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Back in 1993, the New York Yankees ended a very un-Bronx-like skein of four straight losing seasons to burst back onto the scene of baseball's winning franchises with an 88-74 mark, good for second place just seven games behind the eventual World Champion Blue Jays.

It had also been 12 years since a playoff appearance for the pinstriped crew, but that year the torch was passed from Toronto and after a cruising to a division-best 70-43 mark in the strike-shortened 1994 season, the Yanks have been in the playoffs each season since, capturing six pennants and four titles.

And of course, with apologies to Derek, Bernie and the rest (hey, sing THAT, Terry Cashman!), the run of success has been almost entirely thanks to the team's pitching. Maybe it's the Kevin Brown-inspired Hall of Names feature the other day that has me thinking about this, or maybe it's seeing Randy Johnson finally pitch more or less like he's supposed to, or maybe down here in Texas, it's seeing Andy Pettitte (1-1, 3.55) and the amazing Roger Clemens (1-0, 0.32) putting it together for the Astros, but you have to admit the question is valid ... has there ever, in the history of the sport, been an era in which one team featured so many great and near-great pitchers, if in some cases, only for a short time?

The 1992 team that preceded this latest decade-plus of Yankee success put together a 76-86 record behind a starting rotation whose front four included Melido Perez, Scott Sanderson, Scott Kamienicki and Tim Leary (whose combined career win total of 372 trails Christy Mathewson alone by just one!); the closer was the immortal Steve Farr, set up by luminaries including John Habyan, Rich Monteleone and Greg Cadaret.

Then, things changed. As shown by the below wholly and totally unscientific listing, consider that since 1993, the Yankees starting rotation has featured the following "name" pitchers, listed in order of their career won/loss record through the end of the 2004 season:

R Roger Clemens (328-164)
L Randy Johnson (246-128)
L Frank Tanana (240-236)
L David Wells (212-136)
R Mike Mussina (211-119)
R Kevin Brown (207-137)
R Dwight Gooden (194-112)
R David Cone (194-126)
L Jimmy Key (186-117)
L Kenny Rogers (176-123)
L Andy Pettitte (155-82)
R Jack McDowell (127-87)
R Denny Neagle (124-92)

I admit, I'm too lazy to add up the Cy Young Awards or All-Star appearances, but you're looking at 13 guys who headed into this season had racked up exactly 2,600 major league wins combined. That's easy math -- it comes to 200 wins, on average, per pitcher.

And we're not including two other groups of starting pitchers who had varying degrees of success in the Bronx -- foreign imports including Hideki Irabu, Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras, each of whom was considered at one time to be one of the best non-MLB pitchers in the world; and former or future All-Stars, some of those still active who may at least one day reaech the Key-Cone-Gooden rung of the list above: Jeff Weaver, Ted Lilly, Jon Lieber, Javier Vazquez, Jim Abbott, Terry Mulholland, Esteban Loaiza, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Jake Westbrook, Neal Heaton (yes, he was TOO an All-Star) and Mike Witt.

And you want to talk about bullpens? Since 1993, the Yankees have employed twenty different pitchers who had at least a dozen saves in a season at some point in their careers. But that's really underslling the case ... you know about Mo Rivera, the only man so far to record more than one 50-save season. But men who once wore pinstripes have also accounted for 18 of the 61 40-save seasons in MLB history ... albeit not all with the Yankees, of course!

Seven other 30-save guys, including the aforementioned Farr who did it with the Yankees, also donned Yankee unis. Take a look at this list of closers who have appeared with the Yankees including a parenthetical note of each individual's personal single-season high in saves:

Mariano Rivera (53)
Armando Benitez (47)
Lee Smith (47)
Tom Gordon (46)
John Wetteleand (43 three times)
Jeff Reardon (42)
Mark Wohlers (39)
Bob Wickman (37)
Joe Borowski (33)
Jesse Orosco (31)
Steve Farr (30)
Juan Acevedo (28)
Mike Stanton (27)
Darren Holmes (25)
Dan Miceli (21)
Greg A. Harris (20)
Steve Karsay (20)
Steve Howe (18)
Paul Assenmacher (15)
Rick Honeycutt (12)

So again, the question bears asking ... has there ever, in the history of the Great Game, been an era in which one team featured so many great and near-great pitchers, if in some cases, only for a short time?

