever pitch around Ruth since Ruth is coming up right behind Ruth. Now in true reality, Lou Gehrig was behind Ruth and I doubt many pitchers were trying to pitch around Ruth to get to Gehrig, yet they are still “only” two batters. If it’s all Ruth all the time, there is no break. The pitcher might as well challenge Ruth and try and limit the walks.

          I’m not sure where I’m going with this mind exercise, but I’m guessing that entire model breaks down when it’s Ruth, Ruth, Ruth!

  15. Kosmo says:

    Lazzari in 1929 way better than Cano.
    Bill Dickey in 1936 and 1937 better than Berra in 1956.
    Sparky Lyle in 1974 and 1977 over anyone not named Mariano.
    Whitey Ford in 1958 and 1964 and any number of seasons over Pettitte.
    DiMaggio in 1937.

    • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

      DiMaggio’s 1937 wasn’t better than Mantle’s 1956. Lyle was good those two seasons, but I’d take the Gossage and Robertson seasons Mike listed instead.

      The other ones you listed are all extremely good options, at least if you look simply at OPS+ and ERA+.

      • Kosmo says:

        I never said DiMaggio´s 37 was better than Mantle´s 1956, just a great season to consider. Ford had many seasons far better than Pettitte as did other great Yankee hurlers. Lyle´s 2 and 3 inning saves in 1977 was a much greater season than anything Robertson has accomplished up until this point.

    • Kosmo says:

      just to add:

      Gomez in 1934
      Allie Reynolds in 1952
      Elston Howard in 1961

  16. Paco Dooley says:

    Shocking that Joe D didn’t make the team. Too bad the rules keep guys stuck to positions – I thought that they should have allowed a team to stick anyone into the DH slot (and in this case, perhaps Joe D).

  17. Jim says:

    What about 1943 Spud Chandler? 20-4, 1.64 ERA, 198 ERA+, 253.0 IP, 0.99 WHIP, 134K, 54BB, 20 CG, 5 SHO, MVP

  18. The Other Mister D says:

    Why only 3 relievers? And no bench players? What about Cervelli?

    • Dave in VA says:

      I wondered myself why only 3 relievers. Now back in the McDaniel and Lyle eras there weren’t as many relievers on the 25-man, maybe as few as four in some cases, but 5-6 was more likely. (And only four starters much of the time.) So if we were to take 5 relief pitchers, I might go with one season of Lindy — 1968 comes to mind but I’d want to check the numbers. What he brings to the pen is SERIOUS flexibility, as he could be a setup+closer, a long guy, or even a spot starter… and on his spot starts you’d get 7 innings or more out of him. And a case can seriously be made for 1977 Sparky as #5; I saw him pitch that year and he was an absolute monster, in an era when relief pitching was vastly different from how it is now. I didn’t see any AL pitcher who deserved the Cy more that year (it wasn’t the best year for AL pitching, I admit).

      If we want a sixth reliever? That’s when it gets tough for me.

      • Kosmo says:

        other great seasons by Yankee relievers:
        Johnny Murphy 1941
        Joe Page 1947 and 1949
        Ryne Duren 1958/59
        Luis Arroyo 1961

        Dave Righetti 1985,86 and 87

  19. nsalem says:

    Sparky was incredible in 1977. He pitched 137 innings in the regular season. To an ERA a little over two. I know Palmer had a good year but that year Sparky was both the set-up man and the closer. I think it’s really off base to say that it was kind of silly that he got the CY Young Award in the first place. You are using ERA+ to keep Ford out of the starting rotation for the 1961 season, but on the other hand nobody came near Sparky’s ERA+ in 1977. The Yankees also would probably never have gotten to the WS in 1977 without Lyle. He pitched 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball in Game 4 when he was long man, setup man and closer. He also got the win the next day when he closed out the Royals in the 9th.

    • RetroRob says:

      Sparky’s ERA+ as a reliever was 183 that year, and he did it pitching nearly 140 innings as a reliever. Mariano regularly posted 200+ ERA+s, although in roughly half the innings that Lyle did that year. He basically was on call from the 7th inning on, handling the role that Mariano and Wettland combined for in 1996.

      D-Rob’s 2011 was among the best ever by a Yankee reliever, yet once again, we’re looking at 66 innings. I can’t compare that to what Lyle did in ’77 because they are two different roles. The fact that Lyle incorrectly won the Cy Young Award is not a negative. There were starters who pitched far more innings and were deserving of the Cy, yet then again, Lyle pitched for more innings than Robertson, so that’s a check mark in Lyle’s column.

      Yet with all those words, I’d go with Gossage and Rivera as he did. : -)

      • nsalem says:

        Why is it a fact that Sparky won the CYA incorrectly? Palmer was a runner-up as was Ryan and the both had great years but Lyle’s numbers were much greater admittedly in lesser innings. There certainly can be a discussion that Palmer had the better year but to say it was foolishly awarded to Sparky or that it was a fact that Sparky should not have won it is to me a little over the top.

