Yankees: The Five Most Effective Pitchers In Franchise History

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mel Stottlemyre  #34

Mel Stottlemyre won only 164 games for the Yankees during the late 1960’s and early ’70’s. When he hit the low nineties on the radar gun, it was a rarity. And yet, he ranks eighth on the Yankees list for career strikeouts. He finished with an ERA under three (2.97) and is listed as 8th in WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

But the real effectiveness and value of Stottlemyre to the Yankees was his durability and consistency. Over his career, he completed 152 games, including 24 of his 39 starts in 1969, a year in which he logged 303 innings. By comparison, in 2016, the Yankees did not have a single complete game.

“[He was] a throwback to a winning tradition in those years of mediocrity.” (Phil Pepe)

Stottlemyre also tossed 40 shutouts, including a two-hit gem in which he went 5-5 at the plate with a grand slam home run.

In a biography written by Gregory Wolf for the Society For American Baseball Research (SABR), Wolf cites this summary of Stottlemyre as a description of the man:

"Stottlemyre was the “epitome of Yankee class and dignity,” wrote longtime New York sportswriter Phil Pepe. “[He was] a throwback to a winning tradition in those years of mediocrity.”"

Stottlemyre’s career was cut short by rotator cuff issues that forced his retirement from the game in 1974, at the age of only 32. He embarked on a second career, though, as a pitching coach with both the Yankees and New York Mets. Denied a championship as a player, he garnered five as a coach.

Stottlemyre made his major league debut in 1964 and as Wolf notes:

"“Stottlemyre’s debut on August 12 was “movie script stuff,” wrote New York sporhe Yankees recorded 19 groundouts”"

Stottlemyre was also a thinking man’s pitcher, and that was probably a big reason for his later success as a pitching coach. Wolf writes:

"” Stottlemyre also succeeded because of his ability to adjust over time. Around 1962 he took pitching coach Johnny Sain’s advice and began gripping the ball with the seams instead of across them in order to get a bigger break.14 This change made his fastball as effective as his sinker. “I created some movement with my delivery and the way I held the ball, but mostly it was just natural.”15 Often touted for his good control (2.7 walks per nine innings in his career), Stottlemyre himself admitted, “I couldn’t throw the ball straight if I wanted to.”"

More recently in 1999, Stottlemyre was diagnosed with multiple myelomas, a cancer of plasma cells, and ultimately recovered after intensive chemotherapy. An even more recent incident was reported to the New York Daily News by his son Todd, who told the News that his dad was “fighting for his life.”

Recovering from that scare, it’s likely that Stottlemyre will do whatever he has to travel from his home state of Washington to be present at the annual Old Timers Day celebration in 2017.