Next Up in Pinstripes: Sidd Finch? Ricky Vaughn? | 18 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Terran - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 01:55 AM EDT (#114217) #
None that I can think of, but I'm not a good baseball historian.

It does make me think that the Yankees are less and less of a dynasty in the traditional sense though. Typically a dynasty (in my mind atleast) is a group of players trained and sticking with a team as it's core (or nearly so) for years at a time with a great deal of success while they're there.

While the Yankees have had players like this (Williams, Jeter, Riveria, etc) they have also benifited from importing a ton of their stars off the free agency. The fact that they've had so many big name pitchers over this era (much more then could fit on the roster if they were all there at the same time) partially supports that.
Magpie - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 07:59 AM EDT (#114218) #
Hmmm. Six 200 game-winners. That's pretty impressive. I wonder how many the Yankees actually had in uniform during each of those seasons, as compared to, say, Atlanta?

1993 - NY 1, Atl 2
1994 - NY 0, Atl 2
1995 - NY 0, Atl 2
1996 - NY 0, Atl 2
1997 - NY 1, Atl 2
1998 - NY 1, Atl 3
1999 - NY 1, Atl 2
2000 - NY 1, Atl 2
2001 - NY 2, Atl 2
2002 - NY 2, Atl 2
2003 - NY 3, Atl 1
2004 - NY 2, Atl 0
2005 - NY 3, Atl 0
So the Yankees have featured 17 200 game-winners, the Braves have had 22. The Yankees are closing the gap very quickly, although it's certainly not out of the question that John Smoltz could still make it to 200 wins. If he does, it's all over - you have to add at least another 14 200 win seasons to the Atlanta total.

Of course, the Braves did it differently - they had Greg Maddux 11 times, Tom Glavine 10 times, and Dennis Martinez once. (And Smoltz, as noted, could make it many, many more.) The Yankees had Roger Clemens (5), Mike Mussina (5), David Wells (3), Kevin Brown (2), Randy Johnson (1), and Frank Tanana (1).

OK, I confess. This really struck me when I looked at the closers. Mark Wohlers, for example ... didn't he get all those saves in Atlanta? Yep. He got all his career saves in Atlanta. And wasn't that where Mike Stanton had his most of his saves? Yep, his career high, and two-thirds of his career total.

Anyway, a similar type of list for the Braves would look like this. You don't find nearly as many different people because Smoltz was there for all 12 seasons, Maddux for 11, and Glavine for 10:

Greg Maddux (305-174)
Tom Glavine (262-171)
Dennis Martinez (245-193)
John Burkett (166-136)
John Smoltz (163-121) 
Mike Hampton (133-98)
Denny Neagle (124-92)
Shane Reynolds (114-96)
Jason Schmidt (104-74)
Russ Ortiz (103-60)

John Smoltz (55)
Roberto Hernandez (43)
Steve Bedrosian (40)
John Rocker (38)
Gregg Olson (37)
Joe Borowski (33)
Kerry Ligtenberg (30)
Mark Wohlers (39)
Jay Howell (29)
Mike Stanton (27)
Nick Charlton (26)
Steve Karsay (20)
Alejandro Pena (15)
Other notables who worked for Cox and Mazzone since 1993 would include Steve Avery, Kevin Millwood, Paul Byrd, Odalis Perez, and Andy Ashby.
Craig S. - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 09:15 AM EDT (#114223) #
I'm not sure if the Yankees' run of pitchers can be matched, but I'm not sure that a fair historical comparison can be made.

Of that initial list, Wells, Mussina, Gooden, Key, and Rogers all signed as free agents, which obviously couldn't happen 30+ years ago. The fact that the Yankees' revenues are so much higher than the majority of other teams also gave them an advantage over others (like the Jays) in being able to trade for guys like Randy Johnson and Kevin Brown, players whose salaries many would find a burden. Not that the Yankees weren't major players years before that, but I don't think salary dumps of superstars were anywhere near as common.

I'm not trying to take away from a great run by the Yankees, but it has to be seen in the context of this era. Now, if they had raised all those pitchers through their farm system, or through shrewd deals, I'd be likely to give them more credit.