        • RetroRob says:

          So we’re clear, I’m a big Sparky Lyle fan, and have great memories of the ’77 season since my love of baseball goes back to being a kid and watching those 70s teams. I think Lyle is underrated and many times forgotten when fans talk about the best Yankee relievers. Not quite sure how that happened considering how popular he was as a player and how good he was. I don’t hold anything against the one-inning modern relievers. They’re just doing what they are asked to do, yet the reason why they are now recognized as being so fungible short of the Mariano class is because they are only being asked to do a single inning. What Lyle (and Gossage) did was much more difficult, which is why I can not rate D-Rob’s season ahead of Lyle. It’s not even close.

          I also thought Mike was too dismissive of Lyle, seemingly holding the fact that he won the Cy Young Award against his case. Yet my guess is he was dismissing the Cy Young Award as a reason to vote for Lyle, and that’s fair, but it also has nothing to do with how excellent Lyle’s 1977 season was.

          Back to your comment. I didn’t say “foolishly”, although I did say incorrectly. Personal feeling. I don’t think any single-inning reliever should win the Cy Young Award short of something so extraordinary that, well, I’ve seen. I do think people like Lyle can more appropriately be considered, and considering him is fine. Yet I can pretty much always find a starter more deserving of a reliever to win the award reserved for best pitcher in the league. And that was the case in 1977.

          Lyle was great. His 1977 season was more valuable than D-Rob’s 2011. I just wouldn’t have voted for Lyle for Cy Young.

          • nsalem says:

            The foolish comment was in reference to what Mike said. He actually said it was silly. As I said Palmer did have a great year especially in September and he was the only one that was close to Lyle. Palmer had won the last 2 years in a row and 3 of the last 4 years so maybe there was a sentiment that since that Yankees won a relatively close race and Lyle had an incredibly unique season with better numbers in everything but K’s that he was more deserving. You’re entitled to your opinion and I understand your view point. Mine just happens to be that it was a close call that could have gone either way. Yours seems to be that a starter should get it almost all of the time and Mike stated (for what exact reason I don’t know) that it was silly. I just disagree.

  20. RetroRob says:

    “I think we all consider him (Ruth) a left fielder, so I’m making the executive decision to use him there.”

    A bit of humor I’m missing? In 1921 he certainly was a LFer, and in fact that year he played more games in one single OF slot than at any other time in his career, yet as noted, he played more in RF than LF through his career and is generally almost always rated as the greatest RFer ever.

    When he started transitioning from a pitcher to an OFer in Boston, the Red Sox used him in LF. When he arrived on the Yankees in 1920, however, he was used the most in RF. The following year he was clearly LF, driven by the success of Bob Meusel, who also arrived in 1920 and split time between 3B and the OF. By 1923, the year Yankee Stadium opened, Ruth played more games in RF every single season but one.

    I guess it doesn’t really matter for this listing since Ruth totally put up the best season ever by a Yankee LFer in 1921, and it also conveniently allows Maris to be the winner in RF! Yet why not have Ruth have the best ever LF season by a Yankee and the best-ever RF season by a Yankee? He smoked Maris’ 1961 in many, many seasons! I guess he can’t be cloned to bat twice. : -)

    Moving Ruth to right would open up the best LF season to Charlie Keller, maybe 1941. I keep thinking it should be Henderson, but his two best seasons were in CF. Reggie Jackson’s 1980 season scores higher than Maris’ based on both OPS+ and wRC+. Defense and games at DH, though, pulls down his WAR.

    It is interesting to look at how the Yankees rotated Ruth, and all their OFers, in the 1920s. I wonder if they put Ruth more in RF at home because of the shorter throw, and played him more in left on the road away from the vast LF at Yankee Stadium, and used the stronger-armed Meusel in right on the road? I’m sure somebody, somewhere has done a study of this. Ruth and Meusel were both rotating between, left, right and even CF (I think Ruth played 25 games there one year) in those days.

    • Preston says:

      I always heard that Ruth played in whichever OF corner was shadiest as he didn’t like having to stand in the sun.

      • RetroRob says:

        I heard that too, yet I wonder if there was more thought behind it. I’d like to think there was more thought behind it!

        • Kosmo says:

          Languid Bob (as writers sometimes called him) had one of the best outfield arms ever—in the same class as Roberto Clemente, Carl Furillo, Willie Mays, and Ichiro Suzuki. He could whip the ball with lightning-fast speed and laser-beam accuracy, to any base or home plate. Meusel’s throws were usually caught on the fly, rather than on a bounce or two. He developed his arm strength as a kid by constantly throwing stones for long distances.

  21. Chien Ming The Merciless says:

    That was a pretty fun post. I’m 26 years old and wish I could read more about the old timers. Those sound like the days…Although the days to me around Joe Torre dynasty years. Love me some Paul O’Neil and Luis Sojo.

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