Still, that's a pretty impressive list of pitchers.
Mick Doherty - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 09:51 AM EDT (#114225) #
Mags, I actually thought of the Braves as I was putting that list together, but didn't pursue it for exactly the conclusion you reached -- I was struck by the variety while the Braves are all about consistency. (Sort of like when you had Palmer, Martinez, Flanagan, etc. for the Orioles in the late '70s and early '80s, but not for as long a period of time.)

And if you get past the 200-game winners, the Yanks have Gooden, Cone, Key, etc. while the Braves have the occasional Mike Hampton and the more than occastional Charlie Leibrandt. (P.S. As you know, my N.L. team is the Reds, so I must tell you -- Norm Charlton.)

Still, great, great comment. I think between my post and your comment, there may be a further story in there somewhere.

costanza - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 12:29 PM EDT (#114256) #
Interesting post, Mick. I'm wondering, though, if that list over a 12-year span is any more impressive than this list over a *6-year* span. Toronto Blue Jays, 1992-1997:

R Roger Clemens (328-164)
R Jack Morris (254-186)
L David Wells (212-136)
R David Cone (194-126)
L Jimmy Key (186-117)
R Dave Stieb (176-137)
R Danny Darwin (171-182)
R Dave Stewart (168-129)
L Al Leiter (155-120)
R Todd Stottlemyre: (138-121)
R Pat Hentgen (131-112)
R Woody Williams (103-84)

R Tom Henke (311 Sv)
R Duane Ward (121 Sv)
L Dave Righetti (252 Sv)
L Dan Plesac (158 Sv)
R Mike Timlin (117 Sv)

Also on the '97 squad -- Carpenter and Escobar. Extending it to '98 would add Halladay and Randy (347Sv) Myers.

I think the Jays bunch is more impressive, especially considering how many of them were at the top of their game (Yankee pitchers have won exactly one Cy Young Award since 1978) but I might be biased?
daryn - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 12:46 PM EDT (#114257) #
That's an interesting point.

The Jays have 4 Cy Youngs, over a fairly short stretch. 3 Different pitchers too... that has to place them in the company of Atlanta and not too many others...
mathesond - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 01:22 PM EDT (#114265) #
Would Frank Viola's (176-150) 6 starts for Toronto in 1996 be enough to put him on the list?
Terran - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 01:41 PM EDT (#114268) #
" If he does, it's all over - you have to add at least another 14 200 win seasons to the Atlanta total."

I'm not sure I agree with that method of calculation. Smoltz wasn't born a 200-game-winner. Maybe it should just be counted for teams that had a 200-game winner when the pitcher had won 200-games and beyond?
Magpie - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 01:57 PM EDT (#114274) #
Would Frank Viola's (176-150) 6 starts for Toronto in 1996 be enough to put him on the list?

Why not! If Frank Tanana counts as a Yankee (0-2 in 3 Yankee starts), and Dennis Martinez counts as a Brave (4-6, mostly in relief)...

Nick Charlton? Where the hell did that come from? Cycling in the UK?

I seem to remember an ancient Bill James observation that the most career wins on any staff that he could find belonged to a Cleveland team from the 1960s - one of those teams that had Tommy John, Luis Tiant, Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert at one end of their career and guys like Dick Donovan and Early Wynn at the other. I forget the details.

Magpie - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 02:04 PM EDT (#114275) #
I'm not sure I agree with that method of calculation.

That is wise! I think we're engaging in a bit of sophistry here. Me anyway...

Hmmm. The Yankees obtained Johnson and Clemens after they had won 200 games, Mussina and Brown not long before they had won 200 games. Whereas the Braves had Glavine and (mostly) Maddux and (maybe) Smoltz while they were winning 200 games...

Oh, there's so many different ways to twist these arguments, isn't there?!

Donkit R.K. - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 02:06 PM EDT (#114276) #
mathesond - the article does say that a pitcher qualifies even if he only pitches for the team for a short time.
Donkit R.K. - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 02:08 PM EDT (#114277) #
I guess I was a little late lending my helping hand to the proceedings ;-)
Terran - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 02:49 PM EDT (#114284) #
"Oh, there's so many different ways to twist these arguments, isn't there?!"

I'm not great at understanding expressions through text but if you are/were mad at me then I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be insulting or anything, just trying to contribute to the conversation in the only way that occured to me.

I tried looking for players that might count for Toronto despite only playing with them for a short time but the best I could do was David Cone who finished 6 wins short...
Mick Doherty - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 02:51 PM EDT (#114285) #
Rags pitched for the Jays? I did not know that.
Craig B - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 02:59 PM EDT (#114289) #
Some other teams with good pitching, off the top my head... it's hard to come up with good ones from before free agency, because of the lower amount of player movement.

Pittsburgh Pirates, 1902-1913 (good win% but not a lot of long careers)

Vic Willis (249-205)
Wilbur Cooper (216-178)
Jack Chesbro (198-132)
Jesse Tannehill (197-116)
Sam Leever (194-100)
Babe Adams (194-140)
Deacon Phillippe (189-109)
Brickyard Kennedy (187-159)
Claude Hendrix (144-116)
Howie Camnitz (133-106)
Lefty Leifield (124-97)

Chicago Cubs, 1910-1921 (weren't as good as I thought they'd be)

Pete Alexander, 373-208
Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, 239-130
Ed Reulbach, 182-106
Hippo Vaughn, 178-137
Claude Hendrix, 144-116
Fred Toney, 139-102
Dutch Ruether, 137-95
Lefty Leifield, 124-97
Larry Cheney, 116-100
Orval Overall, 108-71

New York Giants, 1913-1924

Christy Mathewson, 373-188
Waite Hoyt, 237-182 (Hoyt only pitched one inning as a Giant, though)
Rube Marquard, 201-177
Art Nehf, 184-120
Red Ames, 183-167
Slim Sallee, 174-143
Red Lucas, 157-135
Rube Walberg, 155-141
Jesse Barnes, 152-150
Rube Benton, 150-144
Hooks Wiltse, 139-90
Fred Toney, 139-102
Jeff Tesreau, 115-72
Doc Crandall, 102-62

St. Louis Cardinals, 1934-1945 (a lot of records here badly affected by the war)

Burleigh Grimes, 270-212 HOF
Jesse Haines, 210-158 HOF
Dazzy Vance, 197-140 HOF
Lon Warneke, 192-121 HOF
Guy Bush, 176-136
Murry Dickson, 172-181 (bad record, but a real good pitcher)
Curt Davis, 158-131
Dizzy Dean, 150-83 HOF
Harry Gumbert, 143-113
Harry "the Cat" Brecheen, 133-92
Howie Pollet, 131-116
Mort Cooper, 128-75
Preacher Roe, 127-84
George Earnshaw, 127-93
Max Lanier, 108-82
Flint Rhem, 105-97
Bill Hallahan, 102-94
Tex Carleton, 100-76

And finally, one team that I thought would be good but was pretty bad, the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers, 1955-1966. They had lots of high-quality pitching, but the Dodgers were run by a bunch of morons, and it had more impact than I thought. The Dodgers had a ton of promising pitchers out in two, four, six years for them and then leave the game before their 30th birthday.

Don Sutton, 324-256
Don Drysdale, 209-166
Claude Osteen, 196-195
Sandy Koufax, 165-87
Don Newcombe, 149-90
Johnny Podres, 148-116
Carl Erskine, 122-78
Sal Maglie, 119-62
Bill Singer, 118-127
Stan Williams, 109-94
Magpie - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 04:07 PM EDT (#114300) #
I'm not great at understanding expressions through text but if you are/were mad at me then I'm sorry.

Gosh, no! I was really referring to what I was doing!

Stellers Jay - Friday, April 29 2005 @ 04:17 PM EDT (#114304) #
It's not pitching related, but it is Yankee related. I was reading the latest issue of SI this morning and they had a quick hit about there being only 2 teams in history to start a former All-Star at every position (including DH) on opening day.

2005 Yankees and (I'm at work so I don't have it right in front of me, but it was an early 90's yankee team as well. 92 I think, but I'll check when I get home and post the correct answer for sure.
Stellers Jay - Saturday, April 30 2005 @ 12:06 PM EDT (#114469) #
I was way off base, it was the 1977 Yankees that were the first team and this years team was the second to start All-Stars at every position including DH on opening day.
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